The Enchanting Chubu Region: Majestic Mountains, Traditional Townscapes, and More!
Located in the center of mainland Japan, the Chubu region boasts many exciting and enchanting tourist destinations. There is something here for everyone, from the world-famous Mt. Fuji to the city of Kanazawa, once one of Japan’s most prosperous castle towns; the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, World Heritage Sites known for their thatched-roof houses; and the famous Kamikochi mountain resort. In this article, we’ll introduce some basic facts about the Chubu region like its landscape, history, points of interest, seasonal weather, and how to reach it from Tokyo and Osaka!
Jun 09 2022
Where Is the Chubu Region?
The Chubu region is located in central Japan on the mainland island of Honshu. It’s made up of 10 prefectures: Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Yamanashi, Nagano, Gifu, Shizuoka, Aichi, and Mie, taking up an area of 72,580 ㎢ or about 20% of all of Japan.
Up north, Chubu overlooks the Sea of Japan while its southern part faces the Pacific Ocean. The region is known for its Japanese Alps, nicknamed “the rooftop of Japan” and made up of the Hida Mountains, Kiso Mountains, and the Akaishi Mountains. Chubu is also home to Mt. Fuji, which was registered as a World Heritage Site in 2013, and many active volcanoes like Mount Asama and Mount Ontake. Many of Chubu’s peaks give visitors spectacular panoramic views of the region’s rivers like the Shinano River and the Kiso River, as well as the vast plains stretching around the areas facing the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean.
Because Chubu is located between the regions of Kanto, Tohoku, and Kansai, it’s served as an important route connecting eastern and western Japan for centuries. Today, many preserved, historic post towns from that area can be found throughout the region, attracting tourists from all over.
Which Prefectures Make Up the Chubu Region?
Located in central Honshu, Niigata Prefecture stretches from north to south along the coast of the Sea of Japan. It takes up an area of 12,584 ㎢, making it the fifth largest prefecture in Japan, out of a total of 47.
Niigata’s main points of interest include Kiyotsu Gorge, one of the three major canyons in Japan; the picturesque Hoshitoge Rice Terraces; Yahiko Shrine, Niigata’s no. 1 power spot; and Sado Kinzan, the largest gold mine in the country. Niigata also experiences some of the heaviest snowfall in Japan, making it the perfect destination for fans of winter sports like skiing or snowboarding.
One of the things that Niigata is most famous for is its rice. The prefecture is actually the no. 1 producer of rice in Japan, with their most famous product being the Uonuma Koshihikari, considered the most delicious rice variety in the country.
As if that wasn’t enough, Niigata also ranks no. 1 when it comes to the number of sake breweries and sake consumption. Many of the prefecture's breweries offer tours, so if you’re ever there, visit a few of them and enjoy the best that Niigata has to offer.
Located in the northern part of central Honshu, Toyama takes up an area of 4,248 ㎢, making it the 33rd largest prefecture in Japan. It faces Toyama Bay to the north and is surrounded by steep mountains such as the Tateyama Mountain Range on the remaining three sides. The areas around Toyama Bay are mainly plains.
A nature paradise, Toyama Prefecture is blessed with beautiful landscapes, four distinct seasons, a variety of fauna and flora, and many exciting tourist destinations. When in Toyama, you cannot miss the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route that's famous for its mountain scenery; the Kurobe Gorge Railway which will take you through the heart of the majestic Kurobe Gorge, one of Japan’s three great canyons; the scenic Amaharashi Coast, where the Tateyama Mountain Range can be seen across the sea; or the Historic Village of Gokayama and its thatched-roof traditional houses.
Toyama is especially known for its seafood sourced from Toyama Bay, which is so rich in sea life that some refer to it as nature’s fish pen.
Located right in the middle of central Honshu, Ishikawa Prefecture stretches from north to south along the coast of the Sea of Japan. With a total area of 4,186 ㎢, Ishikawa is the 35th largest prefecture in Japan. The Noto Peninsula in the northern part of Ishikawa is known as a picturesque nature paradise boasting a varied coastline.
The city of Kanazawa in Ishikawa, which prospered as the Kaga Domain’s castle town during the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), is today a popular tourist destination that will transport you back in time with its historic townscape of samurai residences and merchant houses. Other points of interest in Kanazawa include Kenroku-en, one of Japan’s three most famous gardens; Kanazawa Castle; and workshops and stores specializing in local traditional crafts such as Wajima lacquerware, Kutani ware, and Kaga Yuzen silk dyeing.
The Kaga area located in the south of the prefecture also has a lot to offer. Besides being home to Mt. Haku (also known as Hakusan), one of the three most famous mountains in Japan, Kaga is also famous for its hot springs overflowing with nostalgic charm, including Yamanaka Onsen, Yamashiro Onsen, and Katayamazu Onsen.
Located around the middle of central Honshu, Fukui overlooks both the Sea of Japan and Wakasa Bay to its north, the latter of which is composed of many smaller bays and peninsulas. This northern coastline is famous for its unusually large ria inlets. Fukui takes up an area of 4,190 ㎢, making it the 34th largest Japanese prefecture.
Fukui boasts a variety of enchanting tourist destinations such as the Tojinbo series of cliffs that are famous for their picturesque beauty; the officially designated Ramsar site of the Mikata Five Lakes; the 700-year-old Eiheiji Temple; and Echizen Ono Castle, also known as "The Castle in the Sky" because of how it appears to be floating above a sea of clouds.
Eyeglass frames produced in the Fukui city of Sabae account for over 90% of Japan’s domestic market and have even been recognized abroad for their high quality.
Yamanashi is a landlocked prefecture in the southeast of Chubu. At its center is the Kofu Basin which is surrounded by the Yatsugatake volcanic group, the Southern Japanese Alps, and other majestic mountains. These formations make up over 80% of the prefecture and flatlands are quite rare. With an area of 4,465 ㎢, Yamanashi is the 32nd largest prefecture in Japan.
Yamanashi’s main travel destinations include gorgeous nature spots such as the World Heritage Site of Mt. Fuji; the Mikata Five Lakes, which were created by an eruption of Mt. Fuji; and Mitake Shosenkyo, considered the most beautiful valley in all of Japan. Yamanashi is also known for its hot spring areas, such as the famous Hakone.
As Yamanashi is filled with nature, the prefecture is Japan’s no. 1 producer of grapes, peaches, and Japanese plums, as well as one of the country’s premier wine countries. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to go on a tour of Yamanashi wineries!
Nagano is a landlocked prefecture located primarily in central Honshu. About 84% of Nagano is made up of mountains, many of them over 3,000 meters in height. With a total area of 13,561 ㎢, it is the 4th largest prefecture in Japan.
Nagano’s main tourist attractions include manmade wonders like Matsumoto Castle, a national treasure known for its beautifully contrasting black-and-white coloring; Suwa Grand Shrine, a famous power spot; and the 1,400-year-old Zenkoji Temple. Nagano is also known for its mountain resort areas such as Kamikochi, Karuizawa, or Yatsugatake.
Thanks to its abundant nature, Nagano offers plenty of outdoor activities. In the summer, you can enjoy mountain climbing, hiking, and canoeing, while winter is perfect for things like skiing and snowboarding.
Gifu is a landlocked prefecture in western Chubu bordered by seven different prefectures. With a total area of 10,621 ㎢, it is the 7th largest prefecture in Japan.
Over 80% of Gifu is covered by mountains, with the northern part of the prefecture being home to Mount Hotaka, Gifu’s highest peak, as well as many other mountains over 3,000 meters in height such as Mount Norikura. Gifu is also famous for its Nagara River, one of the three clearest streams in Japan, where cormorant fishing has been practiced for over 1,300 years.
Gifu’s main tourist destinations include the Historic Village of Shirakawa-go World Heritage Site and the Magome Historic Post Town. For fans of the great outdoors, the prefecture is the perfect place for advanced mountain climbing, hiking, rafting, and so much more.
Traditional Japanese crafts continue to thrive in Gifu, with the area being known for its Mino ware and Hida Shunkei lacquerware which has been produced around the city of Hida for centuries. Both would make great souvenirs of your trip to Gifu!
Located in southeastern Chubu, Shizuoka overlooks the Pacific Ocean to the south. To the east, you will find the grand Izu Peninsula which juts out into the sea, while the northern part of the prefecture is occupied by Mt. Fuji, the tallest mountain in the country. A long chain of mountains over 3,000 meters in height crosses Shizuoka from east to west. With an area of 7,777 ㎢, Shizuoka is the 13th largest prefecture in Japan.
Shizuoka’s main tourist destinations include Mt. Fuji, a designated World Heritage Site; Miho no Matsubara, Japan’s first designated national scenic spot; Hamamatsu Castle, constructed on the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu who gave rise to the Tokugawa shogunate and the Edo Period; the seaside hot spring resort town of Atami; and the Izu Peninsula UNESCO Global Geopark.
The prefecture is additionally famous for its tea production, with many places around Shizuoka offering tea leaf picking and tea ceremony experiences. Foodies will also not want to miss Lake Tanuki's eel or Suruga Bay’s sakura shrimp.
Located in southern Chubu, Aichi takes up an area of 5,172 ㎢, making it the 27th largest prefecture in Japan. Western Aichi is occupied by the Nobi Plain, while to the east you’ll find the mountain ranges of Mino-Mikawa Highlands. Ise Bay and Mikawa Bay spread across southern Aichi, with the latter being encircled by the Chita Peninsula and the Atsumi Peninsula, both facing the Pacific Ocean.
Aichi is the Chubu region’s manufacturing and cultural center. The seat of its prefectural government is located in the city of Nagoya. Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu—the three great military leaders of Japan’s Warring States Period (1467 – 1615)—were all born in Aichi.
Aichi is home to national treasures that reflect its rich cultural and political history such as Inuyama Castle, Nagoya Castle, and the Tokugawaen garden. Also of note are the prefecture's majestic nature landscapes like the Chausuyama Highland, which can be enjoyed all year round, or the Korankei gorge, considered one of Aichi’s best fall foliage viewing spots.
Aichi is additionally known across Japan for its unique food! Some of its most famous dishes include miso katsu (deep-fried pork cutlet with miso sauce), flat kishimen noodles, and ogura toast topped with sweet red bean paste.
Mie is located on the eastern side of the Kii Peninsula, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. With an area of 5,774 ㎢, it is the 25th largest prefecture in Japan.
It’s said that Japan has over 80,000 shrines, with Mie’s Ise Jingu being the country’s most important place of Shinto worship. But that’s not all that the prefecture has to offer. Mie is full of tourist destinations where visitors can get close to local history, culture, and nature, like the Kumano Kodo, which is a registered World Heritage Site; Mount Gozaisho, where you can enjoy rock climbing and hiking; the Akame 48 Waterfalls area with its ninja training experiences; and Ago Bay, part of the Ise-Shima National Park and said to have one of the greatest ria coastlines in Japan.
When visiting Mie, be sure to not miss out on local seafood delicacies like spiny lobster or oysters, as well as Matsusaka beef, one of Japan’s top three kinds of beef!
The History of Chubu: Where Japan’s Greatest Battles Took Place
Archeological evidence tells us that the Chubu region was the cradle of Japanese civilization. This was determined through the discovery of the Mikkabi Man, an incomplete fossil of a person who lived in Chubu 7,500 – 9,500 years ago, as well as the Togaishi Stone Age Ruins in Nagano Prefecture, the Toro Ruins in Shizuoka, and various other remains from the Jomon Period (14,000 – 300 BCE) and the Yayoi Period (300 BCE – 250 CE).
In particular, the Chubu region stood front and center during Japan's Warring States Period. Many military leaders of that era are connected to the region, including the three most famous ones of them all: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, who hailed from and battled across Chubu. Japanese history was made here during such famous encounters as the Battle of Okehazama, when Oda Nobunaga made a name for himself, or the Battle of Sekigahara, which helped finalize the unification of Japan.
History buffs should definitely put Chubu right at the top of their travel list.
The Diverse Climate of Chubu: From Vast Snowscapes to Steaming Hot Spring Areas
The Chubu region consists of three areas: Tokai on the Pacific Ocean side, the Central Highland (Koshin) in the heart of Chubu, and Hokuriku, which overlooks the Sea of Japan. Each of those areas has its own distinct climate.
Tokai’s climate is characterized by heavy rainfall in the summer and mild winters. The climate of Hokuriku, on the other hand, is affected by humid seasonal winds from the northwest, which bring with them heavy rain and snowfall in the winter. Koshin is landlocked and located high above the sea level, causing wild swings between daytime and nighttime temperatures.
Let’s take a look at how the weather can change throughout the year in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture’s popular tourist destination.
Spring (March – May)
In March, snow starts to melt in Kanazawa. However, the mornings and evenings can get quite chilly, so when visiting Kanazawa during this time, visitors are advised to bring with them a heavy coat, scarf, and other winter wear. The cherry trees in Kanazawa's famous Kenroku-en garden start blooming around late March, continuing until early April.
In April, daytime temperatures will keep climbing, reaching about 15℃ — 18℃. However, the mornings and evenings will continue to be chilly, so coats, scarves, and other winter wear will still be a must.
In May, daytime temperatures will reach a pleasant 20℃ or so, hovering around 10℃ in the mornings and evenings, making it one of the best times to visit Chubu.
Summer (June – August)
In June, the average temperature across Kanazawa is 22.2℃, rarely dropping below 19℃. That might sound very pleasant, but June is also the start of the rainy season here, which brings with it many chilly days.
In July and August, Kanazawa feels similar to Tokyo, with temperatures averaging about 27℃ and frequently reaching 30℃ or higher. But it’s not just the heat you have to worry about. It’s also the high humidity, which makes the weather feel even hotter. During this time, please be mindful of the temperature differences between the outdoors and indoors and bring something light and breathable that you can easily drape over yourself. Kanazawa also sees a lot of rainfall in the summer, so don’t forget your umbrella.
Autumn (September – November)
Average temperatures in Kanazawa continue to hang around 25℃ until mid-September, so you should be fine with just a short-sleeved shirt. However, the weather starts getting colder in October, with average temperatures occasionally dropping as low as 10℃ near the end of month.
Once we enter November, the average temperature becomes about 12.0℃, with each day feeling colder than the last. But it’s also a time when places like Kakusenkei Gorge, said to be the most beautiful canyon in Hokuriku, or Kenroku-en come to life with beautiful shades of red, yellow, and brown as leaves start to change color. Clothing wise, you should be fine with a long-sleeved hoodie or a light coat, but please keep in mind that mornings and evenings can get chilly around this time, so be sure to also bring another layer of clothing, just in case.
Winter (December – February)
The weather can change on a dime in Kanazawa in December, with many days experiencing chilly winds. The average temperature around this time is 6.0℃, which is quite cold.
In January, seasonal winds from the northwest bring with them plenty of snow. The amount of snowfall between January and February ranges from 20 to 60 cm, causing roads to ice over. And once the snow melts, it creates lots of mud, making it difficult to walk, so make sure to pack waterproof shoes like galoshes, a heavy coat or down jacket, pocket warmers, gloves, and other winter wear.
The chart below outlines the average seasonal temperatures and rainfall in Chubu’s capital cities. Please consult it when planning a trip to the region.
How to Get to Chubu
How to Get to Chubu Centrair International Airport
Chubu Centrair International Airport is the gateway to the region, accepting regular flights from 17 Japanese and 17 international cities. Both domestic and international flights operate out of the same terminal, which makes catching a connecting flight here a breeze.
How to Get to Chubu from Tokyo
The easiest way to get to Chubu from Tokyo is via the "shinkansen" bullet train. A ride on the Nozomi train from Tokyo Station to Nagoya Station takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes, but on the Kodama, it’s 2 hours and 40 minutes. Unreserved seats for both trains cost the same: 10,560 yen.
To get to Kanazawa from Tokyo, we recommend using the Hokuriku Shinkansen line, which opened in 2015. On the Kagayaki train, the trip from Tokyo Station to Kanazawa Station takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes, with unreserved seats going for 14,380 yen. The Hakutaka train takes about 3 hours and costs 13,850 yen for an unreserved seat.
How to Get to Chubu from Osaka
The easiest way to get from Osaka to Nagoya is via the shinkansen. A ride on the Nozomi from Shin-Osaka Station to Nagoya Station takes about 50 minutes. On the Kodama, it’s about 70 minutes. Both trains cost 5,940 yen for an unreserved seat.
To get to Kanazawa from the Kansai region, we recommend using the Thunderbird limited express that connects Kansai and Hokuriku. A ride on the Thunderbird from Shin-Osaka Station to Kanazawa Station takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes and costs 7,260 yen for an unreserved seat.
How to Get to Mt. Fuji
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to Chubu where beautiful nature landscapes, exciting history, and ancient beliefs come together to create one of the most enchanting regions in Japan. Be sure to visit it if you ever get the chance!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.