Island country Japan has numerous mountains scattered throughout the country. And most of these mountains are of volcanic origin.
Despite its smaller size compared to the rest of the world, it is surprising that Japan is home to around 10% of the world’s active volcanoes.
And if you also add the number of non-active volcanoes, the number will be huge.
Most of the volcanoes in Japan are found in the Hokkaido, Kanto and Chubu regions, the Tohoku, and on the island of Kyushu.
A few ones are found in the Kansai, Shikoku, and Chugoku regions.
Well, that doesn’t mean that you are likely to face volcanic eruptions while visiting the country, but there are examples of volcanic activity across the Japanese islands.
Many of them have now become major tourist attractions for their eye-catching landscapes, beautiful hiking trails, and relaxing hot springs.
So, today I am here with some of those beautiful and famous volcanoes in Japan.
Before going to the in-depth discussion, let’s find out the answer to the most queried question.
How Many Volcanoes Are in Japan?
There are 111 active volcanoes in Japan. As I have said earlier, these volcanoes account for 10% of the active volcanoes throughout the whole world.
Adding the inactive ones to this list, there are 440 volcanoes in total in Japan.
Japan has so many volcanic peaks because its 6,800 or more islands cover the Pacific Ring of Fire – a region of significant seismic activity.
And that’s why Japan is very much prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Now that you have known the reason, let’s get to the main point.
12 Most Beautiful and Famous Volcanoes in Japan
While many of the smoldering volcanoes have been worshiped and honored by the locals and presented in haikus and artworks, some make for fabulous sightseeing, hiking, and hot spring spots in Japan.
Now, I am going to present the most notable ones among them.
1. Mount Fuji
Majestic Mount Fuji is the most important and iconic symbol in Japan, which is located less than two hours from Tokyo. It is the country’s tallest and most famous volcanic mountain.
Because of its easily-accessible location, wide range of hiking options, and striking beauty, Mount Fuji is far and away the most climbed mountain in Japan.
People from all over the world come here during summer to go hiking. Every year it is visited by millions and climbed by more than 300,000 people.
You can also enjoy stunning views of Fuji from nearby Tenjo-Yama Park, where a cable car will take you up to 1,000 m (3,000 ft) to the Fuji Viewing Platform.
What you might not know about Mt.fuji is that it is an active stratovolcano, which means that it has layers of hardened lava, forming a steep slope with a hollow at the top.
Legend has it that this mountain was structured in a single day, and it was created on top of an older volcano around 10,000 years back.
Anyway, the eruption here is less dangerous as the lava generally cools before going too far due to its highly viscous characteristics.
Though it has not erupted since 1707, scientists have predicted that an eruption may happen soon, affecting major cities like Tokyo.
2. Mount Ontake
Mt. Ontake, one of Japan’s most sacred volcanoes filled with spiritual history, has attracted a large number of worshippers and pilgrims for over a thousand years.
This place has become a popular tourist destination due to its landscapes with an ethereal beauty, an ancient pilgrimage route, and a nature-focused spiritual culture that continues to this day.
After the iconic Mount Fuji, it is the second-biggest volcano in Japan, dominating its surroundings with its 3,067 m high summit.
You can take a walk through the Ontake Pilgrimage Trail to the summit, where you may encounter pilgrims in white dress performing rituals at the holy sites along the way.
The easiest way you may try is taking the Ontake Ropeway, which takes you to the summit within a couple of hours.
From here, you can hike the volcanic moon-like landscape, passing the many shrines and the sacred ponds of Mt. Ontake.
Covering the whole summit will take five or six hours, but you will find lodges during the pilgrimage season to stay.
Besides the breathtaking natural views, this mystical mount has a number of spectacular hot springs and fantastic ski resorts on offer.
Anyway, I want to mention that Mount Ontake is generally considered safe, but unfortunately, the volcano erupted all of a sudden in 2014, killing 63 people in the process.
3. Mount Aso
Japan’s largest volcano, Mount Aso or Aso-san, is located on the southern island of Kyushu near the city of Kumamoto.
This one is the most active volcano in Japan, where the most recent eruption occurred in 2019.
Since then, the volcanic activity has calmed down, but its activity level is still so high.
So, when visiting the area, you might not be able to go near the crater.
Mount Aso has a huge hollow with a circumference of around 120 km, and it is amongst the world’s largests.
It actually consists of five separate volcanic peaks. The spectacular peak of Mt. Nakadake attracts a large number of visitors all year round.
The crater of Nakadake is 130 m in depth, 600 m in diameter, and 4 km in circumference. There is a beautiful fuming blue lake inside.
If you are curious, you can access the crater by car or take the ropeway up to the top.
You can also get on the bus from Aso train station. Traveling around the region ranges from a short walk to a day-long hike.
Be noted that when the volcano spews gases, access is restricted during that time.
4. Mount Asama
Over the resort town of Karuizawa, this mountain is located in the center of the country’s main island of Honshu, standing 2,568 m (8,425 ft) above sea level.
The restless Mount Asama can often be seen from distant places with rolling smokes skyward.
The last eruption occurred here in 2019, and since then, it has calmed down.
Though there is a probability of another eruption, this place still remains a popular holiday destination.
Skiing on the peak’s adjacent slopes is becoming a popular activity with time.
An excursion here can change your outlook on the Northern Japanese Alps.
You can also explore the surreal expanses of Onioshidashi Park, which was formed from the lava of Mt Asama’s massive 1783 eruption.
Plenty of beautiful hiking trails with wonderful views of Mt. Asama make this area a perfect place to start your vacation.
You can also visit Asamayama Kannon Do Temple and the Asama Volcano Museum, which will give you a deep insight into the area’s geological activity.
What more you can enjoy is the stunning views of the Northern Japan Alps, the Yatsugatake Mountains, and beyond.
And of course, don’t forget to soak yourself in the Takamine Kogen Onsen (hot spring) after your tiring climb.
5. Mount Unzen
Mount Unzen is a group of few overlapping active stratovolcanoes near Shimabara, Nagasaki, on the island of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost main island.
The highest peaks are Heisei-shinzan and Fugen-dake. The last major outburst of this mountain occurred in 1792.
A national park was established here in 1934, and a small village was formed to accommodate the visitors.
You can see the Unzen Hot Spring lying on Mount Unzen’s slopes, both of which form a few areas of Unzen-Amakusa National Park.
However, until recently, it was thought to have become dormant. After that, it became active most recently from 1990 to 1995.
Today, the mountain has become dormant again, and visitors can climb the 1,359 m (4,459 ft) peak to relish panoramic views.
In case you want to shorten the trek, try to approach the climb from Mount Myoken, where you can reach by three minutes of gondola ride from Nita Pass.
6. Daisetsuzan National Park
The largest national park in the country, Daisetsuzan, is located in the center of Hokkaido, featuring many volcanic peaks.
It preserves a mountainous area of unspoiled wilderness, which is even larger than some of Japan’s smaller prefectures.
The park has straggling marshlands, thick forests, mountainous terrain, and an alpine belt. It is also home to numerous animals.
It is a heaven for nature lovers, hikers, brown bears, and deer, and also the first place in Japan that displays fall colors and snow each autumn.
On the northern side of this park, the Omote-Daisetsu area draws the most visitors during summer and fall.
The main access point here is Asahidake Onsen, sitting at the foot of Mount Asahidake. It is an active volcano and the tallest mountain on Hokkaido, reaching up to 2,290 m.
Mt. Asahidake has not erupted for thousands of years, but some volcanoes in this area erupted in the last 100 years.
If you ride in a cable car, it will take you from the hot-spring resort of Asahidake Onsen up to Sugatami Station.
From there, you can stroll through a trail to the mountain crest.
However, if you prefer a less strenuous hike, choose the Sugatamiike Pond walking path to see Mount Asahidake’s calderas, three beautiful ponds and spot rare animal and plant life within 60 to 90 minutes.
7. Kirishima Mountain Range
Mount Kirishima, also known as Miyazaki volcano, is a stunning volcanic mountain range stretching through Kagoshima and Miyazaki Prefectures.
It is also a main part of the Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park.
This area is well-known for its plenty of onsen locations.
Kirishima will be a fascinating volcanic landscape to visit if hiking and soaking in hot springs are your favorite cool things to do.
Several hiking routes are best explored from spring to autumn, as some courses may be inaccessible during the winter.
If you love to watch James Bond movies, you might recognize the Shinmoedake, one of the peaks, which was used as a base for a Bond villain in the movie You Only Live Twice.
It is also a significant spot in the creation mythology of Japan. Legend has it that Ninigi no Mikoto, the grandson of the Sun Goddess, landed here on earth to establish the ancestry of Japanese Emperors.
His spear, the one used previously to create the islands of Japan, was thrown into the crest of Mt. Takachiho-no-mine, where it is found to this day.
Takachiho-no-mine is another popular hike of this mountain, not only due to its mythological background but also for its panoramic beauty.
You can also explore the lakes related to the Japanese creation myth and feel your spiritual side deep inside the mountains.
8. Rishiri Island
Rishiri is a volcanic island in Japan, which is located on the coast of Hokkaido.
This island is formed by the ruins of the volcanic peak of Mount Rishiri, which reached an elevation of 1,721 meters.
The last eruption of the volcanic island dates back to thousands of years ago. Since then, no eruption has occurred here.
Nowadays, this area is renowned for its incredible natural beauty and scenic views.
And if you love to see different kinds of birds, you will definitely want to go there.
A large population of birds, such as the Japanese robins and black-tailed gulls, is available here.
Actually, it is not among the largest places where you can easily get access, but if you are interested in off the beaten track, you can consider visiting.
Before going there, be noted that you must have the capability to handle difficult hikes.
9. Jigokudani and Noboribetsu
Japan is famous for its numerous onsens, and if you ask for a famous onsen spot in Japan, I will mention the name Jigokudani, or Hell Valley, which is located in the south of Sapporo in Hokkaido.
There are steam vents in this area so that you can observe volcanic activity up close and Noboribetsu as well.
Be noted that the word Jigokudani, used for the steam plumes and hiking trails of this area, is also attributed to other places such as the renowned Jigokudani Monkey Park on Honshu in Nagano Prefecture.
Therefore, be sure to book the right one before your trip.
What makes this park so famous among locals and tourists is its snow monkeys.
When visiting this park, you may meet some of those monkeys emerging from the forest to soak in the onsen.
Such an unusual thing to observe, right?
And don’t forget to capture the funny moment on your camera.
10. Mount Zao
Mt. Zao, more accurately referred to as the Zao Mountains or Zao Renpo, is situated on the prefectural border between Yamagata and Miyagi.
They are actually a group of stratovolcanoes and one of the most active volcanoes in Japan.
This mountain is home to the Okama Crater and its Five Color Pond that was created by an eruption in the 1720s. The reason behind the name of this pond is it changes color with changes in sunlight.
Mount Zao is not only one of the most revered and sacred spots but also a popular holiday destination throughout the year for exciting outdoor activities and ancient onsen baths.
If you are a nature lover, you should go there in summer to observe the spectacular beauty of Okama Crater.
Otherwise, you can visit this place in winter when Zao Onsen turns into a leading ski resort. It is some of the places in Japan where you can see snow monsters (frozen trees) as well.
Nothing can beat soaking in these waters after day-long hiking and skiing around the snow monsters of Zao Onsen!
11. Mount Kusatsu-Shirane
Mount Shirane is often called Kusatsu-Shirane to differentiate it from other mountains called Shirane.
It consists of a series of active volcanic peaks, standing just outside the town of Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma Prefecture.
Speaking about the last or most recent eruption, it happened in 2018.
Mount Kusatsu-Shirane is a famous destination because of its mind-blowing scenery, lofty peak, and plenty of well-marked hiking trails.
The crest of this mountain reaches up to 2,171 m, with three dazzling crater lakes tucked away among its higher realms.
Among the three lakes, the largest lake, Yugama is the stand-out feature of the mountain. Its colorful waters contrast so perfectly with the disconsolate landscapes around it.
The most famous and easiest walk is from the Shirane Resthouse to Yugama Lake. It takes less than ten minutes along a paved trail, and you may see many women doing it wearing high heels.
You can also enjoy the magnificent color display of nature in fall, and skiing can be enjoyed in winter.
In addition to these, the bubbling springs at the volcano’s base have always been a popular attraction regardless of the season.
12. Beppu Hells
Beppu Hells is another popular onsen or hot springs area that is located on the island of Kyushu.
What makes these hot springs distinct from the others is that you can’t soak yourself in many of them as they are too hot with over 100 degrees Celsius temperatures.
You will find different pools with different qualities and appearances.
One is Umi Jigoku, which is blue in color and covered in steam.
Another one is Chinoike Jigoku, or Blood Pond Hell, which looks bright red in color because of the high iron and magnesium contents in the water.
There is also the Kamado Jigoku or Cooking Pot Hell. Here you can even cook your food in the steam of this hot spring.
Well, don’t worry, there are some nearby places where you can soak.
However, regardless of whether you enjoy the baths, visiting these photogenic hot springs will be worth your time.
Another way to explore this onsen area is by bicycle. You can ride down to the coastline and enjoy the beautiful lush scenery along the way.
So, that was the small sampling of some of Japan’s most famous places that are the result of volcanic activity.
Let’s conclude it here.
By this time, you have gathered a broad idea about some famous volcanoes in Japan.
Whether you want to go hiking or soak yourself in the warm water of hot springs, you can add a few of these places to your Japan bucket list.
Lastly, happy traveling, and most importantly, don’t forget to check the status of current volcanic activity before finalizing any of these places.