The Japanese Alps, located on the main island of Honshu are a series of mountains which encompasses four prefectures Toyama, Gifu, Nagano and Niigata. The Alps are part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park and right at the base of the range are 7 unique and interesting world class cities to explore.
World famous ski resorts, inviting and invigorating hot springs, breath taking scenery, warm, friendly people, stunning vistas and a glimpse into the past all come together to make the Japanese Alps and the cities nestled at their feet the best way to spend time in Japan.
Located centrally on the Sea of Japan coast, Toyama City faces the Tateyama Mountain Range and is the gateway to the Japan Alps. Toyama City is also the only place in Asia where you will find glaciers besides Russia. Take a trip along the world famous Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route but don’t miss the other must see sights of this beautiful city including Kurobe Valley, the Unazuki- onsen hot springs, Zuiyu-ji temple and the World Heratage Gokayama Village.
Toyama City is also well known for its scrumptious and abundant seafood since it is one of the richest fishing areas in Japan. White shrimp, firefly squid and yellowtail are all on the menu.
In the northwest section of the Nagano Prefecture is a small jewel of a city called Omachi City. Omachi City is surrounded by hot springs and breathtakingly gorgeous views that the true nature lover should not miss.
Some of the best places to visit in Omachi City include the majestic Kurobe Dam. The Kurobe Dam is 186 meters in height and has more than 10 tons of water flowing through it per second making it an extremely powerful sight.
Kurobe is not the only “natural” wonder to see while visiting Omachi. Spend winter days skiing and snowboarding the silvery slopes or visit the Alps Azumino National Government Park and marvel at the beauty of nature or simply lean back and relax in one of the city’s many hot springs spas.
Located just outside of Takayama City, Hida City is small picturesque town which has been mostly isolated and hidden from the world leaving it virtually untouched and unexplored. Visiting the town is like a trip back in time and visitors can get a real glimpse into the everyday life of rural Japan. Some must-see sights in Hida City are the traditional storehouses which are fronted by a small canal called Setogawa. The canal is loaded with thousands of carp and is an excellent place for a romantic stroll.
Located along the Japanese Alps, Takayama City is where you need to be if you want to see one of the top ranked festivals in Japan. The Takayama City fall and spring festivals attract thousands of visitors from around the world with many of them falling head over heels in love with the delightful architect of the Old Private Houses and scenery.
When visiting Takayama some of the must see places are the morning market where you can purchase adorable Sarubobo Charms, the Hirayu Grand Waterfall and the Hida Great Limestone Cave.
Like all the other cities which border the Japan Alps, Azumino is known for its world class skiing, hot spring and beautiful scenery but Azumino is also known for its wealth of cultural attractions. No trip to Azumino would be complete without a visit to Daio Wasabi farm which is the largest of its kind in Japan or a trip through the many art museums and galleries known as the Azumino Art Line. Spend hours wandering along and enjoying master pieces from famous Japanese artists like Chihiro Iwasaki, Takahashi Setsuro and Ogiwara Rokuzan.
Located in the Nagano Prefecture, Matsumoto City is known for its friendly people, clean streets and the Suzuki music method. Visitors to Matsumoto can enjoy exploring the castle, the city and the countryside which is lovely any time of year.
Matsumoto is also home to Kamikochi which is considered to be the gateway to the Japan Alps. Kamikochi is part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park and at 1,500 meters above sea level is a stunningly beautiful area filled with lush greenery and popular hot springs.
In town, Matsumoto, a city of 220,000 people, is a delightful blend of the old and new with world class shopping and fine dining side by side with local handicrafts and cuisine.
Located in Nagano Japan, Shiojiri is the last city in our tour of the Japanese Alps. Shiojiri is best known for three things, like all cities located along the Japanese Alps Shiojiri is surrounded by breath taking scenery and natural wonders but it is also a historical area as it is the last city of the route known as the “Salt Road” and is home to the Narai Post Town which provided a welcome resting place for weary travelers as they came through the mountain passes.
The “salt Road” is the historical name for the route that salt merchants would take when traveling inland from the Sea of Japan. In fact the name Shiojiri actually means end of salt in English. Shiojiri was the end of the “Road” because the mountains became impassable once past the city.
Famous for its wineries, Shiojiri is steeped in history and visitors will delight in a trip to the Hiraide Iseki which is archeologically dugouts and museum as well as the soaking up the atmosphere of the historical buildings which have been preserved as national treasures.
From the glaciers of Toyama to the historical loveliness of Shiojiri the Japan Alps are an exciting adventure filled with plenty to see and do. Here you are surrounded by warm friendly people as you explore the breath taking majesty of nature at her finest. Once you are done with your explorations, relax and recuperate from your excursions in one of the areas local hot springs before heading back to town.
When you are ready to come back to town, each city along our route offers quaint lodging, tasty and interesting local cuisine and plenty of culture in the form of museums, music, festivals and shopping. The Japan Alps will leave you wishing you could stay longer.