Japan is a popular spot to visit for many Filipinos. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason why, but it’s probably because of the short distance and our exposure to their culture, such as anime, cuisine, and movies. For many people, a trip to Japan would entail visits to famous spots like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. If you want to take the road less traveled, we have a few recommendations to make your next Japan trip unique.
Enjoying Central Japan is now easier with numerous transport options. ANA flies from Tokyo to Toyama daily, so it’s now easier to fly and explore new places in Japan. You can also avail of a Central Nippon Expressway Pass (CEP), which allows you to go through expressways without having to stop at toll gates. It will make your trip hassle-free, and it will save you serious money.
1. Take a railway tour
Spanning over 20 kilometres, the Kurobe Gorge railway tour presents you with spectacular sights of iconic locations, including the dam and the bridge.
2. Check out the pharmaceutical industry of Toyama Prefecture
This prefecture has more than 300 years of history and tradition. What makes this area popular is the hangontan, a type of medicine that was first developed during the 17th century in the prefecture. It helps with gastrointestinal disorders from stressful life, excessive drinking and eating, indigestion, and more. Here, you can watch a master handroll medicines the good old fashioned way, and try your hand at making your own pills for free. You can also purchase medicine in a fancy design box.
3. Eat, eat, eat!
A trip to Central Japan wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local cuisine. Why not eat freshly-caught seafood in the coastal city of Toyama? Here, bright red snow crabs are up for auction. Its specialty is also shiroebi or white shrimp, and you can splurge on it in Fukuya, a restaurant with a Michelin star!
4. Explore Gokayama’s gassho-style village
See the gassho-style village at Gokoyama, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s composed of 23 houses with a unique architectural style. These have been recognized by UNESCO for its longevity. Most of them have been around for two to three centuries. The oldest structures are believed to be 400 years old.
5. Go on a cruise
Join the Shogawa Gorge cruise to see exceptionally photo-worthy scenery. For food, the ayu, or sweetfish, is recommended. It’s known for its subtly sweet taste, which is popular during the summer festival. One of the best ways to have it is grilled over charcoal.
6. Get hands-on in workshops
Central Japan hosts many workshops. In Takaoka City, you can join copper-making workshops. Established over 100 years ago, Nousaku is a stylish craft center that specializes in making tin. It’s so versatile that it can be made into fashionable accessories, decor, and kitchen accessories like wine holders and fruit baskets. Meanwhile, Gokayama hosts washi-making workshops!
7. See the beautiful Northern Japan Alps
Experience a different side of Japan by going on the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, which connects Tateyama-cho in Toyama Prefecture with Omachi City in Nagano Prefecture. Here, you will go through the Northern Japan Alps and see majestic vistas. Between April and June, accumulated snow forms a beautiful snow corridor with walls that reach 20 meters high. Meanwhile, summer and autumn offer beautiful landscapes with lush flowers and leaves.
8. Go apple picking
Nagano is rife with apple farmers growing some of the juiciest fruit. Because of the mineral-rich water and fertile soil, the apples in Nagano are popular because of its size and flavor. You can buy a variety of produce, including Fuji apples and honey apples (some are only available in Japan), but you can also learn how to pick them the right way.
9. Explore Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle is one of the five structures designated as the National Treasures of Japan. It is also the oldest five-tiered, six-story castle remaining in the country. Inside, you can see displays of armors and weapons from the Sengoku Period. The narrow wooden windows boast amazing views of the Japanese Alps, Matsumoto City, and the koi and swans circling in the moat below.
10. Watch cultural shows
The best way to experience Japanese culture is to see its shows. Agetsuchi Theatre offers many, including a ninja, samurai, and taiko experience. Taiko is a Japanese percussion instrument prevalent in local folklore. During the summer, we recommend the Taiko Drum Festival in Matsumoto Castle, which features awesome performances from traditional drummers.
11. See historic sights
There are plenty of historic sights in Japan and we have two recommendations. Visit the Magome-juku Historic Post Town, which preserves the feeling of the Edo period, complete with a cobblestone path. There are residential houses, museums, tea houses, and souvenir shops so there’s plenty to do! Another recommendation is the Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum, where you can watch a live demonstration of how a sword is made.
12. Enjoy the history and the hot springs
Takayama has an old town atmosphere but there’s plenty to do. You can enjoy shopping in a famous morning market, and even try sake tasting in breweries. You can also stay in the Gero Onsen Resorts, which is famous for being one of the three highest-quality hot springs in Japan. It even has the nickname of “beauty hot springs” since it’s known to smoothen your skin. It can also improve your blood circulation, help in overall health, and relieve fatigue.
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