Don't let Chubu's spectacular scenery whizz by
Most tourists will only glimpse the region as a blur through a bullet train window; Chubu, though, deserves your attention.
The central region of Japan’s main island, Chubu is the mountainous hinterland that predominantly serves as a passage between the economic centers of Kanto and Kansai. Chubu though has some of the country’s most scenic natural landscapes, great skiing and historical castle towns all bathing in the majestic aura of its iconic national landmark, Mount Fuji.
There are nine prefectures in Chubu which can be grouped together into three regions: the Hokuriku region, consisting of Fukui, Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures, the Koshinetsu region, which includes Yamanashi, Nagano and Niigata, and the Tokai region, made up of Shizuoka, Aichi and Gifu prefectures.
Fukui is located along the Sea of Japan coast and is best known for Eiheiji temple, an active monastery in the mountains with around 200 monks who come to train in Soto Zen Buddhism. Neighbouring Ishikawa prefecture is worth visiting for the picturesque city of Kanazawa, which has well-preserved samurai and geisha districts, as well as one of Japan’s top three most beautiful gardens at Kenrokuen. Head up the coast to see the spectacular scenery at the secluded Noto Peninsula.
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a unique route across the Northern Japan Alps starting in Toyama prefecture. From April to June you can walk (or drive) through a giant snow corridor where accumulated powder creates 20 meter high white walls, before continuing through Chubu Sangaku National Park all the way to Nagano prefecture.
It’s hard to miss the soaring Mount Fuji, which dominates landlocked Yamanashi prefecture. The Fuji Five Lake region at the base of the mountain has some beautiful lakeside resorts, with hiking, fishing and hot springs aplenty. At Yamanouchi in Nagano, you’ll have to fight for a bathing spot with one of the wild monkeys in the local onsen (hot spring baths) after spending the day at Shiga Kogen, the largest ski resort in the country. Yuzawa in Niigata is one of the most accessible ski resorts from Kanto.
Mount Fuji also muscles in on Shizuoka prefecture but the area is best known for the Izu Peninsula, a popular resort thanks to its stunning coastlines, beautiful beaches and quaint towns within easy reach of Tokyo. The bustling economic center of Nagoya in Aichi prefecture is Japan’s fourth largest city, and a good place to re-stock before visiting some of the remote mountain towns in scenic Gifu prefecture; home to the ‘little Kyoto’ of the north, Takayama, plus a number of nice hot spring resorts.