The Three Views of Japan, or nihon sankei, were decided hundreds of years ago by scholar Hayashi Gaho. Gaho was the chief official scholar of the Tokugawa Shogunate, a post formerly held by his father, and was a respected poet and teacher. The original Three Views of Japan are still considered to be the most beautiful scenic areas in the entire country.
Matushima Bay can be found in northeastern Japan in Miyagi Prefecture. The bay is home to over 260 islands, and together the serene blue waters and the gray, heavily-wooded islands are one of the three most scenic views of Japan. There are four lookout points in the area that make up the “Four Great Scenes of Matsushima” or Matsushima Shidaikan. In 2013, Matsushima Bay joined the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World, an organization founded in 1997 that recognizes the exceptional beauty of these natural formations.
The Amanohashidate Sandbar is a large, winding land formation in Miyazu Bay, Kyoto Prefecture. The sandbar is three kilometers long and ranges in width from 40 to 100 meters. It is made up of white sands and thousands of pine trees. Not unlike Matsushima’s pine-clad, pale gray islands, the contrast between the stark white sandbar and the lush greenery creates a stunning landscape called hakusha seisho or “white sand and green trees.” Amanohashidate is a couple of hours north of Kyoto city by car.
On Miyajima, Itsukushima Shrine’s most iconic feature is its floating torii, which are the large gates that mark the entrances to Shinto shrines. Every day at high tide, the lonely gates are surrounded by several feet of water, lending them an otherworldly aura. However, the area’s nihon sankei ranking includes the whole of Itsukushima Shrine and not just its floating torii. The brilliant red shrine was designed to look like a bird when viewed from the shore. Itsukushima Shrine was built sometime during the 12th century and has been designated as a World Cultural Heritage Site since 1996.