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Chubu Itinerary: Explore Central Japan’s Best (5 Days Or More)


by Mehetabel Bartholomew



Welcome to Chubu, the heart of central Japan! With its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, Chubu offers a mesmerizing blend of tradition and modernity. This region boasts a plethora of fascinating destinations, making it an ideal choice for travelers looking to explore the true essence of Japan.


Chubu is perfectly situated between Tokyo and Kyoto, making it easily accessible for both domestic and international visitors. This article will guide you through a 5-day itinerary, though feel free to extend your stay to fully immerse yourself in the wonders of this region.


Your journey begins in Nagoya, the largest city in Chubu. Known for its impressive skyline and bustling atmosphere, Nagoya offers a mix of contemporary attractions and historical sites. Explore the Nagoya Castle, a magnificent castle that dates back to the 17th century, and visit the Osu Shopping Arcade, where you can immerse yourself in the local shopping scene.


On day two, venture to Takayama, a picturesque town nestled in the heart of the Japanese Alps. Famous for its well-preserved Edo-era streets and traditional houses, Takayama offers a glimpse into Japan’s past. Stroll through Sanmachi Suji, a charming district filled with quaint shops and sake breweries, and don’t forget to visit the morning market to sample local delicacies.


Continuing your journey, day three takes you to two must-visit destinations, Shirakawa-go and Kanazawa. Start with Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses. Marvel at the unique architectural style and immerse yourself in the rural charm of the village. From there, head to Kanazawa, known for its well-preserved samurai and geisha districts. Explore the Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, and visit the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art for a taste of modern art.


Day four brings you to Matsumoto and Kamikochi. Matsumoto is home to the stunning Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan’s most picturesque castles. Take in the panoramic views from the observation deck and learn about its rich history. Afterwards, venture into Kamikochi, a serene mountain valley known for its hiking trails and stunning natural beauty. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surrounding mountainscape and breathe in the fresh mountain air.


Conclude your Chubu adventure on day five in Nagano. Visit the Zenkoji Temple, one of Japan’s most important Buddhist temples, and explore the historic town of Obuse, known for its traditional sake breweries and Hokusai Museum. If you visit during winter, don’t miss the opportunity to hit the slopes in the nearby ski resorts.


While this itinerary provides an excellent overview of Chubu, there are additional options you can consider to further customize your trip. From exploring the enchanting Alpine Route to discovering the art-filled town of Nagahama, there is no shortage of experiences to be had in Chubu.


Get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through Chubu, where ancient traditions blend harmoniously with modern marvels. Let the beauty and charm of central Japan captivate your senses and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Day 1: Nagoya

Welcome to Nagoya, the vibrant metropolis and gateway to Chubu! Start your day by delving into the city’s rich history at Nagoya Castle. This magnificent structure, originally built in the 17th century, showcases traditional Japanese architecture and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area from its observation deck.


After exploring the castle, head to Osu Shopping Arcade, a bustling street lined with shops and food vendors. This vibrant arcade is a paradise for shopaholics and food enthusiasts alike. Browse through a wide range of unique fashion items, electronics, and souvenirs, and be sure to sample some local street food along the way.


If you’re interested in automobiles, a visit to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology is a must. This museum showcases the history and development of Toyota, one of Japan’s most iconic automobile manufacturers. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the production process and see how technology has revolutionized the automotive industry.


In the evening, make your way to Sakae, Nagoya’s downtown district. This area offers a plethora of entertainment options, including shopping malls, restaurants, and nightlife. Take a leisurely stroll through Hisaya Odori Park, a spacious green oasis in the heart of the city, or explore the vibrant nightlife scene at the nearby bars and clubs.


If you’re a food lover, don’t miss the opportunity to try Nagoya’s famous local dishes. Indulge in hitsumabushi, a grilled eel dish served over rice, or chanko-nabe, a hearty hot pot often enjoyed by sumo wrestlers. Nagoya also boasts a rich craft beer scene, so be sure to sample some local brews at one of the city’s craft beer bars.


Whether you’re a history buff, a shopaholic, or a food enthusiast, Nagoya offers a diverse range of experiences that will leave you captivated. Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the city, sample delicious local cuisine, and create lasting memories in this dynamic hub of central Japan.


Day 2: Takayama

Prepare to be enchanted as you venture to the charming town of Takayama, nestled in the heart of the Japanese Alps. Known for its beautifully preserved Edo-era buildings and traditional streets, Takayama offers a glimpse into Japan’s rich history and cultural heritage.


Start your day by exploring the historic district of Sanmachi Suji. This quaint area is lined with traditional buildings that house shops, sake breweries, and cafes. Take your time to wander through the narrow streets and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of old Japan.


While in Sanmachi Suji, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Takayama Jinya. This historic government office was once the center of local administration and is now open to the public as a museum. Explore the beautifully preserved rooms, gardens, and learn about the region’s history.


For a deeper understanding of Takayama’s cultural heritage, head to one of the town’s many museums. The Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall showcases the elaborate floats used during the Takayama Festival, one of Japan’s most celebrated festivals. The Hida Folk Village Museum provides insight into the traditional architecture and lifestyle of the Hida region.


No visit to Takayama is complete without sampling the local cuisine. Indulge in Hida beef, a highly prized and succulent delicacy, or try the famous Hida sushi, made with locally sourced river fish. The morning market is also a must-visit, where you can taste fresh local produce and sample various snacks.


In the afternoon, take a relaxing stroll along the Miyagawa River and enjoy the tranquil scenery. With its beautifully preserved wooden buildings and charming bridges, the riverside offers a picturesque setting for a leisurely walk and a chance to soak in the ambiance of Takayama.


As the day comes to a close, consider visiting one of Takayama’s traditional public baths, known as onsens, to unwind and relax. These hot springs provide a rejuvenating experience and are a popular way for both locals and visitors to end the day.


Takayama’s old-world charm and rich cultural heritage make it a truly unforgettable destination. Immerse yourself in the traditional atmosphere, savor the local flavors, and create lasting memories in this enchanting town in the heart of central Japan.


Day 3: Shirakawa-go and Kanazawa

On day three, get ready to explore two remarkable destinations, Shirakawa-go and Kanazawa, each offering their own unique charm and attractions.


Start your day by heading to Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses. These unique thatched-roof houses showcase traditional Japanese architecture and blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. Take a leisurely stroll through the village and admire the picturesque scenery. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Wada House, a preserved traditional farmhouse that offers a glimpse into the daily life of the villagers.


From Shirakawa-go, make your way to Kanazawa, a city renowned for its well-preserved samurai and geisha districts. Begin your exploration at Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, known for its stunning landscape design and seasonal beauty. Take a leisurely stroll through the garden paths, admiring its meticulously manicured lawns, vibrant flowers, and tranquil ponds.


Next, visit the Higashi Chaya District, a preserved geisha district where you can catch a glimpse of the traditional Japanese entertainment culture. Explore the historic teahouses, some of which are open to the public, and learn about the customs and traditions surrounding the world of geishas.


For art enthusiasts, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is a must-visit. This unique museum showcases a diverse range of modern artworks and installations from both Japanese and international artists. Explore the interactive exhibits, and perhaps even participate in workshops or events happening at the museum.


If time permits, visit Kanazawa Castle, a restored castle that was once the seat of the powerful Maeda Clan. Explore the castle grounds and learn about the region’s feudal history and the clan’s influence on Kanazawa’s development.


As the day comes to an end, indulge in Kanazawa’s renowned culinary scene. Sample local delicacies such as kaisen-don (seafood rice bowl), gold leaf ice cream, and exquisite sushi made with fresh seafood from the Sea of Japan. Kanazawa is also famous for its exquisite craftsmanship, so be sure to visit one of the local lacquerware or gold leaf workshops to witness the mastery of these traditional arts.


Shirakawa-go and Kanazawa offer a perfect fusion of natural beauty and cultural heritage. Immerse yourself in the traditional charm of the farmhouses in Shirakawa-go, and then experience the elegance and artistry of Kanazawa. Discover the beauty of the past while enjoying the modern amenities and attractions these destinations have to offer.


Day 4: Matsumoto and Kamikochi

Day four takes you to the picturesque city of Matsumoto and the stunning natural beauty of Kamikochi. Prepare to be captivated by the majestic landscapes and historical treasures of this region.


Start your day in Matsumoto by visiting its iconic landmark, Matsumoto Castle. Also known as the “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior, this majestic fortress dates back over 400 years. Explore the castle grounds, climb up to the observation deck, and immerse yourself in the rich history and architecture of this well-preserved castle.


From Matsumoto Castle, stroll through the nearby Nakamachi Street, a charming district lined with traditional merchant houses. Discover local shops, cafes, and galleries, and experience the nostalgic atmosphere of old Japan. Don’t forget to sample the local specialty, soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat and renowned for their delicate flavors.


After exploring Matsumoto, head to Kamikochi, a serene mountain valley located in the Northern Japan Alps. Kamikochi is known for its pristine nature and beautiful hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of mountains, rivers, and alpine meadows.


The Kappabashi Bridge is the iconic symbol of Kamikochi and serves as the gateway to the scenic wonders of the area. Cross the bridge and embark on a leisurely hike along the Azusa River, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery and clear streams. Admire the natural beauty of Myojin Pond, reflecting the peaks of the surrounding mountains on its calm surface.


For more adventurous hikers, the trails leading to peaks such as Hotaka and Yake-dake provide challenging but rewarding experiences. These mountains offer breathtaking panoramic views that will leave you in awe of Kamikochi’s natural wonders.


After a day of exploration, relax and rejuvenate at one of the hot spring resorts in Kamikochi. Unwind in the soothing waters while gazing at the starry sky, a perfect way to end your day in this tranquil mountain paradise.


Matsumoto and Kamikochi offer a harmonious blend of culture and nature. Immerse yourself in the rich history of Matsumoto Castle and wander through the traditional streets, then venture into the mountains of Kamikochi for a breathtaking natural experience. Explore the beauty of both man-made and natural treasures in this captivating part of central Japan.


Day 5: Nagano

On the final day of your Chubu adventure, visit Nagano, a city steeped in history and surrounded by stunning natural landscapes. Begin your day by exploring the cultural gem of Nagano, the Zenkoji Temple. This ancient Buddhist temple is one of Japan’s most important pilgrimage sites and dates back over 1,400 years. Enter the temple grounds and experience its serene atmosphere as you stroll through the mesmerizing hallways and admire the beautiful architecture.


Next, visit the nearby Nagano City Museum to learn more about the city’s rich heritage and historical significance. The museum showcases a diverse collection of artifacts that shed light on Nagano’s past, including samurai armor, traditional crafts, and artwork.


For ski enthusiasts or those seeking outdoor adventures, a visit to the nearby ski resorts is a must. Nagano hosted the Winter Olympics in 1998, and its ski resorts offer world-class skiing and snowboarding opportunities. Enjoy the thrill of gliding down the slopes surrounded by the stunning snow-capped peaks of the Japanese Alps.


If you’re visiting Nagano in the warmer months, consider exploring the serene and picturesque town of Obuse. This historic town is known for its traditional sake breweries and the Hokusai Museum, dedicated to the renowned ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai. Explore the charming streets, visit the breweries for a taste of local sake, and immerse yourself in the art and culture of the region.


Don’t miss the opportunity to taste Nagano’s famous cuisine, including Shinshu soba, a regional specialty of thin buckwheat noodles, and oyaki, a savory pastry filled with various ingredients such as mushrooms or vegetables.


If time permits, take a short trip to the nearby Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you can observe wild Japanese macaques, also known as snow monkeys, bathing in the park’s hot springs. This unique and memorable experience allows you to witness the close relationship between humans and wildlife in Japan.


As your Chubu journey comes to an end, reflect on the rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and delicious cuisine that you have experienced in this diverse region. Nagano offers a perfect blend of history, nature, and adventure, leaving you with lasting memories of your time in central Japan.


Additional Options

While the 5-day itinerary provides a fantastic overview of Chubu, there are additional options to further enrich your journey. Consider adding these destinations or activities to customize your trip:

  • Alpine Route: Embark on a breathtaking journey through the Japanese Alps on the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Marvel at stunning mountain vistas, traverse snow walls, and ride cable cars for a truly memorable experience.
  • Nagahama: Explore the charming town of Nagahama, located on the shores of Lake Biwa. Discover the historic Hikone Castle, visit the beautiful Nagahama Castle, and immerse yourself in the traditional atmosphere of this lakeside town.
  • Kiso Valley: Venture into the scenic Kiso Valley, known for its well-preserved post towns along the Nakasendo Trail. Take a leisurely hike through the picturesque countryside and soak in the rich cultural heritage of this historic route.
  • Gero Onsen: Indulge in the tranquility and relaxation of Gero Onsen, one of Japan’s top hot spring resorts. Soak in the mineral-rich waters while enjoying the scenic views of the Hida River.
  • Nagoya Science Museum: Engage in interactive exhibits and explore the wonders of science at the Nagoya Science Museum. Discover fascinating displays on space exploration, robotics, and more.

These additional options offer a variety of experiences, from natural beauty to cultural immersion and outdoor adventures. Choose the ones that resonate with your interests and preferences to create a truly personalized and unforgettable Chubu itinerary.



Congratulations! You have completed your 5-day journey through the captivating region of Chubu in central Japan. From the bustling streets of Nagoya to the serene valleys of Kamikochi, you have experienced the best that this diverse region has to offer.


Chubu’s perfect blend of cultural heritage, natural beauty, and modern innovation has left a lasting impression on you. The historical treasures, such as Nagoya Castle and Matsumoto Castle, showcased the rich history and architectural marvels of the area.


You immersed yourself in traditional Japanese culture as you explored the enchanting streets of Takayama and Kanazawa, witnessed the ancient farmhouses of Shirakawa-go, and felt the spiritual tranquility at Zenkoji Temple in Nagano.


And let’s not forget the breathtaking natural landscapes that captivated your senses. The Japanese Alps provided stunning mountain vistas, while Kamikochi offered serene beauty with its alpine meadows and flowing rivers. You indulged in the delicious cuisine, indulging in the local specialties and experiencing the flavors of the region.


Remember, this itinerary is just a starting point. Chubu offers a plethora of options for further exploration. Consider extending your stay to visit the Alpine Route, discover the Kiso Valley, or relax in Gero Onsen.


As your adventure comes to an end, take a moment to reflect on the memories you have created. The warmth and kindness of the people, the mesmerizing landscapes, and the blending of tradition and modernity have left an indelible mark on your heart.


Chubu, the heart of central Japan, has welcomed you with open arms, inviting you to explore, discover, and immerse yourself in its rich cultural tapestry. So, until we meet again, sayonara, and may your experiences in Chubu continue to inspire and enrich your journey through the Land of the Rising Sun.