Japan has a ton to offer every tourist that turns up for a visit, but if you are really looking for the best that Japan has to offer, then you need to head to the Japanese Alps. Taking the Japan Rail with the JR pass will give you something of an experience that you would never have expected before in Japan. See it all from a different angle, and you’ll experience seven of the best cities – yes, CITIES – in the Japanese Alps. Let’s take a look at those cities more closely, and you will see why the charms of these cities are worth visiting.
Covering an area that spreads from the 1,000-metre depths of Toyama Bay to the 3,000-metre peaks of the mountains, Toyama City is blessed with an entirely natural landscape. The sea and land meet and intertwine over a change of altitude over 4,000 metres. The melting water from the Tateyama Mountain Range flow down and feed the city, with Toyama Bay known as a natural preserve, where you can really enjoy fresh seafood. You’ll have the chance to try dishes of firefly squid, yellowtail, and Japanese glass shrimp. There is so much to see, including the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, which connects Toyama City to Omachi City. Snowplows carve out the 20-foot high walls of ice so the route can be used, and it is spectacular to see. You’ll also want to visit the Toyama Glass Museum, an impressive site itself as it’s made from aluminium, glass, and granite.
It’s a beautiful city, and Omachi City is one that cannot be missed off your rail stop list. Located right at the foot of the Northern Alps, Omachi City is the home to the Nagano side entrance, which will take you to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. There are a ton of places to stay, and if you are a lover of natural hot springs, then you will love your visit to Omachi City. Similarly to Toyama City, Omachi City has the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, which means you can make your journey more fun by going between the two cities. While you’re there, take a trip to the Takase Gorge. You can see the three dams along the course of the Takase River and find the hidden, hot springs.
The foothills of the Hida Mountains border Hida City and there is a well-known castle town of Furukawa that simply oozes festival culture. You’ll see the traditional craftsmanship of the locals, and you’ll feel immersed in the lifestyle when you visit. There are some breathtaking conventional architecture that has produced some beautiful wooden houses. Kamioka area is home to the Super-Kamiokande, which is a neutrino research facility that has been famous because of the Nobel Prize-winning research performed. You’ll be able to enjoy the white storehouses along the Setogawa canal, and you can enjoy the rail mountain bike for fun. Riding a bike down rail tracks? That’s a new one!
A trendy place for visitors to come by who want to see the Edo-period buildings in the Japanese Alps is Takayama City. All enjoy the traditional scenes of Japan, and the city centre is a popular place for six of the last Sake breweries, where you can try different types of rice wine. While you’re visiting, make sure that you hit the Spring and Fall Festivals, and the Open Air Baths of Okuhida Onsen. It’s worth the trip!
If you want to try the freshest apples and the local specialty crop of Wasabi from Daio Wasabi Farm, then Azumino City should be on your list. Both of these are grown from the clear waters that flow down from the springs in the Northern Alps. As well as these, there are hiking tours in the mountains and museum tours to enjoy. If you want those panoramic views of the Northern Alps, Azumino City is the place to be.
Known as the gateway to the Northern Alps, Matsumoto City has the Matsumoto Castle as a national treasure. It is a beautiful place to visit with spectacular views of Kamikochi and the peaks of the Northern Alps. It’s packed full of nature and tourism spots to see and there is a known climate of art and culture.
Right in the centre of the Nagano Prefecture is Shiojiri City. The very southern end of the Matsumoto basin is where you’ll need to place your map to find it. It’s always been an important place in Japanese history for transport, linking the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean. The post town of Narai-juku is an exciting place to visit to see buildings a century old lining the highway. There is a major rail line passing through now, and you’ll make it that way to see the Takabochi Highlands.