Japan's alpine backbone is all forested mountains and steaming onsen (hot springs) extending across much of central Honshu, a landscape that is particularly captivating in autumn when the koyo (colourful leaves) turn to shades of russet and gold.
Journey into the three ranges of the Japanese Alps from Tokyo and its surrounds, where snow-capped mountains dot historic towns. Perhaps start with the five curved tiers of Matsumoto’s wooden castle before moving onto rickshaw-trammelled Takayama’s Folk Village and luxurious ryokans. Then, there’s unesco-listed Shirakawago’s 18th-century thatched farmhouses tucked away among the Hida Mountains. Lastly, Kanazawa is the ideal introduction into the geisha world of Japanese gardens.
Skiing can be enjoyed in winter and hiking in summer, in a region that provides a wonderful natural antidote to the neon lights and populated cities elsewhere in Japan. The Japan Alps are also famed for the pink-faced macaques - also known as snow monkeys - which congregate in rotemburo (outdoor hot pools) during the winter months to keep warm, the steam rising all around them and ice clinging to their grey beards and exposed fur.