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About Natural Parks

Overview of the Natural Park System

Natural parks are parks that have been designated for the purpose of preserving the rich beauty of natural scenic locations, and for providing a place for people to interact with nature and enjoy outdoor recreational activities. These parks are designated without regard to land ownership, and therefore include not only land owned by national and local governments, but also privately owned land.
The exceptional natural landscapes designated as natural parks are invaluable treasures, each one crafted by a combination of many factors, such as the local climate and the various plants and animals that live there. These natural parks are managed through the establishment of preservation plans to help maintain these natural landscapes, as well as utilization plans to help residents and visitors enjoy them.
The nature park system plays a significant and historical role among the organizations charged with preserving the natural environment in Japan.

The Zoning of Natural Parks

Japan's natural parks are designated under a zoning system. Under this system, the national government and local government have the power to designate as natural parks land to which the government does not have management rights. These designated natural scenic locations are then protected under a fixed set of official restrictions.
In countries such as Japan, where the land usage rate is already very high, this kind of system is effective for the designation of parks on government land and for the preservation of "secondary nature," or natural sites that are not in an untouched natural state, but were shaped by the cultural landscape or by the efforts of people. However, because this system requires the adjustment of individual property rights and industry, partnerships with local areas are essential.

Designations of Natural Parks

Natural parks are designated according to the Natural Park Act, and are categorized as national parks, quasi-natural parks, or prefectural natural parks according to the scale of the park and the park's scenic value.
The following data is current as of April 1, 2016.

Natural Parks

The term "natural parks" collectively refers to national parks, quasi-national parks, and prefectural natural parks. Natural parks are designated under Article 2, Paragraph 1 of the Natural Park Act.

Nationwide 400 natural parks with a total area of 5,501,762 ha (approximately 13,595,150 acres or 14% of the area of Japan)
In Tokyo 10 natural parks with a total area of 79,882 ha (approximately 197,393 acres or 36% of the area of Tokyo)

National Parks

Outstanding natural landscapes that are considered representative of Japan are designated as national parks. These parks are designated and managed by the national government. Tokyo outsources some of its park operations as statutory entrusted affairs.

Nationwide 32 parks with a total area of 2,114,998 ha (5,226,274 acres)
In Tokyo Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park 35,298 ha (87,223 acres); designated July 10, 1950
Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park 27,499 ha (67,952 acres); designated July 7, 1964
Ogasawara National Park 6,629 ha (16,381 acres); designated October 19, 1972

Quasi-National Parks

Excellent natural landscapes on a level equivalent to that of national parks are designated as quasi-national parks. These parks are designated by the national government, and managed by the local prefectural government.

Nationwide 57 parks with a total area of 1,419,542 ha (3,507,765 acres)
In Tokyo Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park 770 ha (1903 acres); designated December 11, 1967

Prefectural Natural Parks

Excellent natural landscapes are designated as prefectural natural parks. These parks are designated and managed by the local prefectural government.

Nationwide 311 parks with a total area of 1,967,222 ha (4,861,111 acres)
In Tokyo Takiyama Natural Park 661 ha (633 acres); designated November 7, 1950
Takao-Jimba Natural Park 4,403 ha (10,880 acres); designated November 25, 1950
Tama Hills Natural Park 1,959 ha (4,841 acres); designated November 25, 1950
Sayama Natural Park 775 ha (1,915 acres); designated March 15, 1951
Hamura Kusabana Hills Natural Park 553 ha (1,366 acres); designated March 12, 1953
Akikawa Hills Natural Park 1,335 ha (3,299 acres); designated October 1, 1953

Authorities Responsible for the Designation of Parks and Related Matters

  Designation Park planning Park operations
National Parks The national government (the Minister of the Environment) makes decisions upon consultation with the relevant prefecture and a deliberative council. These decisions are published in the Official Gazette. The national government (the Minister of the Environment) makes decisions upon consultation with the relevant prefecture and a deliberative council. These decisions are published in the Official Gazette. The national government (the Minister of the Environment) makes the final decision upon consultation with a deliberative council. These decisions are published in the Official Gazette.
Quasi-National Parks Upon receiving an application from the relevant prefecture, the national government (the Minister of the Environment) makes a decision upon consultation with a deliberative council. These decisions are published in the Official Gazette. Upon receiving an application from the relevant prefecture, the national government (the Minister of the Environment) makes a decision upon consultation with a deliberative council. These decisions are published in the Official Gazette. The prefectural governor makes decisions. These decisions are publicly announced.
Tokyo Prefectural Natural Parks The governor of Tokyo makes decisions upon consultation with the relevant cities, wards, towns, or villages, and with a deliberative council. These decisions are publicly announced. The governor of Tokyo makes decisions upon consultation with the relevant cities, wards, towns, or villages, and with a deliberative council. These decisions are publicly announced. The governor of Tokyo makes decisions upon consultation with a deliberative council. These decisions are publicly announced.

Park Planning

The purpose of the Natural Park System is to preserve and utilize scenic locations. Park planning, which consists of preservation planning and utilization planning, is carried out in order to ensure that these two purposes, preservation and utilization, are not at odds with one another. Park planning involves the establishment of rules and regulations, as well as the provision and management of facilities. The provision and management of facilities for preservation and utilization, or park operations, is carried out in accordance with park planning by the national government or by local public organizations.

Preservation Planning

Preservation planning establishes a plan to preserve the natural scenery. Parks are divided into areas according to the characteristics of the landscape, and the appropriate restrictions on activities are determined for each area.

Utilization Planning

Utilization planning establishes a plan for installing and maintaining facilities to enthusiastically promote the appropriate utilization of natural parks.

Organizational Structure of Park Planning


Image of Organizational Structure of Park Planning

Note 1: Tokyo Prefectural Natural Parks do not designate areas as special protection zones or marine park zones.
Note 2: The designation of regulated utilization areas took effect in April 2003.

Park operations

The term "park operations" refers to operations that are specified during park planning and carried out in accordance with preservation planning and utilization planning.
The national government (the Ministry of the Environment) is in charge of park operations for national parks, and the Tokyo prefectural government is in charge of park operations for quasi-national parks and prefectural national parks. However, it is possible for any service provider to carry out park operations, as long as the appropriate procedures are followed. The Tokyo prefectural government carries out park operations for many natural parks, including national parks.

  National parks Quasi-national parks Tokyo prefectural natural parks
National government (Ministry of the Environment) Park operations carried out by the national government - -
Prefecture (or local public organizations) Park operations carried out upon consultation with the national government Park operations carried out by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government
(or by cities, wards, towns, or villages upon consultation with the prefectural government)
Park operations carried out by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government
(or by cities, wards, towns, or villages upon consultation with the prefectural government)
Private service providers Park operations carried out by private service providers who have submitted an application and received approval from the national government Park operations carried out by private service providers who have submitted an application and received approval from the prefectural government Park operations carried out by private service providers who have submitted an application and received approval from the prefectural government

The Preservation of Natural Parks

It is our responsibility to protect the scenic beauty (exceptional scenic landscapes) of our natural parks, and to pass it down, unchanged, to future generations. In order to do this, a set of rules have been established for maintaining the natural landscapes of our national parks. In addition, efforts are also being made to restore elements of nature that have been harmed.

Designation of Zones and Restrictions on Activities

Within the areas designated as natural parks, certain areas are designated as special zones according to the preservation plan. Special zones are then further divided into special protection zones, class I special zones, class II special zones, and class III special zones, according to the state of the landscape. Exceptional marine landscapes are designated as marine park zones.

Classification Restrictions on activities
Special zones Special protection zones The wilderness in these zones must be protected. Permission-based
(Regulations vary depending on the specific zone.)
Class I special zones As much as possible, the current landscape must be maintained. Permission-based
(Regulations vary depending on the specific zone.)
Class II special zones As much as possible, the activities of agricultural, forestry, and fishing industries must be controlled. Permission-based
(Regulations vary depending on the specific zone.)
Class III special zones The normal activities of agricultural, forestry, and fishing industries are allowed. Permission-based
(Regulations vary depending on the specific zone.)
Marine park zones The marine landscapes in these zones must be protected.  
Ordinary zones The landscapes in these zones must be protected. Application-based

Within natural parks, activities that impact the natural landscape are restricted. However, the details of these activities and restrictions differ based on the classification of each zone. For details, see the page for procedures for submitting applications related to restrictions.

Utilization of Natural Parks

National parks are not only places where nature is preserved, but they are also places where people can learn more about nature and interact with nature for the sake of their health and enjoyment. For this purpose, facilities such as Tokyo Shizen-fureai-Park (Tokyo Communication Park with nature) and visitor centers are established within the natural parks. These facilities are established as one part of the park operations that are carried out in accordance with park planning. Hiking trails and paths are also maintained in order to make them easier to use.

Administration of Park Operations (Facilities)

Type of operations Tokyo Prefecture's efforts
Paths and bridges Establish and maintain paths, such as hiking trails, within natural parks. In addition, install facilities such as benches and restrooms.
Open fields and park lands Establish and maintain open fields and park lands, including Tokyo Shizen-fureai-Park (Tokyo Communication Park with nature), from the perspective of park utilization.
Large-scale park lands and other open areas are referred to as "Tokyo Shizen-fureai-Park (Tokyo Communication Park with nature)" in order to appeal to visitors.
Lodges and emergency shelters Build cabins to which visitors can temporarily evacuate in the event of sudden thunderstorms or other types of inclement weather, especially in the Okutama area.
Rest areas, outlooks, and information centers Establish an information center at Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, and provide information about trails and hiking courses to visitors.
Campgrounds, athletic grounds, and swimming areas Establish campgrounds, especially in island areas. Most of these facilities can be used free of charge.
Parking garages, parking lots, gas stations, and other vehicle-related facilities Manage parking lots for the use of visitors who come to the natural parks by car. Parking lots can be used free of charge.
Water supply, sewage, public restrooms, and other plumbing-related facilities Manage water supply and sewage for campgrounds and other areas. Install public restrooms in locations that are convenient for park visitors.
Museums, gardens, zoos, and visitor centers At visitor centers, display and explain the nature and culture of the area, and provide information about the natural park. There are seven visitor centers within Tokyo. There is also a garden on the island of Hachijojima, and a zoo on the island of Oshima.

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