Region - Central Mountains
Discover the world-class mountain scenery on the ‘roof of Japan’ through a wide variety of walking options
Feel on top of the world as you take in the spectacular landscapes on challenging multi-day alpine and wilderness treks
Relive history along ancient trade routes and stay in traditional accommodation in picturesque villages
Delve into prehistoric archaeology and the truly ancient origin of the Japanese culture and psyche
Explore the cultural delights of the foothill villages and countryside including traditional crafts, food and arts
The mountainous interior of central Honshu, centred on Nagano Prefecture, is one of the most diverse regions in Japan offering travel experiences to suit all tastes. The region includes the rugged Japan Alps—home to most of the highest peaks of Japan—prominent volcanoes with widely spreading footslopes, and numerous less well-known ranges with a maze-like network of valleys in-between. Most of the mountainous terrain remains densely forested, while the valleys and lower slopes have been cultivated and settled for millennia to create a picture-like landscape that is quintessentially Japanese.
The wonders of the Central Mountains region are only just beginning to be discovered by international tourism. Easily accessible localities with spectacular alpine scenery such as Kamikochi and the Kurobe-Tateyama Alpine Route are now firmly on the mainstream tourist map, as are the charming historic villages and towns of Shirakawa and Kiso Valley (on the Nakasendo Road). Many onsen and ski towns such as Nozawa-Onsen, Hakuba and Shibu-Onsen—the home of the famous ‘Snow Monkeys’—are a regular haunt for international winter sport tourists.
However, to truly experience the Central Mountains region, we invite you to go off the tourist trail and find your own trail of discovery. For a natural experience, the Central Mountains offer you a dazzling range of hiking options, whether you are after easy day-walks or multi-day alpine and wilderness treks. Majestic peaks, panoramic views, primeval forests, rushing streams and cascades, mirror-like lakes, and fuming volcanic vents are some of the spectacular landscapes that will reward your efforts. The Central Mountains are a plant and garden enthusiasts’ paradise, where you can see azalea, rhododendron, daylily, and a host of other flowers and trees that are familiar to us in gardens, in their wild habitats.
The region also offers a wide variety of cultural experiences. Explore the picturesque countryside on foot or by cycling, discovering along the way a treasure-trove of ancient country temples and shrines, artisan craft studios, culinary experiences, local galleries and museums. Stay in small, family-run or private accommodation in rural villages, and observe the locals in their everyday life—as opposed to manicured historic villages that now depend on tourism. Enjoy genuine interactions with villagers, learning about the local traditions and how they relate to the bountiful, yet harsh environment of the Central Mountains region. Delve into the region’s history by retracing ancient trading routes with your own feet, and visit prehistoric archaeological sites to discover how and why the region supported one of the longest continuing cultures in human history.