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Snow Monkeys, Nagano, Japan

Japanese Alps

Located in the heart of Japan between Tokyo and Kyoto and stretching to shores of the Sea of Japan, the Japanese Alps offers a scenically stunning area with several mountains over 3,000 metres.

The Japanese Alps hide traditional villages, world-class skiing, wildlife and hot springs, much of which is linked by the convenient and super-efficient rail network. Initially known as the Hida Range, it was first referred to as the Japanese Alps in the late 19th century.

Shirakawago Village, near Takayama, Japan
Shirakawago in winter

Highlights of the Alps

The mountain city of Takayama is a beautifully preserved old town with many original buildings including the Floating Festival Museum. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Shirakawago offers a glimpse into rural Japanese life and is famous for its old farmhouses, built to withstand huge snowfall during winter. Elsewhere, the mountain city of Kanazawa boasts one of Japans top three gardens and Matsumoto is home to the famous snow monkeys which bathe in the hot springs during winter months.

Narrow paved street heading downhill between traditional Japanese houses.
Magome town on the Nakasendo trail
Hida Wideview Train
Hida Wideview train

By Rail or on Foot

The public transport network within the Japanese Alps is excellent, making it a stress free and relaxing way to explore. A bullet train links Tokyo and Kanazawa and the Hida Wideview train follows a wonderfully scenic route. Alternatively, follow a slower pace traversing a section of the Nakasendo trail, an ancient pedestrian highway used by lords and samurai.


Below are a selection of experiences you could consider including in your holiday to the Japanese Alps.

Kenroku-en Gardens

Visit Kenroku-en gardens in Kanazawa, ranked as one of the top three gardens in Japan.

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Snow Monkeys

See snow monkeys bathing in hot springs, a particularly photogenic spectacle especially during the winter months.

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Walk the Nakasendo Trail

Follow in the footsteps of samurais and lords as you hike the old Nakasendo trail in the Japanese Alps.

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Bullet Train

Travel on the world famous Shinkansen bullet train reaching speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour.

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Mountain Ryokan

Stay in a mountainside ryokan; a traditional Japanese Inn, with your own private onsen and woodland views.

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Soak in an Onsen

Partake in a national pastime and relax in an onsen, a Japanese hot spring bath.

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Visit the UNESCO World Heritage village of Shirakawago, a rural village famed for its traditional thatched farmhouses.

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Takayama Float Museum

Visit this mountain town and learn about its legendary craftsmanship at the Floating Festival Museum, home to decorative floats dating back hundreds of years.

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Hida Wideview Train

Follow a wonderfully scenic route through the Japanese Alps travelling by bullet train and the Hida Wideview train, offering panoramic views.

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Prompt and efficient support from Clare who suggested some activities that we wouldn't have planned but really enjoyed.


Exceptional organisation. Absolutely nothing was left to chance and help was always a quick email away. I have no areas of complaint at all. I thought it was superb throughout.


From our very first call to Steppes and speaking to Clare, everything went like clockwork. Clare arranged a fantastic itinerary for our trip to Japan and we were extremely impressed with every aspect of our holiday.


Meet our experts

A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Paul Craven

Paul is the Conde Nast Traveler chosen Specialist for Central Asia and the Silk Route.

Being from a family with Army connections I can from an early age remember travelling. From camping in Europe and then later being sent to boarding school when we lived in Germany at the age of eight, complete with shorts, long socks, a cap and my suitcase. In appearance not too dissimilar to the children evacuated to the countryside during the blitz. Later, my father’s postings took us to Nepal where we had to transit Delhi and Kathmandu where we were sometimes stranded for days and Hong Kong from where I travelled in 1983 through China for two months.

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Clare Higginson

It was my passion for languages that first encouraged me to leave the UK behind and grab my rucksack. Since then, it’s been a mixture of intriguing cultures, jaw-dropping landscapes and the wonder of seeing animals in their natural habitat that sees me continuously extending my travel wish list. I also seek adventure; exploring the deep blue or hiking a peak often winning favour. Although it’s my time horse herding in Mongolia that I regularly want to relive.

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