New 2-Day and 4-Day Bus Passes to Enjoy Kamikochi and Beyond

June 1st, 2010 by
Category: Information

Many foreign tourists travel around Japan using a JR Rail Pass. But when they get to Nagano Prefecture, they are hit with the realization that most of the most popular destinations like Kamikochi, Togakushi and Jigokudani Snow Monkeys (as well as my onsen town, Togura-Kamiyamada) all require non-JR transportation. Then there’s the issue of getting from Hida Takayama to Matsumoto, two major “Inbound” tourist destinations. Using JR would take over 5 hours to go around the Alps. However, another option would be the trans-Alps bus that takes just over 2 hours.

Well, the people at Alpico Bus have apparently been listening, and have come up with the following 2 new bus passes that are perfect for people wanting to explore the Matsumoto – Kamikochi – Hida Takayama area:

Alpico Bus's 2 new Passes

Alpico Bus's 2 new Passes

2 Day Free Passport Kamikochi / Norikura
*Price: 5,000 yen for adults, 2,500 yen for children
*Area: Kamikochi, Shirahone and Norikura to the west, Matsumoto, Asama Onsen and Utsukushigahara to the east.
*Availability: Buy at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal or Shin Shimashima Station from 01-April 2010 until 31-March 2011.
This pass covers Nagano’s most spectacular scenic spot, Kamikochi, which is also the launching area for mountaineers to climb the Japanese Alps, as well as secluded Shirahone onsen with its milky white hot spring waters and Norikura, outdoor sports paradise. Then you can ride back down to Matsumoto and see its world-famous castle, take a dip in the hot springs at Asama and Utsukushigahara Onsens, before riding back up to the panoramic views from Utsukushigahara Kogen.

4 Day Alps Wide Shinshu/Hida Free Passport
*Price: 10,000 yen for adults, 5,000 yen for children
*Area: Same as the 2-day pass PLUS Hida Takayama, Shirakawago, Shinhotaka Onsen and Gero Onsen
*Availability: Buy at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal, Shin Shimashima Station, and Takayama or Gero Bus Centers from 01-April 2010 until 31-March 2011.
Included in this Pass are the impeccably restored neighborhoods of Hida Takayama, the world heritage thatched roof farmhouses of Shirakawago, Shinhotaka Onsen on the western side of the Alps, and Gero Onsen, known from long ago as one of Japan’s top 3 onsens.

Fellow Nagano Inbound Ambassador Tom-san reports that Kamikochi is in fine spring form, so take advantage of these new passes from Alpico and enjoy!

For more information, contact Matsumoto Dentetsu at 0263-28-3111
And/or check out the official Kamikochi website.

85 Responses to “New 2-Day and 4-Day Bus Passes to Enjoy Kamikochi and Beyond

  1. I forgot to ask: Do they still have those 2-day/4-day Alpico bus passes? If so, should I add use those as well?

  2. Honey-san, Alpico will likely again offer the 2 & 4-day passes. With the route you mentioned (Kanazawa – Nagano (Togakushi) – Matsumoto – Tokyo), then the Alpico passes wouldn’t be necessary. If, for example, you added Kamikochi and/or Hida-Takayama, either as a side trip from Matsumoto or changing your route (Kanazawa – Hida Takayama – Kamikochi – Matsumoto – Nagano (Togakushi) – Tokyo) then the Alpico passes would be beneficial
    Regarding extending your trip and factoring in travel back to Narita Airport, how about using to calculate the various legs of your trip to compare with the costs of the JR passes? I hope that’s helpful!

  3. Tyler-san, you’re awesome! Thank you for all your insight. You’ve given me a much better handle on our transportation logistics. The website you provided is extremely helpful; I wish I’d known earlier 🙂

  4. Hi!

    I would like to buy 4day pass. I just saw its available until 31st of March. However, I am arriving in Japan in the end of April. How can I buy this pass? I read there are travel agents but find it hard to find it. Could you please give me some advice?

    Thank u!

  5. Dani-san,
    Thank you for your interest in Kamikochi and Alpico’s 4-day pass. I confirmed with Alpico that they will again offer the pass the next fiscal year starting 01-April 2014, with the same terms and conditions as the current year. However, the price will change with the sales tax increase on 01-April. As soon as the new pricing is decided, the website, etc. will apparently be updated. If you check back in a few days, the Alpico website should be adjusted with the new info. I hope this is helpful and that you enjoy Kamikochi!

  6. Thank you! 🙂
    But is it possible to buy those passes from overseas or I should buy it once I am in Japan?
    Can I at least make reservation by phone?

  7. Dani-san, The Alpico website says the passes can be purchased at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal and “Major Travel Agencies”. It doesn’t specify whether or not that includes overseas agencies. But the pass isn’t in any danger of selling out, so it wouldn’t be a problem to wait and purchase it upon arrival at ‘Moto. FYI, some versions of the pass include transportation from Tokyo or Nagoya if you need.

  8. Tyler-san,

    thank you very much. I am really lost with alpico website on japanese.

    The thing is that I will be traveling during the Gold Week meaning I have to make reservations for the bus in advance (at least for Tokyo-Takayama and Takayama-Kyoto). I will not go to Matsumoto in the end. Is it possible to buy this pass in Tokyo?

    Thanks you!

  9. Dani-san, Thank you for your reply. I will pass on your displeasure over Alpico. It would be nice if they’d add more English to their website. Anyways, the pass is purchasable at major travel agencies in Japan, so yes, you should be able to buy it at a travel agent in Tokyo. And you’re right — it’s best to get seat reserations for peak seasons. Thanks!

  10. Hi I m liew.i will go japan Nagoya in June.i need to buy the 4 days pass but I try to ask travel agency here dun have the ticket. What can I do? Can I buy this pass in Nagoya CHUBU airport as a foreigner.

    Either can buy e ticket online.



  11. Liew-san,
    Thank you for your inquiry, and your interest in Kamikochi.
    According to Alpico’s website, the Kamikochi Passes are sold at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal, Shin-Shimashima Bus Terminal, and “major travel agencies”. It can be assumed to mean “major travel agencies IN JAPAN”. So it’s not like the JR Rail Pass which can only be purchased overseas. To the opposite, the Kamikochi Passes can only be purchased in Japan. If you can find a major travel agency at the Chubu airport then you should be able to purchase the pass there. If not, just get it at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal (assuming you will first go to Matsumoto from Nagoya). Good luck, and I hope you enjoy the Japanese Alps!

  12. Hi!
    I’m deciding between traveling to Matsumoto-Kamikochi-Hirayu Onsen-Takayama-Shirakawago-Kanazawa in either early June (before the start of rainy season) or 3rd week of July(after the end of rainy season). Is the summer in these areas as hot as Tokyo? Is it too hot to enjoy the Onsen? Also, is the rainy season similar to those in Tokyo areas as stated above? If not, when is the rainy season?

  13. Millie-san, Thank you for your inquiry. To answer your questions,
    Rainy season here in Nagano (incl. Matsumoto & Kamikochi) tends to be the same as Tokyo, i.e. mid-June to early-July. Note: ‘Rainy Season’ varies year-by-year. Start & end can be earlier or later. Even in the middle there can be stretches of a week or more of no rain. I suggest trying to build as much flexibility as possible into your schedule. Of those places you mentioned, Kamikochi is the only one that I think would be considerably better on a clear day (better to see the majestic Alps that way).
    Summer temperatures in Matsumoto City can be as high in the day as in Tokyo, but usually drop down at night low enough to not need A/C to sleep. Humidity is noticeably less-oppressive in Matsumoto City than Tokyo. Kamikochi on the other hand is much higher elevation so much cooler and less humid.
    I hope that info is helpful. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!

  14. Thanks for the info! Was wondering about the Onsen. Will it be too hot in summer at Hirayu Onsen? Another question. when will the rice planting season in Shirakawago? Since we are coming from Tokyo area, I guess we can be a little more flexible.

  15. Millie-san, I apologize for overlooking your question on onsens in the summer. Kamikochi’s average temps can be found here: As for whether or not it is too hot to take an onsen bath in the summer, that is a pretty subjective question. I run an onsen inn in Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen and I can tell you that August is our busiest month so plenty of people do soak in the onsen baths even in the hottest time of the year. Regarding rice planting season in Shirakawago, I don’t know what their elevation is (this website is for Nagano Prefecture — Shirakawago is in Gifu) but around here, rice fields at 400-500 meter elevation have already been planted and preparation has started in the fields around our town, elevation 370-meters. You can certainly hear the frogs at night now that the paddies are flooded!

  16. Hi,
    I apologized for the questions I am gonna ask next but it’s something I still do not understand with usage of Wide free pass on Bus (in which the pass has covered)
    Which of these 2 scenarios are more true if you purchased the 4-day Wide Free pass:
    1. You purchased the pass and only need to show the pass to the bus driver without additional seat reservation/ticket to be made (hop around bus as long there is seat available on non-reservation bus)
    2. You purchased the pass but you will be required to make/buy reservation/ticket for the corresponding date and time on the bus you traveling on.

    I’m a little confused with how it will be, hope it makes any sense.

  17. Vince-san,
    Good question! Basically, if the bus isn’t full, you are free to ‘hop around bus’. However, on busy weekends or holiday periods, without a reservation you may be stuck without a seat and won’t be able to ride. So even with the pass, it is recommended to make seat reservations (no extra charge). NOTE: Reservations are especially recommended for visitors to Kamikochi for their return bus. For busses to Kamikochi, if one bus is full it may just be a matter of waiting for the next bus. For the return busses, if the last bus is full you may be stuck if you don’t have a reservation. I hope that helps!

  18. Stanley-san, Thanks for your inquiry. Typically the website for Alpico (the bus company) shows the pass expiry as March 31st, the end of the fiscal year here. But then magically in April, the website is updated with new effective dates for the new fiscal year. So to answer your question, the pass will most likely be renewed for another year from April 2016, including May and June. Hope that helps!

  19. Hi Stanley,

    As Tyler said, the pass and it’s contents haven’t been officially announced for 2016. After talking with an Alpico representative I can confirm that it will be available in May/June 2016 as well. Some changes may be made to the price and/or contents of the pass, so check in with us again in April!


  20. Tintin-san, Thank you for your question. As mentioned previously, and reiterated by Blair, Alpico hasn’t formally announced continuing the 2 and 4-day passes for the 2016 season, but in all likelihood it will, so please check back in April. Thanks!

  21. Does this pass have a restriction that you must have temporary visitor status to purchase like the JR Pass and other similar passes? Or can anyone purchase it? Thanks

  22. Kylie-san, the 2-day and 4-day Kamikochi passes are marketed in Japanese to Japanese travelers, too, so it is not just for foreigners on temporary visitor status. Hope you enjoy the Japanese Alps.

  23. Hi Tyler,
    we are heading kamikochi with direct bus from Tokyo on Sunday the 19th in august, and will spens a couple of days there. After this, we will be going to Kanazawa,
    i have checked from kamikochi to hirayu onsen, and from there to Takayama and finaly Takayama to Kanazawa. Is there any easyer or cheaper way to go?should we get a 2 days pass?
    thank you.

  24. Nuria-san, So you’re going to explore the Japanese Alps, eh? Sounds fun. If you’re spending 2 nights / days in Kamikochi, then instead of the 2-day pass the 4-day Wide Free Passport ( may be more useful. It covers Kamikochi, Hirayu and Takayama, so only the transport on to Kanazawa would be extra. I hope the weather cooperates with your trip to the Alps.

  25. Hi Tyler,
    I am in Matsumoto on Feb 2 early morning and
    1. I will go Kamikochi, but I see on website the bus route for Kamikochi is not allowed in the winter, it means that we can not come at this time.
    2. And I book hotel in Mt Norikura, so it is easy to move from Kamikochi to Mr Norikura.
    3. the first day, any lockers keep our luggage in Kamikochi.

  26. Thanh-san,
    Thank you for your inquiry for Kamikochi and Norikura.
    As you mentioned, bus service for Kamikochi is discontinued in the winter. Access would be via snowshoes or crosscountry skies from Sawando, with appropriate experience, gear, etc. recommended. Most of Kamikochi is closed for the winter, including coin lockers so you would have to leave your luggage at your accommodation in Norikura or at Sawando.
    If you have any other questions, please let us know.
    I hope you enjoy winter in the Japanese Alps.

  27. Hi Tyler;

    Understand from the site that from Takayama-Shirakawago, certain bus is stated as reserved for some time slot. Does it mean that the free pass could not use these time slot of buses? Or that, we need to reserve this time slot in advance for these “reserved” seat time slot bus.

    Secondly, with the pass, are we allowed to reserve the seat days in advance or to que on mins before the time slot hopefully to board the bus or we can book seat on the day itself for travel. example book in the morning for afternoon buses.

    Is there only one bus per time slot or many buses per time slot. That is, if only one bus per time slot, if bus is full while que on line, you need to wait for next time slot.


  28. Hi there,

    You cannot ride the reserved buses using the bus pass. If you would like to ride a reserved bus, you would have to reserve a seat and purchase a ticket separately (at full cost). Reservations are available from one month before the day of departure.

    For non-reserved buses, I recommend you queue early to guarantee a seat on the bus. During busy times, additional buses may be deployed for each time slot.

    I hope that helps answer your question.



  29. Hi, can I confirm that the 4 day pass us still available and can I buy it in Takayama (Noni bus counter??)

  30. Hi
    Can you advise if I can buy the 4 day bus pass in Takayama and if so, is it at the main bus terminal ?


  31. Hi there,

    The 4-Day Pass is still available, and yes, you can purchase it at the Takayama Bus Terminal.

    The price has changed slightly since this post was published. You can see the latest pamphlet here.


  32. Hi Adeline,

    You can purchase the 4-Day Pass at the Takayama Bus Terminal.

    The price has changed slightly since this post was published. You can see the latest pamphlet here.


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