Model courseMake the most of the 2-Day Free Passport!
From Matsumoto to Norikura to Kamikochi.
2 immersive days of Nagano’s nature, cities and sights.
You only have two days free but you want to make the most of your time to enjoy Matsumoto and Norikura and Kamikochi. If this sounds like you, this jam-packed sample itinerary is the perfect way to enjoy everything from natural sights, cities and food. By making full use of the 2-Day Free Passport which gives you unlimited travel on trains and buses for two days, you’ll be able to explore everything on your ambitious schedule. You can also tailor it to suit your interests so, what are you waiting for? Grab a 2-Day Free Passport and set out on your overnight trip to discover what Matsumoto is all about!
The 2-Day Free Passport allows for a truly convenient trip as you can get unlimited rides on ALPICO trains and buses. Start your trip by catching the Kamikochi Line from Matsumoto Station. Spend the train ride enjoying the passing scenery of the mountains and once you arrive at the final stop, Shinshimashima Station, transfer to the bus bound for Norikura Kogen.
The 2-Day Free Passport can be purchased at Shinshimashima Station on the Kamikochi Line and Matsumoto Bus Terminal.
Once you arrive at Norikura Tourist Information Center, catch the shuttle bus to make your way further up the mountain to the summit of Mount Norikura (Tatamidaira). You won’t be able to take your eyes off the gradually changing mountains and scenery as the bus makes its non-stop ascent of over 1000 meters.
The highest bus stop in Japan
You’ve reached your first destination, the summit of Mount Norikura, also known as Tatamidaira which is a staggering 2702 meters above sea level. The bus stop here also has an elevation of 2716 meters and has made a name for itself as one of the highlights of Tatamidaira and as Japan’s highest bus stop. Don't forget to take a photo to mark the occasion.
Have a lunch break before you set about exploring the area. Eating while feasting your eyes on the scenery offered by the 2700-meter elevation is an extraordinary dining experience. Hoba miso, a traditional regional dish unique to the Hida Takayama region is definitely worth trying at least once.
The summit is 2763 meters above sea level and is around a 15-minute walk from Tatamidaira Bus Terminal. From the summit, you can take in the marvelous sweeping views of the mountains of the Northern Alps including Mt. Kasa, Mt. Yake and Mt. Yari. The leisurely hike itself is one of Mt. Mao’s main attractions as it is an easy walk for people of all ages from children to the elderly.
The summit of Mt. Daikoku(Daikokudake) is 2772 meters above sea level and is around a 20-minute walk from Tatamidaira Bus Terminal. It only takes a short hike to reach the summit making Mt. Daikoku the most easily accessible mountain, second only to Mt. Mao. It not only offers a panoramic view of the Northern, Central and Southern Alps, but it is apparently also a popular spot from which to watch the sunrise. You won’t even feel tired from the hike after you see the scenery that will spread out before your eyes.
With the 2-Day Free Passport, you can also get unlimited rides on the Town Sneaker sightseeing bus to explore the city. Once you get back to Matsumoto, catch the Town Sneaker to check out the illuminations at Matsumoto Castle where you’ll be able to see a magical, stunning side of the Castle that you won’t be able to see during the day.
Your accommodation for the night, Shoho, is only one bus ride away from Matsumoto Castle. From the hotel, which is nestled in the hills of the Utsukushigahara Onsen (hot springs), you’ll be able to take in the sweeping views of the magnificent Northern Alps and the Matsumoto castle town. The mouth-watering dinners and hot springs will be sure to help you recover from the day’s journey.
Nagano is a region that is rich in nature and its crystal-clear waters and natural environment have made it home to an abundant range of vegetables, wild edible plants and even meat and fish that are local to the region. At Shoho, you’ll be able to delight your taste buds to your heart’s content with a series of unique, creative Japanese kaiseki dishes (traditional multi-course Japanese meal) that generously use seasonal Nagano produce.
Rumor has it that Utsukushigahara Onsen, one of Nagano’s most famous hot springs, has been loved by locals for over 1000 years. Shoho has seven different types of indoor and outdoor baths using water drawn from a hot spring and going onsen-hopping at the hotel is a must-try activity in itself. Relishing the nighttime views whilst relaxing in a hot spring bath makes for a perfect end to the first day.
Wake up a little early to enjoy the footbaths where you’ll be met with a breathtaking view of the Northern Alps. You can also immerse yourself in the scenery and feel the change of the seasons by simply admiring the wild grasses and flowers surrounding the nearby gardens. For a blissful way to spend the morning, breathe in some fresh air and let the footbaths gradually warm up your entire body.
The buffet boasts a wide variety of fine dishes and offers some unique services. The vegetables are locally grown in Nagano and are picked every morning, the bread is fresh from the hearth and you can even get an onigiri (rice ball) made for you on the spot which makes it feel like you’re staying at a relative’s in the countryside. Watching the chefs cook in the open kitchen is also a treat in itself and will make you feel energized for the day ahead.
Shoho is also a convenient place to stay since you can catch one direct bus to Kamikochi from the bus stop in front of the hotel. If you’re lucky enough to board the bilingual bus service, you’ll be able to enjoy the English commentary on your way to Kamikochi.
Walking through the forest and crossing a river is all part of the scenic route that connects to Lemeiesta Hotel. The Lemeiesta Hotel owes its status as a popular lunch spot not only to its flavorsome meals but also to the views it offers of the Azusa River and the mountain ranges of Kamikochi which diners can enjoy as they eat. If you’re after a meal fit for the marvelous views of Kamikochi, this is the place to go.
The Weston Relief
Located a short walk away from Lemeiesta Hotel is a plaque commemorating the British missionary, Walter Weston who helped make Kamikochi’s beauty known throughout the world. In fact, he is also the person responsible for popularizing recreational mountaineering in Japan.
En route from Kappabashi to Myojin Pond are the Dakesawa wetlands. The abundant waters of the wetlands make for a truly beautiful and mystical scene. The area itself is a plethora of picturesque landscapes with its blighted trees and vantage points from which you can see Mount Hotaka.
Kappabashi, or the Kappa Bridge, is one of Kamikochi’s icons. From atop the bridge, you can see the Hotaka Mountain Range, Mount Yakedake, the waters of the Azusa River and the budding green Chosenia plants, all of which come together to create a scenery which has a therapeutic effect that will rest your mind and free it from day-to-day worries.
Kamikochi Visitor Center
The Kamikochi visitor center is the place where you’ll be able to discover everything you need to know about Kamikochi. Through the exhibits and video screenings about nature and the nature observation gatherings, you’ll learn all the information you need to deepen your understanding and appreciation for the nature in Kamikochi.
Perfect for a trip with friends, Nakamachi Street has a nostalgic atmosphere thanks to its traditional storehouse-style buildings, and is popular among tourists as a uniquely Japanese, elegant and charming area to explore. Aside from the stores selling traditional folk art, craft and handicrafts, the street is full of old buildings that have been converted to house trendy cafes, pastry shops and other facilities.
Opposite Nakamachi Street on the other side of the Metoba River is Nawate Street, a retro shopping arcade which is still reminiscent of the olden days. There are almost 50 stores along the arcade selling everything from vintage everyday tools and antiques to traditional Japanese confectionary. Walking down this strip will almost feel like you’ve gone back in time to a Japan from several decades ago.
For centuries, Honmachi Street near Matsumoto Castle has thrived as the city’s commercial and cultural center. It is now also home to the Shinmai Media Garden, the new leading cultural facility that boasts a terrace from which you can overlook the illuminated streets of Matsumoto at twilight and see the brilliant city lights with the mountains as a backdrop.
For your last dinner, go out for soba noodles which are a specialty of Nagano. Make it an extra authentic Japanese meal by ordering some tempura as the soba will taste even better with this iconic side dish. And remember, when in Japan, slurp your noodles - it’ll be a more memorable meal that way.
The various souvenir stores are located in the bus terminal so you’ll have plenty of time to decide what to get even if your departure time is approaching. Some of the stores on this floor are well-known local stores so you’ll be sure to find something perfect at the end of your trip for your family and friends. Don’t forget to buy something for yourself as well.
Since these are just some of our recommended sites, you can customize this itinerary however you like to suit your interests and use the 2-Day Free Passport to enjoy your own personalized trip.