Japan Central Region / Chubu Road Map
Why do the self drive with rental car in Japan?
- Freedom to explore anywhere and anytime.
- Do any impromptu stop and visit the places local go and shop.
- Driving is not difficult in Japan at all if you can manage Malaysia and Singapore road trip as most Japanese drivers and pedestrians are well-behaved and follow the rules like the ‘sheep’.
- Enjoy more privacy – Having family bonding time with 3 generations together in the car, if you have grandparents and young children on the road trip. You don’t have to worry grandparents and young children can’t cope with the fast pace of the big group tour as this is your own private tour with car rental.
- Enjoy more comfort – No need to carry your big luggage up and down stairs in the train station if you drive a rental car.
- Enjoy more option where to stay – You can choose to stay in the hotel that is far away from the city with cheaper price but offer better values, eg with mountain view and luxury onsen/hot springs facilities & big space in the room (you don’t even realize you are actually in Japan as Japan city hotel is usually very small). You don’t have to choose to stay near the train station as the hotel in the train station is usually very narrow and small.
- Cost saving with pax of 2 and above. Of course, if you have a pax of 5, you will enjoy the most value from renting a car.
- Japan is one of the best destinations to do self-drive in Asia.
Central Japan also Known as Chubu Japan
We like to self-drive within Japan outskirt cities, driving within major big cities is not recommended due to the heavy traffic and extremely narrow roads. Most signs are posted in “Romaji”- in English which is readable for the foreigner. If you read Kanji/Chinese Character, you have the advantage of reading both in the signboard. I strongly recommend getting in a car and driving around the outskirt of Japan, this is the way to see the beautiful “inaka”/countryside of Japan. It is also more economical than buying expensive “shinkansen”/bullet train tickets or normal train tickets if you have pax of 4. Furthermore, taxi cost a bomb in Japan.
Central Japan/日本中部/Chubu Japan are :
1. Aichi Prefecture-Nagoya
2.Gifu Prefecture-Takayama, Shirakawa-go
3.Toyama Prefecture-Tateyama & Kurobe Alpine & Tonami
5.Yamanashi Prefecture-Mt Fuji
6.Kanagawa Prefecture (not in Central Japan) -Hakone
How to book a car?
Our rental car with 1500-1800cc cost about SGD$ 100 per day including insurance protection. Please use Rentalcars.com to choose your favorite car.
If you book car rental online, it is important for you to print out a hard copy of the insurance protection you have paid for. That way, the staff in the car rental will not ask you to purchase again. Some car rental insists you purchase car insurance even you have told them you have already purchased online because they don’t believe you have already done as they can’t see it from their system. (We experience that in Japan & UK). Rentalcars.com is an online agent not the car rental company, just like Agoda is an online agent for hotels booking. Remember to print out the copy to show them as proof. Or you can opt out for car protection insurance when you book online but make sure you purchase with the staff when you pick up the car. Either way is ok. The key is to have car protection insurance and also don’t need to purchase twice.
An international driving permit is needed, do apply from your home country before departure. Click the above link to see how to apply for an international driving permit if you are in Singapore.
My itinerary includes :
- Fruits Park: Fruit picking at Togokusan
- Old Town: Magome, Takayama
- Festival Museum: Yatai Kaikan Takayama/ Festival museum
- Art museum: Masumoto Art Museum
- Artist: Yayoi Kusama
- Car Museum: Toyota Car Museum
- Unseco: Shirakawa-go, Ogimachi Village
- Castle: Matsumoto Castle
- Lake: Yamanaka Lake
- Mountain: Mount Fuji & Kurobe Alpine
- Dam: Kurobe Dam
- Hot Spring: Hakone Onsen
- Shopping: Odawara & Matsumoto city
Food Guide in Chubu Japan/Central Japan :
- Takayama Ramen (Takayama Prefecture) – Common toppings for Takayama ramen include char siu pork, bamboo shoots, and scallions.
- Hida Beef (Hida)- High-quality breed of wagyu black-haired cattle raised in Gifu, tender and juicy.
- Tatami Iwashi (Tokai )- A thin, cracker-like sheet of baby sardines that has been sun-dried, cut into smaller pieces. Good to have it with beer or sake.
- Unagi/Eel (Shizuoka Prefecture) – Una ju or Unadon roasted eel on top of rice.
- Miso-katsu (Aichi Prefecture) – Crispy fried tonkatsu with miso paste.
- Houtou (Yamanashi Prefecture) – Wheat flour noodles cooked with pumpkin or other vegetables in miso soup. Noodle is wider and flatter than regular noodles.
Day 1 – Itinerary Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture
- Arrived at Nagoya Airport – 8 am
- Togokusan Fruits Park/東谷山フルーツパーク
- Hotel Route Inn Nakatsugawa/中津川 in Gifu/岐阜
On the first day when we arrived in Nagoya Airport, we picked up the rental car then drove straight to Togokusan Fruit Park, away from the city area to avoid traffic. We didn’t even drive into Nagoya city as you know city area is always full of traffic.
Togokusan Fruit Park is a nice fruit farm which has 15 orchards and 15 types of fruits. Depend on which season you choose and there are always different kind of fruits waiting for you there. Do join the fruit picking activities offered in the park.
Magome/馬籠 is a small post town which served travelers connecting the major route from Tokyo and Kyoto in the Edo period, 300-400 years ago. The town or I should say the village is built uphill and very pleasant to walk up to check on the photogenic view. There are plenty of eateries and souvenirs where you could enjoy along the way.
Day 2 – Itinerary – Takayama in Gifu Prefecture
- Yatai Kaikan Takayama
- Takayama city
- Route Inn Grantia Hidatakayama
Takayama/高山 as the name suggest is a city in the mountain area in Gifu Prefecture. There are a few things you could do in this town, one is the old town and the other you may want to explore is the Takayama Yatai Kaikan which is used for festivals. In the Takayama Yatai Kaikan, you learn a lot of different floats used in the Japanese ‘Matsuri’/festivals. Takayama is best known for their festival in the whole of Japan.
Day 3 – Itinerary – Takayama & Shirakawa Go in Gifu Prefecture
- Takayama city – Nakabashi Bridge
- Shirakawa-go, Ogimachi Village (UNESCO world heritage site)
- Tonami Royal Hotel in Toyama
Before we left Takayama city, we went to check out the Nakabashi Bridge, the well-known RED bridge also symbol of Takayama. Strongly recommended to pay a little visit and take some photos with the RED bridge as it is very picturesque, especially during cherry blossom season.
Shirakawa Go/ 白川郷 is one of the highlights in Central Japan once this village has obtained the Unesco World Heritage. The view is stunning especially in the winter as the whole village is cover in snow. I don’t like winter so choose a warmer season to go. It is really up to you.
Day 4 – Itinerary – Tateyama in Toyama Prefecture
- Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
- Hotel Morinokaze Tateyama
Kurobe Alpine Route is the unique and interesting route which you will experience different means of transportation. You need a whole day to do Kurobe Alpine route and you will be in the cable cars, trolley buses and ropeway. No doubt, stunning view along the way. The best time to see snow walls is by early spring mid-April to May. I was here in November so there are no snow walls (too bad) and a certain period is closed and visitors are not able to go up. Do check out the availability.
DAY 5 – Itinerary – Matsumoto City in Nagano Prefecture
- Matsumoto Art museum in Matsumoto City
- Shopping in Matsumoto City
- Hotel Montagne Matsumoto
When you are in Matsumoto city, the one thing you need to check out is the Matsumoto Castle. And if you know Yayoi Kusama, the polka dots artists then you may want to visit some of her work in the Art Museum in Matsumoto city. Matsumoto city is Yayoi Kusama’s hometown. It was a raining day so I went to the Art Museum and glad it did not disappoint me at all.
Day 6 – Itinerary – Mt Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture
- Matsumoto Castle
- Lake Yamanaka
- Hotel Mt.Fuji, Yamanashi
You can see Mt Fuji from almost everywhere, even in Central Japan. You can include Yamanaka Lake then choose to stay in Mt Fuji Hotel in Yamanashi, the view is stunning as you get to see the unblocked view of Mt Fuji from the balcony of your hotel room.
Day 7 – Itinerary – Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture
- Mt Fuji Station 5 ( Gotemba Trail)
- Hakone Hotel Kowakien
Hakone is not in Central Japan but in Kanagawa Prefecture, quite near to Tokyo, only slightly more than an hour away from Tokyo. Hakone is famous for its hot springs and you are still able to see Mt Fuji from here. There are several things to do in Hakone and we choose to do a train ride to Odawara.
Day 8 – Itinerary- Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture
- Toyota museum in Nagoya
- Meitetsu Inn Chitahandaeki
If you love cars, then the Toyota Museum is the place to spend for a few hours. In this huge museum, you are not only seeing Toyota cars from vintage to modern, but you also see all the fun and sporty cars from manufacturers around the world. I am not really into cars but I have to be honest, I enjoy this car museum so much!
Day 9 – Itinerary Nagoya Airport
- Nagoya Airport
My Budget for 3 Pax:
- Air ticket from Singapore to Nagoya – SGD 600-700 per pax with SIA promotion. Total: SGD 2100 for 3 pax
- Hotel for 3 pax inclusive breakfast & onsen (hot springs) 3-5 stars : SGD $150-$220 per night. Roughly SGD $1600
- Car Rental plus insurance for 8 days: SGD $1,000
- Misc & petrol & food: SGD $1,000 – $2,000 (We usually have our meals in family restaurants along the highway and it cost about SGD $10-20 dollars per person.)
- Total spent for 3 pax for 9 days 8 nights in Central Japan: SGD $6700 so SGD$2300 per pax.
This is only my budget and it works as a guideline for you. It really depends on what kind of hotel you stay in. If you choose to stay in Airbnb (click on my Airbnb link to get discount) which can accommodate with more people and prepare your own breakfast & dinner, you can save quite a bit too. Most of my hotel stay in the Central Region are with luxury onsen/hot springs so the prices of the hotel cost a little more. If you choose a hotel without onsen/hot spring, the price can be even lower.
Another way to save money is you may want to get your breakfast in the convenient store such as “Lawson” or “7 Eleven” which can be found almost every 500m and open 24 hours. Food in the convenience store are cheap and affordable and plenty of variety to choose from. Please check out their bento set, Oden & Japanese dessert in the convenient stores.
“Family restaurant” is casual dining in Japan which has a free parking area and food are cheap and in a bigger portion. Some of the famous chains are called Royal Host, Denny’s, Joyful, Gusto and many more. The family restaurant usually serves a combination of Japanese & Western cuisine & Chinese. Don’t hesitate to drive in and try out their meal in the Japanese “Family Restaurant” as it provides a good value meal.
You may also like to read about other self-drive destination :
- Self Drive in Kyushu Island Japan (Fukuoka, Beppu, Kumamoto, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, Miyazaki) 8 Days
- Self Drive in Hiroshima, Kansai Region and Shikoku Island (including Osaka, Kyoto and Nara)
- Taiwan Round The Island Self Drive Itinerary 8 Days
- Self Drive in Britain, United Kingdom ( England, Wales & Scotland) 11 Days 9 Nights
- Self Drive in the USA – California 16 Days 13 Nights
- Self Drive in Thailand (From Bangkok to Chiang Mai) 8 Days
I have affiliate program with the following booking website, so please click at your preference booking website here to check the hotels or airbnb you like to stay for your Japan Central Region/Chubu trip.
This is so awesome! I believe that to get to know a place, it’s better to drive around it… you see way more. I also like to see smaller towns that show the culture than big cities full of tourists.
Road trip and self drive will enable to discover many hidden gems!
Wow! This is a beautiful place. What an exciting adventure!
Road trips are the best. They give you the opportunity to really see and experience the various places. You look like you had a wonderful time.
Now more and more people started to drive in Japan with the help of technologies such as google map, we won’t easily get lost. Even if we do, we can also ask google translator to help us to ask around to the local.
Road trip with amazing views, looks real real fun
It looks like you had a great time, I love a road trip where you can drive yourself, the freedom is second to none.
Yes, one thing with self drive on road trip is freedom to explore anywhere and stop anywhere you wish. At least you don’t have to run to catch the train or buses. Catching the train with big luggage can be very challenging as some of the train station in Japan do not have lift up and down the station.
Love your photos! The scenery (and your outfits) are so beautiful! Japan is on my bucket list, and I hope to be able to visit someday!
Thanks for your comment. Japan is a beautiful country, it is clean and full of traditional elements in most of the old town. The shopping is greet fun too.
It looks like you had an amazing itinerary. I will surely add this to my bucket lists it looks so exciting.
Central Japan is a great place to do a road trip with rental car, there are not many traffic compared to big cities like Osaka and Tokyo area. If you have family with young children and grandparents, this is truly a highly recommended way to see Japan. All sit in the car rental and enjoy great bonding while sightseeing Central Japan. And , the most important thing is, cost saving.
Love a road trip would love to do one next weekend. Looks like you had a great time
Glad to hear that you are doing a raod trip soon and I hope you have a great time too.
Road trips can be so fun, too! What a great way to see more of a country and on your schedule, too!
I totally agree! We can choose our own schedule and do any impromptu stop at any scenic area along the way.
I love a nice roadtrip! All the pictures you show are stunning, the landscape and you! All your outfits are so lovely 🙂
The road trip in Central Japan is really beautiful, especially places where you can see the iconic Mt Fuji.
Wow, I’ve never been to Japan and I will definitely need to learn driving before I can think of a roadtrip. But Japan definitely seems like a great place to start with!
If you have not been to Japan, you should go as it is one of the best place to visit. The country is both old and new element to see. Some places and city are very ancient which is hard to find these days. You can always go with friends who know how to drive and you can help read the google map or help feeding the driver to make sure he/she is awake. Lol
I love a road trip, it is probably the best way to visit and enjoy the beauty of any place. I am glad that you had a great time!
You are right, self drive on the road trip is one of the best way to explore Central Japan. You have the freedom to go anywhere you like and stop anytime you feel like.
Thanks very much for sharing your experience with us. I’m planning a trip to Nagoya then Takayama and Shirakawago on 28th Nov. Appreciate your kind advice if it is better to drive from Nagoya to Takayama and then from Takayama, do a day trip drive to Shirakawago or should I take public bus from Nagoya to Takayama and register for a half day tour trip to Shirakawago? We’re a family of 3. Is it easy to drive from Nagoya to Takayama as I understand that it’s a 2 hours drive? Will there be snow on the road? Fyi, I’ve driven in long distance drive in South of New Zealand, Japan Hokkaido, Yamanakako & Karuizawa and Santorini Greece before.
Thanks for your comment. If you have some self-drive experiences in other countries, then driving in Central Japan Nagoya Takayama Shiragawa-go should not be an issue. Your concern on the snow would highly depend on the weather forecast. Japanese weather forecast is 99% accurate. You can check two weeks before your departure. If the snow is not heavy you are still able to drive up. The drive to Takayama mountain was not too hard for us in the mid of Nov. No snow but two days later there was huge snow. So it is really depending on the weather forecast. Please arrive at Shirakawa-Go as early as possible else the car park will be full and your car has to queue outside the carpark. We arrive before 10 am.
I have a write up on car rental in Japan in details and you may want to find out more about renting car and road trip condition in Japan.
I hope my answer helps a bit. Please feel free to ask further if you have other doubts. I would love to share my experience with you.
Sorry for the late reply as I am on the Australia road trip now.
Hello, I heard that the highway tolls in Japan are very expensive but you have not mention any tolls in your post. Did you have a pass or the roads that you drive along do not have tolls?
Also, I am curious whether is it difficult to find parking and whether is the parking expensive?
Thank you for your questions.
I have written a more recent blog on Hiroshima Shikoku and Kansai road trip which includes how much I paid for toll roads and other information regarding self-drive in Japan. It has about 40 blogs and you can learn about the tips and what to expect, eat and stay in Japan.
“How to rent a Car in Japan”, will tell all the details about car rental and highway and parking condition in Japan.
You asked if there are other roads that are not charged in Japan? The answer is YES. When you key in the destination in the GPS in the car, (rental car usually comes with a GPS), it will display few options to choose from. One is without toll and it also tells you how long to arrive in each route. Please refer to the above blog “how to rent a car”, it has the picture of the GPS and routes to choose. Toll road routes do not necessarily always the fastest to arrive at your destination. I have tried non-toll road too, it has a lot of traffic lights and the speed is only at 60-80kmph, but you get to see the local neighborhood and the daily’s life look like. Sometimes, you can just stop at the supermarket and shop like the locals. Most of the supermarket has huge parking lots outside the building to attract customers to come in. The supermarket has very good ready-made food, most importantly very cheap. You can have lunch there as some also provide tables and chairs for you to have their ready-made bento.
For Parking in Japan, it really depends on which part of Japan. Anywhere outside the Tokyo area is not that hard to get parking. Say if you are planning a road trip to Central Japan. Most parking areas are not charged, especially if you are at outskirt visiting shrines. Most of the hotel that I booked also provide free and easy parking for Central Japan. I remembered I did not pay so much for parking for the Central Japan road trip. For Shirakawa-go (one of the important sites in Central Japan), there is a huge parking area but it is charged at a reasonable price. Shirakawa-Go parking is always crowded because it is a Unesco Site and very popular among tourists local and overseas. One tip I can give you is driving there before 10 am, else you have to wait outside the carpark when the carpark is full. (For Shiragawa-Go site I mean)
As for other parts of Central Japan, the parking was not too hard as compared to my recent Kansai (Osaka)’s road trip. If you have your itinerary plan made, please also include the nearest spot to park your car in your itinerary plan. Research where to park your car near the attraction that you want to visit first. (FYI, anywhere outside Tokyo do not have so many people, the population and cars are way lesser and that make Japan (except Tokyo) is so easy to do self-drive) Furthermore, Japanese people behave and drive politely.
I hope I have answered your questions but if you still have further queries, please do not hesitate to ask. I am more than willing to share my experience with you.
Do check on my latest self-drive guide for Hiroshima Shikoku Kansai(Kyoto-Osaka-Nara), it tells you about Japan highway condition & Highway rest area, petrol station, convenient stores, supermarket (how to save), onsen etiquette, Japanese style hotel/ryokan style vs Japanese western-style hotel, Japanese Food and many more.
Hi, am very impressed with your self drive trip in Japan. Am planning one in autumn next year. I just wish to know if parking are expensive and also about the tolls. Would appreciate your advise. My itinerary would cover Tokyo, Nikko, Hakone, Mt. Fuji, Alpine Route, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka.
Thanks for your comment.
I was pretty impressed with your itinerary which covers so many places and how long are you planning to stay?
Renting a car is a good choice as driving is really easy and no traffic anywhere out of Tokyo. About the toll charges, it does not cost a lot if you are not including Shikoku island as for my recent trip, Hiroshima-Shikoku-Kyoto-Nara-Osaka, it cost more because Shikoku Island has many bridges (Shimanami Kaido) connecting those little islands. Those stunning bridges cost more to cross over.
Please ask for ETC (Electronic Toll Charge) from the car rental counter as ETC will help you to save 20-30% than paying cash. It is postpaid so you can pay after you return your car and every toll roads you used is itemized.
You may want to find out about car rental, highway road condition and other tips from the below link. The GPS in the car will tell you a few routes to choose from. It shows you how long, how far, how much each route is going to cost you. Charges route doesn’t mean it is the fastest to reach your destination. Click the link and there are few pictures to show the GPS machine.
This is the summary itinerary for my recent trip to Japan, it has all the budget on how much I spent and where to stay. It may work as a reference for you.
As for parking, anywhere outside the big city, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto are basically free. Compared to my UK self-drive, Japan cost less on parking.
Please don’t hesitate to ask more questions as I am very happy to share my experience with you. Happy planning:)