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Constance Female Singapore 2018/08/24

Hi Blair,

We\’re planning to rent a car at Ueda for 4 days and returning the car at Karuizawa. The following places we\\\’re planning to visit to see autumn colors and places of interest are: Venus Line, Utsukushigahara Highlands (open air museum), Matsumoto Castle, Takase Gorge, Kurobe Railway (Kurobe Gorge) and ending at Karuizawa (Shiraito Falls).

Please suggest a 4-day itinerary covering these places and roykans to rest.

Thank you. Look forward to your reply.

Best regards,


Nagano Prefecture Tourism PR character “Arukuma” 2018/08/24

Hi Constance

Your itinerary might look like this:

Day 1

  • Travel to Ueda City by Shinkansen from Tokyo
  • Rent a car from Ueda Station (see more information on renting vehicles in Nagano)
  • Travel to the Venus line (From Ueda Sta., Rte. 77->65->254->62->464; about 1hr). Visit the Utsukushigahara Open-Air Museum and drive the Venus Line to its end in Chino City (about 3-4hrs).
  • Drive to Matsumoto (about 1hr) and stay the night in Asama Onsen

Day 2

  • Visit Matsumoto Castle in the morning
  • Drive to Kuzu Onsen outside of Takase Gorge (about 1 hr). From there, take a 15 min. taxi to the gorge.
  • Return to Kuzu Onsen and drive to Hakuba Happo One (about 1hr) to visit Happo Pond.
  • Stay at a ryokan in Hakuba (Goryukan)

Day 3

Day 4

  • Drive from Unazuki Onsen to Karuizawa (3hrs 15min)
  • Visit Shiraito Falls
  • Return your vehicle and take the Shinkansen towards Tokyo

I hope that helps answer your question. Let me know if I can help with anything else.


Guest 2018/08/24

Hello Blair, 

Thanks for your splendid itinerary. Do we need to exit from Venus Line to visit the Open Air Museum and then return to Venus Line .. or is the museum along the way?


We are extremely interested to visit Sora Terrace as well. How best do you think we can fit this in the itinerary? 

Really grateful for your valuable tips n recommendation. 




Nagano Prefecture Tourism PR character “Arukuma” 2018/08/27

Hi Constance,

The Utsukushigahara Open-Air Museum is on the Venus Line near Matsumoto/Ueda. It will be one of the first things you pass. If you haven’t already, you may want to look at this blog post about the Venus Line and Chino City.

If you’d like to include the Ryuoo SORA terrace in your schedule, then you could change your second or fourth day. You can skip Hakuba on the second day and head to Yamanouchi, see the SORA terrace and Jigokudani Snow Monkey park and stay at a hot spring ryokan there (see Ryokan Biyu no Yado, Kokuya Hotel, Or, you could pass through Yamanouchi on your way between the Kurobe Gorge and Karuizawa.

I hope that helps!


Guest 2018/08/28

Hi Blair,

Once again, many thanks for your wonderful suggestion.  Given that visiting the Happo Pond will take a relatively long time (need to catch a gondola, then 2 ski lift rides + trek approx 100 mins to reach), we have decided to take your advice and skip this site and we won’t be going to the Snow Monkey Park either.

I’ve worked out a rough itinerary which goes something like this but certainly require your run-through with more tips and recommendations please :

Day 1:

Drive from Ueda to Utsukushigahara Open-Air Museum via the Venus Line. Then visit Matsumoto Castle and stay the night around the area.

Day 2:

Drive to Kuzu Onsen (1 hr),  take 15min taxi to Takase Gorge. Continue to Sora Terrace at Yamanouchi. Can you please advise how long is this drive and whether we have sufficient daylight to enjoy the scenery at the peak, since it’s autumn. Could you please recommend ryokans for that night?

Day 3:

Drive to Unazuki Station in Toyama and then board Kurobe Gorge Railway (please recommend driving route and driving time).  Since the rail ride takes approximately 4-5 hours, it’s almost a whole day here.  Stay the night at Unazuki Onsen.

Day 4:

Drive from Unazuki Onsen to Karuizawa (3 hrs 15 mins) and visit Shiraito Falls and drop by at the retail outlet.

Spend the night at Karuizawa (please recommend ryokans). 


I’m not sure if this itinerary is going in the right direction as time is our constraint. Look forward to your reply. Many thanks Blair.


Day 4:





Nagano Prefecture Tourism PR character “Arukuma” 2018/08/29

Hi Constance,

Your itinerary looks good.

Driving between Takase Gorge and the SORA terrace in Yamanouchi takes about two hours. If you leave Matsumoto at 8:30, spend two hours at the gorge and then have lunch, you should arrive at the terrace by 3 pm. In October, the sun sets after 5 pm, so you should have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery in daylight.

For a hotel/ryokan nearby, Hotel Selan, Ryokan Biyu no Yado, Kokuya, and Senshinkan Matsuya are all good options.

Driving to Unazuki Station the next day, you’ll want to take Rt. 292 towards Nakano City to reach the Shinshu Nakano IC entrance. Then take the Joshin’etsu Expressway heading north towards Iiyama/Niigata. Stay left merging onto the Hokuriku Expressway and eventually get off at the Kurobe IC exit. Finally take Rts. 53, 14 and 13 to Unazuki Station. The trip will take about 2 hours and 15 minutes (see the route in Google Maps).

For ryokan in Karuizawa, Tsuruya Ryokan along the Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza Street is a popular option.

Let me know if you have any other questions.


Guest 2018/09/15

Hi Blair,

Need your expert advice again.

We intend to make a slight change and start our trip from Karuizawa (instead of Ueda) and drive to Matsumoto — via the Venus Line and visit the Utsukushigahara Open Air Museum.

Can you please recommend the route for us to drive?

I read about Cottage Inn log cabins in Karuizawa area? Can you please recommend?

Many thanks .




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