Driving around 2 and half hours by car via the highway to the west from Tokyo, you’ll end up close to the city of Suwa and Chino. From city of Chino, there is the starting point of the Venus Line which will climb up to a height of 2000 meter above sea level over a total length of 76 kilometer, ending at the Utsukushigahara mountain area in Nagano prefecture.
Established in 1968, parts of the Venus Line used to be toll but nowadays the complete route is toll-free. Starting in Chino city where the route 152 meets the route 192, the route starts in an urban area. As the road progresses upwards the mountain, the houses along the road slowly start to disappear with scenic viewpoints and touristic spots coming into place. After around 30 mins or 25 kilometer of driving, there is a cross-section. Either way is can be followed as both directions can end up at Shirakaba lake. Continuing on the main road is a more straight road while taking the route to the right has more corners and has the opportunity to go to the Tateshima Skyline which goes to Saku city. The opposite direction of Tateshima Skyline goes towards Shirakaba lake.
From Shirakaba lake, the Venus Line ventures towards Kurumayama, a legendary mountain that is an easy hike with great views on a clear day. A few kilometers further there is a cross-section with shops and a big parking which is a popular meeting place for both car enthusiasts and bikers. The Venus Line goes to the north from here on the route 194. Around 10 minutes later at Wada Touge the route 194 turns into the route 460 which goes all the way up to Utsukushigahara at which there is an open air museum and big parking.
In addition to the main Venus Line route, there are so many side roads, additional scenic drives and stopping points that you can drive here for days without getting bored. Add to this that the season changes are significant here resulting in a completely different driving experience depending on the month that you go. This makes the Venus Line area one of the best driving paradises in Japan.
During the winter, some parts and related roads to the Venus Line might be closed. In summer and autumn season, you can expect large amount of tourists as well so it is advised to go on a weekday or early morning/late afternoon if you really want to enjoy the roads. The Venus Line isn’t very close to Tokyo but while it is possible to do this as a day trip, my recommendation would be to make it a two-day or three-day trip to really get the most out of it. There are a lot of affordable hotels and hostels around the Shirakaba lake area.
Here is an impression video on Youtube:
And the link to the route on Google Maps:
Additional bonus pictures: