Central Honshu Mountains Travel Guide

Discover the mighty peaks of the Central Honshu Mountains, collectively known as the Japanese Alps.

Central Honshu Mountains

Resting in the centre of the main island of Honshu, the Central Honshu Mountains, part of the Japanese Alps, boast outstanding beauty. These towering peaks dominate the landscape and provide the perfect terrain for outdoor pursuits such as skiing, hiking, and Japan’s favourite hobby – onsen. 

Where is Honshu Island?

Honshu Island is located in the middle of Japan and is the largest of the four main islands of Japan, lying between the Pacific Ocean (east) and the Sea of Japan (west). 

Honshu facts

Honshu Island covers about 800 miles (1,287 km), while its coastline extends 6,266 miles (10,084 km). Honshu also contains almost three-fourths of the total number of prefectures in Japan and is often regarded as the Japanese mainland. Because of this, it tends to be one of the best-known regions of Japan, and it’s here you’ll find a wealth of fascinating cities to explore, including Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, Hiroshima, and Osaka.

Honshu is also home to Japan’s highest mountain, Mount Fuji, as well as its largest lake, Lake Biwa. The area is easily accessed via Nagoya, Japan’s fourth largest city, which is worth a day of urban wandering in itself.

So where are the Japanese Alps?

The Japanese Alps lie in central Japan and are a series of mountain ranges comprising the Hida (northern), Kiso (central) and Akaishi (southern), making up part of the Central Honshu Mountains.

Best Time to Visit the Japanese Alps

The Japanese Alps are a spectacular place to visit no matter the time of year, but it’s good to know what to expect throughout the seasons so you can pack and prepare accordingly. 

Where to Go in the Japanese Alps

There are plenty of places to explore in the Japanese Alps, each offering a different and unique experience. So if you’re looking for things to do in Honshu, we’d recommend a visit to some of the key destinations below:

Karuizawa

Just an hour away from Tokyo by train, Karuizawa is a charming resort town best known for its outdoor recreational activities like golf, hiking, and cycling, as well as skiing and visiting onsen during the winter. 

It also offers a quaint local shopping village with many elegant shops to explore, making it ideal for families of all ages.

Matsumoto

Matsumoto is the second largest city in the Nagano prefecture, most famous for housing one of Japan’s most impressive original castles - the 16th century Matsumoto castle. 

If you’re keen to find cultural things to do in Honshu, Matsumoto is also well-known for its unique art scene, while foodies too will find plenty of fantastic restaurants and cafes to explore.

Tsumago

Situated between Kyoto and Edo, the romantic Tsumago is known as one of the best-preserved old towns in Japan - a visit is like stepping back in time to the Edo period.

The town is one of the main resting stops along the famous Nakasendo walking trail, but aside from that, holds many treasures worth exploring, including temples, historic buildings and inns.

Yudanaka

Nestled in the northern Nagano prefecture, Yudanaka is a wonderful winter destination in Japan, famous for its hot springs resort, and home to Japan’s legendary snow monkeys.

Here you can relax at the onsen, explore some of the town’s historic buildings, or perhaps go hiking or skiing through the area’s stunning mountain scenery.

Honshu Island Tours

The best way to experience the island of Honshu is with a bespoke tour of the destination. That way, you’ll get to see all of its best bits in a timescale that suits you.

At Scott Dunn, our luxury tours are led by destination experts who know the country like the back of their hand, so you’ll be sure to pick up lots of fascinating Honshu facts and travel tips along the way.

To see the best of what Honshu Island has to offer, we’d highly recommend the Exceptional Japan tour, which takes in both Honshu’s main cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as some of its most scenic spots like Lake Kawaguchi and Tsumago’s Nakasendo Walking Trail.

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