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The Japan Alps

The Japanese Alps consists of three mountains (the Hida, the Kiso and the Akaishi) running from north to south in the Chubu district of Japan. They are well-known for their beautiful scenery and panoramic views. Here are some beautiful scenic spots around Chubu. 

You need to rent a car or take a bus to enjoy going around the Japanese Alps. Renting a car might be better since it allows for more flexibility and comfort. For more information, check out this article:

There are some convenient websites available for drafting up some routes. Here are some recommendations:



These websites offer you not only the maps of driving routes, but also the distances and the approximate required time of the routes. GPSies also offers the information of the current weather around the route! Throughout the article, there are links leading to main routes to the viewpoints for your reference.

◆Mt. Norikura

Mt. Norikura is a huge mountain located between Nagano and Gifu. The two roads toward its summit are called the Echo Line (from Nagano) and the Sky Line (from Gifu). Both roads are famous for elegant views. The mountain is also home to the highest paved road in Japan.

The two roads are only open in the summer because of the high snowfall in the area, and cars are not allowed to go past where the pavement stops for environmental purposes. Shuttle buses are available to the summit. The shuttle buses start from Hirayu, a town at the foot of the mountain, so the best way to go up Mt. Norikura is to drive to Hirayu and take a shuttle bus from there. You may need some luck in order to see a beautiful sight, as the weather on the mountain is temperamental. The town of Hirayu is famous for hot springs, so you should consider including a soak in your trip.

Mt. Norikura Website: (Japanese) (Japanese)


Hirayu Hot Springs:

Route: (GPSies)

◆Shibu Pass

The Shibu Pass connects Kusatsu, Gunma, and Nagano, Nagano. The pass is the highest point of any Japanese national route, at an elevation of 2172 meters. The road is open only during May to October because of heavy snow.

May is a great time to visit, because there’s still a wall of snow to either side of the road, as he above picture shows. Kusatsu is a famous hot springs resort that attracts many visitors. Nagano is also famous since it was the setting of the 1998 Winter Olympics. To go through the pass, you’ll need to take a bus or drive.

Kusatsu Hot Springs:

Route: (GPSies)

◆Shirabiso Plateau

Shirabiso Plateau is in Iida, in southern Nagano. The viewing platform at the top commands the beautiful scenery of the Akaishi mountains.  Public transportation is not available, so driving is the only way, but it isn’t difficult since it’s right along the Chuo Expressway.

Iida Tourism website:

Route: (GPSies)


Utsukushigahara stands between Ueda and Matsumoto in Nagano and boasts of beautiful sights. Utsukushigahara is considered one of Japan’s top 100 mountains. From the summit, you can gaze at Matsumoto and the Hida mountains in the west, and Ueda and the Asama mountains in the northeast.

To reach the summit, you can take a bus or drive. Utsukushigahara is known for being a great driving area, as the scenery along the way is also gorgeous. Matsumoto and Ueda are enjoyable as well.  Both are historical cities from the middle ages. Matsumoto is home to Matsumoto Castle, which is famous for its unique castle tower. Only 12 castles in Japan have kept the original castle tower from the middle ages, and Matsumoto Castle is one of them. Ueda has a castle site and old-fashioned streets. They are both worth while paying a visit along with Utsukushigahara.

Utsukushigahara tourism website: (Japanese)

Matsumoto tourism website:

Ueda website:

Route: (GPSies)

◆Shirasawa Pass (Minekata Pass)

Shirasawa Pass (also called the Minekata Pass) is on the National Route 406, which connects Nagano and Hakuba. If you go along the route from Nagano to Hakuba, you can see magnificent mountains covered with snow right up in front of your eyes when you pass through the tunnel. Those mountains are the Hide mountains, one of the three ranges that make up the Japanese Alps. The Hida mountains are especially known for their steep and precipitous appearances.

Hakuba is a popular ski resort. Nagano has also some places to see. One of the famous sightseeing spots in Nagano is Zenkoji, a temple that is said to have been first established in 644. Its traditional Japanese-style buildings are a must-see. There’s no bus available for National Route 406, so driving is the only method available. 

Zenkoji website:

Hakuba website:

Route: (GPSies)

◆Misaka Pass

This photo of Mt. Fuji was taken at Misaka Pass, a point near Kofu, Yamanashi, that overlooks Lake Kawaguchi and Mt. Fuji. 

When in Kofu, you should eat their local specialty, houtou. It’s a flat, firm noodle served with vegetables and pork. Misaka Pass is a 20 minute drive from Kofu. Lake Kawaguchi is also a famous tourism spot. It’s one of the 5 Mt. Fuji lakes, and there are some sightseeing spots around it. In 2013, the lake was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list as part of Mt. Fuji.

Kofu website:

Lake Kawaguchi tourism website:

Route: (GPSies)

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