Who else misses Japan? Let’s stay optimistic and hope for leisure travel to resume soon. For now, let your imagination wander through the underrated Central Japan Region with this extensive guide prepared by local Japanese friends.
To truly experience Japan like a local, taking public transport is the way to go. Explore the Central Japan region with the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass to enjoy five days of unlimited rides on designated JR conventional and limited express trains, the Hokuriku Shinkansen, and buses within the Central Region.
Here’s a 5-day itinerary to help you get the most value out of your Takayama-Hokuriku Pass:
Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel
For maximum convenience, consider staying at this luxury hotel which is directly connected to the JR Nagoya station. This hotel has rave reviews for its breakfast station which serves local dishes from Kishimen, Miso Katsu or the rare find Roasted Pork Ham from Mikawa, Aichi Prefecture. All freshly made and served!
Be sure to try one of Nagoya’s specialty cuisines – kishimen. Kishimen is a noodle dish known for its hirauchi (flattened) noodles made from wheat flour, water, and salt. However, don’t be fooled as not all flattened noodle dishes are considered kishimen. By Japanese standards, noodles with a width wider than 4.5mm and thickness of less than 2.0mm can be called kishimen.
For those who are not a fan of miso, kishimen can also be enjoyed with pasta sauce, hot soup, or cooled, just like regular udon.
Café Gentiane (Piyorin)
Located in JR Nagoya Station, Cafe Gentiane is home to the adorable and delicious chick-shaped Piyorin cake with pudding inside.
Each of the cakes is handmade using Nagoya Cochin eggs under the skillful hands of the artisans. At this store, one can choose to try immediately at their café or bring back home to enjoy. One cake is at around ¥380.
Shopping (Uniqlo, Bic Camera)
Located on the 9th and 10th floor of the JR Gate Tower is Bic Camera. Bic Camera has a wide selection of electronics, game software, and even alcoholic beverages available for purchase.
If in the mood for shopping for clothes, just go up one floor to get to Uniqlo, and its slightly cheaper-priced sister company, GU, to start rocking that Japanese-style fashion!
*Note: Leave your luggage at hotel and pick them up before moving to Takayama
Nagoya TV Tower and Hisaya Odori Park
From Nagoya Station, take a 10-minute subway ride to see the Nagoya TV Tower. The tower was originally built to mark the reconstruction of the city after the second world war and to promote tourism and TV broadcasting in Nagoya at the time. In 2005, it was recognized as one of Japan’s tangible cultural properties, a recognition given to tangible cultural products that possess high historic, artistic, and academic value to Japan.
After being renovated, from the end of September 2020 the vast area near Nagoya TV Tower, Hisaya Odori Park, has become the most fashionable and artistic spot in Nagoya City. Spend a leisurely afternoon here café-hopping, do some shopping or just enjoy the greenery with the iconic Nagoya TV Tower in the background.
Shinhotaka Ropeway is the only double-decker ropeway in Japan where you can view the magnificent Japanese Alps Mountain Range.
At the rooftop observatory deck located in the upper station (Nishihotakaguchi Station) at an altitude of around 2,156 meters, you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and valleys! Simply Stunning!
There is also a bakery located on the 2nd floor of Shirakabadaira Station where you can eat a crispy croissant and enjoy a cup of hot drink.
Takayama Historical District（Takayama Furui Machinami）
In the afternoon, go for a walk around the Takayama Historical District. Located near the Miyagawa River, the old town of preserved and restored buildings that remained from the Edo period lets you soak in a historic atmosphere with dark wood and white-washed warehouse walls.
Feeling peckish? Try the Hida Beef Nigiri or Hida beef skewers.
While in the Central Japan region, you should try the famous Hida beef. Hida beef refers to the Kuroge Wagyu breed of cattle raised in Gifu Prefecture known for its high quality, with beautiful marbling, color, texture, and taste. It is said to be one of the best beef brands in Japan so it is definitely a must-try delicacy.
“But I can’t afford such a high-class beef”
Oh, but you can! In Takayama, you can have a Hida beef croquette for as low as 250 yen! Hida beef can be enjoyed in a steamed bun, broiled skewer, or as sushi.
From Takayama Station, you can take a direct bus to Shirakawa-go Village, which is probably the most popular destination in the Central Japan region. You can get the bus tickets from the Nohi Bus Center right next to Takayama Station.
A must-see UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Gifu Prefecture, Shirakawa-go is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, whose roofs are constructed at a steep angle to allow heavy snow to fall off easily in winter. While mostly known for the snow-covered houses during winter, Shirakawa-go offers wonderful views in every season so make sure to visit this place during different times of the year to feel each season’s unique charm.
A five-minute shuttle ride for 200 yen (one-way) or a 25-minute walk up the mountain will lead you to an observation deck overlooking the whole area. This is the place where many famous Instagramer got their breathtaking pictures of the village.
This is the hometown of Fujiko F. Fujio, father of Doraemon. You can take the Doraemon Tram here.
Toyama Bay Sushi (Dinner)
Toyama is located near the sea and is therefore abundant with fresh seafood products. Don’t miss to enjoy the freshest ingredients that landed directly from the sea at one of the restaurants located on Toyama Bay. Check out iki-zushi氷見寿司, popular with locals. One of the must-try dishes is the white shrimp (Shiro-ebi). They are sweeter and much smaller than the normal ones.
Follow the Itinerary for Day 3 to 5 here!