Chubu is the central region on Japan’s main island, Honshu, and it consists of a total of 9 prefectures. Compared to the Kanto and Kansai region, Chubu does not appear to be a top destination among foreign visitors. If you have visited the usual places like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto and would like to explore a different part of Japan, why not consider the Chubu region? It is home Mount Fuji and the Northern Alps. Unsurprisingly then, the best attractions are nestled in the mountain valleys. The route appeals to nature lovers and people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.
Day 1: Nagoya
Nagoya is the 4th populated city in Japan and the economic centre of the Aichi Prefecture. A major transportation centre that’s easy to get in, start your journey from here.
What to see in Nagoya:
- Railway Museum (for trainspotters)
- Nagoya Castle
- Tokugawa Art Museum
- Atsuta Shrine
Day 2: Travel from Nagoya to Matusumoto by train. Overnight stay in Matsumoto.
Matsumoto is surrounded by the Japan Alps, hence wherever you go, you can always see the snow-capped peaks in the far distance. The city is known for its castle, which is one of the most complete original castle in Japan. The Nakamichi Old District is lined with well-preserved merchant houses from the past.
What to see in Matsumoto:
- Matsumoto Castle
- Nakamachi Old District
Day 3: Travel from Matsumoto to Shinano Omachi via local train, the start of the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route.
The Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is a scenic mountain crossing spanning between Toyama City in the Toyama Prefecture and Omachi town in Nagano Prefecture. The route takes 6-8 hours to complete depending on how long you stop at each station. The route is traversed using different modes of transportation at high altitudes, which provide a bird’s eye view of the vast mountain range.
Overnight stay at Toyama City.
Day 4: Travel from Toyama to Takayama
Takayama has a certain old world charm to it. During the Edo Period, the city was a successful merchant town. Its merchant houses in the old town are still beautifully preserved since then.
If you’re visiting in Spring or Autumn, be sure to time your visit with the Takayama Matsuri which takes place in April and October. It is highly rated as one of the best festivals in Japan.
What to see in Takayama:
- Old Town
- Hida Folk Village
- Takayama Jinya
Day 5: Travel via local bus from Takayama to Shirakawago
Shirakawago is a small village in the remote mountains known for its gassho-zukuri houses. The unique thatched roofs resemble hands of a Buddhist monk pressed together in prayer. Some of the houses have been converted to tourist centres and it’s interesting to see how large an effort it takes to change the thatched roofs every few years, and that involves the cooperation of the entire village. It’s also possible to do a homestay in one of the gassho zukuri houses, which I think will be a very memorable experience.
Shirakawago is a small village and takes only a few hours to explore the area. After visiting the village, you can take a local bus to Kanazawa.
Kanazawa is a historic city that used to be the seat of the Maeda Clan, one of the most powerful feudal clans after the Tokugawa. In the past, the city was on par with Kyoto and Edo in cultural developments. Many of the merchant houses from the Edo Period are still well-preserved in the Higashi Chaya District. The highlight of Kanazawa is the Kenrokuen, which is considered to be the most beautiful landscape garden in the country.
What to see in Kanazawa:
- Higashi Chaya District