Central Japan is dotted with some of the county’s most famous castles. These include the three castles of Matsumoto Castle, Hikone Castle and Inuyama Castle which have been designated National Treasures of Japan; Nagoya Castle which is one of the most beautiful and famous of Japanese castles; and Kanazawa Castle where many structures designated as National Important Cultural Assets still remain today. On this route, you’ll get a chance to explore these stunning and captivating castles as well as the castle towns that still retain a richly historic atmosphere.

Day 1
Matsumoto Castle Former Kaichi School Matsumoto City Museum Oku-Hida Spa Village
Day 2
Shirakawa-go and Gokayama 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa Kanazawa Castle Park Higashi Chaya District Kenrokuen Garden
Day 3
Kurokabe Square Hikone Castle The Castle Town of Hikone Castle
Day 4
National Treasure Inuyama Castle The Museum Meiji-Mura Nagoya Castle
Matsumoto Castle
As one of four castles designated as National Treasures of Japan, Matsumoto Castle which has remained intact for over 400 years, is of great historical value. The castle is also known as the “Crow Castle” due to its distinctive black lacquer exterior. With the vicinity of the castle maintained as Matsumoto Castle Park, the castle stands out boldly against the backdrop of the four seasons from cherry blossoms in spring, to colorful leaves in autumn, and snow in winter. We also recommend a visit to the castle at night during certain periods of the year when the castle and its surroundings are lit up.
◎Matsumoto City Government Website
◎General corporation Matsumoto Tourism & Convention Association (official website)
Former Kaichi School
The Kaichi School was an elementary school built during the Meiji period of modernization (Over 130 years ago).
◎Matsumoto City Government Website
◎General corporation Matsumoto Tourism & Convention Association (official website)
Matsumoto City Museum
Located on the castle grounds, the Matsumoto City Museum displays historical records and folk material related to the Matsumoto Castle.
◎Matsumoto City Government Website
◎General corporation Matsumoto Tourism & Convention Association (official website)
Shinshu Soba
Due to the cool climate and large plots of land suitable for growing soba (buckwheat), the area around Matsumoto has been famous for its soba production since ancient times. You’ll also find facilities where you can make and eat your own soba.
Oku-Hida Spa Village
Oku-Hida Spa Village is a general term used for the area consisting of five hot springs in Takayama city, Gifu prefecture. Each of the hot springs is located in a peaceful location in the midst of nature with open-air baths offering superb views of the magnificent scenery. The area is particularly well known for its beautiful fall foliage.
◎The Association of Oku-Hida Spa and Tourism (official website)
Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
The villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are still home to historic Gassho-style houses traditionally constructed in areas of Japan with heavy snowfall. The Gassho-style architecture, characterized by a thatched and steeply slanting roof allowing snow to fall straight off, resembles two hands joined in prayer which is said to be the origin of the name Gassho, meaning “prayer hands” in Japanese. With some houses built over 300 years ago, the villages received UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1995. Japan’s rural landscapes which showcase the beauty of the four seasons are an immensely valuable asset.
◎Shirakawa Village Office (official website)
◎Gokayama Tourism (official website)
◎Shirakawa-go Tourist Association (official website) Japanese only
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Located in the center of Kanazawa city, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa is a well-known museum in Japan with 1.5 million people visiting every year.
◎21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (official website)
Kanazawa Castle Park
Kanazawa Castle was founded in 1583, and the Ishikawa Gate and other structures that have remained standing since 1788 have been designated Important Cultural Assets. Most of the building was destroyed in a series of fires but the castle, restored to its original form in 2001 based on old drawings and documents, has become a new symbol of the old castle town of Kanazawa. The castle was reconstructed according to traditional construction methods and without using a single nail.
◎Kanazawa City Tourism Association (official website)
Higashi Chaya District
Higashi Chaya District is one of the districts in Kanazawa that still retains the atmosphere of an old castle town. Of the 140 buildings in the district, two thirds are in the traditional Japanese architectural style.
◎Kanazawa City Tourism Association (official website)
Kenrokuen Garden
Kenrokuen Garden is a Japanese garden built outside the gates of Kanazawa Castle. It is regarded as one of the three most famous gardens in Japan and has been designated a national site of special scenic beauty.
◎Kanazawa City Tourism Association (official website)
Kinpaku (gold leaf)
Kanazawa accounts for 99% of Japan’s gold leaf production volume. Besides the shops selling gold leaf products, facilities allowing visitors to experience gold leaf pasting are also popular.
◎Kanazawa City Tourism Association (official website)
◎Kanazawa Craft Tourism (official website)
Kurokabe Square
In addition to the shops and facilities that occupy old historic buildings, this area which has the largest display of glass art in Japan also has shops selling glass products from around the world as well as workshops where visitors can try their hand at crafting glass.
◎Kurokabe Corporation
Hikone Castle
Hikone Castle is one of four castles in Japan with a castle tower designated as a National Treasure. Built in 1604, the castle ruins is regarded as one of the more finely preserved in Japan with such features as a turret designated as an Important Cultural Asset still standing as if guarding the castle tower. At the base of Hikone-yama upon which the castle tower stands, you will find the very beautiful and famous gardens, Genkyu-en and Rakuraku-en. At the Hikone Castle Museum, you can see a display of daimyo tools, armor and other items that were used by the lord of the castle.
◎Hikone Sightseeing Association (official website)
The Castle Town of Hikone Castle
The castle town of National Treasure Hikone Castle has a history spanning more than 400 years since the construction of the castle. Many old buildings designated as national or municipal cultural properties still remain standing throughout the town.
◎Organization of Hikone Shopping Arcade (official website) Japanese only
Oumi beef
The area around Hikone city produces Oumi beef which is considered one of the three most famous kinds of Wagyu beef in Japan. With production going back about 400 years, Oumi beef has the longest history in Japan among producers of Wagyu beef brands.
National Treasure Inuyama Castle
Inuyama Castle is one of four castles designated as a National Treasure of Japan. Known for having one the oldest surviving wooden castle towers in Japan, this castle was constructed in 1537 by Oda Nobuyasu who was the uncle of Oda Nobunaga, the great hero of the Warring States Period. Devoid of flamboyancy, the castle is appreciated for its vulgarity which is said to convey the tense atmosphere of the Warring States Period. Besides the many old merchant houses and historic residences that remain standing in the castle town, you will also find “Joan”, a teahouse designated as a National Treasure, nestled inside the peaceful and ancient atmosphere of the Urakuen Garden.
◎Inuyama Tourist Information (official website)
◎National Treasure Inuyama Castle (official website) Japanese only
The Museum Meiji-Mura
The Museum Meiji-Mura is an open-air museum exhibiting historical records on Japanese architecture of the Meiji period (1868-1912).
◎The Museum Meiji-Mura (official website)
Nagoya Castle
Constructed in 1612 under the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Edo Shogunate Government, Nagoya Castle has a history spanning 400 years. The golden Shachihoko adorning the roof of the castle tower is one feature in particular that is regarded as one of the symbols of Nagoya, the largest city in Central Japan. Exhibited inside the main castle tower, you will find Important Cultural Assets and historical records, an area featuring a recreation of the historic townscape of the castle town, and a life-sized replica of the golden Shachihoko. The observation deck offers a panoramic view of the town of Nagoya and the lush greenery of Meijo Park below.
◎Nagoya Castle Official Website
Nagoya-meshi (Nagoya cuisine)
“Nagoya-meshi” refers to cuisine unique to Nagoya and surrounding areas and includes such dishes as Miso-katsu—pork cutlet served with thick miso sauce, and Hitsumabushi—thinly-chopped grilled eel on a bed of rice.
Expressway toll(the CEP, NEP and AIP) CEP + NEP + AIP fee 50%
Within the CEP area 16,250yen
Within the Optional Area(NEP)1,900yen
Within the Optional Area(AIP) 1,800yen
CEP fee 7,000yen
NEP fee 1,500yen
AIP fee 1,500yen

*If you would like to use a Central Nippon Expressway Pass, please tell the staff when you make your rental car reservation.