Land area: 148,194 ha
Designated on September 7, 1949
The volcanic mountain range and cool plateaus extending at its foot are loved by the Japanese, and their natural beauty has been taken up by many poets as a theme of their pieces. As a summer resort, the plateaus and mountains draw many visitors and for climbing and skiing. There are also a plenty of hot springs in the area.
The park has a lot of attractions in the mids of abundant nature.
Joshin'etsukogen National Park, located in almost the center of the main island, is the second largest national park in Japan. It is a vast park which consists of three sections: an area with a group of volcanoes ranging from Mt. Tanigawadake (1,978 m) to Mt. Asamayama (2,568 m) and the plateaus around it, the area which includes Mt. Myokosan (2,454 m), Mt. Togakushiyama (1,904 m) and other mountains and plateaus at their foot, and the area that contains Lake Nojiriko.
The Tanigawa Mounain Chain in the east end of the park is a group of mountains of different formation which has Mt. Sennokurayama (2,026 m) as its highest peak. The mountains are steep with large rock faces soaring everywhere. In particular, the sheer rock face on the east side of Mt. Tanigawadake is noted as an excellent spot for rock climbing. In the middle reaches of the Kiyotsugawa River flowing in the west of the mountains is the towering Kiyotsukyo Gorge, which is considered one of the three greatest valleys in Japan. Mt. Naebasan (2,145 m) located on the west side of the river is a lava plateau with many swamps, and the area has popular ski grounds.
In the south of the mountain chain rises an active volcano, Mt. Shiranesan (2,160 m). Shigakogen Highlands, which stretches from the northwest of the mountain, is situated at 1,400 – 1,700 m above sea level and has more than forty lakes and ponds. Further south, there is Mt. Azumayasan (2,354 m) with the Sugadairakogen Plateau, a broad highland located at an altitude of about 1,300 m, extending from its west. In this area, Shigakogen Highlands is a prominent ski ground. Mt. Asamayama in its south is one of the representative active volcanoes in Japan, and has erupted repeatedly even in modern times. Onioshidashi, the lava field on the north side of the mountain, in which a stream of black lava extends as wide as 1.5 km, was formed after a large-scale eruption in 1783. Karuizawakogen Plateau on the south of Mt. Asamayama lies at an altitude of about 1,000 m. It has been a famous summer resort since old times.
The Myoko Mountain Chain in the west end of the park is a range of volcanoes including Mt. Myokosan. In the south, there is the Togakushi Mountain Chain with Mt. Togakushiyama as its main peak. The mountain is flanked by Mt. Kurohimeyama (2,053 m), and Myokokogen Plateau and other plateaus are spread out at its foot. The Togakushijinja Shrine in the heart of this mountainous area is a holy ground with a long history.
Lake Nojiriko, located in the east of Mt. Kurohimeyama, is a dammed lake formed by the eruption of Mt. Kurohimeyama and Mt. Madaraoyama (1,382 m). This area is famous for rocks that contain fossils.
The vegetation in the park area changes as the altitude becomes higher, from beech (Fagus crenata) and Japanese oak (Quercus crispula) woods to coniferous forests. In many mountains, communities of alpine plants can be seen. Woods of Japanses larches (Larix kaempferi) and white birches (Betula platyphylla var. japonica) which cover the plateaus are especially beautiful.
Regarding the fauna, the area is a habitat for Japanese macaques and Japanese serows. While their population is small, rock ptarmigans can be observed in some mountains. There are many places in the park such as at the foot of Mt. Asamayama which are well-known as breeding grounds for wild birds. In Mt. Tanigawadake and Mt. Asamayama, Japanese alpines and other rare species of alpine butterflies can be seen.