For Muslim travellers, it can be quite a challenge to visit Japan without knowing where to pray and finding halal restaurants. This time, we are going to provide you with a complete seven days itinerary to the Hokuriku region (particularly to Nagano, Gunma and Niigata). We will list down several restaurants where you can call and reserve for no pork or lard meals in these areas. For non-Muslims, you can also refer this itinerary if you are interested to visit Hokuriku.
8:30AM Narita International Airport (Purchase JR East Pass)
9:30AM Depart to Tokyo Station
12:30PM Karuizawa Prince Hotel (Lunch + Prayer)
2:30PM Shiraito Falls
4:00PM Old Karuizawa Ginza Street
5:30PM Depart to Nagano Station
6:30PM Check in Hotel Metropolitan Nagano
7:15PM Nagano Longevity Dining Room (Dinner)
Access from Narita International Airport to Tokyo Station
As you landed from Narita, make your way to JR EAST Travel Service Center to purchase your JR EAST Rail Pass. The pass enables you to travel around Nagano and Niigata for five days within two weeks of issuance. The price for the JR East Pass is ¥17,000 for adults aged 12 and above, while, for children aged 6 to 11, the price is ¥8,500. You can learn more about the pass here. It’s safe to say that this pass will be able to take you anywhere you need to go within Nagano and Niigata.
Once you have obtained the pass, ride the train to Tokyo Station. The journey will take about one hour so you can relax for a while before arriving. At the Tokyo Station, there is a prayer room inside JR East Travel Service Center, so feel free to utilize the space. Other than that, you can collect maps and travel guides to certain areas in Japan. After that, depart to Karuizawa Station for lunch and sightseeing.
From Karuizawa Station, you can take a taxi to Karuizawa Prince Hotel East to have your lunch at Karuizawa Grill All Day Dining. Here, the hotel also provides prayer room and a restaurant where they can cater Muslims-friendly meals. You can ask for no pork and lard dishes as this is a non-Halal certified restaurant. Besides that, near the hotel is the famous Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza, best known for their branded items.
Grilled chicken with herbs.
Karuizawa Prince Hotel East (Karuizawa Grill All Day Dining)
Address: Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun Nagano, 389-0193 Japan
Contact Number: 81-(0)267-42-1111
After that, take a taxi to Shiraito Falls. The falls is three meters high and has no admission fees. The waterfall is not as tall as it appears but it is one of the must-visit spots in Karuizawa. The name Shiraito derives from the illusion of white curtains when the water drops from the top. Besides, the waterfall is more beautiful during the autumn season.
Image Source: Wikimedia.
Furthermore, before you enter the Shiraito Falls, you will notice a few shops at the bottom of the hill. One of the must-try food here is the fresh salted grilled fish on a stick. It is famous around the area as they will only use salt as a seasoning and it is quite delicious.
Salted grilled fish on a stick stall.
Address: Kose Nagakura, Karuizawa, Kitasaku District, Nagano Prefecture 389-0111, Japan
Operating Hours: No closing hours
Admission Fees: None
Go straight to Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza Street for sightseeing and shopping. The street includes several traditional Karuizawa handicrafts shops, street foods and tourist centre. Karuizawa’s popular products are honey and jams. You can buy a variety of honey and jams here at reasonable prices. Apart from that, check out a shop called French Bakery that was once visited by John Lennon.
Hachihige Ojisan no Mise or translated as bee-bearded man shop.
Depart to Nagano Station when you are done touring Karuizawa. Your journey to Nagano is just half an hour away.
As you reached the station, check in Hotel Metropolitan Nagano to freshen up. The hotel is located near to most convenience stores and a few shopping malls.
Hotel Metropolitan Nagano.
Image Source: Wikimedia.
The hotel and the station are actually connected to a shopping mall called Mi Do Ri. For dinner, you can eat at Nagano Longevity Dining Room located inside the mall. For Muslim travellers, you can order vegetarian meals which is one of the restaurant’s speciality.
Tomatoes curry rice (Vegetarian meal).
Nagano Longevity Dining Room (Choju Shokudo)
Address: 1-22-6 Minami chitose Midori Nagano 3F, Nagano 380-0823 Nagano Prefecture
Operating Hours: 11:00AM – 10:00PM
Contact Number: +81 26-223-5758
9:00AM Depart to Matsumoto Station
10:30AM Depart to Kamikochi
12:00AM Arrive at Kamikochi
4:00PM Depart back to hotel
6:00PM Buffet dinner at Hotel Buena Vista
After breakfast, ride the train from Nagano Station to Matsumoto Station which will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Once you arrived at Matsumoto, take a taxi to Hotel Buena Vista for an early check-in. From the station to your hotel is only 500 meters.
Hotel Buena Vista, Matsumoto.
Image Source: Wikimedia.
Hotel Buena Vista
Address: Honjo 1-2-1, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano 390-0814, Japan
Contact Number: +81-263-37-0111
Then, take a taxi to Kamikochi because it is more convenient. Another alternative is you can go by train from Matsumoto Station to Shinshima Station. However, you need to change to a bus ride to Kamikochi. The journey will take approximately 1 hour 30 minutes because it is located near the Chubu-Sangaku National Park.
Shinshima Station/Bus Terminal.
Kamikochi is a forest bathing site in Japan thanks to its greenery and the many species of birds and flowers. There are not many hotels and restaurants here as they close the park every winter season. You can only visit Kamikochi from April until November. Kamikochi is circled by tall peaks and Azasu River Valley. The weather here can be somewhat unpredictable as it gets really cold at noon.
For lunch, there is a Muslim-friendly restaurant called Kappa Shokudo. You need to call this restaurant two or three days earlier to make a reservation for Halal dishes. The view from this restaurant is very nice because you get to see Kappa Bridge from the window.
SANZOKU Teishoku (SHINSU Style fried chicken combo) comes with rice and miso soup.
Address: 4468 Kamikochi, Matsumoto 390-1516, Nagano Prefecture
Operating Hours: 6:00AM – 5:00PM
Contact Number: +81 263-95-2111
The most famous spot around Kamikochi is the wooden suspension bridge named Kappa Bridge. According to the Japanese folklore, a Kappa (Japanese water demon) used to live in the river. This was actually inspired from a novel written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa titled Kappa.
Wander around the park and nature to see many kinds of flowers and plants. Other than that, visitors are encouraged to do outdoor activities here like hiking and mount climbing as the walkway is pretty much flat and not too dangerous.
Apart from Kappa Bridge, you should also visit Taisho Pond, Takezawa Marsh, Weston Monument and Myojin Pond. Before you head back to Matsumoto, don’t forget to stop by at their souvenir shop to purchase Kappa-related items and their delicious sweet confectionaries.
Address: Kamikochi, Azumi, Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture
Operating Hours: 8:00AM – 5:00PM (Closed during winter)
Admission Fees: None
Contact Number: 0263 95 2606
Depart back to your hotel by taxi or bus and exchange to train from Shinshima Station to Matsumoto Station.
You can dine at the hotel’s dinner buffet and please take note that not all food is Halal. You need to ask the staffs which food doesn’t contain pork and lard. The food they served is mostly Western cuisine such as chicken, french fries, grilled fish and salads.
Image Source: Booking.com.
Café and Dining La Café Terraza
Service Time: 5:30PM – 8:30PM
Prices: ¥3,500 (Adults aged 13 and above), ¥2,000 (Children aged 9 to 12), ¥1,000 (Children aged 4 to 8), ¥3,000 (Seniors aged 65 and above), Free (Children aged 3 and below)
Please continue to read the second part of Hokuriku itinerary to explore more interesting places.