Japan Romantic Road: Would you like to travel countryside In Japan by a car?

Mount Asama, Shima to Karuizawa
Mount Asama, Shima Onsen to Karuizawa


If you have been visited Japan several times and are thinking to drive in Japan, Japan Romantic Road is recommended.

Japan romantic road
Japan romantic road

Japan Romantic Road is a rural road with the total length of 320 km (200 mile), which connects Nikko, Tochigi and Ueda, Nagano, through our Gunma.

Our Shima Onsen is located around the middle of the road.

There are many sightseeing spots, such as rural Japanese landscape, three national parks, lakes, mountains, Onsen, ruins, and much more.

If you would run through all the route, it will take at least 2 nights and 3 days.

But if you spend more time, you can much more enjoy rural Japan and highlands. So you will get more satisfied.


Recently, the word “Golden Route” has been established in Japan.

This is a word to represent a popular route in Japan for foreign visitors.

It is a route to go through main cities and main sightseeing spots, such as
Narita – Tokyo Disneyland – Tokyo – Hakone – Shizuoka (Mt. Fuji) – Nagoya – Kyoto – Osaka, and so on.
Asakusa, Tokyo
Major sightseeing spots (Tokyo Asakusa)

It is a classic route, where you can cover best sightseeing spots for your first trip in Japan.

Seven out of ten prefectures, where many foreign travelers visit, are located along with this Golden Route.

On the contrary, recently, more and more foreign visitors are not satisfied with this main route, thus they visit places, which has not been known well by foreigners, such as rural area in Japan.

Our Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan is also becoming to be crowded by those customers, who seek rural Onsen resorts.

It is a road, modeled on Romantic Road in Germany.

As well Romantic Road in Germany, Japan Romantic Road is the one, which has been loved by penmen and calligraphy/painting artists since ancient time.

What is the model course like?

I have thought a model course for 3 nights and 4 days, starting from Tokyo (Narita and Haneda Airport), to Nagoya direction, where Central Japan International (Centrair) Airport is located.

Day 1: from Tokyo to Nikko, about 200km

Rent a car, via the highway and Nikko Utsunomiya road, drive to Nikko.

At Nikko, you can enjoy shrines and temples, such as Nikko Toshogu and Futarasan shrine, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and natural landscapes, such as Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Waterfalls.

Nikko Tosyogu
Nikko Tosyogu

You can choose an accommodation from reasonable ones to luxury resorts.

If you are looking for reasonable ones, Turtle Inn Nikko is recommended, which is a member of Japanese Inn Group as well as Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan.

Day 2: from Nikko to Shima Onsen, about 150km

On the next day, via the national highway Route 120, 145, and 353, drive to Shima Onsen.

At Nikko National Park, you can stroll through Senjogahara of Okunikko that has also become a registered wetland of Ramsar Convention.

You can visit Nikko Yumoto Onsen, pass through Konseitoge and drive to Gunma Prefecture.
(Konseitoge requires attention since it is closed during winter due to snow.)

At Gunma side, you can enjoy the wind of plateau by riding on a ropeway in Marunuma Plateau at Katashina Village.

Marununa Highland
Marunuma highland

If you can go a little further, you can also go to Oze National Park.

At Numata, you can enjoy Fukiware Waterfalls, fruit picking, and so on.

Fukiware fall
Fukiware fall

Arriving at Shima Onsen.

As Shima Onsen is inside Jyosinetsu Kogen National Park, you can fully enjoy the nature, such as Okushima Lake, Shima Blue of Shima River, and so on.

At Kashiwaya Ryokan, fully enjoy private Onsen and Washoku.

Private open-air Onsen
Private Onsen at Kashiwaya

Around Shima Onsen, there are “Isama District” and “Kuni District,” which have chosen as “the most beautiful village in Japan.”

In addition, Shima Onsen Resort itself is so much fun.

So you may spend 2 nights here.

Day 3: from Shima Onsen to Karuizawa, about 80km

From Shima Onsen, via Kuresakatoge, Kusatsu Onsen, Oni-oshidasi, and so on, drive to Karuizawa.

Kusatsu Onsen is one of the largest Onsen in Japan.

Please explore the Onsen field.

On the way there, via the foot of Mt. Asama, an active volcano, drive to Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture.

At Karuizawa, you can enjoy the atmosphere of a resort on plateau.

Since there is also a large-scale Prince Shopping Plaza, you can also enjoy shopping.

Karuizawa prince shopping
Karuizawa prince shopping center

Although there are few Ryokan at Karuizawa, there are pensions, hotels, and luxury resorts.

Day 4: from Karuizawa (up to Ueda) about 45km, (up to Nagoya) about 350km

Unno juku
Unno Juku

Starting Karuizawa, via Unno Juku where old streets are preserved and Manns Winery where you can also try tasting (Nagano prefecture is one of the leading producer of wine in Japan), drive to Ueda, the end point of Romantic Road.

At Ueda, there are Ueda Castle built in 16th century, and so on.

This is the end point of Japan Romantic Road.

You can go to Nagoya direction as it is or go around various places in Nagano, such as Matsumoto Castle and Snow Monkeys.

Also close to Matsumoto Castle and Snow Monkeys, there are Ryokan, which are reasonable and provide homely service, and are members of Japanese Inn Group.

Please try it.

Member Ryokan of Japanese Inn Group in Nagano

If you interested in Japanese style Onsen, Please click here
Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan >



  1. Bill Mainzer says:

    My wife and I should like to rent a car and do a road trip through Japan. We have between two and three weeks and want to explore the “true” Japan. Small towns and countryside are more important than big cities, although we would like to see the big cities (without a car)
    When is the best time to go to Japan? We love the food and like to explore. Driving is not a problem and western hotels are not where we would like to stay!
    Can you help plan a trip like this for us for 2019?

    • e_kashiwaya_editor says:

      Thank you for your comment.
      My recommended season for diving Japan is May, October and December.
      May – Beautiful fresh green leaves season, nice weather
      October and December – autumn leaves, nice weather
      Thank you.

  2. Aa_lily says:

    Hi, your article is great! My husband and I plan to go for side road trips from Tokyo in March this year. Is the weather good in March?
    Can you recommend where shall we cover for 6-7 days’ trip?

    We have been to (Narita-Nagano-Shirakawago-Fuji area-Tokyo) with our family last year and we loved it.
    We miss Japan and hope to plan for a couple’s trip for this round. We hope to stay in Ryokan, see beautiful scenery and plan for a romantic trip. haha.

  3. Mark J Hill says:

    Your English is understandable but incorrect. I would be glad to proofread the articles before you publish for a small fee. I have been living in Japan for 17 years.

    • e_kashiwaya_editor says:

      Thank you, Mark san.
      I’m aware , our article’s grammar is not correct.
      And I think that is a problem.
      There is a balance with the cost, but I want to fix it.

  4. Azarbetov says:


    I would like to take the Tokyo Wide Pass and then rent out a car to reach some nice places. Could you please share some ideas for this. I have in mind a plan to reach Karuizawa by Shinkansen and then rent out a car and go to Ueda.
    Kindly share your thoughts on similar trips

    • e_kashiwaya_editor says:

      Sorry for the late reply.
      Ueda also has a Shinkansen stop, so I think it would be better to rent a car at Ueda.

  5. David says:

    Hi, we really like the sound of your road trip. We would like to rent a Car in Tokyo late November , early December. A quick question, would the road be ok thia time of year? Will there be snow ? Will we need to rent a car with snow tires?

    • e_kashiwaya_editor says:

      Hi, Thank you for the question.
      If you drive to Japan Romantic Road at early December, There is no snow in most case.
      But please rent a car with the snow tires just in case.
      Thank you.

  6. Chris says:

    konnichiwa, my wife and I and another couple are looking to hire a car and do a road trip at the end of March 2020 wondering what the roads are like in your area with snow and driving conditions. My wife really wants to visit the Nikko area and then Nagano

    • e_kashiwaya_editor says:

      Hi,Thank you for the comment.
      There is no snow on the road at the end of March around here.

      But, The winter road closures, which seem to be related to customers to Shima Onsen, are the following two sectors.
      Route 292, From mid-November to late April
      It is a road, which passes from Shibu-Yudanaka Onsen in Nagano famous with snow monkeys to Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma, through Shiga Kogen.
      Route 120, From late December to late April
      It is a road, which passes from Nikko in Tochigi with Nikko to Katashina in Gunma, through Konsei Toge.

      Thank you!

  7. Munirah says:

    Thank you for your info. I’m planing to go for road trip with my husband, my okasan, 1 kid & an infant. We’re planning to see shirakawago, karuizawa, kofu – to visit my yamanashi uni and last one yokohama. This will be on 8th Feb. Is there any specific road you would advise? Would love to end the visit with aquarium visit in yokohama