I would like to have your advice/feedback on the following 3-week Nagano-focused itinerary:
21/10 – Arrival in Tokyo (early morning)
22/10 – Tokyo
23/10 – Tokyo (Optional: Day trip to Lake Kawaguchi -or- Nikko)
24/10 – Tokyo
25/10 – Tokyo — Matsumoto (Explore Matsumoto)
26/10 – Matsumoto (Day trip to Kamikochi)
27/10 – Matsumoto (Matsumoto Castle, Nakamachi-dori)
28/10 – Matsumoto (Day trip to Daio Wasabi Farm)
29/10 – Matsumoto (Day trip to Norikura Kogen, bus to Mt. Norikura until Oct 31)
30/10 – Matsumoto — Takayama (Explore Takayama, Old Town)
31/10 – Takayama (Day trip to Shinhotaka Ropeway)
01/11 – Takayama (Day trip to Furukawa)
02/11 – Takayama (Higashiyama Walk)
03/11 – Takayama — Nagano (Explore Nagano, Zenkoji Temple)
04/11 – Nagano (Day trip to Togakushi, Togakushi-Jinja, Ninja Museum, Lake Kagami)
05/11 – Nagano (Day trip to Shiga Kogen)
06/11 – Nagano (Day trips to Obuse and/or Matsushiro)
07/11 – Nagano — Tokyo
08/11 – Tokyo
09/11 – Flight from Tokyo Narita
1. How does it look like so far? Does it make sense logistically?
2. I’m considering going through the Alpine Route on the way from Takayama back to Nagano, doing it in one day. Is this a good idea?
3. Given this plan, would it be economic to purchase one of the rail passes available for tourists? If so, which one?
4. Any additional sightseeing / landmarks / highlights in this area suitable for my visit period that you would recommend checking? My top interests are mountains, nature and alpine scenery.
Thanks for your questions. I’ve included my answers below:
1. Yes, your plan looks fine to me. The only thing I would note is that you can probably do the Higashiyama walk and exploring Takayama’s old town in the same day.
2. It’s definitely possible to do the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route on your way from Takayama to Nagano. I would recommend to depart early as it is about 2.5 hours from Takayama to the start of the route.
3. A JR Pass would likely not be worth it for your trip. The JR East Nagano-Niigata Pass covers travel between Tokyo, Nikko, Nagano, and Matsumoto, but is only valid for five non-consecutive days over a 14-day period. With your current schedule, your pass would expire before you can use it to return from Nagano to Tokyo. If you move your dates around, it may be worthwhile.
For your travel around the Japanese Alps between Matsumoto and Takayama, you would benefit from the Alps Wide Free Passport, a 4-day pass that includes buses serving Matsumoto, Kamikochi, Norikura, Takayama, Shinhotaka Ropeway and Shirakawa-go. Without the pass, you’ll spend about 16,000 yen traveling to Kamikochi, Norikura, Takayama, and the Shinhotaka Ropeway. With the pass, you only pay 12,000 yen. To make it work, I recommend moving your visit to Kamikochi to the 28th and buying your pass then.
4. Another sightseeing spot that you may be interested in is Hakuba Mountain Harbor in the Hakuba Valley. The terrace there has great views of the Hakuba Sanzan mountains (part of the Northern Alps).
I hope that helps answer your question!
Thank you very much your detailed answers and tips – this is really helpful. I have a few more questions:
- Since you mentioned Hakuba Mountain Harbor – how accessible and active Hakuba village usually is during late October? Is it worth visiting around that time of the year? Will ropeways to the mountains still be operating? I’m considering spending 1-2 nights there or alterlatively visit it as a day trip from Nagano – would you recommend that?
- Are Senjojiki Cirque / Komagatake Ropeway a suitable day trip from Matsumoto?
I’ve answered your questions below.
1. Hakuba is accessible year-round. Please see the Hakuba Mountain Harbor page for access to the resort. Happo Pond is another popular place to visit in Hakuba, but the ropeway stops running after October 27th. Other activities you can do in Hakuba include kayaking, rock climbing, and mountain biking through Evergreen Outdoor Center. If you are interested in visiting Hakuba Mountain Harbor and doing some other activities, you may want to spend one night in Hakuba.
2. Senjojiki Cirque is doable as a day trip from Matsumoto. It takes about 2 to 2.5 hours to reach the base station of the ropeway from Matsumoto. Check train timetables from Matsumoto to Komagane Station here, and see the bus timetable between Komagane Station and the ropeway here.
I hope that helps.