What to do and Where to stay in
Japanese Alps

Sprinkled with superb onsen, ancient castles and a vast array of hiking and cycling trails, the awesome Japanese Alps are a must-visit destination for any Japan itinerary. Rising sharply near the border of Nagano and Gifu prefectures, all but one (Mount Fuji) of Japan’s highest peaks are found in this series of mountain ranges that dominate Central Honshu.

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Experiences in Japanese Alps

In the north, sitting on the Sea of Japan coastline, Kanazawa is packed with culture. It’s best known for Kenroku-en, a 17th-century castle garden. Visit in early morning for your best chance of experiencing its tranquility, perhaps prior to the wonderfully preserved geisha and samurai districts. Don’t miss Myōryū-ji, commonly known as Ninja-dera – this Buddhist temple contains secret chambers, hidden stairways and escape routes that were designed to protect samurai from possible attack. It’s also worth visiting the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and Omicho Market, where locals come to buy fresh seafood, meat, kitchen tools and flowers. Kanazawa produces 98% of Japan’s gold leaf, and you can pick up all sorts of gilded goodies, from pottery to ice cream.

Head east and inland towards Nagano, a place of pilgrimage since the Kamakura period. Its Buddhist temple, Zenko-ji, still attracts more than four million visitors per year. This is also the jumping-off point for reaching the snow monkeys of Yudanaka. The best time to visit is between January and early March when snow covers the park, and your chances of seeing the Japanese macaques in their natural winter environment are greatest.

For those keen to hike, Kamikochi offers trails with a picture-perfect alpine backdrop. The 19th-century British missionary Reverend Walter Weston is credited with naming this mountainous region the “Japan Alps”. As you trek, look out for wildflowers, monkeys and “yama-goya” (mountain huts) where you can stop to eat a simple lunch.   Takayama is also ideal for a half-day cycling tour through rice paddies and riverside streetscapes. The city, which sits in the mountainous Gifu Prefecture, is one of Japan’s most atmospheric, with a layout that dates back to the 17th century. Museums and galleries rub shoulders with temples, traditional craft shops and sake breweries. Stroll through Sanmachi-suji district (the original district of three main streets of merchants) past immaculately preserved “furui machinami” (old private houses) and stop to sample this Japanese tipple.

If you are interested in travelling to this region as an extension of your Japan itinerary, we’ll recommend some lovely accommodation options!


Accommodation in Japanese Alps


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