IN PHOTOS: Why you need to add Central Japan to your travel bucket list
MANILA, Philippines — The allure of Japan’s glitzy, fast-paced cities makes for popular tourist attractions. But if you’re looking to explore a quieter, more relaxing side to Japan, its countryside offers no less scenic — and Instagrammable — views.
Central Japan’s old architecture and beautifully preserved landscapes take you back in time. Check out these must-visit spots in Chubu!
Shirakawa is a picturesque rustic mountain village. It features around a hundred houses with thatched gassho-style (praying hands) roofs. The village, which is over a hundred years old, is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit during winter to see its snowy roofs lit up — it’s something right out of a Christmas card.
How to get to Shirakawa-go: From Nagoya, take a Gifu Bus going directly to Shirakawa-go.
Takayama’s charm lies in its rustic antiquity. Explore the old town on foot and buy snacks, knickknacks, and sake along the way.
The Takayama Jinya, which served as a local government office during the 17th-19th century, is the last of its kind in Japan. It’s a National Historic Site.
Up for a brisk early morning stroll? The Miyagawa Morning Market opens at 7am. Buy anything from vegetables, clothes, wasabi peanuts, souvenirs, or freshly cooked snacks such as takoyaki and taiyaki.
How to get to Takayama: Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya and transfer to the JR Hida limited express train to Takayama.
Visit Shinhotaka Ropeway to enjoy the majestic vista of Japan Northern Alps from 2,156m above sea level. Don’t forget to check the weather forecast before planning your trip — a cloudy day would obscure the lovely view.
How to get to Shinhotaka Ropeway: From JR Takayama Station, take a Nohi Bus bound for Shinhotaka Ropeway.
Gero is famous for its pristine mountain views and onsen (natural hot springs), both of which you can enjoy while strolling through the streets.
Onsen water has healing and soothing properties, good for skin complaints and muscle pains. Want to try it out, but iffy about getting naked in front of strangers? Free foot baths are widely available around the city.
If you want the full onsen experience, a public one is available at the south end of Gero Bridge. For more privacy, check out ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), which offer indoor and open-air onsen.
You can also catch stunning fireworks shows in Gero every Saturday until March.
How to get to Gero: Take the JR Takayama Honsen Line Wide View Hida express north to Gero from Nagoya Station, or south from Takayama and Toyama.
Oops, that’s not real food — that’s just a replica! The small city of Gujo is known as a leading producer of food replicas, which are used by restaurants as store displays to show customers their dishes. These replicas, ranging from sushi, spaghetti, ice cream, and ramen, are made of resin and wax.
Visit Sample Village Iwasaki to try your hand at creating some of these replicas, such as lettuce and shrimp tempura.
How to get to Sample Village Iwasaki: Walk from Gujo Hachiman Station on the Nagaragawa Railway.
The Inuyama Castle is one of the remaining original castles in Japan. It was originally built in the 15th century, and currently preserves the structure of its main keep with wood and stones.
The castle stands on a small hill overlooking the Kiso River. The only drawback is the steep 53-degree steps, which were built to make it harder for enemies to escape. But you’ll get your payoff on the fourth floor, which opens into a balcony with panoramic views of the castle grounds and the river.
A short distance from the castle is the Sanko Inari Shrine. The pink wall of heart-shaped ema (small wooden plaques) is a popular spot, particularly with young girls and couples.
Down on your luck in love? Write a wish on an ema and it just might come true. The deity Inari is believed to be the protector of lovers and couples.
How to get to Inuyama Castle: Walk from either Inuyama Station or Inuyama-Yuen Station
Looking for the perfect family getaway? Tourist complex Laguna Ten Bosch features various attractions for both kids and adults.
Spend the day at Lagunasia, which houses ferris wheels, roller coasters, nighttime illuminations, and flower parks. If you get tired, take a break and stop by Festival Market for your shopping and dining needs.
Laguna Ten Bosch’s Henn na Hotel has the strangest receptionists — robotic dinosaurs! Check in to enjoy the hospitality offered by this hotel run by robots, which also includes a communication pet robot and robot room service.
How to get to Laguna Ten Bosch: Take the free shuttle bus from JR Gamagori station.
Gamagori Orange Park contains farms and greenhouses where you can pick not just oranges, but strawberries, melons, grapes, and other fruits.
Dip the strawberries in condensed milk to enjoy them better. Tip: Pick the smaller oranges in the trees, they’re sweeter.
Their shop also offers fruit-based cookies and pastries, and fruit-themed souvenirs.
Orange season is from early October to late December, while strawberry season is from late December to late May.
How to get to Gamagori Orange Park: Take a taxi from JR Gamagori Station.
Did you know that miso takes 2-3 years to ferment? Learn more about this traditional Japanese seasoning by taking the free guided tour at the hundred year-old Hatcho Miso no Sato museum and factory.
At the end of the tour, you get a free taste of 3 kinds of miso. You can also shop for miso products at the souvenir shop.
How to get to Hatcho Miso no Sato: Take the Meitetsu line to Okazakikoen-mae Station and walk.
The first prototype of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner now resides in Flight of Dreams at the Central Japan International Airport. You can take a look inside the aircraft, learn about its history, and watch a 3D mapping show.
You also get to design and fly your own plane! Your creation will be scanned and projected to a wall. You then get a tablet with which you can maneuver the plane around.
How to get to Flight of Dreams: Walk from Central Japan International Airport.
A different side to Japan
Central Japan presents an escape from the usual hustle and bustle of the tourist-packed metropolitan parts of Japan. It offers fresh air and natural landscapes, but simultaneously has the convenience of modern technology Japan is known for.
Which of these idyllic spots do you want to visit? - Rappler.com