Nagano in autumn

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Anne Thailand 2018/08/09

Hello,

We will be in Nagano from 5-14 October (flying to/from Nagoya).  Please advice where we can see the autumn leave at its peak during this period.  Do we have to go up the mountain to experience autumn colors? 

We have accommodations booked in Kamikochi from 8-10 and in Takayama from 10-12.

We are thinking of the Kiso valley.  Apart from Tsumago-Magome, are other parts of Kiso valley worth a visit (eg. Atera Gorge, Akasawa Forest Park)?

Between Senjojiki Cirque in Komagane and Hakuba, which one is more beautiful regarding the autumn color during that period?

Please advice where else we should visit and how we should arrange our trip.

Thank you very much

Answers
Nagano Prefecture Tourism PR character “Arukuma” 2018/08/09

Hi Anne,

Autumn colors will still be mostly in the mountains when you arrive, so the higher areas of Kamikochi, Senjkojiki Cirque, Hakuba, and the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route should be in season during your trip.

The Kiso Valley will not be in peak autumn colors when you arrive, but it is definitely worth visiting the post towns of the Nakasendo during your trip (Magome, Tsumago, Narai). Areas like Atera Gorge and the Akasawa Forest Park are nice, but I would wait until late October to visit them for their foliage.

Between Senjojiki Cirque and Hakuba, Senjojiki Cirque will most likely have deeper autumn colors during early October. However, both should have autumn colors at that time, and both have great mountain scenery. For Hakuba, I would recommend visiting Happo Pond for its great views of the mountains and autumn leaves.

To make the best of your time in Nagano, I would follow a schedule like this:

Day 1: Nagoya to Kiso

  • JR train from Nagoya to Nakatsugawa Station
  • Magome line bus from Nakatsugawa Station to Magome
  • Walk the Nakasendo between Magome and Tsumago or take the Magome-Tsumago bus to Tsumago
  • Stay in Tsumago

Day 2: Kiso to Matsumoto

  • Take the Tsumago-Magome bus to Nagiso Station and take the JR train to Narai Station.
  • Visit Narai
  • Take the JR train from Nagiso Station to Matsumoto Station.
  • Visit Matsumoto Castle
  • Stay in Matsumoto City

Day 3: Day trip to Komagatake Ropeway

  • Take the JR Chuo line to Okaya Station, then switch to the JR Iida line to Komagane Station.
  • Take the Komagatake Ropeway bus and visit the Komagatake Ropeway.
  • Return to Komagane Station. Take the JR Iida line Inashi Station and visit Miharashi Farm for apple-picking, soba-making, and more.
  • Take the JR Iida line to Okaya Station, change to the JR Chuo line and return to Matsumoto.

Day 4: Day trip to Hakuba

  • Take the JR Oito line from Matsumoto Station to Hakuba Station. Travel to Hakuba Happo Ski Resort and visit Happo Pond.
  • Take the JR Oito line from Hakuba Station to Hotaka Station. Take a taxi to Daio Wasabi Farm.
  • Return to Matsumoto

Day 5-7: Kamikochi

  • Take the Kamikochi line train from Matsumoto Station to Shinshimashima Station. Change to the Kamikochi line bus to Kamikochi.
  • Spend several days in Kamikochi
  • Return to Shinshimashima Station and take the Takayama-Matsumoto line bus to Takayama.

Day 7-9: Takayama

Day 10: Fly out of Nagoya

I hope that helps answer your question. Let me know if you have any other questions!

-Blair

Guest 2018/08/10

Thank you very much, Blair.

Since we have 4 people, do you think renting a car will be more economical than taking public transportation? I heard that the toll fee is expensive in Japan.  None of us knows Japanese and we have never driven in Japan before.  Is it difficult to drive in the mountainous area? 
Perhaps with the car we can go off the beaten path in some area.

In Kamikochi, do we have to go up the mountain to see the autumn color or we can see it near Azusa river? 
We would love to hike to Karasawa Valley but it seems strenuous.  Is Dakesawa Hut a better option? I haven’t seen any photo of Dakesawa Hut trail in Autumn. 

Guest 2018/08/10

Dear Blair,

I forgot to ask you about Zenkoji temple in Nagano. Can foreigners (Buddhist) attend the morning chanting/meditation or stay a night there?  And how can we do that? What are the schedule and fee?
Many thanks,

Nagano Prefecture Tourism PR character “Arukuma” 2018/08/10

Hi Anne,

Renting a car in Japan, especially in Nagano, is a great way to get around more easily. In areas like Kiso and Komagane, trains often only come once an hour. With a car, you’ll be able to move around much more freely and visit more places in less time. And while Nagano is mountainous, your destinations are reachable via the highway and major roads.

Tolls will be less expensive than your train fare. For example, between Nagoya and Komagane, train fare would be about 4,000 yen per person while toll using an ETC card would be 2,510 yen for the whole car. Traveling between Nagoya, Komagane, Matsumoto, Nagano, and Takayama, your total tolls will be around 10,000 yen.

Be aware that some areas, like Kamikochi and the Komagatake Ropeway, are not accessible by car. For Kamikochi, you will have to park at the Sawando Bus Terminal and take the Kamikochi line bus from there. For the Komagatake Ropeway, you’ll have to park at the Suganodai Bus Center and take the Komagatake Ropeway bus from there.

You can see more about renting a car in Nagano here.

In Kamikochi, you should be able to see autumn colors from the riverside. If you would like to head higher up towards Karasawa or Dakesawa, the leaves should be just past peak (but still beautiful) during your trip. The hike to Karasawa takes about 6 hours and the hike to Dakesawa takes about 2.5 to 3 hours. If you’d like to stay the night at Dakesawa, reservations are required. See the Yarigatakesanso Group’s English Page for details.

Finally, anyone can join Zenkoji’s morning service (called O-asaji). The service begins at sunrise and lasts for about an hour as each sect does their own prayer in the main hall. You can watch from the inner hall (called “Naijin”) if you buy a “Naijinken” ticket. It’s 500 yen for adults, 50 yen for children. The service should begin shortly after 6:00AM during early October.

If you want to stay in a temple lodge, I recommend Fuchinobo. It has hosted many international guests in the past. They only take reservations by phone, so please use Nagano’s multilingual call center to make a reservation.

I hope that makes sense. Feel free to ask any other questions you have.

-Blair

Nagano Prefecture Tourism PR character “Arukuma” 2018/08/10

Hi Anne,

Renting a car in Japan, especially in Nagano, is a great way to get around more easily. In areas like Kiso and Komagane, trains often only come once an hour. With a car, you’ll be able to move around much more freely and visit more places in less time. And while Nagano is mountainous, your destinations are reachable via the highway and major roads.

Tolls will be less expensive than your train fare. For example, between Nagoya and Komagane, train fare would be about 4,000 yen per person while toll using an ETC card would be 2,510 yen for the whole car. Traveling between Nagoya, Komagane, Matsumoto, Nagano, and Takayama, your total tolls will be around 10,000 yen.

Be aware that some areas, like Kamikochi and the Komagatake Ropeway, are not accessible by car. For Kamikochi, you will have to park at the Sawando Bus Terminal and take the Kamikochi line bus from there. For the Komagatake Ropeway, you’ll have to park at the Suganodai Bus Center and take the Komagatake Ropeway bus from there.

You can see more about renting a car in Nagano here.

In Kamikochi, you should be able to see autumn colors from the riverside. If you would like to head higher up towards Karasawa or Dakesawa, the leaves should be just past peak (but still beautiful) during your trip. The hike to Karasawa takes about 6 hours and the hike to Dakesawa takes about 2.5 to 3 hours. If you’d like to stay the night at Dakesawa, reservations are required. See the Yarigatakesanso Group’s English Page for details.

Finally, anyone can join Zenkoji’s morning service (called O-asaji). The service begins at sunrise and lasts for about an hour as each sect does their own prayer in the main hall. You can watch from the inner hall (called “Naijin”) if you buy a “Naijinken” ticket. It’s 500 yen for adults, 50 yen for children. The service should begin shortly after 6:00AM during early October.

If you want to stay in a temple lodge, I recommend Fuchinobo. It has hosted many international guests in the past. They only take reservations by phone, so please use Nagano’s multilingual call center to make a reservation.

I hope that makes sense. Feel free to ask any other questions you have.

-Blair

Guest 2018/08/10

Thank you very much, Blair
In Autumn will there be any website give realtime updates on the Autumn foliage in Nagano?

Nagano Prefecture Tourism PR character “Arukuma” 2018/08/13

Hi Anne,

Good question. We have a Fall Colors Watch page on our website that tracks the state of autumn foliage in many of Nagano’s sightseeing areas in real time.

-Blair

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