7 Hidden Gems To Visit in Central Japan

The understated prefectures of Toyama, Nagano and Gifu entice with an enchanting mix of historic and new attractions

Photos: Weekender

“He says the equipment is only allowed for children,” the translator explains as an unimpressed museum minder glances at me.

We are at the Onomatopoeia Rooftop of the spanking new TAD: Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design, where graphic designer Taku Satoh has erected various play equipment inspired by the imitation of sounds. I was at the foot of an avant-garde bouncy installation, shoes off and ready to fully immerse myself in this multi-sensory masterpiece.

As if she read my mind, the translator continues: “Those adults are allowed on as they are the children’s parents to…you know, keep watch of them. You, on the other hand…” She trails off, flashing an apologetic smile.

Aside from the stinging reminder of my adulthood, my time at Toyama, Nagano and Gifu prefectures in Japan proved to be an enlightening experience.

While tourist hordes in popular areas like Tokyo leave no street unexplored, here are seven alternative places to visit from the three above-mentioned prefectures. 

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2. Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Toyama Prefecture

Known as the Roof of Japan, Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is perhaps the most sought-after destination in the Tateyama prefecture. Set against the scenic backdrop of Mount Tateyama, the route boasts seasonal sights including 20m high Yuki-no-Otani Snow Walls during spring, as well as autumn’s foliage of the Golden Murodo Plateau. Visitors will also spot Mikurigaike, a crater lake of Tateyama Volcano that flaunts a mesmerising cobalt blue surface.

Another scenic destination is Kurobe Dam, a colossal dam with plummeting waters, previously used to support a hydropower plant during the post-war period. Massive tunnels were also dug through the mountainous regions for the transportation of heavy materials. They now have been transformed into vehicle routes to bring passengers to this man-made marvel.

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