Image Source: Kamikochi.
The Japanese Alps is located in central Japan with 3,000 meters of mountains spread across Toyama Prefecture, Hida and Takayama in Gifu Prefecture, Omachi, Azumino, Matsumoto and Shiojiri in Nagano Prefecture. It was named by a British missionary known as William Gowland. You can read about the history of the Japanese Alps and his amazing journey when you have the time. As of now, we are going to concentrate fully on the Japanese Alps by providing a sample itinerary which can be useful for your future reference.
Before that, in order to get to the Japanese Alps, it is advisable to purchase JR Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Pass for 5 Days. If you purchase the pass outside of Japan, you can save up to at least ¥500 to ¥1,000. The price for the pass is ¥17,500 for adults. Plus, you can also use the JR Hokuriku Area Pass that costs ¥5,000. These two JR Passes are great as it is very convenient to take you around the Japanese Alps.
Tokyo – Narai Post Town – Matsumoto
Before you embark on your five days journey, please make sure that you activated your JR Pass at JR East Travel Service Center, Narita Airport if your flight lands there.
From Tokyo Station, go to Narai Station to visit Narai Post Town. Your journey will take around 3 hours and 15 minutes. Make sure you pack a breakfast so you can eat inside the train.
Narai Post Town is located in the Nagano Prefecture. From the station, it’s just a one minute walk to the town. This town has been extremely regarded as one of the most prosperous towns in Japan. Most of the buildings you see here were built back in the Edo Period, which is why it is listed in the ‘Important Preservation District of Historic Buildings’ in Japan.
Image Source: Fast Japan.
The long street of Narai Town sells many fancy lacquerwares and wooden round boxes, typically used to store foods, plus it’s great for souvenirs. If you are not in a rush, take a detour to its famous bridge, Kiso Ohashi which will direct you to Mizube Park.
At noon, hop on a train back at the Narai Station to Matsumoto Station. The direct train will take around one hour. As you arrive at the station, head straight to Matsumoto Castle, known for its stunning beauty and black exterior. You can either walk for 15 minutes to the castle or ride the ‘Town Sneaker’ bus from the station.
Town Sneaker bus. Image Source: Matsumoto City on Twitter.
Inside the castle, you will see displays of armours, weapons and ancient coins from the Sengoku Period. The castle closes at 5:00 PM and the admission fee is around ¥610. You can even tour inside the castle all the way up to the top floor to see a stunning view of the city.
Afterwards, swing by Nakamachi Street where you can purchase senbei, taiyaki and try delicious soba noodles.
To end your first-day tour, walk back to Matsumoto Station and from there, find Hotel Buena Vista to spend the night.
Matsumoto – Kamikochi – Takayama
Head to Matsumoto Station and take a direct train to Shin-Shimashima Station. Once you reached the station, transfer to a bus to take you to Kamikochi. In total, the journey will take roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Kamikochi is a part of Chubu-Sangaku National Park. The place is mostly wrapped in trees and you can even spend a night here in one of the resorts or go camping in the provided site. The most famous place in Kamikochi is the Kappa Bridge in which you can seize in the spectacular view of the mountains.
The weather here can be quite unpredictable even during summer. So, it’s best if you bring a jacket to beat the cold.
By the same bus, head back to Shin-Shimashima Station Bus Terminal. From there, buy a bus ticket to Takayama Bus Terminal where you will reach there in a span of two hours.
Your first destination is Hida-no-Sato Village. Located 2 kilometres away from the bus terminal, it is recommended to take either a ‘Sarubobo’ bus or a taxi to get to the village. Not to be confused with Shirakawa-go, Hida-no-Sato reconstructed thatched roof houses which were taken apart from its original construction. The entrance fee is ¥700 and you can enter more than 30 different types of houses to admire its architectural works.
Image Source: Pics4Learning.
Head back to the bus terminal area and walk around 130 meters to Washington Hotel Plaza Hida Takayama to call it a day.
Takayama – Shirakawa-go – Toyama
Before you plan to visit Shirakawa-go, you must visit Miyagawa Morning Market which is only 10 minutes by foot from the hotel.
Image Source: Niponica.
The morning market opens at 7 AM until noon. Most people will come here early in the morning to purchase fresh vegetables and food, but, for tourists, this is one of the many places in Takayama that sell handmade crafts which are perfect as souvenirs.
After you are done shopping, proceed to Takayama Bus Terminal and hop on Nohi bus. Arriving at Shirakawa bus stop, just walk for 5 minutes to get to the entrance.
Generally, Shirakawa-go looks most stunning during the winter season when most of the thatched roofs are covered in white powder snow contrasting with the brown wooden structures. To get a great view of Shirakawa-go, walk up towards Shiroyama Viewpoint.
The one thing you must know about Shirakawa-go is that all their houses were built in gassho-zukuri style. Gassho means to put both hands together as if you are praying.
Bidding adieu to Takayama, your next trip need approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. Taking Nohi bus to Toyama, there are two major buses company you can opt for, namely Nohi Bus and Hokutetsu.
The first place to go in Toyama is the Fugan Canal Kansui Park and its city area. For accommodations, there are many great hotels located nearby the Toyama Station for transportation accessibility. For example, Hotel Crown Hills Toyama, situated only 3 mins from Toyama Station.
Image Source: Fugan Canal Kansui Park.
Toyama – Alpine Route – Azumino
Walk towards Dentetsu Toyama Station, take a train to Tateyama Station. Next, from Tateyama, you have to ride a cable car to Bijodaira Station. Once you reached there, a bus will take you on a tour around the Tateyama Alpine Route. Along the road, you will see the Snow Corridor enclosing the area which is very beautiful.
Image Source: Nohi Bus.
You can walk beside the Snow Corridor when the bus stops at Murodo. The walls extend up to 16 to 20 meters high and the temperature is very cold, even in summer.
When your tour ends, head to Ogisawa Bus Stop to get to Hotaka Station, Azumino in Nagano Prefecture. This is your last pit stop for the 5 days Japanese Alps itinerary.
Image Source: Explore Azumino!.
Azumino is a secluded valley where you can easily rent a bicycle to get to one point to another. You can rent it once you reached the station.
Spend the night at Gohoden, a traditional hotel situated 20 minutes by foot or simply grab a taxi which will take only about five minutes.
Azumino – Tokyo
At 9:00 AM, walk 600 meters to Daio Wasabi Farm from Gohoden. The farm opens at 9:00 AM and closes at 5:00 PM, plus, the entrance to the farm is free. Daio Wasabi Farm is a huge plantation of wasabi stretches to 15 hectares. You can try out many wasabi-based dishes here. For example, a bowl of rice served with wasabi, wasabi soft-serve ice-cream, wasabi croquette and also wasabi chocolate! The price isn’t too expensive as it is made purely out of freshly picked wasabi.
Image Source: Tourist in Japan.
If you are not too keen on eating wasabi, perhaps you can skip this place or just walk around the park for a photo opportunity.
Make your way to Rokuzan Art Museum which is 3 km away from Daio Wasabi Farm. The museum features an exhibition of paintings and sculptures, where you need to pay ¥700 for the entrance fee. Furthermore, the unique structure of this museum was deliberately made to resemble a church.
Image Source: Japan Hoppers.
From the church, walk or ride your bicycle to Hotaka Station to board the train back to Tokyo Station.
In sum, this is a sample itinerary to guide you around some of the interesting and natural wonders in the Japanese Alps. Plan your schedule ahead and uncover more underrated places in Japan. We hope you will find this itinerary useful!