There's nothing quite like a road trip, by car or motorcycle, to take in the magnificent scenery of Japan. From Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, join us as we drive along some of Japan's most famous and remarkable roads. There's plenty of variation to appreciate throughout Japan's 4 distinct seasons, from the vivid greenery of springtime and the sea under bright blue skies in summer, to the red and golden leaves of autumn and snow-capped peaks in wintertime. Whether travelling alone or with family or friends, you're sure to have the trip of a lifetime.

    1

    Yamanami Highway

    Views of mountains and undulating mountain pass connecting Yufuin and Aso

    The 60-kilometre-long Prefectural Road No. 11 (Beppu Aso Ichinomiya Line) runs through the mountainous area connecting Yufuin and Aso. Nicknamed Yamanami Highway ("Mountain Range Highway"), this is the most famous driving route in Kyushu. The scenery from the pass overlooking the Kuju mountain range is exceptional. Take a break at Asahidai Observatory (once visited by Emperor Showa) to view the vast panorama from an altitude of 1,000 metres. There's also a restaurant nearby where you can enjoy local flavours. The climax is Chojahara, where Mt. Iou appears in front of you. This phenomenal scenery is unmissable. You can also enjoy a walk from Chojabaru to Tadewara Wetland.

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    2

    Chirihama Nagisa Driveway

    Enjoy a luxurious drive along a sandy beach beside the Sea of Japan

    This is a rare find: a driveway along a sandy beach next to the Sea of Japan, about a 40-minute drive north of Kanazawa. You don't need a beach buggy or anything like that, either. Ordinary cars, motorcycles, buses, and bicycles are all free to travel here. This is a really cool way to enjoy the sea breeze and spectacular ocean views. In the early evening, the bright red sunset lights up the sea, creating a fantastic atmosphere. There are souvenir shops and restaurants nearby, so after a drive, why not take a break and try some delicious seafood? There's even a soothing footbath at the roadside station here.

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    3

    Setouchi Shimanami Kaido

    A seaside cycling route up there with the world's best

    This cycling route starts from Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture in Honshu and from Imabari, Ehime Prefecture in Shikoku. Now the envy of cyclists around the world, the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido experience is great for experienced cyclists, as it offers a ride that covers a minimum distance of 70 kilometres. The highlight is being able to see the scenery unique to Seto Inland Sea from the top of the bridge. If you want to break up your journey a bit, make sure you stop by the islands, beaches and restaurants for some relaxation, or take a quick excursion by boat or bus. There are many places where you can rent a bicycle, and you can return your bicycle at drop-off points along the way.

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    4

    Irabu-Ohashi Bridge

    The longest toll-free bridge in Japan is now open

    The 3,540-metre-long Irabu Ohashi Bridge, which opened in 2015, connects Miyakojima and Irabujima in Okinawa Prefecture, making it possible to drive to enjoy island tourism that was previously limited to boats. This is the longest bridge in Japan that you can cross free of charge. The 15-minute drive gives spectacular views of the beautiful clear sea with its coral reefs as well as the bridge itself. The view from Makiyama Observatory on Irabu Island is a particular standout. This is the perfect spot overlooking the islands of Okinawa in the sea known as "Miyako Blue". Photo opps abound, so get ready to shoot.

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    5

    Roads leading to heaven (Hokkaido)

    These long, straight roads are symbolic of Hokkaido

    Passing through Shiretoko Shari, the increasingly popular national highways 244 and 334 are also known as "roads leading to heaven". The seemingly endless straight road (actually about 27.5 kilometres long) gives a really strange feeling of driving up to heaven. The real charm of travel in Hokkaido is on full show here, with the natural environment of Shiretoko, the Sea of Okhotsk, and the setting sun on the horizon in front of you. This is a drive like no other, an unforgettable experience for all.

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    6

    Venus Line

    Take a drive from the foot of Mt. Yatsugatake through Utsukushigahara

    This famous route takes in sightseeing spots in Nagano Prefecture, Tateshina Onsen, Lake Shirakaba, Kirigamine Plateau, Utsukushigahara Plateau, and more. The idyllic scenery is that of a seemingly endless mountain road. Head to the Mitsumine Observatory for a panoramic view of the mountains from high altitude. At the highest point, the Utsukushigahara Plateau, there's a 360-degree panoramic view where you'll see calves grazing on ranches. Oh and don't forget to visit Utsukushigahara Kogen Museum for some artistic exploration.

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    7

    Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

    A nature-rich mountain road running from Tateyama to Kurobe Dam

    From Tateyama to Murodo, the highest point, this drive takes you up through Bijodaira Forest, which is lined with giant trees, and the 350-metre-high Shomyo Falls. In summertime you can enjoy stunning views of Mikurigaike, a lake in which the mountains of the Northern Alps are clearly reflected on the surface of the water, while in the wintertime there's a "Snow Corridor" with 20-metre-high snow walls running over 500 metres. From the Daikanbo mountain you can see Lake Kurobe and the Ushiro-Tateyama mountain range, and the autumn leaves here are particularly beautiful. The water discharged from Kurobe Dam (also known as "Kuroyon") is another impressive sight. You'll definitely get a sense of sweat and tears that went into constructing this dam.

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    8

    Roller Coaster Road

    This straight road full of ups and downs is a must-visit in Furano and Biei

    This farm road is flanked by beautiful Hokkaido scenery and has been certified as one of the 8 most picturesque sights in Kamifurano. It gets its name from the fact that there are some hair-raising ups and downs over a stretch of about 2.5 kilometres. But of course you won't be going at roller coaster speeds, so take your time to check out the colourful patchwork fields of Biei and Furano with their beautiful rows of flowers and vegetables. And in the background you'll see the majestic Mount Tokachi. For a summer drive by car (or a motorcycle ride) through Hokkaido, this is hard to beat.

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