Chubu Region

Outline of Chubu

Occupying a large portion at the center of Honshu, the main island of Japan, the Chubu Region includes nine prefectures: Aichi, Gifu, Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Nagano, Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui. The land area of this region is wide from north to south, and also, there are big differences in elevation from flat lands by the seaside to steep mountains in the central area.

Location of the Chubu Region, Japan (中部地方の位置)

Because of these geographical features, the region has a couple of different climatic zones, and also there are a variety of industries and cultures thriving here, making it very difficult to describe the region in one sentence. Or, it could be said that this diversity itself is the very identity of the Chubu Region.

Mt. Fuji and Suruga Bay in January. A view from Satta Pass (さった峠からの冬の富士山)
Mt. Fuji and Suruga Bay in January. A view from Satta Pass near Shimizu Port, Shizuoka (with a Speed Anastigmat 25mm f1.5 lens).

The Chubu Region is usually divided into three areas (sub-regions): Tokai, Hokuriku, and the Central Highlands. This way of dividing the region is commonly used by us Japanese.

Map of the Chubu Region (中部地方の地形)
Nine Prefectures in the Chubu Region.

Tokai Area

The Tokai area is the southern part that runs along the Pacific Ocean. With Nagoya City as its hub, this is the area where a large number of the population is concentrated, and where various manufacturing industries and businesses flourish. Blessed with a relatively warm and mild climate (though the summer is humid with a lot of rain), Tokai also has a lot of interesting aspects in terms of agriculture and tourism.

Rice fields in the Nobi Plain (濃尾平野)
Rice fields in the Nobi Plain with the city of Nagoya in the distance.

In the southern part of Gifu Prefecture flows three big rivers: the Kiso, Nagara, and Ibi. They eventually flow into Isa Bay, forming a vast flat land in their lower reaches called the Nobi Plain. This is where Nagoya, the biggest city in the Chubu Region, is located. The population of Nagoya and its surrounding area began to increase after the Second World War, and now the expansion has crossed the prefectural borders, forming a large metropolis called the Chukyo Metropolitan Area, the third largest metropolis in Japan after the Greater Tokyo Area and the Keihanshin Metropolitan Area.

the street in front of JR Nagoya Station(名古屋駅前のメイン通り)
One of the main roads in front of JR Nagoya Station, Aichi Prefecture (with the DMC-FX30).

Hokuriku Area

The Hokuriku area contains four prefectures along the Sea of Japan: Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui. This area is known for heavy snowfall in winter: for example, Takada in Joetsu City (Niigata Prefecture) has the snow accumulation record of 3.77m, which was observed in 1945.

Niitsuya-koji Street in the snow, Niigata.(雪の新津屋小路、新潟)
Niitsuya-koji Street in winter, Niigata.

The snowfall melts in spring, providing the rice paddies with much water. So, obtaining water has never been a big issue for rice farmers in this area, and that is one of the reasons why Hokuriku has become one of the top rice-growing areas in Japan, both in quantity and quality.

Planting rice in Niigata (新潟の田植え)
Rice planting in early May, Niigata Prefecture.

The Central Highlands

The Central Highlands are sandwiched by Tokai to the south and Hokuriku to the north. This is a mountainous area where Japan’s three biggest mountain ranges run side by side from north to south. Collectively they are called the “Roofs of Japan” or the “Japan Alps,” mainly because many of the peaks are really high, exceeding 2,500m, and several of them exceed 3,000m.

 Mountains of the "Northern Alps" including Mt. Hotaka (上高地)
Mountains of the “Northern Alps” as seen from Kamikochi, Nagano Prefecture.

A couple of narrow plains, which are not so large in area, are surrounded by mountains (these types of plains are called bonchi or basins), and these are the places where the population of the Central Highlands is concentrated. These basins have a typical “inland” climate: humidity is low, there is not much precipitation throughout the year, and the temperature differences between days and nights are large. Under these climatic conditions, unique industries and farm production have developed here.

Peach orchard in Nagano (長野県の桃畑)
A peach orchard along the Chikuma River, in Obuse-machi, Nagano Prefecture.

Fruit cultivation has been thriving in many parts of Nagano Prefecture since many years ago, taking advantage of landforms called alluvial fans. These days, Nagano Prefecture is known as the second largest apple producer in Japan, behind only Aomori Prefecture. The prefecture also has Kawakami Village on its eastern border with Saitama Prefecture. This village is unique in that the entire village is located at a height of over 1,000 meters and, according to its official publication, the average temperature of the village in August which is 19.5 degrees Celsius is usually lower than that of Hokkaido (20.5 degrees Celsius). About 60% of the working population in the village is engaged in farming, and the quantity of lettuce they produce in the vast fields is one of the largest in the country.

Katsunuma winery in Yamanashi (勝沼の風景)
A vineyard of Katsunuma, Yamanashi Prefecture.

Yamanashi Prefecture is also known as the “fruit kingdom.” The prefecture is the premier producer of a couple of fruits, such as grapes, peaches, and plums. In particular, Katsunuma Town in Koshu City is said to be the place where grape cultivation was first started in Japan during the Kamakura Period (1192 – 1333). The town is also known as the birthplace of the Japanese wine industry. Today, the town has over 30 wineries, and their total wine production accounts for about a quarter of the country’s total. The white wine from Katsunuma is said to go very well with Japanese dishes, and in recent years, it has been attracting growing attention from wine drinkers overseas.

Photographs: Properties of Unfamiliar Japan,
unless otherwise noted.