The 2000-meter Utsukushi ga Hara plateau makes for a beautiful (that’s what ‘Utsukushii’ means — ‘beautiful’) high-altitude escape. The wide open fields are home to a heard of cows and in late June are punctuated with wild azaleas.
The 360-degree panorama vista looks out to the Yatsugatake Range to the south, the Hotaka Range of the Northern Alps to the west, the Hakuba peaks to the north, and Mt. Asama to the east.
Our recent visit was too brief to be able to enjoy the Open Air Museum’s inspirational artwork, nor the trek to the stone bell tower. But we’ll be back.
Utsukushigahara can be reached from Matsumoto by bus, but the windy ascent and scenic Venus Line highway are paradise for drivers.