Sunday, December 24, 2023

3-5 days Central Japan Itinerary from Nagoya (Chubu) Airport: Nagoya+Takayama+ Gero+ Naegi + Magome+ Matsumoto

Nagoya (Chubu) Airport -> Nagoya -> Takayama -> Gero -> Naegi -> Magome -> Matsumoto -> Tokoname -> Nagoya (Chubu) Airport Chubu central Japan itinerary

My expedition from Malaysia to Nagoya began with the touchdown at Nagoya (Chubu) Airport. This is my second time touching down in this airport, and I am still very much excited to be here. Reason is that during my first visit in 2019, I did not have much time to explore the airport, but during my flight back, I was told that the Nagoya (Chubu) Airport is way more than just a transit hub. However, it was all too late. Now that I am finally able to experience firsthand the features and attractions that make Nagoya (Chubu) Airport arrival so unique, I am eager!

Read my first trip to Central Japan region through Nagoya (Chubu) Airport: 4 days trip to Aichi. 

The Arrival: 

       Stepping off the plane, the first thing that struck me was the modernity and efficiency of Nagoya (Chubu) Airport. The clean, well-designed terminals seamlessly guided us through immigration and baggage claim. Navigating the airport was a breeze, thanks to clear signage and helpful staff. The expansive glass windows allowed natural light to flood the terminals, creating a welcoming atmosphere. 

Nagoya itinerary

Plus, it is so easy to travel to Nagoya town from the airport! Once stepping out from the terminal, you will see a huge train terminal that will bring you directly to Nagoya station, no frills! The most convinient way will be through the Meitetsu-Limited Express Toll Limited Express towards Meitetsu-Gifu. You will reach your stop "Meitetsu Nagoya Station" in around 30+ minutes and it will cost only 890 yen!

how to travel from Nagoya Chubu Airport to Nagoya Station
how to travel from Nagoya Chubu Airport to Nagoya Station

You can also opt for comfort to travel in the reserved seating coach by purchasing a 360 yen reserved ticket on top of your basic Meitetsu ticket. and you will get an additional print like this:
How to get from Nagoya Chubu airport to Nagoya station city center

While it is VERY easy to buy ticket at the counter in Nagoya airport, those who would like to pay in local currency can buy and pay for the tickets online and redeem at the window. This will save you some time figuring things out and you can get additional discount with promocode HAPPYFEET during check out. O
f course there is a cheaper way to town via the Airport Line Semi-Express towards Shin-Unuma, but this train will take a slightly longer and not much difference in ticket price.

This is my mum’s second time to Japan, and I am glad the Nagoya Chubu airport made a pretty good first impression. Imagine landing in another larger airport with confusing signs, our first day would never be this smooth. 

Nagoya itinerary

     Nagoya (Chubu) Airport is not your average airport when it comes to shopping. The vast array of duty-free shops, offering everything from traditional Japanese crafts to high-end fashion, made for an impressive retail paradise. I couldn't resist indulging in some “first”-minute shopping, picking up unique souvenirs and gifts for my brothers at home.

       Sky Deck is a must-visit, and it did not disappoint. Ascending to the outdoor observation deck, I was treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the runways and beyond. The Sky Deck's thoughtful design, with comfortable seating and binoculars, allowed me to relax and take in the airport's runway. It was the perfect prelude to the wonders awaiting me in the Chubu region!

Nagoya itinerary

      Nagoya (Chubu) Airport goes beyond the ordinary by offering entertainment options for all ages. The Flight of Dreams complex, featuring a full-size Boeing 787 Dreamliner, was a captivating attraction that brought aviation enthusiasts and families together. The airport's commitment to providing engaging experiences made my arrival felt like an integral part of my journey, rather than a mere touch-and-go period.

     From traditional Japanese fare to international cuisine, Nagoya (Chubu) Airport's restaurants catered to diverse tastes. Here, my culinary journey took an unexpected and delightful turn with the discovery of Hitumabushi. This traditional dish, deeply rooted in Nagoya's gastronomic heritage, unfolded before me as a captivating experience, offering not just a meal but a cultural immersion, even before my Japan adventure truly began

The anticipation built as I entered the quaint restaurant, greeted by the comforting aroma of grilling eel. The ambiance resonated with a blend of contemporary and traditional elements, setting the stage for what promised to be a unique encounter with Nagoya's culinary treasures.

The Hitumabushi experience began with the eel, grilled to perfection and expertly arranged atop a bed of rice in a wooden box. The beauty of the dish lay not only in its visual appeal but in the ritualistic presentation, which added an intriguing layer to the overall dining experience.

The Three-Step Ritual:

Nagoya itinerary

As a foreigner, the three-step ritual associated with Hitumabushi felt like an initiation into Nagoya's culinary customs. The first step involved savoring a portion of the grilled eel and rice as is, relishing the unadulterated flavors. This initial taste provided a baseline, allowing me to appreciate the eel's natural sweetness and the masterful grilling technique.

For the second step, I explored a more interactive approach. Dividing the remaining portion into two, I had the opportunity to experiment with condiments like wasabi, nori, and green onions, elevating the flavors to new heights. This step, akin to a personalized culinary adventure, allowed me to tailor the dish to my preferences.

The third and final step, as explained by the attentive staff, involved mixing the remaining portion with tea broth, transforming the dish into a comforting eel-infused ochazuke. This stage added a dynamic twist to the culinary journey, creating a multi-faceted experience that delighted my taste buds.


      Nagoya (Chubu) Airport is indeed a destination in itself. The airport's seamless operations, entertainment options, and culinary delights exceeded my expectations. This transit experience not only set the tone for my Chubu journey but also left me with fond memories of an airport that truly understands and enhances the travel experience.

Day 1 :
Nagoya Airport -> Osu -> Sakae

Nagoya day trip walking map

In a nutshell: Take on this 42 minute walk on mostly flat ground to cover the best of Osu to Sakae, if you are fit enough to travel on foot. Immersed in vibrant Osu, I embraced Japan's soul by donning a Furisode kimono, explored the shopping streets, pray at the Miwa Shrine, and find some whimsical hidden shops in the area. A worthy mention: Alice in Wednesday added a touch of fantasy, try to locate those tiny doors to enter this shop! Suzume Odori Main Store, a hidden gem, delighted with Kakigori and savories crafted from premium ingredients. Meeting the 7th generation owner added a personal touch to the experience. After refreshments, walk the delightful distance from Yabacho to Sakae through Nagoya sophisticated "Central Park".Check out the Oasisi21 on the way! In Sakae, Mirai Tower beckoned with its futuristic design. Staying in a Mirai Tower hotel promised an artful experience with local touches and breathtaking night views. Nagoya's dynamic spirit echoed through these memorable gems!

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My anticipation reached a crescendo as I ventured into the vibrant district of Osu, where traditional meets contemporary in a symphony of colors and culture. But this wasn't just a stroll through the bustling streets – it was an immersion into the soul of Japan. 

Nagoya rent kimono

We went to a small shop named Something Blue, near the Osu central street for a upsized Kimono experience, the one like never before. Continue reading and you will find out why. 

Donning a Furisode, every delicate fold and vibrant hue whispered tales of elegance, a transformation that went beyond mere clothing. I’ve always loved a Kimono experience on each trip no matter how many times I’ve been to Japan, it is about embodying a piece of Japan's living history!


I was told that the type of Kimono I wore is a special kind. “Furisode”, a kimono with long swinging sleeves, is only worn by women who aren't married yet. The last time a Japanese bride wears this kimono is during her wedding reception. I am glad I was given a chance to don on such a premium clothing! Just look at my sleeves! Here, have a closer look on the clothing, isn’t it exclusive?!

Nagoya rent kimono

Next, The rabbit Shrine in Osu awaited (oh so cute!). The Miwa Shrine is a sanctuary of tranquility amidst the energetic buzz of the district. Surrounded by the whimsical charm of the temple and the spiritual energy it exuded, I found a moment of peace, a harmonious contrast to the lively streets.It takes around 10 minutes to see everything as it is just a small shrine, but don’t forget to stroke the Happiness Rabbit at the center for good luck (in love as i was told!) 

Nagoya rent a kimono

As I walked down the streets of Osu, a chance encounter with a shop named Alice in Wednesday added a touch of whimsy to my day. I had to bow and pass through tiny door into the underground shop… As if stepping into a storybook, the shop embraced the fantasy world of Alice in Wonderland, where curiosity wasn't just encouraged; it was celebrated. 

Nagoya itinerary

As the day unfolded, my senses were treated to a dessert shop that was nothing short of a sweet symphony. Suzume Odori, is one of those hidden gems often overlooked by foreign tourists, frequent by the Japanese. Suzume Odori Main Store started to serve since 1853 during the vibrant late Edo period, exudes an enchanting charm that transcends time.. For over a hundred years and six generations, they've been making mochi in a special way that people really like.

Today, as I set foot in the main shop nestled in the heart of the Sakae district, I was whisked away into a world of zen, where tranquil atmosphere casted away all my worries. I mean, where else can you watch Kois swimming gracefully in a pond at the center of a cafe? The interior is spot on! 

Nagoya itinerary

The real star of Suzume Odori is undeniably the Kakigori, a heavenly creation that has won the hearts of many. A symphony of five tantalizing flavors (Uji Matcha, Strawberry, Green Plum, Sugar Syrup, and Molasses) paired with a dazzling array of seven delectable toppings (ice cream, milk, azuki beans, jellies, chewy rice cakes, warabi-mochi, and kinako powder). Brace yourself for an adventure, as seasonal flavors join the party, offering an endless array of delightful combinations.

What sets Suzume Odori apart is their meticulous craftsmanship in creating Molasses, using 100% Okinawan brown sugar and other premium ingredients. Crafted in-house with utmost care, these molasses elevate the desserts to a whole new level, allowing you to savor the full, rich taste of these Japanese high-quality sweets. 

That is not all, Suzume Odori also serves savories for those who are up for a main meal. 

During our visit, we were so lucky to meet the shop’s 7th generation owner in person. As we sat and exchanged travel stories, I can feel his passion and determination to introduce traditional Japanese sweets to everyone, especially foreigners. In his shop, I felt warmly welcomed, So I highly recommend everyone to make this a mandatory stop  and let Suzume Odori redefine your sweetest expectations! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. 

Nagoya itinerary

Nagoya itinerary

What to buy? Uiro!

At Suzume Odori, sugar and glutinous rice flour are mixed with hot water (unlike the regular way of mixing with room temperature water before steaming), then steam it for a long time to make big pieces of Uiro. Then these huge pieces were cut into smaller pieces, and that's what gives Suzume Odori's uiro its special smell, smooth taste, and chewy texture.

With a heart full of Nagoya's vibrant spirit, I proceeded to Sakae, the center of colour burst in Nagoya, where the Mirai Tower and Oasis 21 proudly stood! Do you know there is a hotel within the iconic Mirai Tower? Of course we are going to check in out!
I can hardly contain my excitement! 

Nagoya city's iconic TV Tower has become a widely admired local landmark since its completion in 1954. The Nagoya Tower is Japan's oldest broadcasting tower... and NOW, it become the world's FIRST tower hotel! Check it out!

Nagoya best hotel

The very idea of staying in a hotel nestled within the iconic Mirai Tower, with its futuristic design and panoramic views, is nothing short of thrilling. Each room is like a unique piece of art, with local artists adding their special touch. And guess what? The restaurant is extra awesome too! They use special pottery from the Tokai region, where Nagoya is, to serve up delicious French dishes made with local ingredients. Imagine enjoying your tasty meal while taking in the breathtaking night view – it's gonna be amazing!

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STAY
For those who have the budget, staying in the Tower Hotel will definitely add some real thrill to your trip! But if you are on a tighter budget, but at the same time want the best of both world in food-hunting and transportation, here are 2 hotels I personally stayed in and proven won't break the banks: 1. The Meitetsu Grand You might recognize the word "Meitetsu" from the earlier paragraph about the train to and fro airport. Yup, you read it right, it is the same company and the train station is just below the hotel. This hotel is one of my favorite in terms of accessibility: rooms are located on the higher floors, and within the same building, you get easy access to Malls and Train. There was one time I was too tired but my mum was still excited to go shopping, I just let her go alone and surprisingly she made it back without getting lost. The rooms provide a full view of the bustling train station, giving guests a unique and lively view of the city. Plus, the breakfast is incredibly good with great views to enjoy from your dinning table as well!

2. The Via Inns There are 2 Via Inns in Nagoya City and both are within walking distance. I stayed in Via Inn Tsubaki-cho, I liked the fact that it is pretty close to the Nagoya station in Nakumura ward, where food stalls open until midnight 2-3am so no one will starve during the trip. Another hotel is Via Inn Shinkansen guchi.

If you are a KLOOK user, here is a Promo code for additional 5% discount! HAPPYFEET

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Day 2:
Nagoya -> Takayama -> Gero Onsen

Chubu Japan road trip
In a nutshell: 
Start your day early coz our day two unfolded like a dream in Takayama and Gero, revealing cultural treasures and enchanting tales. Hida Kokubun-ji Temple showcased an ancient ginkgo tree, echoing centuries of history and local legends. The Takayama morning market dazzled with vibrant stalls, offering authentic souvenirs. The preserved Edo-period buildings in Takayama's old town created a time-traveling adventure, leading to Takayama Jinya, a unique provincial governor's office from the Edo period. This roaodtrip includes a detour to a recreation of a mountain settlement showcasing Gassho Village style houses. Gero Onsen, celebrated for its rejuvenating waters, provided a blissful soak, while Suimeikan ryokan added warmth and comfort to the journey.
Instagram Reel: Takayama in Journal

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The second day was an absolute dream as it whisked me away to the cultural heart of Japan – the charming town of Takayama. A lot of visitors to Chubu (including me this time) tend to do Takayama as part of a daytrip with Shirakawago. To be honest, I agree that this arrangement makes a lot of sense, but if you have more time, I personally thinks Takayama deserves a daytrip of its own. Here is my Takayama walking map that includes (almost) every interesting stops, perfect for a relaxing day trip. For tourists with only a short time / doing Takayama as a quick stop-over on the way to Shirakawa-go, this route is walkable under 2 hours with enough time to take some photos. I created an IG reel of this route so if you are interested.

Takayama day trip walking map


Get ready for an adventure that transcends time at Hida Kokubun-ji Temple, the provincial haven of Hida province! The thrill of encountering a living giant, an ancient ginkgo tree boasting over 1,200 years of history, is enough to send shivers down the spine. As a foreigner, the excitement is beyond words – a chance to witness a living relic that has weathered centuries of change, standing resilient and proud in the heart of Hida.

Now, let's delve into the enchanting local legends that swirl around this monumental ginkgo tree. Imagine the construction of a seven-story pagoda, where a master carpenter's daughter, faced with a mismeasurement, proposes a solution that leads to a tragic sacrifice. The tree, standing tall today, is said to be a living memorial to her courage and the mysteries of the past. As a foreign wanderer, the blend of history, folklore, and the whispers of the wind through the leaves creates an atmosphere of wonder and intrigue.

Takayama itinerary

but that's not all – brace yourself for a touch of magic. Tradition has it that after the ginkgo leaves falls, snowfall starts, transforming the temple grounds into a winter wonderland. 

Visit Takayama highlights

From Hida Kokubunji temple, we strolled to Tohoen, my friend's favorite souvenir snack shops selling original cute kitty stuffed buns. They even have the "masked up" version during covid! How crazy is that?!

visit Takayama unique food

Once we walked pass Kaji Bridge overlooking Miyagawa river, we arrived at the most picturesque morning market in Takayama-- the Miyagawa Morning Market. The place is like a treasure trove of local delights and crafts, I'm not even kidding. Strolling through vibrant stalls each offering a piece of Takayama's soul, I couldn't resist grabbing some authentic souvenirs that felt like little pieces of the town's heart to take back home. I recommend grabbing a Gohei Mochi while you explore, especially during fall or winter. This is a very ancient traditional snack, local to Gifu prefecture. It is actually punded lump of white rice, skewered on a stick, then dipped in sweet walnut miso paste and grilled over an open fire. Miso used to provide local farmers with a great source of warmth during the colder months. Also, instead of regular sweet dangos we see in most part of Japan, Dangos here are savory! Grab one if you have stomach space left!
Takayama itinerary

If you are approaching the end of the market and happens to find a friendly Japanese uncle greeting you in your local language, congratulations, you've found "Matsuiwa", a humble shop that sells all kind of local traditional snacks, titbits and sweets. If you like nut snacks, grab one here! You can teach the uncle more vocab of your language and he will jot it down in his little notebook. Who knows, you might make the encounter even better for the comrade walking by. haha!

Takayama itineraryTakayama itinerary

Don't miss walking down to the water by Miyagawa River before leaving the market. Simply because there are giant koi fish, ducks and birds, showing off a whole "ecosystem" here. A local told us unfortunately the birds might feed on the smaller fish, luckily we did not witness that tragedy! ><

Takayama itinerary

Now, let me take you on a stroll through Takayama's old town– truly a time-traveling adventure. The preserved Edo-period buildings lining the narrow streets make you feel like you've stepped back into history. It's like being in a movie – but better, because you're actually living it!

Takayama itinerary

I recommend spending as much time as you like here and enter all the shops that catch your attention. I personally did not have a fixed plan, but my experience strolling Sanmachi especially, is fruitful.

Here, you can learn more about sakae as there are plenty of sakae tasting shops here, experience wood block painting, feel free to queue up for the famous Hida Beef Nigiri... Hida Beef pau is actually pretty good too if you are taken aback by the lines at the Nigiri stalls... I mean, be spontaneous, you might even find hidden gems that are not mention in conventional travel blogs or guides.

Takayama interesting places

During lunch time, we found this Ebisu handmade Soba Noodle shop, said to be the best go-to-food in Takayama during winter. The hot broth was sooo satisfying... the store is so old but at the same time so accommodating to foreign visitors. They even handdrew a comic teacher foreigners the correct way to eat Soba! So creative at the same time thoughtful!

Takayama best restaurant

Takayama best restaurant

At the end of the old town area lies Takayama Jinya. Step into the thrilling time capsule of Takayama Jinya and let the excitement of the Edo period (1603 to 1868) wash over you! This place is beyond special – it's the only spot in all of Japan where you can experience the authentic vibes of a provincial governor/magistrate's office that still has its main building intact.

Now, get this: The Kanamori Clan, these feudal big shots ruling Hida Province, got a wild order from the Edo Shogunate in 1692 to pack up and move to Kaminoyama in Dewa Domain. At the same time, the Shogunate took charge of Hida and set up shop, turning Takayama Jinya into the epicenter of all things official – administration, policing, and judicial duties, you name it!

Takayama place to go

What's the big deal, you ask? It's the last survivor of the 60 provincial governor/magistrate's offices scattered across Japan in the Shogunate's final days. Can you believe it? This place is like a living history lesson, so those who love some Sejarah in their trip should not miss this! For those who are just looking forward for some great shots, the inner gardens have one of the best autumn foliage in Takayama.

Takayama itinerary

Takayama itinerary


Now, it's time to bid goodbye to Takayama, and head to Gero!

Initially, I planned to visit the renowned Shirakawago for this weekend getaway! 🌟 However, things didn’t go as plan so I was excited to find out that there are 10 Gassho style houses along our way to Gero Onsen! Of course I had to check it out! This village is a recreation of a mountain settlement from bygone eras. Each house, a portal to the past, vividly illustrates the daily lives of its former inhabitants. 🏑

unique Japan experience you can't get anywhere else

Have you seen a Irori before? An irori (囲炉裏, 居炉裏) is a traditional Japanese sunken hearth fired with charcoal or sand. Used for heating the home and for cooking food, it is essentially a square, stone-lined pit in the floor, equipped with an adjustable pothook – called a jizaikagi (θ‡ͺεœ¨ι‰€) and generally consisting of an iron rod within a bamboo tube – used for raising or lowering a suspended pot or kettle by means of an attached lever which is often decoratively designed in the shape of a fish (or some other unique shapes). Historically irori served as the main source of residential heating and lighting, providing a place to cook, dry clothing, and serve as a communal gathering location. I'm happy to personally felt the warmth from a irori, now I can tick this off my bucket list!

If you come to this Gassho Village at the right time, there are free Geisha performances at fixed timing.

Gero Onsen itinerary

And that's not all! Spring transforms this already enchanting place into a breathtaking wonderland with the arrival of cherry blossoms. Picture yourself surrounded by the delicate pink hues of sakura, creating a scene so irresistibly instagrammable that you'll be reaching for your camera in an instant! 🌸✨ Uncover the magic, relive the past, and let the cherry blossoms weave their spell – this destination is a celebration of history and nature like no other!

Gero Onsen itinerary

Apart from History and nature, this place is also a great spot to join craftsmanship workshop such as the Beckoning cat creating, charm doll making, portery, washi making and so much more, there are even Geisha shows at fixed timings! Too bad we merely stop here as a quick detour and didn’t have time to experience everything….

unique Japan experience you can't get anywhere else

And then, *drumroll....* the highlight of the day – Gero Onsen. Get ready for pure bliss! Picture yourself in a hot spring, surrounded by nature's tranquility. It's not just a soak; it's a rejuvenating experience for the body and soul. But the magic doesn't end there. As night falls, take a stroll through the enchanting Gero Onsenji. The atmosphere is nothing short of magical, with softly lit lanterns guiding your way through the picturesque streets lined with maple trees. There are also seasonal exhibition at the back of the temple main hall. We were in time to admire some Japanese Kanji Calligraphy exhibition that blends extremely well with the temple atmosphere. We also made friend with a friendly local kid who followed us everywhere, cute!

Gero Onsenji at night

During our visit, we were lucky enough to be right on time for a free Sangen performance that lasted around 20 minutes. I didn't expect this trip to be sooo cultural actually but wow, God's plan!
Gero Onsen itinerary

To top it all off, I stayed at Suimeikan, a 4-stars traditional ryokan that takes Japanese hospitality to a whole new level. From the moment you step in, it's like entering a haven of warmth and comfort. The whole experience was like a hug from Japan itself, making my stay an unforgettable chapter in my journey through Chubu. This deserves a separate post, get ready to be enchanted!

Gero Onsen itinerary
G
irls reading my blogpost, PLEASE! come to Gero onsen next time you visit Japan! Not only because it is one of the official top 3 onsen in Japan,  the smooth silky effect on your skin after an onsen bath is INSTANT! YES! INSTANT! I'm not even exagerating, I've tried onsen in other prefectures, none has this kind of immediate smoothing effect like Gero's. No wonder Gero Onsen is also known as the "Spring of Beauties" by the Japanese! I found out from my local friend that Gero is indeed the top destination for Japanese Girls' Trip due to the onsen properties. 

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STAY
Stay in Suimeikan! You won't be disappointed. Located close to the JR station, checking in is convenient if you arrive by train. The reason I loved the experience is because there are 3 indoor+outdoor hot springs public bath for guests to enjoy! You will definitely get the full experience here!

If you are a KLOOK user, you can book Suimeikan here with this Promo code for additional 5% discount!
HAPPYFEET
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Day 3:

Gero -> Naegi Castle Ruin -> Magome -> Matsumoto

Central Japan Road Trip
In a nutshell:
As the sun set on the final day, the amalgamation of Naegi Castle Ruin's history, Magome's timeless charm, and Matsumoto Castle's architectural splendor lingered in my thoughts. Each site became a chapter in my personal exploration diary, a testament to Japan's ability to seamlessly blend the past with the present. The hands-on candy workshop at Yamaya Candy Shop, a sweet finale to this adventure, was a reminder that every taste carries a story, just like the remarkable places that filled my itinerary.

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First thing in the morning, I ventured into the captivating realms of Naegi Castle Ruin, an ancient fortress nestled amidst awe-inspiring landscapes that whispered tales of bygone eras. As a foreign explorer, the anticipation of uncovering the secrets held within these historic walls set my heart aflutter. Unfortunately, although there are a lot of information boards with QR codes for tourists to scan and read the stories behind each relics, we couldn't access the internet, which was a bummer. I bet the trip would be much more interesting if you know the background story of the place. Anyway, I am still happy with the peaking autumn foliage along the hike!

Cental Japan itinerary
Cental Japan itinerary
Cental Japan itinerary

From the strategic vantage point, the panoramic views were nothing short of breathtaking, revealing the castle's role as a guardian of the past. It was a delightful hike, very doable for families. personally I wouldn't include this in my itinerary if it is too out of the way, but since it is on our way to Magome, we called this a morning hike stop.

Cental Japan itinerary

Next on the itinerary was the enchanting village of Magome, where time seemed to stand still.

The well preserved Edo-period aesthetics painted a vivid picture of life in centuries gone by. The town itself is so beautiful full of seasonal flowers and many waterwheels. As I strolled through the cobbled streets, the echoes of history resonated, offering a glimpse into the daily lives of those who once called this charming village home.

Magome itinerary

I get some questions about the accessibility of this small town from Nagoya city center. and the answer is YES! Some may tell you it is quite impossible to do it without a car or joining a daytrip tour, but actually from Nagoya station, you can go to Nakatsugawa by train and then to Magome by bus. ( don’t forget to check the bus schedule). Or, if it suits your plan, you can also buy a bus pass to travel between cities for a fixed period of time.

A bit of history class here! Magome-juku, is the 43rd station along the legendary Nakasendo that weaves through Saitama, Gunma, Nagano, Gifu, Shiga, and finally, Kyoto!!  Unveiling the tales of Edo-period Japan, this historical gem is not just a stop on the route from Tokyo to Kyoto – they were snapshots of life, inns, and rest houses for daimyo, families, and samurais! 🏑 As you wander through the town, you're not just a traveler; you're a time explorer! It's now a living testament to Japan’s rich history, right here on the border of Gifu prefecture!! 🌟

Magome walking map
Here is my walking map in Magome. Although technically you can walk from the free parking area to the final look out and back within 30 minutes, it is highly encourage to take your time! 

Don't be afraid to try new things here! Some say autumn is the best time to explore Magome-juku, because you get to eat all those seasonal chestnut tit-bits! I am sure this comment come from a foodie, which I... AGREE!

Magome special food

As I explored the street of Magome-juku, I found this weird-looking snack. Kuri kinton is a specialty of Gifu Prefecture: literally a moist mass made from boiled mashed chestnuts cooked with sugar and a little bit of salt. Then the wonderful mash will be pressed into a pau shape. This snack is only available from September through January. While Kuri-Kinton is available in any souvenir shops along Magome-juku, I got mine in a specialty shop named Sueki. Not saying the place has the best Kuri Kinton, it is just a shop I happen to enter.

must eat in Magome

Magome itinerary

Magome may be slightly touristy to some, but still… πŸŽ‰ Quaint restaurants beckon, souvenir shops dazzle, and museums unfold tales of yesteryears. Every step you take, every corner you turn, is an invitation to revel in the spirit of Magome-juku! You can even see the ancient "Buletine Board" still standing after so many years, guarding the entrance to Magome-juku. Every moment feels like a scene from a historical blockbuster! If you like Soba, the restaurant directly opposite to the Buletine Board is a famous lunch stop in Magome. Since we just had Soba in Takayama yesterday, we said "No" to the guidebooks and continue our look out for unique local food.

Magome itinerary

If anyone of you prefer a slightly less touristy part of Nakasando, please allow me to recommend Nara-juku or Tsumago-juku. Although they are also heavily featured in instagram travel pages but still, you will see less tourists around compared to Magome-juku. I haven't been to these 2 parts as well, maybe next time! There are also curated day trips if you are into a worry-free trip.

Do you know , if you are up for the challenge, You can hike from Magome to Tsumago? It will take around 4 hours though, and to make the experience even more memorable, you can buy a "Nakasendo trail walk certificate" from the tourist information in Magome and receive the winner stamp at Tsumago. If you need a tour guide to do this 8km guide, you can look up for one here. Remember to use the promocode: HAPPYFEET for additional 5% discount!

We decided to walk part of the trail since it was too early for lunch. Shortly after passing the trail head, we arrived at a Observation deck overlooking the beautiful mountainous terrain.

Magome itinerary

My Nakasendo experience ended with a set of delicious chestnut rice at Daikokuya. I’m not sure if it is a tradition to cook glutinous rice with chestnuts (It was my first time eating glutinous rice with set dishes as well) but boy it tasted so surprisingly good. The way the Japanese grills fish is another pleasant surprise, I’ve never loved fish dish but I finished eating the fish to the bits, yes, the bones and head too. Everything become edible with the special grilling method!

Magome must eat specialty food

The day's adventure didn't stop there, we still have Matsumoto on the list.

I couldn't wait to see Matsumoto Castle, a masterpiece of architectural elegance in BLACK, nicknamed "Crow Castle". Built in late 16 century, it is the oldest surviving castle tower in the nation. The sheer magnitude of this historic fortress left me spellbound, marveling at the intricacies of Japanese construction brilliance. Too bad on the day of my visit, it was super crowded, therefore due to time -constraints, we had no choice but to abandon our plan to reach the top. I’ve been to Inuyama castle, which is another castle not far away which is also designated as a National Treasure of Japan, just like the Matsumoto castle, hence, I can still calmly tell myself It’s ok, at least you’ve seen one. If this is in your travel plan, please plan your visit on a weekday. If it is not possible, try to go as early as possible.

Visit Matsumoto Castle

Also, I must warn you that the staircases lead to the top of Matsumoto Caste is narrow and steep, almost perpendicular especially on the 4th floor, so I wouldn't recommend elderly and kids. The Matsumoto Castle is spectacular enough from the canal surrounding it.... but still, if you've been to the top of Matsumoto Castle, comment on my Facebook post with your photo! Please share the view, please! 😭

Matsumoto itinerary

To cap off this whirlwind of exploration, I found myself signing up for a hands-on traditional candy workshop, at Yamaya Candy Shop (山屋徑飴所) near the castle! Delving into the exquisite world of Japanese confectionery in a time-honoured way, I am not just a regular tourist today, call me a candy artisan senpai in the making! Learning the intricate artistry behind crafting these delightful treats was like unlocking a sweet vault of cultural heritage.

Matsumoto unique activity to do

Established in 1672, this candy shop boasts a legacy of over 300 years, making it a living testament to Japan's sweet history! 🏰✨ Indulge your sweet tooth and don't let this delightful experience pass you by. Because here, every candy tells a tale, and every creation is a sweet masterpiece! 🌟🍭 
Matsumoto itinerary

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STAY

1. If you are a backpacker, pick the Couch Potato. Set within a 2-minute walk of multiple eateries, this laid-back hostel is a 6-minute walk from Matsumoto Castle, 13 minutes' walk from Matsumoto City Museum of Art and 15 minutes away on foot from Matsumoto train station.
2. Matsumoto Marunouchi Hotel, a 3 star hotel that is near to major viewing spots in the city!

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I truly loved every second of my journey here in the Chubu region and I can’t wait to come back to explore more! This journey not only allowed me to witness the beauty of Japan’s landmarks but also provided an intimate glimpse into the soul of central Japan. From the cultural immersion in Osu to the tranquility of Gero Onsen and the historical wonders of Takayama and Matsumoto, Nagoya and its surroundings offered a kaleidoscope of experiences that will forever hold a special place in my travel memoirs.


One thing for sure, I WILL BE BACK IN CHUBU!


Nagoya itinerary

Thank You for Reading! This post is based solely on my honest opinion or personal experience. If you have a different opinion, feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below!

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