What is the Mitsuboshi Kaidou?
The Mitsuboshi Kaidou is a 200km stretch of road in the Hokuriku, Hida and Shinshu region of Japan – an area known for its rugged mountains and rural farmland, speckled with historic cities. The road literally translates as ‘three-star road’ (mitsu = three/ boshi = star/ kaidou = highway/road), and connects five ‘three-Michelin-star’ sites, as introduced in the Michelin Green Guide Japan.
The Mitsuboshi Kaidou route begins in the far western city of Kanzawa (sometimes called ‘little Kyoto’), passing through the iconic regions of Gokayama, Shirakawa-go and Takayama, before reaching its finale in the city of Matsumoto – a three-hour drive east of Tokyo. It’s a route famed for its multiple UNESCO Heritage sites, as well as some of Japan’s most beautiful scenery.
Read on for eight travel highlights between Takayama and Matsumoto – the second stretch of the journey. Or you can discover the first part of the journey here.
The cities of Takayama and Matsumoto lie in neighbouring prefectures: Takayama is in the mountainous heights of Gifu, while Matsumoto stands on the plains of Nagano prefecture. The landscapes that stretch between them are spectacular: towerning Alps, thundering rivers, and quiet valleys where hot spring villages can be found. Travelling between them by car is the easiest option, although heavy snowfall can sometimes make the roads harder to traverse.
Whichever time of year you choose to visit, there’s always plenty to see and do. Takayama is known for its colourful festival held in both spring and autumn, considered one of the best in Japan. Matsumoto is an excellent base from which to head into the Japanese Alps: great for hiking in summer and onsen bathing in winter. Both make an excellent second half to the Mitsuboshi Kaidou drive.
Here, are seven highlights between these two historic destinations...
1. Explore Miyagawa market
Spend the morning at Miyagawa market in Takayama – one of the three majors morning markets in Japan, selling everything from flowers to pickles to fresh produce. It takes place beside Miyagawa River in the old town. On the river side, there are around 50 open-air stalls stretching about 400 metres, from Kaji bridge to Yayoi bridge – a scenic spot for some pictures (especially in the morning when the mist clings to the river).