The Chūbu Region (中部地方 Chūbu-chihō) is the central part of Japan’s main island Honshū and consists of three subregions, Hokuriku on the Sea of Japan, Kōshin’etsu, the Central Highlands, and Tōkai on the Pacific Seaboard, encompassing the following prefectures:
The geographical divide of the subregions is not so clear. Niigata is sometimes placed in the Hokuriku Region, sometimes in the Kōshin’etsu Region. Likewise, Aichi Prefecture is either described to be a part of the Tōkai Region, or the Chūkyō Region (中京地方 Chūkyō-chihō), the major metropolitan area centred around Chūbu’s principal city of Nagoya, a regional hub, the third-largest incorporated city and the fourth most populous urban area in Japan. Southern Gifu is part of the Tōkai Region, while the rest of the prefecture belongs to Kōshin’etsu.
- Hokuriku (北陸地方 Hokuriku chihō)
- Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県 Ishikawa-ken)
- Fukui Prefecture (福井県 Fukui-ken)
- Niigata Prefecture (新潟県 Niigata-ken)
- Toyama Prefecture (富山県 Toyama-ken)
- Kōshin’etsu (甲信越)
- Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県 Gifu-ken)
- Nagano Prefecture (長野県 Nagano-ken)
- Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県 Yamanashi-ken)
- Tōkai (東海地方 Tōkai-chihō)
- Aichi Prefecture (愛知県 Aichi-ken)
- Shizuoka Prefecture (静岡県 Shizuoka-ken)
The Chūbu Region is mostly a mountainous region dominated by the Japanese Alps (日本アルプス Nihon Arupusu), namely the Northern Alps ((北アルプス Kita Arupusu, also known as the Hida Mountains 飛騨山脈 Hida Sanmyaku), the Central Alps (or Kiso Mountains, 木曽山脈 Kiso Sanmyaku), and the Southern Alps (or Akaishi Mountains, 赤石山脈 Akaishi Sanmyaku), lying in a generally north to south alignment. It contains numerous volcanoes, including Mount Fuji (富士山 Fuji-san), 3,776 meters), the highest peak in Japan, and some of Japan’s longest rivers: the Shinanogawa, Kisogawa, and the Tenryūgawa. The Niigata Plain on the Sea of Japan coast is one of the largest rice-producing areas in Japan, and the Nōbi Plain on the Pacific coast is the most densely populated and highly industrialised area in the region. Numerous inland basins, such as the Nagano, Matsumoto, and the Takayama basins have very cold winters. The Pacific side is generally mild, and the Sea of Japan side has long snowy winters.
The Chūbu Region includes three large industrial zones. The Chūkyō Industrial Zone around Nagoya dominates the area’s economy and is the third-ranking industrial zone in Japan. The Tōkai Industrial Region consists of several industrial centres, such as Shimizu, Hamamatsu, and Toyohashi, located between the Chūkyō and Keihin industrial zones. The Hokuriku Industrial Region includes chemical fibre and fertiliser plants, natural gas, aluminium and petroleum refineries, and metal industries.
The Nōbi Plain and other plains of the Hokuriku Region are essential rice-producing areas. Shizuoka Prefecture is Japan’s major tea-cultivating area and also produces a large crop of mandarin oranges as well as strawberries in early spring. Grapes and peaches in Yamanashi Prefecture and apples in Nagano Prefecture are important products, too. Fishing is of great import along all coastal areas.
In 1966, the Chūbu sphere (中部県 Chūbuken) was designated as a wide-area economic bloc encompassing the greater part of Chūbu Region and part of Kinki Region, to establish stronger economic ties between the Hokuriku and Tōkai regions.
- Total area: 72,572.34 square kilometres
- Population: 23,575,736 inhabitants (2010)
- Population density: 324.85 inhabitants per square kilometre (2010)
Nagoya is an international airport (code: NGO) and is linked by direct flights to many major cities around the world, and via transfers at Tokyo Narita and Osaka Kansai airports to many more. Given the cost of transport in Japan, consider flying directly to Nagoya, if you are going to be based in the area unless you want to go to Tokyo or Osaka.
If coming by train, the main Tokaido line runs through Nagoya, and all trains stop here. Shinkansen trains leave Tokyo and Osaka for Nagoya every few minutes throughout the day, and you do not usually need to reserve except at peak times or holidays. By road, the main Chuo Expressway runs through the city. From here, you can access the regional network of trains and roads that will get you to any part of the Chubu region easily and quickly.
From Nagoya, there are ferry boats that run via Osaka, through Naha, Miyako, Ishigaki to Chilung and Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Another ferry from Nagoya runs to Sendai and then Tomakomai in Hokkaido. On the north coast, there are ferries from Naoetsu, Teradomari and Niigata to Sadogashima, and from Hakata (near Fukuoka) to Hokkaido via Naoetsu.
Chūbu, like the rest of Japan, has two basic weather patterns within it. The north (Japan Sea) coast and the south (Pacific Ocean) coast are entirely different. The north shore has much more severe winters, not having the Japan Alps to shelter behind. This means much higher snowfall and slightly lower temperatures in winter, while rainfall is similar in the summer (all parts of Japan experience typhoons). Sunshine during the summer is very similar, but the winter snow clouds blot out the sun on the north coast.
The Chūbu Region also has a lot of high ground, adding a third weather pattern. Nagano and some parts of Gifu, in particular, are located at a very high elevation, and this brings with it colder weather, but also lower rainfall as the effects of typhoons are not felt so severely at the highest parts of the region. Although it has a lot of snow, Hokkaido to the far north of Japan has a much higher snowfall and more reliable snow for skiing – although lack of snow will almost never be a problem in either location.
Things to see
Find a brief list of some of the main sights around the Chūbu Region below.
- Nagoya Castle (名古屋城 Nagoya-jō, built 1610-14 by Tokugawa Ieyasu)
- Atsuta Shrine (熱田神宮 Atsuta-jingū), dating from the third century; houses Kusanagi no tsurugi, one of the imperial crown jewels of Japan, though not exhibited.
- Tokugawa Art Museum (items from the shogunate and the Scroll of Genji designated a National Treasure)
- Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts (excellent displays of western and Japanese art)
- Nagoya Port (Aquarium, Maritime Museum, Port Tower, Fuji Antarctic Exploration Ship)
- Inuyama Castle
- Okazaki Castle
- Arimatsu (有松町), traditional tie-dying techniques or Arimatsu shibori (絞り染め hiborizome)
- Seto (瀬戸市), home of Japanese pottery and ceramics; setomono (瀬戸物) is the term used for ceramics in the Japanese language.
- Handa (半田市), famous for sake, soy sauce and vinegar brewing; Kunizakari Sake Museum)
- Eihei-ji (永平寺, Zen temple founded by Dogen in the thirteenth century and one of the chief temples of Soto Zen)
- Gasshō-zukuri (合掌造り, literally “clasped-hands” style), or praying hands, is a traditional form of thatch building; they can withstand enormous weights of snow and used to house large extended families of up to sixty people.
- Gifu (岐阜市): ukai 鵜飼 or cormorant fishing in summer, Shōhō-ji Temple (正法寺) with paper-maché Daibutsu.
- Inuyama-shi (犬山市), with Inuyama-jō, the oldest castle in Japan; white-water rafting, Meiji-Mura displaying examples of Meiji-era architecture)
- Gero (下呂市): famous onsen, supposedly curing many ailments and improves complexion; Onsenji Temple (温泉寺).
- Takayama (高山市): on April 14,15 Sanno Matsuri is one of the three great festivals of Japan; gasshō-zukuri traditional houses.
- Shirakawa-gō (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山): UNESCO World Heritage Site with gasshō-zukuri, museums of life in medieval Japan)
- Kanazawa (金沢市): an important cultural centre; Kenroku-en (兼六園, Six Attributes Garden), one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan; Nagamachi district samurai residences; Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts)
- Noto Peninsula (能登半島 Noto-hantō): rural and scenic area, with plenty of local festivals and natural coastline
- Wajima (輪島市): famous for its lacquerware (輪島塗 Wajima-Nuri); Lacquerware Museum
- Hakusan National Park (白山国立公園 Hakusan Kokuritsu Kōen): hiking and camping in the Japanese Alps; hikes up to 26 km long; designated a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve in 1980.
- Tenryu Gorge (天竜川) in Tenryu Oku-Mikawa National Park
- Kiso Valley (木曾谷 Kiso-Dani): Magome (馬籠宿 Magome-juku) and Tsumago (妻籠宿 Tsumago-juku), preserved post-towns on the old Tokyo-Kyoto road (中山道 Nakasendō)
- Matsumoto (Matsumoto Castle; Ukiyo-e Woodcut Prints Museum)
- Hakuba Village (白馬村): a popular skiing resort
- Sado Island (佐渡ヶ島 Sadogashima): island where many dissidents were exiled in Japanese history, including Nichiren, founder of the Buddhist sect; Sado Kinzan Gold Mine; festivals featuring Kodo drummers
- Echigo-Yuzawa Onsen (越後湯沢): skiing and onsen resort
- Niigata City (新潟市 Niigata-shi): Godo Shiryokan Folklore Museum, Niigata port, Niigata Kensei Shiryo Kan Memorial Hall of Politics (modelled on the British Houses of Parliament)
- Sado Yahiko Quasi-national Park (佐渡弥彦米山国定公園 Sado-Yahiko-Yoneyama Kokutei Kōen): Mount Yahiko volcano, Yahiko-mura (弥彦村), Yahiko-jinja
- Shizuoka City (静岡市 Shizuoka-shi): Shizuoka Sengen Jinja (静岡浅間神社); Kunō-zan Tōshō-gū (久能山東照宮), the first burial site of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu; Lake Hamana (浜名湖 Hamanako
- Nihondaira (日本平) and Nihondaira ropeway
- Okuoi Prefectural National Park (奥大井県立自然公園 Okuoi-kenritsu-Shizen-koen); JR Kanaya Station to Senzu ((千頭) by a steam locomotive, Lake Ikawa (井川湖 Ikawako and Lake Hatanagi (畑薙湖 Hatanagiko)
- Shuzenji Hot Spring (修善寺 静岡), Niji-no-Sato (虹の郷) Theme Park (Igirisu-mura British Village), Takumi-no-mura (Japanese handicrafts)
- Nichi and Higashi Izu Hot Springs and botanical gardens
- Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島 Izu-hantō): Atami (熱海市), a traditional resort town, hot springs, Museum of Modern Art, numerous other museums.
- Amagi-toge (天城峠): a mountain pass with wonderful views and walks
- Toyama (富山市): Azumi Castle (安住城 Azumi-jō), Chokei-ji (長慶寺) temple, Toyama City Folk Craft Village.
- Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (Walking/bus/train route through Japan Alps), Kurobe Dam (黒部ダム), the tallest dam in Japan at 186 meters.
- Mount Fuji: Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes (富士五湖 Fuji-goko): Lake Kawaguchi (河口湖 Kawaguchi-ko), Lake Motosu (本栖湖 Motosu-ko), Lake Saiko (西湖 Sai-ko), Lake Shoji (精進湖 Shōji-ko), and Lake Yamanaka (山中湖 Yamanaka-ko); Shosenkyo (昇仙峡) ravine
- Kōfu (甲府市) and Shosenkyo Valley: Takeda Shrine (武田神社 Takeda-jinja) and Kai Zenko-ji Temple (甲斐 善光寺).
- Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park (富士箱根伊豆国立公園 Fuji-Hakone-Izu Kokuritsu Kōen consists of Mount Fuji, Fuji Five Lakes, Hakone, the Izu Peninsula, and the Izu Islands and stretches across four prefectures;Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park (秩父多摩甲斐国立公園 Chichibu Tama Kai Kokuritsu Kōen); Tanzawa-Ōyama Quasi-National Park (丹沢大山国定公園 Tanzawa-Oyama Kokutei Kōen), comprising the Tanzawa Mountains, Miyagase Dam and its surrounding forests, Hayato Great Falls and the religious sites of Mount Ōyama.