Three Star Road cuts through the Japanese Alps offering visitors a chance to experience a truly authentic Japan. The region boasts a wealth of tradition and culture as well as stunning wildlife and nature. It was given its name after its three-star rating on the Michelin Guide Japan. Here we round up the top sightseeing stops along the Three Star Road.
Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa
Kenrokuen Garden is a beautiful Japanese garden with an area of 11.4 hectares located on the heights of the central part of Kanazawa and next to Kanazawa Castle. Kenrokuen, which means ‘having six factors’, was given the name because of the six attributes that bring out the perfect landscape of the garden: spaciousness, tranquility, artifice, antiquity, water courses and magnificent views from the garden. From its scale and beauty, it is regarded as one of the most beautiful feudal lords’ gardens in Japan. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the flowers and trees, such as plum and cherry blossoms in spring, azaleas and irises early in summer, the colourful red and yellow leaves in autumn and a winter wonderland during the winter months.
World Heritage Ainokura Gasshozukuri Village, Nanto City, Toyama
On a terrace about a stone’s throw from the surface of the Shogawa River, Ainokura Gasshozukuri Village is found spread across a long, thin plateau. Of the 27 houses there, 20 are in the traditional sloping-roof Gasshozukuri style. Many of them were built from the end of the Edo period through the Meiji period, with the oldest supposed to have been built in the 17th century. Not only are there houses, but also temples, shrines, earthen storehouses, Itakura and other traditional buildings that have been preserved. Here, visitors can see the historic hayfields from which the grasses used for roofing the houses are harvested, as well as the forests that hold snow back and protect the village from avalanches, all carefully preserved and intact.
Goshiki Gahara Forest, Takayama City, Gifu
Goshiki Gahara Forest lies at the foot of Mt. Norikura, it covers an expansive 3,000 hectares of the Chubusangaku National Park’s southernmost edge. The forest is home to a diverse ecosystem that is a treasure box of nature with enormous waterfalls, ravines, clear rivers, ponds, wetlands, lakes, plants, flowers, native trees, wild birds and animals. In order to preserve the precious environments of the forest, visitors must be accompanied by an official guide when visiting the area.
Lake Hakusui and Shiramizu Waterfall, Shirakawa Village, Gifu
Located at the end of Gifu Prefectural Route 451, Lake Hakusui is an artificial lake created as a result of the construction of the Oshirakawa Dam. This lake is formed by water from a few different mountain streams, as a result the surface of the lake sparkles an emerald-green color due to it having some sulfur content. Another excellent sightseeing spot located within the natural forests of the Hakusan National Park near to Lake Hakusui is the Shiramizu Waterfall. This waterfall is 72 meters high and eight meters wide with water descending from the top making a thundering sound that sprays mist in the air. The milky white waters of the waterfall glisten beautifully amidst the natural surroundings.
Snow Corridor, Matsumoto City, Nagano
Norikura Echo Line, the highest road in Japan at an altitude of 2,700m, opens in early May every year. From late-April to the end of June, visitors can see humongous, ten-meter high walls of snow near the top of Mt. Norikuradake. Walking between these towering white walls of winter is quite an experience and on a clear day, the mountains of Nagano can be spotted far and wide spread across the horizon. Visitors can get there by taking a bus from Norikura Kogen Tourist Information Center. From here, walk around and enjoy the scenery. It is very cold at the top, so be sure to bring warm clothes, especially in early spring which will feel like winter at the top of the mountain.
Japanese Macaque, Nagano City, Nagano
Japan is home to the Japanese macaque also known as the snow monkey; a cultural treasure widespread in Japan. Travel to Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano Prefecture just one hours drive from Nagano City and view the hot spring bathing wild monkeys in their natural habitat. Visiting during the winter months between December and March offer spectacularly photographic moments of the monkeys bathing surrounded by snow. Whilst here, enjoy the hot spring waters yourself and travel to a nearby town of Shibu or Yudanaka Onsen both of which are centered around the bathing experience.