Japan's Romantic Road

Sayônara in Nippon - 350 kilometres long and 27 towns and villages along the way: this is by no means everything that Germany’s most popular tourist route and the “Japanese Romantic Road” have in common. Beautiful landscapes, breath-taking natural scenery, magnificent flora, picturesque towns, a fascinating cultural heritage, historical highlights, celebrations and festivals, famous spas and thermal springs are characteristic of this route through Central Honshu, the largest of Japan’s four main islands, between 100 and 180 kilometres west of Tokyo.

The theme road was established in April 1982 by the mayors of the towns along the route which goes from Ueda to Utsunomiya. The idea for the road came from the famous Japanese landscape painter Kaii Higashiyama, with Germany’s “Romantic Road” serving as a model. It saw the beginning of the “…cordial relations for the benefit of the guests of both countries and their people …” (as it says in the official document) that were entered into in 1988 and intensified ten years later. In 2008, a German delegation travelled along the Japanese Romantic Road to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the partnership between the two tourist routes.

Both theme roads take you through truly romantic regions and landscapes full of an atmosphere that just breathes history, and often visited and celebrated by poets. What is more, this richly varied region that lies between the prefecture of the Olympic city of Nagano and Jyoshinetsu Kogen National Park at one end and Nikko National Park and the Tohoku prefecture at the other, has a history of close connections with Germany that goes back almost 200 years to the days of japanologist and ethnologist Philipp Franz Siebold from Würzburg, and the Swabian physician, Erwin von Baelz. Both visited Japan several times in the 19th century to do research. In Kasatsu, where he went to investigate the famous thermal springs, there is a plaque commemorating Baelz, who was known as the “Japan Doctor”, and Siebold, who had many students in the land of the rising sun, is honoured as “Shiborutu-san” to this very day. The landscape is characterised by towering volcanoes like the Asama, Shiran or Nikko Shiran, by summits that reach high-alpine heights, with skiing resorts, thundering waterfalls, picturesque valleys and extended plateaux of marshes, lakes, forests, meadows and fields of flowers. Its varying climate in the regions around the volcanoes is not unlike that of the Rhine-Main region. The exuberance of the flora is simply delightful: birches, ashes, pines, larches, firs, cedars (approx. 13,700 in the region around Imaichi), azaleas, bonsai, rhododendrons – and lotus flowers everywhere ...

Time and again, an ancient culture and tradition meet up with modernity. There are numerous thermal spas, fantastic old castles and temples, some of which go much further back than the famous “Edo period” from 1603 to 1868, during which Japan was united and almost completely isolated itself from the rest of the world. The 27-metre-high Peace of God statue in Utsunomiya and the famous Toshogu Shrine in Nikko are only two of the singular attractions along this partner route.
Sayônara in Nippon!

The towns and villages in the different prefectures:

  • Nagano region: Ueda, Tobu, Komoro, Miyota, Karuizawa
  • Gunma-Agatsuma region: Tsumagoi, Naganohara, Kusatsu, Kuni, Agatsuma, Nakanojo, Azuma, Ikaho, Takyama
  • Gunma-Tone-Numata region: Numata, Niiharu, Tsukiyono, Minatami, Kawaba, Showa, Shirasawa, Tone, Katashina
  • Tochigi region: Nikko, Imaichi, Kanuma, Utsunomiya.