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The term Japan Alps was coined by William Gowland in 1888. Once you've seen these magnificent mountain ranges, punctuating the middle of Honshu, Japan's main island, you'll know why a comparison to Switzerland is appropriate.

The ideal base from which to view and climb these beautiful peaks is Kamikochi, a village so high and deep in the mountains that it's inaccessible from December to April because of snow. Nozawa Onsen, the birthplace of Western-style skiing in Japan, is also worth visiting out of the ski season for its excellent – and free – onsen baths and lovely location. Nearby, it's fascinating to observe close up the ...

The term Japan Alps was coined by William Gowland in 1888. Once you've seen these magnificent mountain ranges, punctuating the middle of Honshu, Japan's main island, you'll know why a comparison to Switzerland is appropriate.

The ideal base from which to view and climb these beautiful peaks is Kamikochi, a village so high and deep in the mountains that it's inaccessible from December to April because of snow. Nozawa Onsen, the birthplace of Western-style skiing in Japan, is also worth visiting out of the ski season for its excellent – and free – onsen baths and lovely location. Nearby, it's fascinating to observe close up the hot-spring-bathing monkeys at Kambayashi Onsen, then take a relaxing dip yourself.

On either side of the mountains are many great tourist towns, including Matsumoto with its dramatic "black crow" castle, one of the oldest in Japan, and Takayama, famed for its wood carvers, old-style shopping streets and twice yearly matsuri (festival). Don’t miss Obuse, a charming town that was home to the master woodblock print artists Hokusai and which also has a well-earned reputation for excellent cuisine and sake. Once the snows begin to melt, a great way of crossing “the roof of Japan,” without the sweat of hiking and climbing, is to follow the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route traveling via train, bus, funicular and cable car.

Simon Richmond
About the Expert

Simon Richmond has written Rough Guides to Malaysia and Japan; Lonely Planet guides to India and Russia; and adventure travel guides for Frommer's on Australia, India, South America, and Southeast Asia.

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Simon Richmond for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: The Japanese Alps is a series of mountain ranges in Japan that bisects the main island of Honshū.
  • Language: Japanese
  • Currency: Japanese Yen
  • Research: Kamikochi | Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Avoid the heavy rains of June. The summer months of July and August are great for hiking, as are May and October.