Introducing The Japan Alps & Central Honshū
Central Honshū is Japan’s heartland in both geography and attitude. Stretching between the two great megalopolises of Kantō (Greater Tokyo) and Kansai (Osaka–Kyoto–Kobe), the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, this region is filled with commercial centres and traditional towns, the massive Japan Alps and a rugged northern coastline.
In Central Honshū’s southern prefectures, called ‘Chūbu’ in Japanese, trekking takes you through valleys and summits in the Japan Alps National Park, and onsen (mineral hot-spring) towns offer welcome recovery for the hikers and skiers, drawn to the Olympic slopes of Nagano-ken. The Sea of Japan side of this region (‘Hokuriku’ in Japanese) boasts cliff-top vistas, remarkable temples and incredibly fresh seafood.
Busy Nagoya, Japan’s fourth-largest city, is the nation’s industrial heart, with a can-do spirit and unique foods. Hokuriku’s hub is Kanazawa, a historic yet thriving city whose handsome streets once housed samurai and geisha. Lovely Takayama is admired for its traditional riverside houses, delicious cuisine and verdant countryside. Matsumoto is another favourite with visitors for its striking 16th-century black-and-white castle and many galleries.
The mountainous Unesco World Heritage sites of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama showcase Japan’s rich architectural tradition, and Central Honshū is traversed by the Nakasendō, the Edo-period trunk road through the mountains.