Central Japan Itinerary: Toyama, Nagano, Gifu! (Sunny Days Roadtrip)


There is a good number of great cities in Central Japan such as Toyama, Nagano and Gifu, which are full of history, culture, nature and quiet countryside scenes. Join us as we visit the oldest castle in Japan, stay overnight at a 200-year old gassho-zukuri homestay with a local family and even try one of the best places for affordable high-grade sushi in the land of the rising sun! The area is specially recommended for second-time visitors to Japan who have already been to major cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

And if, like me, you love discovering hidden gems in Japan, there is a region I would highly recommend to you, the Chubu region which is also called Central Japan.

Check out our awesome 5-day itinerary to make the most of your trip…

Day 1               (Toyama City- Nanto City)
9:40-10:40       Flight Haneda-> Toyama Airport (NH315 ANA)
11:20-11:40       Toyota Rental (Take Free Shuttle From Aiport)
12:30-13:30      Lunch: Ayuryourinomiseayunosato (鮎料理の店 鮎の里)
13:40-15:25       Shogawa Gorge Cruise 庄 川 峡 遊 覧 船)
14:30-15:00      Shogawa Water Memorial Park (Eat Yuzu Soft Cream) 水記念公園 (ゆずソフトクリーム)
15:50-17:30       Kokiriko Traditional Songs and Dances「世界遺産五箇山合掌集落」
17:40                  Gokoyama (Nanto City) 五箇山:与茂四郎 泊 Yomashirou Homestay


Day 2              (Nanto City- Tonami City- Takaoko City)
9:00-10:00       Leave Gokoyama
10:00-11:00       Ride Doraemon Tram 高岡市ドラえもんポスト
11:00-12:00      Gokayama Washi-no-sato (Traditional Paper-making Workshop)道の駅たいら・五箇山和紙の里
12:00-13:30       Lunch
14:20-15:30       Nousaku Corporation 能作(鋳物製作体験)(Copper casting workshop)
16:00-16:40      Amaharashi 雨晴海岸・道の駅雨晴
17:30-18:00      ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel【富山市内:ANAクラウンプラザホテル富山 泊】
18:00-21:00      Dinner: Fukuya (冨久屋)


Day 3            (Toyama City-Omachi City-Azumino City-Matsumoto City)
7:30-8:30       Tateyama Station 立山黒部アルペンルート
8:16-8:40       Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
8:16-8:47        Tateyama-Bijodaira Cable Car
9:00-9:50      Bijodaira-Murodo Bus
11:15-11:25     Murodo-Daikanbo
11:50-11:57     Daikanbo-Kurobedaira (Tateyama Ropeway)
12:00-13:10    Restaurant Kurobedaira
13:20-13:25    Kurobedaira- Kurobe Dam
15:05-15:21     Kurobe Dam- Ogizawa
17:40- 18:30   Matcha Making Workshop
18:40-20:00   Drum, Ninja & Samurai Workshop
20:00               Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu


Day 4            (Matsumoto City-  Gero City)
8:40-9:30      Matsumoto Castle 松本城
9:35-10:20     Kaichi School 旧開智学校
11:30-12:30    Kamikochi Gosenjaku Hotel
12:30- 16:30   Kamikochi National Park 上高地
17:30-18:00    Gero Onsen: Suimeikan 【下呂温泉:水明館 泊】


Day 5             (Gero City-Nagiso Town-Seki City-Toyama City)
8:30-9:30       Gero Onsen Gassho Gassho Mura 下呂温泉合掌村
9:40-11:00      Tsumago-juku 妻籠宿 & Magome-juku 馬籠宿
12:30-13:30    Lunch
14:50-15:40     Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum 関鍛冶伝承館
18:00-18:30    Toyama Airport -> Haneda (NH322)


By Air:
We flew via ANA (All Nippon Airways) that operates several flights per day between Tokyo’s Haneda and Toyama Airports. Flight time is about 1 hour.

Airfare can range from ¥9,000+ to ¥23,000 depending on availability.

Please check website for rates https://www.ana.co.jp/en/jp/?type=de .



Upon arrival, we took the free shuttle going to Toyota Rental and availed the Central Nippon Expressway Pass (CEP).

The typical way to go around Central Japan is either by joining a tour or public transport. But more foreigners are renting a car nowadays and using the Central Nippon Expressway Pass (CEP). With the CEP, visitors can drive to and from Aichi, Gifu, Mie, Shiga, Shizuoka, Ishikawa, Toyama, Fukui and Nagano Prefectures by using the expressways in Central Japan at an inexpensive flat rate. (Only foreigners can avail this deal.)

By using an ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) system card provided by authorized rental vehicle companies, you will be able to pay expressway tolls without having to stop at tollgates. The CEP can also be used for expressways that are outside the designated area, but these require surcharges. The CEP is perfect for those who want to take their time creating their itinerary without worrying about public transportation schedules or those who hate joining big tour groups.

Most of us had an international driver’s license, so we were able to take turns driving around Central Japan.

The car had a built in Navigational System perfect for us who were unfamiliar with the destinations. It was very convenient since it had an English version that gave directions, distance and even estimated time of arrival. Another plus for us was that we didn’t have to drag our luggage, which was a lot, around.

Eligible Users for CEP:
Those who have a non-Japanese passport or, in the case of Japanese citizens, those who have permanent residence in another country.
Those who have a driver’s license that is valid in Japan.

Reasons for renting a car in Japan

  • More freedom to personalize your own itinerary.
  • More cost-saving if your group is more than 4 pax since Shinkansen and taxis are expensive.
  • More privacy and bonding time.
  • More comfort and no need to drag your luggages around.
  • More options on where to stay.
  • Safety of driving in Japan.

For more information please click on the website https://hayatabi.c-nexco.co.jp/cep/en/.


Day 1               (Toyama City- Nanto City)
9:40-10:40        Flight Haneda-> Toyama Airport (NH315 ANA)
11:20-11:40       Toyota Rental (Take Free Shuttle From Aiport)
12:30-13:30      Lunch: Ayuryourinomiseayunosato (鮎料理の店 鮎の里)
13:40-15:25       Shogawa Gorge Cruise 庄 川 峡 遊 覧 船)
14:30-15:00      Shogawa Water Memorial Park (Eat Yuzu Soft Cream) 水記念公園 (ゆずソフトクリーム)
15:50-17:30       Kokiriko Traditional Songs and Dances「世界遺産五箇山合掌集落」
17:40                  Gokoyama (Nanto City) 五箇山:山城予定 泊 Yamashirou Homestay



For our first meal in Japan, we had ayu, also known as sweetfish. The fish, known for its delicious “subtle sweet” taste, is among the most popular summer festival foods.

The charcoal grilled ayu was seriously delicious especially when stuffed with roe (fish eggs) inside. You’d know the ayu is good when you want to finish the whole fish, even the head and bones. A must try!

Ayuryourinomiseayunosato (鮎料理の店 鮎の里)
Tonami, Shogawa
0763-82-7110 (+81-763-82-7110)




Cruise on a small, local ferry on the Shogawa River and be dazzled by the dramatic transformations of the changing landscapes as the seasons turn. Enjoy the lush greenery in summer and spring, the picturesque colors of autumn or the most dramatic white snow during the winter.

We cruised during summer, and I just loved the cold breeze hitting my face. The boat wasn’t shaky, and we had a wonderful pleasant ride.

The 25-minute river cruise allows you to admire the Shogawa Gorge scenery with each changing season.

(Autumn & Winter Photos of the Gorge)

73-5 Komaki Shogawamachi Tonami City, Toyama 932-0304



Kokiriko is an ancient dance and music performance said to be the oldest folk song in Japan! The performance is a tribute to the gods to appreciate the rich harvest of that year. Essential to kokiriko is the sasara, a string-bound bundle of 108 boards of Japanese cypress the same as the number of worldly desires in Buddhism. Listening to the beautiful folk music in a 300-year-old Gashho style house would surely give you a unique and calming experience!

The Murakami Residence
Kaminashi, Nanto 939-1914, Toyama Prefecture
Tel: +81 763-66-2711




We stayed in Gokayama, a Unesco World Heritage site! Our homestay was a traditional Gassho-zukuri house located in Toyama Prefecture, the same as  those houses that could be seen in Shirakawago.

There are 23 gassho-zukuri (traditional thatched-roof style) houses in Ainokra and 9 in Suganuma, most of which are 100-200 years old while some are said to have been built more than 400 years ago.

Many of these houses are still inhabited to this day and, together with the rice paddies, they make an incredible picturesque landscape. What makes these houses special are the 60-degree pitched roof and perfect equilateral triangle shape, that allow snow to easily slip down from the roof. This unique architectural design provides a sturdy structure that can endure severe deep-snow.

It was an amazing rustic experience staying in the farm. There were four tatami rooms with futons prepared by the host. Each room was separated by a Japanese sliding door. Staying guests should expect a simple stay with Western style hotel amenities.

Dinner and breakfast were full of local dishes such as mountain vegetables, tofu and river trout served in the fireplace. The host was kind enough to play local instruments such as the sasara, bou-sasara, kakiriko-take and entertain us with stories during dinner time.

Farmhouse stays have become very popular, so make sure to make an online reservation beforehand. I’d like to thank the family for taking care of us. We had a very memorable experience that was definitely one for the books!

Yamashirou Homestay
395 Ainokura, Nanto 939-1915 Toyama Prefecture
Tel: 0763-82-5696



Day 2              (Nanto City- Tonami City- Takaoko City)
9:00-10:00         Leave Gokoyama
10:00-11:00       Ride Doraemon Tram 高岡市ドラえもんポスト
11:00-12:00        Paper “kozu” workshop
12:00-13:30        Lunch
14:20-15:30        Nousaku Corporation 能作(鋳物製作体験)
(Copper casting workshop)
16:00-16:40       Amaharashi 雨晴海岸・道の駅雨晴
17:30-18:00       ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel
【富山市内:ANAクラウンプラザホテル富山 泊】
18:00-21:00      Dinner: Fukuya (冨久屋)



Visit Doraemon’s Hometown! Takaoka City in Toyama Prefecture is the hometown of Fujiko F. Fujio, the creator of the popular manga and anime “Doraemon.”

The town is actually overflowing with Doraemon related things and spots. It’s a must-go place for Doraemon fans! Ride the Doraemon Tram, the Man’yo line Doraemon tram has two cars, and the inside and outside of the cars are covered with images of Doraemon and his friends. It’s a very cute and fun experience. Just be sure to look up the tram’s schedule in advance as there’s only one tram that travels between Takaoka and Koshinokata Stations.




The delicate art of making washi paper workshop cover traditional methods of washi papermaking, preparing kozo bark for cooking, papermaking and drying.

Washi is also known for its durability, and high quality washi paper is said to last a thousand years.

The process includes scooping the materials on a screen and shaking it to strain the water and spread the fibers evenly, adding designs on the paper utilizing natural elements such as colored cut out paper and drying them out after.

Gokayama Washi-no-sato
Toyama Pref. Nantoshi Higashinakae 215




One of the famous three Great Buddhas in Japan. The 15.85-meter tall Buddha is built using the traditional bronze ware technique that highlights Tokoaka city’s major industry, the production of copper bells and other copper ornaments for temples around Japan.

The Great Buddha of Takaoka
11-29 Otemachi, Takaoka, Toyama 933-0039, Japan
Tel: +81 766-23-9156
Access: Hokuriku Expressway Kosugi IC about 20min, by car.
Map Code: 40 572 102*60




Takaoka city is famous for Takaoka copper. One of the main products is made of 100% tin. Usually, tin is mixed with other metals since tin itself is too soft.

Nousaku is a casting company of 100 years in Takaoka city. Watch the process of casting, a technology that has been cultivated for over 400 years in Takaoka.

Inside the same building, besides the free guided tour, visitors could also have a go at casting. It was a fun process where we had to design our own creations, make a mold, add liquid tin, then harden it.

There was also a factory shop selling limited items.

Nousaku Corporation
Entrance: Tour is free, please reserve in advance.
Casting Workshop: 800 yen to 3500 yen.




Do you agree that seafood caught in Toyama is the best in Japan?

Toyama Bay has such an abundance of fish that it is known as the “natural fish preserve,” because it is so rich in nutrients from many rivers and the underground water sourced from the Japan Alps. Plus, the fishing grounds and harbor are near each other, so you can practically see local fish, that are still fresh, unload from the boats.

It’s no wonder you can enjoy deliciously fresh first-rate sushi caught in Toyama Bay.

Last time I visited Toyama, I was able to try affordable Michelin star quality sushi! You would typically get a 10-piece sushi meal for only about ¥‎3200, compared to Tokyo where it would normally cost you ‎¥‎5000. It was such a treat! But this time, we had the privilege of trying a kaiseki style dinner (Japanese traditional multi-course dinner). The one-star Michelin restaurant opened in 2015. It had a very small frontage and a minuscule sign that we easily missed and drove past it.

The highlight of my meal was the glass shrimp sashimi—Toyama’s signature product dubbed as the “Jewel of Toyama” for the beauty of its transparent pink coloring. My first bite was just as I expected it to be—creamy, sweet, melt in your mouth goodness! A must try!

Fun Fact: The white shrimps are a rare species that are only caught in Toyama Bay.

This is our ¥10,000 15-course menu (*favorite dish) :
1. Watari crab with vinegar jelly
2. Soft-shell turtle soup*
3. Simmered abalone*
4. Salmon roe on white rice*
6. Sashimi: glass shrimp, squid, mullet roe*
7. Amadai-tilefish in broth
8. Soft-shell turtle tempura
9. Kamase-baracuda fillet in broth
10. Sashimi: shrimp uni and deep-sea bass*
11. Unagi (eel) and wintermelon soup*
13. Eggplant with hearing
14. Grilled “ayu” sweet fish*
15. Sweet tomatoes in vinegar jelly*
16. Tilefish & mullet roe with rice, miso soup and pickled vegetables*
17. Dessert: red bean paste with agar and mochi balls.

And yes, we ate the fish head, bone and even tail, one of my favorite items in the course meal.

Fukuya (冨久屋)
2F, 7-7 Shiroganecho, Toyama
Budget: ¥‎6,480-¥‎10,800
Tel: 076-461-3589




My photos, though, did not do any justice because of the rainy weather. But this view of the coast is one of the most beautiful in Japan, as the clear waters reflect the Tateyama Mountain Range behind. It is regarded as one of Japan’s Top 100 Beaches, with majestic views of the sea and the 3,000-meter peaks of the Tateyama mountain range soaring high above Toyama Bay.

It’s a famous sightseeing spot in Toyama. The view is supposed to be truly stunning, especially with the mountains still covered in snow. It is located right beside the railway station. Free car park spaces are available nearby.

(Photos from Toyama Prefectural Tourism Association for comparison)

Amaharashi Coast Quasi-national Park
Ota, Takaoka, Toyama, 933-0134
Access: Hokuriku Expressway Kosugi IC about 30min by car
Map Code:40 815 314*52


Day 3            (Toyama City-Omachi City-Azumino City-Matsumoto City)
7:30-8:30       Tateyama Station 立山黒部アルペンルート
8:16-8:40       Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
8:16-8:47        Tateyama-Bijodaira Cable Car
9:00-9:50      Bijodaira-Murodo Bus
11:15-11:25     Murodo-Daikanbo
11:50-11:57     Daikanbo-Kurobedaira (Tateyama Ropeway)
12:00-13:10    Restaurant Kurobedaira
13:20-13:25    Kurobedaira- Kurobe Dam
15:05-15:21     Kurobe Dam- Ogizawa
17:40- 18:30   Matcha Making Workshop
18:40-20:00   Drum, Ninja & Samurai Workshop
20:00               Check-in to Hotel



This 90km route commonly referred to as the “Roof of Japan” goes through the lush scenery of Mt. Tateyama in the Northern Japan Alps and spans from Toyama City in Toyama Prefecture up to Omachi Town in Nagano Prefecture. Here, you can enjoy the widest panoramic view of Toyama’s 3000 meter high mountains at the Takayama Ropeway, which also doubles as the moving observation deck.

(Photo from Tateyama Alpine Route website)

In fact, all throughout the year’s seasons, there are various hiking and sightseeing activities that can be done. Visitors might be surprised by the number of transfers to take going to the snow wall—from trains, cable cars, highland buses, trolley buses, ropeways, etc.—while enjoying the natural sights along the way. I suggest you allot one day for the tour.

(Photo from Tateyama Alpine Route website)

The Kurobe Dam is near the end of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route and it’s quite a sight to behold given that it is the tallest dam in Japan at 186 meters. You can see impressive plumes of high-pressure water discharge from the dam between June 26th and October 15th. The lake behind the dam holds 200 million cubic meters of water, and ten cubic meters pass through the dam every second, generating 100 billion kwh per year.

Generally, the route will open from mid-April to October. Please check the opening and closing dates well in advance before planning.

Tip: Climb 220 steps to the Damn observation deck to see the finest view of the dam coupled with 10 tons of water shooting out, producing a beautiful rainbow. But, I warn you…the climb was very tiring!

For lunch we had the Kurobe Dam curry with white shrimp tempura and poached eggs! The white shrimp tempura was oishi!


Its main attraction, which I visited two years ago, is the Yuki-no-Otani (Snow Wall). Tateyama has some of the heaviest snowfalls in the world. An average of 7 up to 20meters accumulate in heavy years. That’s as high as a ten story building! The famed 20-meter high snow wall of Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a sight to see! Every year in spring, from mid-April to late June, the world famous snow wall is opened to the public.

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Tateyama, Nakaniikawa District, Toyama 930-1406, Japan
Tel : +81 76-432-2819
Access: 40km/ 60 min from Azumino IC -> Ougizawa Parking (Via Azumino)
Access: 23km/ 40 min from Tateyama IC-> Tateyama St. (via Tateyama)




Always been curious about tea ceremonies and how to make that delicious cup of matcha?

We took a perfect short break from sightseeing in Matsumoto and, with an English-speaking instructor, learned how to make our own perfect cup of Japanese tea using high-end matcha green tea. We practiced the basics of the tea ceremony and enjoyed our tea with some yummy sweets.

This Matcha tea shop also offers kimono rental services, in case you’re looking to rent one.

Matcha Garden
2-3-20 Chuo Matsumoto
Tel: 0263-31-0301




One of my favorite activities was watching and learning from the taiko drum, ninja and samurai masters here in Matsumoto.

Feel the beat and energy of the traditional Japanese taiko drum. Watch a live performance then join in to learn the various ways of expressing yourself musically, along with a breathtaking samurai show.

Find out if you have what it takes to be a ninja and samurai and try activities such as tossing shuriken ninja stars and learning samurai sword techniques from a sword master.

I was flattered that the samurai master told me I had a great stance, and even asked if I had done any form of martial arts before. While Nico was a really awesome ninja who hit a balloon using a shuriken! Sugoi! This was one of the highlights of my trip because I discovered I had hidden potential to be a samurai!


Day 4              (Matsumoto City-  Gero City)
8:40-9:30      Matsumoto Castle 松本城
9:35-10:20     Kaichi School 旧開智学校
11:30-12:30    Kamikochi Gosenjaku Hotel
12:30- 16:30   Kamikochi National Park 上高地
17:30-18:00    Gero Onsen: Suimeikan 【下呂温泉:水明館予定 泊】



It’s Japan’s oldest castle!

Matsumoto Castle is one of the five castles designated as National Treasures of Japan. It’s over 400 years old, making it the oldest castle donjon remaining in the country. Unlike many palaces in Japan, its original structure was, fortunately, not bombed during WWII. That’s why it was able to keep most of its original wooden donjons and walls intact.

It is nicknamed as the “crow castle” for its contrasting color of black and white. It’s currently my favorite castle in Japan because I find it exceedingly rare to find a Japanese castle so well preserved in its original state.

Look, it still has its original wooden frames and flooring! There is also a great gallery here which has a collection of historical materials and weaponry, including samurai armors and muskets.

There were even cool staff roaming around the castle wearing samurai, ninja and kimono outfits with whom you could take a picture for free! Sugoi (Cool)!

Matsumoto Castle Entrance:
4-1 Marunochi, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano
Saturday (8:30 AM ~ 5:0 PM)
Sunday (8:30 AM ~ 5:0 PM)
Weekdays (8:30 AM ~ 5:0 PM)
Entrance: Adult: ¥610
6 years old or under: Free
Phone: (0263) 32-2902
Access: Nagano Expressway Matsumoto IC about 15min by car
Map Code: 75 851 233*64




Kaichi School in Matsumoto is one of the first western schools in Japan. Built back in the 1800s, this beautiful European building is surprisingly fused with Japanese elements. You’ll find carved dragons along with flying cherubs above the entrance, bamboo flooring, even traditional Japanese door frames.

The school was reconstructed at its current location and restored as a museum of education. Inside, there were several exhibits of 19th and early 20th-century school items, from furniture to textbooks and drawings. It was a great place to kill time since it was near the castle.

Kaichi School
2 Chome-4-12 Kaichi, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0876, Japan
Entrance: adult ¥300




Kamikochi, that roughly translates to “where gods descend,” is one of Japan’s leading mountain resorts situated in the area within Chubu Sangaku National Park and listed as a national cultural asset. The park, roughly a 15-kilometer long plateau in the Azusa River Valley and about 1500 meters above sea level, is known for its spectacular mountain scenery, aquamarine waters, snowcapped peaks, wild monkeys, wildflowers and ancient forests.

The water here was so clear, and everyone agreed they’d like to visit and spend even more time in this national park.

Nicknamed as “Japan’s Yosemite Valley” though slightly smaller than its California counterpart, it is located 51 km away from Matsumoto. The drive was an hour long but so worth it!

It was a very easy hiking trail. Kamikochi is mostly flat, with numerous marshes and ponds dotting various areas of the valley. Among the popular landmarks you should visit is Kamikochi’s symbolic bridge Kappa-bashi, Takezawa Marsh, downriver’s Taisho Pond and upriver’s Myojin Pond. It is open from mid/late April until November 15 and shuts down during winter.

Hike alongside the monkeys at Kamikochi national park. The monkeys in their natural habitat were so used to people that you could just walk alongside them.  These was just one of the things why I loved visiting the natural park so much.

Note: To keep the park clean and preserved, private cars are not allowed to enter the park grounds. Visitors must park their cars in designated car parks and switch to the park hybrid buses to go inside. Check website for details and transfers http://www.kamikochi.org/.

Special mention to our local guide in Matsumoto, and I suggest you book Teddy Yamaishi. He spoke very good English and explained all the sites well and even gave us fun facts about the areas surrounding Matsumoto. Thank you Teddy, for making our Matsumoto trip very informative and fun!

Note that Kamikochi is closed from mid November to mid/late April.

Matsumoto, Nagano 390-1516, Japan
website: http://www.kamikochi.org/
Access: 34 km/50 min from Matsumoto IC-> switch to shuttle bus at Sawando (15km, 30 min ride)
Access: HiraryuIC -> switch to shuttle bus a Hiraryu Parking (12km, 15min ride)




(Photos from Gero Onsen Suimeikan) Sorry, no cameras and phones were allowed.

For our last night in Central Japan, what better place to spend it than an onsen resort to relieve the fatigue from all the traveling.

We stayed at one of the Gero Onsen resorts located in Gifu prefecture. The waters from the area are famed as part of the three highest-quality hot springs of Japan. The alkaline-based hot spring is nicknamed the “beauty hot springs” due to how smooth your skin will be after bathing. Besides beauty, other benefits include improving blood circulation and overall health and relieving fatigue.

Gero Onsen Suimeikan
1268 Koden, Gero-shi, Gifu 509-2206
Tel: +81-576-25-2801


Of course, a trip to Gifu would be a waste if you forget to try their Hida Beef! The first-class Japanese Hida Beef, raised here in the Gifu Prefecture, is said to rival Kobe and Matsuzaka! Hida beef is a top brand of wagyu that comes from a Japanese black cattle fattened up for 14-months, producing this beautiful mesh of marbling tender meat.



Day 5             (Gero City-Nagiso Town-Seki City-Toyama City)
8:30-9:30       Gero Onsen Gassho Gassho Mura 下呂温泉合掌村
9:40-11:00      Tsumago-juku 妻籠宿 & Magome-juku 馬籠宿
12:30-13:30    Lunch
14:50-15:40     Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum 関鍛冶伝承館
18:00-18:30    Toyama Airport -> Haneda (NH322)



Located just outside the center of Gero Onsen in Gifu Prefecture, Gassho Village is a popular attraction in this hot spring town. Gero Onsen Gassho Village is comprised of 10 reassembled thatched houses from the UNESCO World Heritage site of nearby Shirakawago that have been saved from destruction when a nearby dam flooded them.

The thatched houses are registered as an Important Cultural Property and show how life was lived in a typical Gassho-style house using mannequins and models, displaying original agricultural tools and machinery used in silk production.

Gero Onsen Gassho Gassho Mura
2369 Mori, Gero, Gifu 509-2202, Japan
Admission: Adults 800 yen; children 400 yen
Tel: 0576 25 2239




In the old times, the Naksendo is an old highway used to connect Tokyo to Kyoto, the Tsumago and Magome post stations along the road. It was one of the post towns where travelers could rest and refresh themselves and stay overnight if necessary.

In the Kiso Valley, the tiny town of Tsumago remains one of Japan’s best preserved post towns. The town and its residents go to great lengths to recreate the ambience of the Edo Period which is why many of the Edo-period movie scenes were filmed in this location.

Next to Tsumago is Magome—awarded with a one-star by the Michelin Green Guide Japan. Going for a stroll on the cobblestone route makes you feel like a traveler in the olden days!  Today, many of the old buildings are maintained in their original form and many are now souvenir or food/snack shops.

Magome-juku Historic Post Town
Magome, Nakatsugawa City, Gifu
Access: Chuo Expressway Nakatsugawa IC about 20min by car
Map Code: 178 383 704*45 




Seki is a city highly regarded worldwide for its quality and tradition in making knives and swords. To this day, traditional Japanese swords continued to be produced by swordsmiths in the traditional forging style that has been passed down for centuries. Swords from Seki are said to “not break, not bend and cut well”.

If you’re a fan of blades, a trip to the Seki traditional museum will be worth your while as it shows the history behind and traditional blade-making dating back over 700 years, along with videos and swords on display.

I recommend the audio guide for English speakers as the display has a limited English description.

Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum
9-1 Minamikasuga-cho, Seki, Gifu Pref.
Access: Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway Saki IC about 15min by car
Map Code: 70 515 399*67



Route Map (Zoom)


Central Nippon Expressway Pass (CEP) rate:

For more information please click on the website https://hayatabi.c-nexco.co.jp/cep/en/.



Car Rental Rate for our Toyota Alphard good for 8pax: 

Please check website for CEP partnered car rentals https://hayatabi.c-nexco.co.jp/cep/en/.


Live an Awesome Life,


ABI of Team Our Awesome Planet

Disclosure:  We were media guests of JTB (Japan Tourism Board). I wrote this article with my biases, opinions and insights.

2 thoughts on “Central Japan Itinerary: Toyama, Nagano, Gifu! (Sunny Days Roadtrip)

  1. Hi sorry! Can i ask, how did you manage to do the full tateyama alpine route with a rented car?? Did you get a car service to transfer your car from tateyama to the end? Thanks!

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