CENTRAL JAPAN AND CHUBU
CENTRAL HONSHU embraces the prefectures of Aichi, Gifu, Toyama, Fukui, Nagano, Toyama and Ishikawa. This entire area is called Chubu, which is divided into three major areas: 1) the densely populated Tokai region between Kansai and Kanto on the Pacific Ocean side of Japan, which included the Nagoya area; 2) the Japan Alps and other mountainous areas in the interior; and 3) coastal areas along the Sea of Japan.
The Chubu region in central Honshu faces both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. The climate varies greatly according to the area: while the Sea of Japan side is famous for heavy snowfall, the Pacific side generally enjoys a mild climate throughout the year. Some towns, located on plateaus, are very popular as summer retreats due to their cool climate. The Japan Alps, which has several lofty mountains and is thus called the Roof of Japan, extends from north to south in the Chubu region.
The Chubu region encompasses nine prefectures (ken): Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Shizuoka, Toyama, and Yamanashi. It is located directly between the Kantō region and the Kansai region and includes the major city of Nagoya The Chubu region has some of Japan’s longest rivers and one of the largest rice-producing areas, located along the Sea of Japan. It has three industrial areas: the Chukyo Industrial Zone, which is home to the Chubu Region main facility of Toyota Motors; the Tokai Industrial Region, where Yamaha is based; and the Hokuriku Industrial Region. In addition to rice, agricultural products include tea, mandarin oranges, strawberries, grapes, peaches, and apples. The most famous landmark of this largely mountainous region is Mount Fuji.
The Chūbu region covers a large and geographically diverse area of Honshū which leads to it generally being divided into three distinct subregions: Tōkai, Kōshin'etsu, and Hokuriku. There is also another subregion occasionally referred to in business circles called Chūkyō. The Tōkai region, mostly bordering the Pacific Ocean, is a narrow corridor interrupted in places by mountains that descend into the sea. The three Tōkai prefectures centered on Nagoya (Aichi, Gifu, and Mie) have particularly strong economic ties, and the parts of these prefectures that are closest to the city comprise the Chūkyō Metropolitan Area. This area boasts the third strongest economy in Japan and this influence can sometimes extend into the more remote parts of these prefectures that are farther away from Nagoya. Thus, these three prefectures are sometimes called the "Chūkyō region" in a business sense
Kōshin'etsu refers to Yamanashi, Nagano, and Niigata prefectures. It is an area of complex and high rugged mountains—often called the "roof of Japan"—that include the Japanese Alps. The population is chiefly concentrated in six elevated basins connected by narrow valleys. The Hokuriku region lies on the Sea of Japan coastline, northwest of the massive mountains that comprise Kōshin'etsu. Hokuriku includes the four prefectures of Ishikawa, Fukui, Niigata and Toyama, The district has very heavy snowfall (sometimes enough to block major roads) and strong winds in winter, and its turbulent rivers are the source of abundant hydroelectric power.
watch the planes take off
while taking a bath Chubu Centrair International Airport (Chubu Cebtair) opened outside Nagoya in February 2005. It is built on a manmade island off Tokoname in Aichi Prefecture and aims to be an international hub and the third major airport in Japan after Narita and Kansai. It opened with 293 international flights, including cargo flights, and 94 domestic flights. It is located far enough from major residential areas that it can operate 24 hours a day.
Chubu Centrair International Airport is the principal airport for the city of Nagoya. The airport is designed to be easily accessible by everyone, regardless of age or physical disability, incorporating universal design elements such as a design that allows travelers to proceed from the train platform to the arrival or departure lobby without changing floors. Chubu Airport has duty-free shops, shopping arcades, a wide choice of restaurants and even a garden with a wedding venue and baths where one can watch planes land and take off. The airport was very popular with Nagoya residents who visited it as a tourist attraction and a place to enjoy a meal. Chubu Centrair International Airport in Nagoya Chubu Cebtair
Aichi Prefecture covers 5,172.5 square kilometers (1,996 square miles), is home to about 7.5 million people and has a population density of 1,447 people per square kilometer. Nagoya is the capital and largest city, with about 2.3 million people. It is in Chubu in central Honshu island and has seven districts and 54 municipalities. Aichi is still regarded as a major center of traditional crafts. Among the crafts that are made there are calligraphy brushes, furniture, cloisonne ware, tie-dyed cloth, dyed garments, ceramics, stonework, Buddhist altars, and Buddhist altar implements.
Nagashima Spaland (near Nagoya in Nagashima, Mie Prefecture) is the home of Steel Dragon, which at one time was the world’s longest roller coaster and one of the highest, taking riders to a height of 90 meters before they plunge down. It has 40 other rides and attractions including a sea water pool with 18 slides. In August 2003, a car on derailed and stopped suddenly while it was upside down, 25 feet above the ground. It didn’t fall off the track. but two people were seriously injured and another had to be rescued with a cherry picker. The accident was caused by a broken bolt in the wheel. Bolt problems had been reported earlier but not acted on. Website: Gaijin Pot travel.gaijinpot.com
Seto (20 kilometers northeast of Nagoya) is a major production center for porcelain. It has an extensive ceramics center, a ceramics museum two-story pagoda and clay mine. Tokoname (32 kilometers from Nagoya) is a famous ceramic production center. It is the home of Kiln Plaza, which boasts a collection of 500 toilets, some 150 years old, and streets and walls decorated with broken pieces of pottery. There are also many shops that sell the cities famous Tokoname-yaki ceramics. Arimatsu (25 minutes from Nagoya) is famous for its well-preserved Edo and Meiji period houses, with beautiful tiled roofs and lattice doors.
Hamamatsu (in Shizuoka prefecture, 80 kilometers southeast of Nagoya and 235 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.) is known primarily as the home of Hamamatsu castle. It is also where the Honda Corporation was born and the first domestically-produced piano was made more than a hundred years ago. Hamamatsu is home to about 600,000 people. Historically an old castle town, it evolved into an industrial city that produced musical instruments, motorcycles, small cars, tea, and textiles. Allied forces bombed the city in May and June 1945. Today, a Yamaha piano factory there produces some of the worlds' best pianos. The Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments is worth a look. . Tours of the Yamaha piano factory can sometimes be arranged with advance reservations by calling (053)-460-2901.
Italian Village (near Nagoya) closed in 2015. It was half amusement park and half shopping mall with a replica of the Campanile in St. Mark’s Square at the entrance and replicas of the David statue and the Bocca della Verita in Rome. The biggest attraction were gondola rides in boats imported from Italy and manned by young Italian men. They steered visitors through the faux canals, periodically shouting out “Buon giorno!” Carriages rides were also offered. The shops sold Murano glass, Ferrari jumpsuits, Italian sausage and Dolce & Gabbana handbags. Opened in 2005, the park attracted 4.35 million visitors its first year, double what was expected. But after that interest steadily waned. Website: Virtual Tourist virtualtourist.com
Inuyama Castle Inuyama (40 kilometers north of Nagoya) is famous for its castle, the crystal clear Kiso River and the beautiful surrounding mountains. Inuyama Castle is Japan's oldest castle and one of four castles in Japan designated as national treasures. Located on a bluff above the Kiso River, it dates from 1537 and has been privately owned by the Narusune family since 1618. It is four stories high and has white walls and pagoda style roofs. There is a nice view from the top.
Handsome homes with traditional curved roofs line Inuyama’s winding streets. Uraku-en garden is within walking distance of the castle. It has four old teahouses, one of which was originally built in Kyoto in 1618. In Inuyama Rhine Park there is a huge amusement park with a zoo, botanical garden and a monkey center.The lower portion of the Kiso River is sometimes called the "Rhine of Japan." Two companies operate slightly thrilling 8-mile trips on the Kiso River from Imawatari to Inuyama in flat-bottom boats for about ¥3,500. Cormorant fishing is done of Kiso River from June 1st to September 30th.
Inuyama is also the home of the Primate Research Institute, a facility that sits on a hill and consists mostly of drab, institutional boxes from the 1960s, but it has one stunning architectural feature: an outdoor facility that includes a five-story-high climbing tower for the 14 chimpanzees currently in residence. Chimps frequently scamper to the top of the tower and take in the view; they tightrope across wires connecting different parts of the tower and chase each other in battle and play.
Websites:Inuyama City site city.inuyama.aichi ; Japan Guide japan-guide Map: Inuyama City Tourist Map city.inuyama.aichi Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Inuyama is 35 minutes from Nagoya by train. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Meiji-Mura (20 minutes by bus from Inuyama) is a unique folk village. Opened in 1965, it contains more than 60 Meiji-era Western and Japanese buildings built between 1868 and 1912. All of the buildings were transported from various parts of the country and reconstructed here in their original form.
Meiji Mura Buildings include churches, homes, a brewery, a theater, a courthouse and two prisons. Highlights include the Imperial carriage of Emperor Meiji, the mansion of Marquis Saigo Tsugumichi, St. John's Church, Japan's first lighthouse (dismantled and rebuilt among the hilly landscape here), and the main entrance hall and lobby of the old Imperial Hotel, designed by the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Just behind the hotel is “Tokyo Station,” with a couple of century-old locomotives that take passengers a few kilometers to “Nagoya Station.”
The building take a while to visit. The village is open from 10:00am to 5:00pm (March to October) and from 10:00am to 4:00pm (November to February). Website: Meiji Mura site meijimura.com
Imperial Hotel (in Meiji Village) was one of the most celebrated building in the 20th century. It opened in Tokyo on the day of the 1923 Great Tokyo earthquake and survived the jolt thanks in part to earthquake-proof “floating cantilever construction.” Over the years international celebrities such as Babe Ruth and Marilyn Monroe stayed there. Later, it was taken down but the main entrance hall and lobby now stand at Meiji Village.
The reconstructed Imperial Hotel features an exquisite three-story-high lobby with decorative screen, galleries, terraces, ornate friezes and hand carved urns. The building itself is made ocher-colored bricks and volcanic Oya stone.
Other Sights in the Inuyama Area include Ogata Shine (Gakuden station on the Meitetsi Kmonaki Line), known for its rocks and other items resembling females genitalia left by marriage-seeking women; Tagata Shine (Gakuden station on the Meitetsi Kamaki Line), known fir its phallus-shaped objects left behind by sex-seeking men; Tajima, a famous porcelain-making town; and Gero, an unappealing hot spring resort.
Gifu Park Gifu Prefecture (near Nagoya) is known for cormorant fishing, tradition crafts such paper parasols, paper lanterns, hand-made paper, ceramics, woodcarving, lacquerware and swordmaking. The prefecture is mostly mountains. The only really flat area is the Nobi Plain around the city of Gifu. The fertile farmland on the Nobi Plain enables residents to grow rice and vegetables. Website: Gifu Conventions and Visitors Bureau Experience Beautiful Gifu
Gifu Prefecture covers 10,621 square kilometers (4,101 square miles), is home to about two million people and has a population density of 191 people per square kilometer. Gifu is the capital and largest city, with about 408,000 people. It is in Chubu in central Honshu island and has nine districts and 42 municipalities.
Gifu City (30 kilometers north of Nagoya, 15 minutes by train from Nagoya) is a city of 420,000 is famous for cormorant fishing. Located on the edge of the Nobi Plain at the foot of the Japan Alps, it sits in a region that once had 516 earthquakes in one year. Not many of the city's old buildings survived the big 1891 earthquake. Gifu is noted for its paper products which include fans, umbrellas, and lanterns. It also manufactures cutlery and textiles. Sights in and around Gifu include Mt. Kinka-zan, topped by a reconstruction of Gifu-jo Castle; Gifu-koen Park with a small history museum; and Soho-ji Temple, with a 14-meter-tall papier maché Buddha. The area around Gifu is sometimes called Mino.
Websites:Gifu Conventions and Visitors Bureau Experience Beautiful Gifu Map: Tourist Maps Experience Beautiful Gifu Hotel Web Sites: Gifu Conventions and Visitors Bureau Experience Beautiful Gifu Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Gifu is accessible by bus and by train from Nagoya and other Japanese cities. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Cormorant Fishing in Gifu
Cormorant Fishing in Gifu is done at night, except after a heavy rain or during a full moon, from May 11th to October 15th on the Nagaragawa River (near Gifu) and the Oze River in Seki and from June through September on the Kiso River (near Inuyama).
The practice of cormorant fishing is over 1000 years old. These days it is performed mostly for the benefit of tourists. The ritual begins when a fire is set or a light is turned on over the water. This attracts swarms of trout-like fish called “ayu” . Tethered cormorants dive into the water and frantically swim around, gulping down fish.
Metal rings and placed around the bird's the neck to keep them from swallowing the fish. When cormorants' gullets are full they are hauled aboard the boat, and the still-moving ayu are disgorged on to the deck. The birds are then given rewards of fish, and thrown back in the river to repeat the process.
The boats are manned by four man teams: a master at the bow, in traditional ceremonial headdress, who manages 12 birds, two assistants, who manage two birds each, and a forth man, who takes care of five decoys. To get close to action you need to take a viewing excursion on a tourist boats, often illuminated with paper lanterns.
Around 45 boats offer tours. They take off around 6:00pm just before sunset and travel several kilometers upstream to the fishing spots. Along the way visitors can catch glimpses of Mt. Kinka and other stunning scenery. Before the fishing starts a fisherman explains the that fishermen wear black so the birds can’t see them, cover their heads for protection against sparks and wear a straw skirt to repel water. Pinewood is burned because it burns even on rainy days and the cormorants are not fed all day so they will be hungry at fishing time. The birds are all caught in the wild and trained. Some can catch 60 fish an hour.
The fish are squeezed out the neck. Many visitors find this cruel but the fishermen point out that captive birds live to be between 15 and 20 while those that live in the wild rarely live beyond five. A ride of a tourist boat costs ¥3,300 per adult. For information call ☎ (058)-262-0104. Website: Gifu Conventions and Visitors Bureau Explore Beautiful Gifu
Seki (near Gifu) is famous for swordmaking and cormorant fishing. The Seki swordsmiths hold public demonstrations ever few months at the Seki City Industry Promotion Center. For information call ☎ (0575)-23-3825. Due to a lack of demand many former swordmakers now make kitchen knives and razor blades. The cormorant fishing season on the Oze River in Seki also runs from May 11 to October 15. A seat on viewing boat costs ¥3,500 per adult. For information call ☎ (0575)-22-2506. Website: Gifu Conventions and Visitors Bureau Experience Beautiful Gifu
Shokuhin Sanpuru Sosaku Kan (in Gujo, Gifu Prefecture) makes the wax models of food displayed at restaurants. Visitors can make their own. It shows them how to make sample models of tempura, which participants can then take home. [Source: Akihito Teramura, Yomiuri Shimbun, November 23, 2012]
Site of Reversible Destiny (Yoro Park, Gifu) is an outdoor sculpture museums usually that allow walkings and climbing on art works. Conceived by the late New York based artists, Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins, it features caves, walls, hidden enclosures, and secret rooms. From the names that Arakawa and Gins bestowed on the numerous and carefully designed environments you can sense that they are conceptual artists: Exactitude Ridge, Critical Resemblance House, or Kinesthetic Pass to name a few. The couple could not foresee that their work, built in 1995, would still be one of the most popular art adventure spots in Japan, even decades later. Location: 1298-2 Takabayashi, Yoro-cho, Yoro-gun, Gifu 503-1267 +81-584-32-0501 Gifu
Mosaic Tile Museum (in Tajimi City) is located in an area with Japan’s largest production output of mosaic tiles. The museum, which opened relatively recently, houses 10,000 artifacts relating to the history of mosaic tiles as a building material, collected over the years by local volunteers. In Terunobu Fujimori they found the perfect designer and historian to put the design of the building in the right context. “In ancient times the human dwelling in its most reduced form has always been made of earth piled in the shape of a simple mound,” says Fujimori. “Earth is the source of tiles, and so I gave the museum the appearance of an ancient mound.” Location: 2082-5 Kasahara-cho, Tajimi-shi, Gifu 507-0901 +81-572-43-5101
Image Sources: 1) map Japan Guest Houses 2) Wikipedia 3) Ray Kinnane 4) Nagoya City site 5) Toyota 6) Aichi Expo 2005 7) Inuyuma City, 8) Meiji Mura, 9) Nagoya city, 10) JNTO 11) 12) 13) 15), 16), 17) Wikipedia, 14) Hida Takayama, 18), 19) Nanto City
Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2020