Hello, guys! I\’ll be flying in Nagoya on the first week of December.Here\’s a rough draft of my itinerary— Dec 2Arrival in NagoyaDec 3Will briefly explore Nagoya before heading to TakayamaSpend the night in Takayama (or not)Dec 4Takayama to Shirakawa-goCheck out and head to Shin-Hotake Ropeway?Dec 5Head to Nagano City (as base)Explore nearby towns around Nagano(Chino City, Lake Suwa)Dec 6Still in Nagano exploring nearby townsGo ski-ing somewhere northDec 7Head to MatsumotoExplore MatsumotoDecember 8Explore Matsumoto or go to Fuji Lake or anywhere near mount FujiMaybe Kiso Valley/Nagasendo trailDecember 9I don\’t know yet.December 10Fly out from Nagoya. Like I said, this is only a rough draft of 9-day itinerary. I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, and what not. Especially when it comes to transport. I have stumbled upon bus and train passes that cover the areas I have mentioned above but I couldn\’t decide on which to book. Also, if you have a different approach/itinerary to cover the abovementioned areas, I would as well love to consider it. I haven\’t mentioned places like Kamikochi, Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, Big Cedar trees area, etc because they are going to be closed during my abovementioned travel dates (December 2-10). 🙁 anyway, I would love to hear from you guys. Cheers!
Looks like an exciting trip! I have a few recommendations regarding your time in Nagano.
Some of the towns you’ve mentioned are quite far from one another. For example, Chino and Suwa are much closer to Matsumoto than Nagano City. While visiting Nagano City, you may rather want to visit areas like Matsushiro, Obuse, and Yamanouchi.
Matsushiro is a sleepy town with a history of castles and samurai, as well as being the location of the imperial underground shelter dug during WWII. Obuse has a wonderful atmosphere with traditional Japanese architecture, art museums and cafes that serve delicious desserts using locally-grown chestnuts. Yamanouchi is a hot spring resort area and home to the snow monkeys—Nagano’s most popular mascots.
When in Matsumoto, I highly recommend visiting Matsumoto Castle and taking a trip south to the Kiso Valley. The old post towns of the Nakasendo surrounded by forests and mountains have a timeless charm. Narai and Kiso Fukushima are relatively close, and if you’re heading back to Nagoya you may want to stop at Tsumago or Magome along the way. If you like Japanese sake, Suwa has a group of five sake breweries called the go-kura where you can taste a wide variety of rice wines (see more information about Suwa).
For visiting Mt. Fuji, one day will not be enough time to travel all the way to the Fuji Lakes area (one-way travel is about 4 hours). If you want to visit the lakes, I recommend spending the night there. Otherwise, you can travel from Matsumoto to Fujimi-machi and see Mt. Fuji from the Fujimi Panorama Resort, or see it from the heights of Kiyosato on the other side of Yatsugatake. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji from Lake Suwa as well—and winter is the clearest time of year.
Finally, about skiing, many resorts will not be open at the beginning of December (snowfall in November/early December is inconsistent). But you can definitely ski at the Karuizawa Prince Ski Resort during your visit because they also produce artificial snow.
Your itinerary around Nagano may look like this:
Head to Nagano
Take the Nagano Dentetsu train to Obuse
Visit Obuse cafes and Hokusai Museum, Gansho-in Temple
Continue on the Nagano Dentetsu train to Yamanouchi
Visit the Snow Monkey Park
Return to Nagano
Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Karuizawa
Ski at the Karuizawa Prince Ski Resort
Shop/eat at the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Mall
Return to Nagano
Head to Lake Suwa in the morning (Get off at Kamisuwa station)
Enjoy views of Lake Suwa and Mt. Fuji
Option: visit nearby Okaya’s silk museum, eat unagi for lunch
Return to Matsumoto
Visit Matsumoto Castle
Take a soba-making lesson at Soba Takagi in Matsumoto
Travel to Narai
Continue to Kiso Fukushima
Visit Tsumago and Magome
Return to Nagoya
Unfortunatey, not many passes cover all of the areas you will visit. You may consider the Japan Rail Pass if you’ll be using the shinkansen/rapid trains regularly, but buses and private railways such as the Nagano Dentetsu aren’t covered.
You can search train times and routes via the Hyperdia website.
If you have any other questions, please let me know.
Thank you for your response and suggestions, Blair!
I really appreciate it.
Will surely consider them n my itinerary.
One question, is Norikura open in first week of December?
I’m planning to go there as well (after Shinhotake Ropeway).
Yes, Norikura is open during the winter. You can access Norikura using the Shirahone line bus from the Oyakodaki bus stop or Shinshimashima Station (connected to Matsumoto Station by the Kamikochi line train). The bus timetables will be updated in early November to reflect the winter schedule.
Hope that helps!
I just found out about Shoryudo bus pass (http://www.meitetsu.co.jp/eng/ticket-info/pdf/eng_wide201704.pdf)
and Alps Wide Pass (http://en.go-centraljapan.jp/special/ticket/file/AlpsWIDEFreePassport.pdf) that might come in handy with my itinerary above. What do you think?
Also, should I stick with the clockwise route I made above? Or should I do it counter clockwise (e.g., Nagoya>Obuse>Iida>Suwa>Komoro>Matsumoto>Nagano>Norikura>Shin Hotaka> Takayama etc?
I’m currently my itinerary. Many thanks to you.
Hope to hear from you.
One more thing: I considered the counter clockwise route since I plan to witness Shimotsuki Matsuri in Iida City on Dec 2 or December 3 🙂 Will it be worth it? Have you experienced such event?
Hope to hear from you!
I haven’t personally seen the Shimotsuki festival, but I have always wanted to go. You can see more information about it on their official English webpage. It looks like the festival will be held on Dec. 2nd in several areas, but not on Dec. 3rd. If you want to see it, please head directly to Iida after your arrival.
Thinking geographically, your counter-clockwise route would look more like this:
Nagoya > Iida > Tsumago/Magome(?) > Suwa > Matsumoto > Komoro > Nagano > Obuse > Norikura > Shinhotaka > Takayama, etc.
Regarding the passes, I think either would be beneficial for your journey. The Alps Wide Free Passport may be better because it includes travel to Norikura Kogen, as well as travel to Matsumoto’s onsen areas.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
Thank you, Blair!
I have decided to stick on the original plan/route since Iida city’s rather out of the way and I’d be losing travel time for other places listed on my itinerary. So far, I have booked two nights in Takayama (December 2-4), then 1 night in Hirayu Onsen (after visiting Shinhotake; Dec.4-5). Do I still have the time to visit Norikura before heading to Nagano on Dec 5? I’m planning to base in Nagano from Dec 5-7 since I’ll be visiting Komoro, Obuse, Togakushi, Hakuba etc. Also, there are good deal Nagano passes I have found online. It might come in handy as well.
I would like to stay one night in Hakuba.Perhaps from Dec 7-8? Is it a good idea? or you prefer somewhere else?
You are a big help,really.
I think that you may be able to visit Norikura from Hirayu Onsen, but you will have to change buses at the Shinshimashima bus terminal, which may take too much time. Take a look at the bus timetables below and see if the trip fits in with your schedule:
Nohi Takayama(高山)/Hirayu Onsen (平湯温泉) to Shinshimashima (新島々) and Matsumoto (松本)
Bus Timetable (Japanese)
Alpico Shirahone Line* (winter timetable will be updated in mid November)
*For the Alpico Shirahone line, you would get off at the Kanko Center Mae stop.
For Dec. 7-8, Hakuba is an okay option. Depending on the weather, you may be able to ski at that time. If not, there’s not much to do otherwise. Staying in Yudanaka/Shibu Onsen or Nozawa Onsen may be more fun. There are plentiful hot springs around the towns and they both have great atmospheres.
I hope that helps!
Great to hear. I have decided to stay 1 night in Hirayu Onsen to maximize my time around the area should I decide to visit Norikura or Shirahone. So my itinerary looks somethink like this:
Dec 2-4- Takayama and nearby attractions
Dec 4-5 Hirayu Onsen
Dec 5-8 Nagano City
Dec 8-10 Matsumoto-Iida-Nagoya
That sounds great. If you’d like any more help with the particulars of your time in Nagano, please let me know!