From far North to tropical South, Japanese are used to rank the landscapes and wonderful places of their country. As a result, many “landscapes elections” exist, from the ancient top 3 to the modern top 100, long before Buzzfeed began to spread tops over the web. And a huge part of these places are still unknown by travelers…

Visiting and describing these places is the first goal of Nippon100.

Hayashi Razan is definitely the guilty one. The adviser of the first four Tokugawa shoguns, born in 1583, was also a traveler in his own country. In 1643, forty years after Edo period began, the scholar was the first to elect three scenic sights as the “Three views of Japan” (Nihonsankei, 日本三景). That very first Japanese election shortly became very popular, and after a few years the art of sankei (三景) itself was fashionable among scholars!

That original ranking, well known by Japanese, suffered a lot of variations during the other centuries of Edo. As a result, one could now discover the very official “New Three views of Japan”, “Three night views of Japan” and “New Three night views of Japan”. But the first Nihonsankei, being the elder and more famous, is the only one that travelers can read about in their guidebooks. And one of its views is particularly famous worldwide.

Miyajima island and its tori are impossible to miss, literally everywhere in travel guides and international advertisement. The place is also easy to access, closed to Hiroshima. But back to the Nihonsankei, the two other views of the top 3 – yet definitely worth the visit – are not so famous…

The Matsushima bay (Miyagi) and Amanohashidate (Kyoto) are the two other views by Hayashi Razan (here pictured by Yoshu Chikanobu et Shesshu Toyo)

While the Japanese are – and that’s logical – well aware of Matsushima bay and Amanohashidate, the two spots are totally ignored by almost all foreigners travelling in Japan.

A travel destination

Since Hayashi Razan, the Three views are a popular destination among Japanese, and not only scholars. Reaching the three famous landscapes even became a kind of national tribute. And as they stand for the more representative of the country, the other sankei‘s entries also became popular for inbound tourism.

But there were not only four top 3 during Edo period. Specialized ranking also appeared back in these days. Meaning that at the beginning of the 20th century, a whole panorama of top 3 already existed. Japan had chosen its official three onsen, mountains, bridges, gardens…

But the sankei art is a subtle one. There is more than a single election per category. For many of them, aside of the three most famous entries, other elections are describing the most beautiful or eldest places. Many spots unknown from tourists that Nippon100 is willing to describe.

For example, speaking of onsen, seven different hot springs are to be found in three different elections: the three famous, three ancient and three special ones.

Saki-no-yu onsen in Shirahama (Wakayama) – see the red circle –  is one of the Three ancient and one of the Three famous onsen of Japan.

In the very first years of Showa Period (circa 1927), Hirohito, the Emperor, decided to create a new list to “reflect the new taste of the new era”. Longer than the scholars’ sankei, the first hyakusen is thus created, with beautiful places form all Japanese prefectures. Still known today, the “100 landscapes of Japan” was a true reference for several generations. Two newspapers – the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun and the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun – and their readers were involved in the selection process.

And in the 20th century Japan, the hyakusen soon became very fashionable. As the sankei did, back in their days, many hundred elections quickly popped up all over Japan, while the authorities were getting fully aware that preserving the cultural and natural assets was a necessity. At the time the country was experiencing a wide urban development, the 1920s were also the years of the National Treasures preservation laws.

These hundred elections, without ranking between the entries, are filled with amazing places, cultural and natural ones. Yet, as for the sankei, a huge part of their spots is unknown from foreign tourists. The few English-available clues about the lists and places can sometimes be found in touristic pamphlets or local exhibitions, but without contextual explanations.

In 2009 – and this one is the guiding theme of Nippon100 – the Yomiuri Shimbun took the lead and decided to create a new national hyakusen, almost a hundred years after the Showa period one. This time, the point is to find the 100 landscapes of the current Era, the Heisei one, at the beginning of a new millennium. In this contemporary selection, one can find the Okhotsk ice-floes, some onsen, a Railway Museum or Tokyo Disney Resort.

This time again, the ranking was created with the help of the newspaper’s readers, about 600 000 of them, and then validated by official authorities.

Many spots unknown from travelers

Again in that list, many places are almost unknown outside of Japan. Westerners traveling in Japan are not aware of about 75 entries of the 2009 hyakusen, these places not to be found in travel guides. While the Chinese and Koreans, being the Japanese closest neighbors, do have a better knowing of these spots. Anyway, these places are a serious option for the development of tourism in Japan.

Not only that, a lot of interesting sights are to be discovered in the many hyakusen. Among the less famous but numerous ones, local or national, the unknown spots ratio is even higher. Some of them are unexpected. Several prefectures have an official list of their Hundred best sunshine sights. And the Japanese created other lists of hundred “soundscapes” representative of their country.

There is still a lot to discover in Japan.

Discover more:

One of the most famous list of Japan is not a ranking. The 36 views of Mount Fuji by Hokusai is known worldwide. And more recently, a photographer from Luxembourg paid a tribute to the ukiyo-e master with a new series of sights.

To find some information about hyakusen, the main resource is still Wikipedia. But a lot of online publications are dealing with the original Three Views (Nihonsankei, 日本三景)for example Zooming Japan or Japan Guide.