Climbing Mt. Tsubakuro

September 1st, 2017 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities

The final stretch of trail to the peak of Mt. Tsubakuro is incredibly picturesque.

Mt. Tsubakuro (2,763m) is a very popular destination in the Northern Japanese Alps due to its unique appearance and beautiful alpine flora. Its well-maintained trails, convenient rest areas and lodges, and beautiful scenery make it a must-hike spot in Nagano.

The trailhead begins from Nakabusa Onsen at an altitude of 1,462m. The trail continues through the forest for a majority of the climb before breaking through the tree line for the last hour or so. Rest areas are spaced evenly throughout the hike, with four bench areas in the woods followed by the Kassen-goya hut and the Enzanso mountain lodge above the tree line. From the lodge, the peak is approximately 40 minutes.

The trailhead starts from Nakabusa Onsen at 1,462m.

Roundtrip, the hike takes about 9.5 hours (6 hours up, 3.5 hours down), with an altitude difference of 1,300m. Most people stay at the night at the Enzanso lodge, but it is possible to hike in a single day with the proper level of fitness.

In the distance you can make out the conical shape of Mt. Fuji and the Yatsugatake mountains to its right.

This hike’s amazing views begin around the fourth bench. From here, you can see the Yatsugatake mountain range and Mt. Fuji standing proudly in the distance. From higher still, you can see the Hakuba mountains and Mt. Tsurugi as well. Once you reach Enzanso, the landscape opens up and you can enjoy panoramic views of the Northern Alps as well as Mt. Tsubakuro’s magnificent features.

Most striking is the peak’s vivid collage of grey, green and white. The ridgeline is covered in granite outcroppings, verdant shrubbery and swaths of bleached gravel. Viewed closer, the rocks take on unique and recognizable shapes. Along the trail you can find a lounging gorilla, a breaching dolphin, and a pair of glasses pointed at Mt. Yari. At your feet, small, pink komakusa flowers.

Mt. Tsubakuro’s famous dolphin rock, breaching in front of Mt. Yari.

And from the top of Mt. Tsubakuro, one can see the most beautiful view of all: the tan ridgeline of Omote-Ginza zigzagging along towards the rest of the Northern Alps. On the right day, the clouds lap the gravelly slopes of the mountains, curling and twisting like the great waves off Kanagawa, and the distant Enzanso lodge appears to float in the sky.

The Omote-Ginza ridge is breathtaking on a clear day

Mt. Tsubakuro’s scenery is breathtaking and is a must-hike peak for any climbing enthusiast. Its safe trails, convenient rest areas, and fully-stocked mountain lodge make it a great climb for families as well. Enjoy unparalleled views atop the Roof of Japan!

Access to Tsubakuro

Nakabusa Onsen can be reached by bus or taxi from JR Hotaka Station on the Oito line. From the Station, the ride to Nakabusa is approximately 60 minutes long. One-way bus fare is 1,700 yen, and one-way taxi fare 7,500 yen. You can see the bus schedule in Japanese here.

For drivers, there are three parking lots in the vicinity of the trailhead as well, and they have a total capacity of 120 cars. Because they fill up very quickly, you may want to park at the Miyashiro parking lot (next to the Yama-no-Takahei hotel and hot spring) and take a taxi from there instead (approximately 5,000 yen).

Accommodation and Hot Springs

Nakabusa Onsen

Nakabusa’s hot springs are rich sources of minerals and bubble out from the ground at a scalding 90&degC. The waters are natural cooled without the addition of water and pumped into the baths at a comfortable temperature. Guests can spend the night in the hotel and make use of a variety of hot spring baths. Day-users can enjoy separate indoor and outdoor baths for 700 yen. Open from late April to late November

Half Board: 9,500 to 21,000 Yen
Day-use hot spring hours: 9:30 to 16:00
Day-use entrance fee: 700 Yen

Enzanso Lodge

The Enzanso mountain lodge is one of the oldest lodges in the Northern Japanese Alps, originally built in 1921. It has since been renovated and can hold a capacity of 650 climbers with space for 30 tents. They have free bathrooms, plentiful benches, and food and drink for guests and passersby. Reservations can be made online here or via telephone. Open from late April to late November

Half board: 10,000 Yen
Room only: 6,400 Yen
Tent space: 1,000 Yen


The Yama-no-Takahei hotel and hot spring is located about halfway between Hotaka Station and the Tsubakuro trailhead. The day-use hot spring is open late, so people making their way down the mountain in the early evening can still take a dip. The hot spring water here comes from the same mineral spring as Nakabusa.

Drivers may also want to park their car at the Miyashiro parking lot next to Yama-no-Takahei and take a taxi to the trailhead, as parking spaces near the trailhead fill up quickly.

Half board: 10,000 to 15,000 Yen
Day-use hot spring hours: 10:00-21:00
Day-use entrance fee: 500 Yen

More Hikes in Nagano!

If you’d like to learn about more hikes in Nagano, check out some of the links below.

Rafting with Cherry Blossoms in Spring

May 1st, 2017 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

Last week at the height of cherry blossom season, we headed down to Azumino to enjoy some early spring rafting! The combination of fast currents, snow-capped mountains, and blooming cherry trees are perfect for an exciting and scenic day on the water.
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5 Great Winter Festivals in Nagano

December 9th, 2016 by
Category: Events, Information, Seasonal Topics

Enjoy fire festivals, illuminations and more in this winter wonderland.

Winter is here. Snow is falling steadily up in the mountains and people around Nagano are bringing out their kotatsu tables, kerosene heaters and nabe pots. Once again, it’s that time of year for skiing, hot springs and great winter festivals. Why stay inside when you could warm up in front of a magnificent fire festival or in the company of Japan’s many spirits?

Make some wonderful memories this winter with some of the festivals below!
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Fantastic Views from Mt. Chougatake

July 22nd, 2016 by
Category: Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

The Chougatake mountain hut facing Kamikochi and the Northern Alps.

The rainy season has ended and the time for hiking is officially here. Monday’s weather was perfect, so a couple of us decided to climb Chougatake, a 2,677 meter high mountain in Azumino. Bordering Kamikochi to the Southeast, it has splendid views of the Northern Japanese Alps.

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Mount Jonen Hike and a View of Mount Fuji from the Peak

November 10th, 2010 by
Category: Outdoor Activities

Mt. Jonen seen from Matsumoto

I climbed Mt. Jonen, 2857m (9373 ft), in the Japan Alps on October 11. It was just before the trail`s peak is covered by snow (usually snow falls before Oct 11, but this year snowfall was late because of global warming).
It is a 8-9 hour hike, so you can possibly go on a one-day hike from early morning if the condition is not bad.

Fall foliage

After walking up a long trail enjoying the beautiful fall foliage, suddenly the famous Mt. Yari, 3180 m (10433 ft), came in to my sight, at Jonen-Nokkoshi. It was an amazing experience.

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New Azumino/Hotaka Exploring Guide!

April 8th, 2010 by
Category: Information

American, Chinese, Korean who wrote the contents

Presenting the New Azumino/Hotaka Exploring Guide! April 2010

This April marks the budding of cherry blossoms all over Nagano and the release of Azumino City and Hotaka area’s new tri-lingual cultural guide and access map. The printed map will be available at train stations and tourism offices throughout Nagano or is available as a printable pdf from the “Suggested Routes & Map” page in “Explore Azumino!” website.
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Hiking and Biking in Azumino

November 4th, 2009 by
Category: Outdoor Activities

Old railroad track hiking course

Old railroad track hiking course

This October, I enjoyed hiking and biking in Azumino.
One sunny day, I walked along an old railroad track. It was discontinued 20 years ago. The rails were taken away and an unpaved flat, straight route remains. So, it’s a perfect walking route without any traffic. I enjoyed a 15 km hike through the beautiful and peaceful woods. There is a cool unused brick tunnel that was built 100 years ago. The course it getting popular among Japanese this year. I think it’s attractive also for foreign travelers since you can walk from JR Akashina Station.

Taking photos of a small shrine (dousojin) duing our bike tour

The other day, I rented a bike from a bike shop near Hotaka station with some foreigners and enjoyed biking along a really beautiful river near the wasabi farm.

Mt. Jonen Hike (June, 2009)

Mt. Jonen Hike (June, 2009)

In Azumino, you can hike to Mt. Jonen (2,857m), Mt. Chogatake (2,677m), and Mt. Tsubakuro (2,763m), which are peaks in the Northern Alpine range and also take a short day hike to Mt. Hikarujoyama, which is famous for “Cherry Blossom” Course.
Azumino is one of the most fascinating places for hiking and biking in Japan!

Hiking Season Has Started

April 29th, 2009 by
Category: Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

April and May sees the start of the hiking season in many areas in Nagano.
The Alpine Route – April 17th; Kamikochi – April 27th; Mt. Norikura – May 15th; Mt. Ontake – April 25th(see blog)

I climbed Mt. Hikarijoyama in Azumino on April 18th. I enjoyed a great view of the cherry blossom canopy and the Alps.
Mt. Hikarijoyama is 912m high and can be climbed by people of all ages and abilities starting in March.
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Driving in the Azumino Area!

April 24th, 2009 by
Category: Culture Art, Onsens (Hot Springs), Sightseeing

We often go to the Azumino area for driving. Depending on where we go, it’s about a 30-minute-drive from Matsumoto. Azumino used to be 6 separate towns, but they merged together in 2005 to create a large city filled with abundant natural beauty and many things to do.

This time we chose two places. Our first stop was Azumino Art Hills Museum in Azumino-Hotaka.

Azumino Art Hills Museum

Azumino Art Hills Museum

Art Hills is a glass museum and shop with an extensive collection of Emile Galle works. We also love its many smooth glass creations and other fancy things. I come this shop often to get presents for my friends and family, and there is a chance to try glass blowing if you are interested.

Glasses with Urushi lacquer-ware

Glasses with Urushi lacquer-ware

During our visit there, we went to the Italian restaurant on the 2nd floor, Quindicci. They have a big stone oven for pizzas. We enjoyed our lunch with under the warm sunlight through their large glass windows.
After lunch, we walked around the shop and saw things like these glasses with Urushi lacquer-ware. I think the mixture of Western and Japanese style was very exotic.

After we enjoyed our lovely lunch and shopping at Azumino Art Hills, we headed to Fine View Muroyama, which is an Onsen (hot spring) hotel but allows bath visitors from 10am to 10pm.

The view from Fine View Muroyama

The view from Fine View Muroyama

The reason we come this hot spring so often is that the view they have, as you can imagine from the name, is really fine. They have a Rotenburo outside bath made of rocks where you can admire Azumino area and Matsumoto. The day we went was very nice, so we had a relaxing, leisurely bath.

How to buy tickets...

How to buy tickets...

Here are some tips for taking a bath at Fine View. After you enter and change from shoes to slippers, you can find a ticket machine. Buy a bath ticket for 500 (towels are 200 more), then take the stairs on the right. You will find a small counter to give your ticket and enter the bath area.

Fine View also has a nice soba (buckwheat noodle) restaurant on the lobby level, so if you have time, please try the soba and enjoy the scenery.

This is a blog for foreigners in Japan from all over the world, so here is some extra advice for our visitors.

1. There is a very nice soft cream shop next to Art Hills. I recommend you to try it!
2. There are about 20 museums in the Azumino area, such as Azumino city Toyoshina Modern Museum, Chihiro Museum, Azumino Jansem Museum, Rokuzan Art Museum, and others.
3. To go to the Azumino area, we recommend you rent a car. A rental shop is just to the right of the entrance of Matsumoto station.

For more information on the places we recommended, check out these websites:

Azumino Tourist Info (English) 

Azumino Art Hills Museum (English)

Fine View Muroyama (English)

Azumino-city Toyoshina Modern Museum (Japanese) 

Chihiro Museum (English)  

Azumino Jansem Museum (English)

Rokuzan Art Museum (English)

“Zagat Survey in Nagano” and Restaurants in Azumino

April 10th, 2009 by
Category: Cuisine

I went to Azumino and had lunch at Stagione, which was listed as the second best Italian restaurant in the guidebook Zagat Survey in Nagano published this March.
Stagione is located in a good place in Azumino and you can enjoy authentic rural Japanese scenery and a wonderful view of the Japan Alps from its wide window.
As Zagat reported, the restaurant is very neat (perhaps too “neat” for a place to eat), the dishes and desserts are tasty and stylish like the photo, and it’s not so expensive.

Azumino, neighbouring city of Matsumoto, has some good restaurants since the nature and environment of the area has been attracting many cooks and artists so they moved from urban areas.
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