The Chūbu Region (中部地方) is located in the center of Japan’s main island – Honshū (本州), which is one of the most scenic parts of Japan. As these stunning attractions are mostly situated in mountainous areas, we recommend you embark on your trip between mid to late October for beautiful fall foliage.
The below itinerary assumes you will be based in Tokyo. If you are based in Osaka/Kyoto/Nagoya, you can easily replace the starting and ending point of this itinerary with where you will be coming from and/or heading to afterward. The itinerary also assumes you are taking public transport at all times.
Although a few discounted bus ticket deals are available for the region, they won’t save you money for the below itinerary.
Summary of the 7 Days Itinerary
|Day 3||Toyama||Kurobe||Toyama||Kurobe Gorge|
|Day 4||Toyama||Toyama||Nagano||Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route|
Day 1 – Kanazawa
Tokyo ⇒ Kanazawa
Start your first day of the trip by visiting one of the most beautiful cities in Japan – Kanazawa (金沢)! It is a city that combines traditional and modern elements in harmony with many historical and artistic attractions worth your time. It only takes around 2.5 hours by bullet train from Tokyo to JR Kanazawa Station (金沢駅).
One day is definitely not enough to fully explore this great city, so you really have to cherry-pick the spots that interest you the most.
Mid to late October is a bit early to enjoy the autumn foliage in the city (as we found out during our visit in 2018…), but the city is a lot more than just the beautiful autumn color. For example, the Chaya, or tea house district, is a great place to taste traditional Japanese culture. For more ideas for your itinerary, please refer to our article on Kanazawa!
Tip: As soon as you get to JR Kanazawa Station, head to Hokutetsu Ekimae Center / Honkutetsu Bus ticket office (北鉄駅前センター). It is just in front of the station’s east exit to get your bus tickets for Day 2 and make reservations for your seats on the bus. You will need the bus tickets:
☛ From Kanazawa to Shirakawa-gō
☛ From Shirakawa-gō to JR Toyama Station
Day 2 – Shirakawa-gō
JR Kanazawa Station ⇒ Shirakawa-gō
While it is too early to see the autumn foliage in Kanazawa, you should be just in time to admire the color in Shirakawa-gō (白川郷) from mid to late October.
Your bus ticket to Shirakawa-gō should state which bus stop at Kanazawa Station’s east exit your bus will depart from. Arriving a little earlier than the actual departure time is highly advisable.
People usually spend around 4 – 6 hours in Shirakawa-gō, so you don’t necessarily need to take the first few buses. But just note it takes approximately 1.5 hours to get to Shirawakago, and the village is the most crowded from late morning to early afternoon.
For more information, please refer to our Shirakawa-gō article (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
On the day, remember to keep an eye on the time so you don’t miss your bus to Toyama!
Tip: We recommend booking your accommodation close to JR Toyama Station/Detetsu Toyama Station so you can get to the station in the shortest time. This is essential for Day 4 as your day will start really early.
Day 3 – Kurobe Gorge
JR Toyama Station ⇔ Kurobe Gorge
Day 3 is all about the scenic Kurobe Gorge (黒部峡谷). From Toyama, take the Main Line of Toyama Chihō Railway (富山地方鉄道) from Dentetsu Toyama Station (電鉄富山), which is just next to JR Toyama Station, and get off at the last station of the route – Unazuki-Onsen Station (宇奈月温泉).
Tip: As a one-way trip will cost 1,880 yen, it will be worthwhile to get the One-day Hop-on Hop-off Railway and Tram Tickets (鉄道線・市内電車1日フリーきっぷ) that will only cost 2,600 yen. For more information, please refer to Toyama Chiho Railway’s website HERE.
Day 4 – Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
JR Toyama Station ⇒ Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route ⇒ JR Nagano Station
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (立山黒部アルペンルート) is a scenic route that goes through the Japanese North Alps connecting Toyama Prefecture and Nagano Prefecture. It is also known as the Roof of Japan. This spectacular route is mostly known for a magnificent 20-meter snow corridor that can only be experienced in limited spots in the world. But we believe the best season for visiting is autumn, especially if your home country snows during winter.
To allow yourself as much time as possible on this scenic route, we highly recommend you take the first train departing from Dentetsu Toyama Station (電鉄富山), which is just next to JR Toyama Station (富山駅). If you miss the first train, the second train departs more than 30 minutes after. So try to arrive at the platform at least 10 minutes before departure in case something unexpected happens.
Those who have purchased an advance ticket for the route can exchange their voucher for the actual ticket when the train arrives at Dentetsu Toyama Station (電鉄富山) or Dentetsu Tateyama Station (立山駅).
As you only have a day to explore the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, we suggest you go straight up to Murodo (室堂), as it is the main attraction on the whole route. The area will likely be covered by snow at this time, so remember to take enough warm clothes with you.
Then, as you start heading down the mountain, you will notice the color of the surrounding nature starts to become more vivid. From mid to late October, the color is the most beautiful at Kurobedaira (黒部平), Kurobeko Lake (黒部湖), and Kurobe Dam (黒部ダム).
For more information about this scenic route, please refer to our Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route article!
Important: Remember to plan your time wisely at each station so that at least you can catch the last express bus to Nagano.
Tip: You can utilize the baggage forwarding service to forward your excess belongings to Nagano Prefecture.
Day 5 – Nagano
Nagano ⇒ Matsumoto ⇒ Kamikōchi
After you have a good rest from a long day from Day 4, your Day 5 can be all about shopping and eating at all the boutique shops and restaurants around JR Nagano Station. The famous Zenkōji Temple (善光寺) is not too far away from the station as well.
On the other hand, you can take a day trip to Jigokudani Monkey Park to see the wild snow monkeys. Along the way, you can drop by Obuse (小布施), a town known for chestnuts, to enjoy the freshly harvested chestnuts in the local restaurants, cafes, and even from a roasted chestnut stall on the side of a street!
Day 6 – Kamikōchi
Nagano ⇒ Kamikōchi
From Nagano, the bus service will depart for Kamikōchi from JR Nagano Staton’s east exit at 8:30 am. Make sure you arrive there early in case something unexpected happens on your way to the bus stop. Please refer to HERE for the timetable and how you can reserve your seats.
During the day, you can either spend most of your time enjoying the breathtaking scenery by trekking on the well-maintained tracks or allocating some time for a relaxing morning or afternoon tea in one of the nicely decorated cafés.
For more information, please refer to our article on Kamikōchi (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Tip: There are a few hotels that you can choose from in Kamikōchi. If you are unsure, we recommend staying at Taishoike Hotel (大正池ホテル), so you can see the Taishō Pond’s stunning sunrise from your hotel room on Day 7’s morning!
Day 7 – Kamikōchi and Tokyo
Kamikōchi ⇒ Tokyo
The average sunrise time at Taishō Pond is between 5:30 and 6 in the morning. Assuming you took our advice and booked your accommodation for Day 6 at Taishoike Hotel to see the stunning view that many professional photographers are coming to Kamikōchi for, all you need to do is to remember to set your alarm clock at 5:30 and don’t snooze your alarm when it goes off on Day 7. Depending on whether your room comes with a lake view, you may be able to admire the view just from your room’s window!
No matter what you do at Kamikōchi, don’t miss out on the bus service you have reserved to leave this picturesque spot. Depending on when you want to leave this stunning place, you can take an express bus to Tokyo, Osaka, or other major cities in Japan. Or, take one of the regular buses running between Kamikōchi and JR Shinshimashima Station (新島々駅).
For more information, please refer to the access information section in our Kamikōchi article. From JR Shinshimashima Station, take a local train to JR Matsumoto Station.
Direct Express Bus Services from Kamikōchi to Other Major Cities in Japan
The easiest way to get out of Kamikōchi is to take an express bus to major cities in Japan. The services mostly leave Kamikōchi between 3 and 5 pm, allowing you ample time to enjoy all Kamikōchi has to offer. Please refer to Alpico Group’s website HERE, for which the bus services depart.
From Kamikōchi to JR Matsumoto Station
For those who prefer to leave Kamikōchi before 3 pm, there are direct bus services between JR Shinshimashima Station and Kamikōchi. From JR Shinshimashima Station, there are connecting trains that bring you to JR Matsumoto Station. Again, please refer to Alpico Group’s website HERE for the timetable of the services.