Encompassing nine prefectures at the very centre of the Japanese archipelago, Shoryudo is an ancient region of culture and mystery. It gets its name – which means ‘Land of the Rising Dragon’ – from the fact that the area is shaped like a dragon taking flight, and it’s tailor-made for tourists and sightseers who want to discover the real Japan away from Tokyo.
The Shoryudo is also the name of a tourist route that winds its way through each of these nine prefectures – that’s Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Nagano, Gifu, Shizuoka, Aichi, Mie and Shiga – bursting with history, art, adventure, food and relaxation. We’re excited to show you more of Shoryudo, and we’ve selected just a few of our favourite attractions from across the region.
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Toyama
This is one of the world’s best mountain trips, running right through the dramatic Japanese Alps, amid peaks of 3,000m or more. For a short time between mid-April and late June, you can even make your way through the Yukino Ootani, a passage carved through impossibly deep snow, with brilliantly white 20m walls to either side.
Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Ishikawa
This is one of the most famous classical Japanese landscape gardens of the Edo period (1603-1867), and considered one of the top three in history. Located in the splendid heart of Kanazawa City, this garden is a sumptuous masterpiece of a uniquely Japanese art.
Tojinbo is a natural wonder of Shoryudo, a series of cliffs on the northern coast near Sakai that’s designated as a national monument. It’s a geological marvel – rocks form natural hexagons along a rugged surface for a kilometre, slowly eroded over the epochs by the rough waves of the Sea of Japan.
Jigokudani Yaen-koen, Nagano
This secluded mountain valley is full of natural steam vents and hot springs that literally bubble up from the ground. It’s home to several troupes of wild Japanese macaques – white-furred snow monkeys who love nothing more than to bathe in the refreshing natural baths that dot the valley. They don’t mind an audience – and you can get surprisingly close as they unwind, relax and kick back in the hot, bubbly waters.
A hidden village high up in the Japanese Alps, Shirakawa-go has been awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO for its beautiful landscapes and the unique thatched roofs of the historic farmhouses design to protect fragile silkworms from the mountain cold. These steep structures are called gassho-zukuri, which means “built like hands in prayer” because they look like monks’ hands held together in prayer.
This snow-capped volcano is the emblem of Japan. At 3,776m, it’s the nation’s highest peak and it stands alone, rearing up from the landscape to dominate the skyline for miles around. It is revered to this day as a sacred mountain, enjoying great popularity among artists, priests and the general public for centuries. These days, it’s wonderful for hiking, photography and a truly unique sense of serenity at the summit.
Nagoya Castle, Aichi
A fortress built in 1609 by the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, to defend against the powerful Toyotomi clan, this has been the seat of the Owari branch of the Tokugawa family since then. It has been selected as one of the 100 best castles in Japan, typified by the fine gold artistry of the inner Honmaru Palace.
Iga Ninja Museum, Mie
Hidden by formidable natural defences, Iga is the home of the ninja, those legendary warrior-spies of the medieval era. The Iga Ninja Museum boasts the world’s largest collection of ninja artefacts, including weapons, tools and other stranger contraptions, while at the Ninja Yashiki, a relocated earthen mansion from the late Edo period, modern-day ninja will demonstrate acrobatic tricks to mesmerise guests.
Omi Hachiman, Shiga
A former merchant town built around a once-vital canal, Omi Hachiman is one of the most scenic places in the entire country. As well as the authentically gorgeous 16th century architecture that fills the town, it has also been known formally for centuries as the site of one of the Eight Views of Lake Biwa, itself a historic beauty spot.
These attractions give just a taste of the wonders found in Shoryudo. The friendly people at Hankyu Travel Europe would be only too happy to provide more information about this cute little corner of Japan. Please feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have!