Travel to Chubu Region

Chubu region is located in the central part of Honshu, and includes Toyama, Yamanashi, Aichi, Niigata, Ishikawa, Fukui, Nagano, Gifu and Shizuoka Prefectures. This region is home to Mt. Fuji, the symbol of Japan. This area occupies a very mountainous region which is full of 3000 meter-class mountains, and for this reason it is sometimes called the “Japan Alps.” This beautiful mountain scenery is the primary attraction of this region. Chubu is sake country and Niigata, renowned for its koshihikari rice, produces some of the best in the country including famous labels like Kubota, Koshinokanbai and Hakkaisan. Shizuoka is famous for green tea and Mikan(tangerine).

Shirakawago - Gassho-zukuri style

Shirakawago is one of only a few Japanese villages with centuries-old houses in the steeply-roofed style known as gassho-zukuri. The name comes from the thatched roofs’ resemblance to hands held in prayer. Shirakawago, located in the Japan Alps near the Sea of Japan, has some of the heaviest snowfall in the nation and the steep angles make it easier to clear snow off the roofs. Rather than waste the extra space, villagers traditionally used the capacious attics to raise and cultivate silkworms, bringing in a little income during the long winters. The houses are built without nails or staples. Instead, the beams of the A-frame roof are secured with rope and young branches of Japanese witch hazel. This binding technique gives the structures some flexibility to deal with heavy snow loads and the impact of earthquakes. One downside of their construction, however, is that the thatching of the roofs needs to be redone with fresh straw every few years. The whole village works together to strip a roof and rethatch it in a single day. There are over 100 gassho-zukuri style houses of various sizes in Shirakawago and many are still lived in. Some also provide lodging for guests, who can enjoy eating food roasted over a fire set in the floor of the main living chamber, a thin wisp of smoke rising from the charcoal to blacken the beams and ceiling overhead. In 1995, Shirakawago was designated a UNESCO World Heritage together with the gassho-zukuri houses in nearby Gokayama, Toyama Prefecture.

Sado Gold Mine - Doyu no Warito (Doyu Opening)

Among Japan’s many islands, Sado Island stands out as a gleaming source of treasure. The group of mines that came to be collectively known as the Sado Gold Mine produced some 78 tons of gold and 2,330 tons of silver over nearly 400 years of operation. This great wealth funded the shogunate during the Edo period (1603-1867), and became an important driving force during Japan’s modernization in the Meiji period (1868-1912). Some of the island’s treasure was even exported overseas.Full-scale mine development on Sado Island began in 1601 with the discovery of its largest repository, the Aikawa Gold and Silver Mine. In the Meiji period, Western technology introduced by foreign engineers and Japanese engineers who had studied overseas included the excavation of vertical shafts to connect horizontal tunnels and mechanization for transporting ore.Good times alternated with bad, but mining continued until as late as 1989, when the mountain was officially closed. Among the historical remnants available to visit are the Odate Tateko, or Grand Shaft, the oldest Western-style mining shaft in Japan, and the Kitazawa Flotation Plant that separated minerals and waste. It was at one point the largest plant of its kind in East Asia. These mining facilities contain many vestiges of the mining operations that continued here for centuries, including tunnels in which life-size mannequins reenact how its precious deposits of gold and silver were extracted despite the perilous nature of rudimentary mining techniques. But most impressive of all perhaps is the great split created as miners dug deeper and deeper following the Doyu vein during the Edo period. Ultimately the mountain cracked open in a great V-shaped opening that stretches about 30 meters wide and 74 meters deep, a testament to the miners’ tenacity.

Kuromon Gate - Matsumoto Castle

With the stark contrast of its black and white walls reflected alongside the Japan Alps in the water of its moat, Matsumoto Castle is one of the oldest and most striking castles in Japan.

The castle complex consists of five keeps, three of which were constructed in the 16th century as Japan’s tumultuous Warring States period (1467-1568) was coming to an end. This includes the six-story main tower (five levels are visible from the outside) the oldest of its kind to still stand today. Its sturdy construction was designed with numerous defensive features for repelling invaders, including small openings to shoot arrows and fire guns, as well as windows to drop rocks on troops attempting to scale the sloped stone base.

Two more towers were built in the early 17th century, after Japan entered a period of peace. In contrast to the main tower, the Tsukimi Yagura Tower which literally translates to “moon-viewing tower” was built to entertain the then shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604-1651). While most castles were built with wartime in mind, Matsumoto Castle is the only castle in Japan with a connecting tower solely for entertainment purposes, altered to match the new era of peace and prosperity.

By the Meiji period (1868-1912), Matsumoto Castle had served its purpose, and some of the towers and gates were dismantled. However, due to the passionate conservation efforts of local residents, five structures were designated as National Treasures and preserved. Today, the castle stands as a symbol of Matsumoto City.

Matsumoto Castle