All but one of the country’s 30 highest peaks fall within the Japanese Alps of Central Honshu. The name was coined by an English engineer and archaeologist named William Gowland in the 19th century. Gowland was the first foreigner to explore and scale the principal summits of the Hida, Kiso and Akaishi ranges, whose sawtooth tops today provide a compelling backdrop for winter sports in the area.
In summer, the Alps offer superlative walking. One of the signature treks follows a stretch of the old Edo-era postal road down the dramatic Kiso Valley, between the villages of Tsumago and Magome. Passing through a string of former post towns, pretty farmsteads and pine forests, the route can be covered in 2–3 hours.