Tour of Japan: Chubu Prefecture

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The Chūbu region (中部地方, Chūbu-chihō) is the central area of Honshū Island between the Kantō region and the Kansai region.   It encompasses nine Japanese prefectures:  Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Shizuoka, Toyama and Yamanashi.  The nine prefectures are divided into three sub-regions:   Tokai, Hokuriku, and Central Highlands.  The Tokai sub-region bordering the Pacific Ocean includes Aichi, Gifu and Shizuoka Prefectures and form a narrow corridor that has linked Tokyo, Kyōto and Ōsaka since the Tokugawa period (1600-1867).  It has the largest population, and business and manufacturing thrive there. The climate is warm and mild but has high humidity and heavy rainfall during the summer months.  The Hokuriku sub-region includes Fukui, Niigata, Ishikawa, and Toyama Prefectures.  This sub-region is very snowy in the winter.  When the snow melts in the spring, it provides the sub-regions’ numerous rice paddies with water.  It is one of the top rice-growing areas in Japan.   The Central Highlands sub-region includes Nagano and Yamanashi Prefectures.  The series of mountain ranges in this sub-region bisect Honshū Island and are known as the “Japanese Alps” or the “Roof of Japan.”  The region is famous for many mountain resorts and Mount Fuji.  The population of this sub-region is concentrated in the “bonchi” or basins of the mountains.  The basin areas have low humidity and rainfall.  The two prefectures grow apples, lettuce, grapes, peaches and plums.  The entire Chūbu regionhas a population of approximately 23 million people (2019) and has a total area of 72, 527.34  Its Time Zone is Japan Standard Time (UTC+9).  Its currency is the Japanese Yen.  It is also known for its Prefectures’ sake breweries.

Aichi Prefecture:   Tokai sub-region is known for:

City of Nagoya – 4th largest city in Japan and the busiest Japanese port; Nagoya Castle – 16th century castle; Nagoya obi – developed at the end of the 1920s;

Tezutsu Hanabi J (Hand-held Fireworks) Festival; World Cosplay Summit; Okazaki Castle – birthplace of leyasu Tokugawa, founder of the Tokugawa dynasty;

Miso Nikomi Udon, Tebasaki Chicken Wings, Miso Katsu (pork cutlet in miso-based sauce); Ten-musu – small battered prawn pressed into  mini rice balls.

Gifu Prefecture:  Tokai sub-region is known for:

Sake breweries; Washi Paper; Comorant fishing on the Nagara River; Japanese swordsmithing and cutlery industries; Gifu Castle and the castle’s Archive Museum;

Akechi Castle Ruins – a Mountain-type castle; Samuri; Oda Nobunaga – greatest of the three Japanese Great Unifers; Sanmachi-Suji – century old sake breweries;

Hida beef; Ayu Meshi (sweet fish with rice); Itarashi Dango (rice dumpling in sweet soy sauce; Takayama ramen; Kei-chan – simply known as Chicken Dish.

Shizuoka Prefecture:  Tokai sub-region is known for:

Mt. Fuji – (3,776 m. high) in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park; Izu Peninsula- with onsen hot spring resorts; Hamamatsu Kite Festival dating back to 16th century;

Anjin Festival, Ito City – summer celebration of Japan’s first Western-style ships –fireworks and powerful taiko (drum) performances; Sumatra Valley’s rope bridges;

Shizuoka Green Tea; Sakura Ebi (Sakura Shrimp); Mikkabi Mikan (Mikkabi Mandarin Oranges), Tatami Iwashi  (sun-dried baby sardine crackers).

Fukui Prefecture:  Hokuriku sub-region known for:

Eiheiji – Soto Zen Temple and training monastery for young priests; Katsuyama – Dinosaur Museum; Ichijodani Asakura Family Historic Ruins; Tsuruga City – fish markets and suishi shops;  Washinosato Japanese Paper Village – Washi paper production; Orokabashi Bridge, Fukui Castly  – papermaking done in the traditional Echizen style; Echizen Oroshi Soba Noodles; Sauce Katsu-don pork cutlet bowl; Volga Rice; Soy Sauce Katsu-don pork cutlet bowl; Hamayakisaba Grilled Mackerel.

Niigata Prefecture – Hokuriku sub-region known for:

Kashiwazaki – Fireworks Festival last 10-day of July – 15,000 fireworks shot over the Japan Sea; Niigata Nabe and Sake Festival (late November); gold mining; Furumachi Geigi – one of the most prestigious areas for geisha; Yahiko Shrine – largest chrysanthemum festival in Niigata; sake breweries; Sado Island traditional

puppet display and cedar forest; Koshihikari rice; sake; poppo-yaki made with wheat flour and brown sugar; Suruten – shredded, salted squid tempura dish.

Ishikawa Prefecture –  Hokuriku sub-region known for:

Wajima City – Lacquer ware and gold leaf; Daga Onsen – 4 historic hot spring towns; Shorinzan Daramuji Temple – Daruma dolls (good luck charm); Nagamachi – samurai houses; Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle – one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens – 420 cherry trees; Okunoto Salt Farm – traditional salt-making activities; Jibu-ni – poultry stew (usually duck) with vegetables simmered in dashi; fugu (puffer fish); Snow crab; Sweet shrimp; sweet potatoes; lotus root; Noto beef.

 Toyama Prefecture – Hokuriku sub-region known for:

Northern Japan Alps; Ogimachi, the village in Shirakawa-go, known for 250 year old gassho-zukuri farmhouses; Zuiryuji Temple – Soto Zen Buddhist temple; Takaoka’s Great Buddha  (Takaoka Daibutsu) – one of three great Buddha statues of Japan; Takaoka Castle Park – castle ruins  and has over a thousand cherry trees;

Firefly Squid – Spring and Summer treat; White Shrimp from Toyama Bay; Trout Sushi; Toyama Black Ramen; Himi Udon Noodles (made by hand);  Nishcho Taiki.

Yamanashi Prefecture – Central Highlands sub-region known for:

Mt. Fuji – (3,776 meters high) in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park; Fuji Sengen Shrine – haunting cedar forest with three trees (protected) over a 1,000 years old;

Narusawa Ice Cave – lava tube in Aokigahara Forest; Fuji-Q Highland – amusement park with some of the steepest and fastest roller coasters;

Hoto – Miso with wide noodles, seasonal vegetables and meat; Fuji-mabushi – rice with sockeye salmon or rainbow trout; Ochazuke – green tea poured over rice.

Nagano Prefecture – Central Highlands sub-region known for:

Snow Monkey Resorts – snow monkeys bathing in onsen; Zenko-ji Temple – one of Japan’s most important Buddhist Temple – nearly 1400 yrs old;

Togakushi – known for its Shinto Shrines; Matsushiro –Sanada clan samuri town during the Edo Period, and during the Meji period there was a thriving silk industry;

Buckwheat noodles; Sanzoku-yaki –fried chicken marinated in onion, garlic and soy sauce; soba noodles; Sake and beer, Gyunyu Pan (Milk Bread).