This post is the continuity of our previous post entitled Hokuriku Itinerary for Muslim Travellers. If you haven’t read the first part of the Hokuriku itinerary, click the link here.
8: 30AM Matsumoto Castle
10:00AM Nawate Street & Nakamachi Street
11:00AM Matsushita Soba (Lunch)
12:00AM Depart to Takasaki Station
2:15PM Takasaki Tower Museum of Art
3:30PM Depart to Shim-Maebashi Station to Shibukawa Station (C6120 Locomotive Train)
5:00PM Check in to Moriaki Ryokan (Including dinner)
From hotel to the Matsumoto Castle, it will only take 9 minutes by car. Matsumoto Castle is the oldest six-story castles in Japan and has been named as a National Treasure. The castle was constructed in the 15th century where it was ruled by the Ishikawa clan followed by Toda clan as the last rulers. The black and white castle has a hidden floor and it can’t be seen from outside. Visitors can enter the castle to see many displays of weapons, armour, and ancient collections of coins.
The hidden floor is located on the third floor and is known as the dark floor for the room has no windows. The dark floor was used to keep weapon supplies and to hide from castle attackers. Before entering the castle, you need to remove your shoes and keep them in a plastic bag which will be given to you by the staffs.
Address: 4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto 390-0873, Nagano Prefecture
Operating Hours: 8:30AM – 5:00PM
Admission Fees: ¥610 (Adults), ¥300 (Children)
Closest Train Station: Matsumoto Station
You can head to Nawate Street to do some shopping particularly for souvenirs and Japanese snacks. From the castle, you can go to the street by 5 minutes walk. The first thing you will see is the frog statues that are very significant in Nawate Street. This place used to rain frogs all over the street and river, hence the people thought it would be appropriate to create the statue. Along the street, you will find many shops that sell old-fashioned stuff and toys.
This store sells all sorts of rice crackers and you can get Halal rice crackers here too. Simply ask the owner and he will show you the Halal section. Another street food you should try is Taiyaki. A fish-shaped cake usually comes with many types of fillings such as red bean, chocolate and custard. Apart from that, there is also a shrine located in Nawate Street called Yohashira Shrine which you can visit if you are in no rush. Then, you can head to Nakamachi Street for lunch.
The Matsushita Soba restaurant specializes in serving buckwheat flour noodles. For Muslims, you can choose the cold zoru-soba noodles that are topped with dried kelp and served with miso soup and soy sauce. You need to make a reservation for Halal dishes as this is a non-Halal restaurant.
Address: 2-9-14, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano Prefecture
Operating Hours: 11:00AM – 10:00PM (Break time from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM), Closed on Friday
Contact Number: 0263 – 33 – 4844
Website: http://ww4.et.tiki.ne.jp/~kinta/ (Japanese only)
After lunch, take a train from Matsumoto Station to Takasaki Station.
Your next destination is the Takasaki Tower Museum of Art which is located right across the Takasaki Station. For art enthusiasts, this museum is going to amaze you as they exhibit many Japanese-influenced paintings. Please take note that taking photos inside the museum is strictly prohibited. Furthermore, the two floors museum also sells souvenirs with Japanese artworks such as tenugui and postcards. Sometimes, they will hold exclusive exhibition a few times a year, so you can keep your eyes out for any upcoming art exhibition to attend.
Image Source: Youki S on Foursquare.
Takasaki Tower Museum of Art
Address: 3-23 Sakaechō, Takasaki-shi, Gunma-ken 370-0841
Operating Hours: 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Admission Fees: ¥200 (Adults), ¥160 (High school students), Free (Seniors and aged 12 and below)
Contact Number: 027-330-3773
After that, head to Shibukawa Station where you will be travelling in an old-fashioned locomotive train known as the C6120. The steam locomotive is the most favourable train ride by the locals and tourists. Before the train starts its journey, people will gather around the train to take pictures of the locomotive. For JR East Pass user, you can reserve your seat at their website. This is the SL Yogisha Takasaki to Minakami. The journey to Shibukawa Station will take about 1 hour 30 minutes.
Steam locomotive C6120.
From Shibukawa Station, make your way to Moriaki Ryokan, Ikaho Onsen. This traditional ryokan is located inside Ikaho Onsen where you can easily wander off by foot. Moriaki Ryokan features great facilities such as hot spring baths (Private and communal), karaoke room, lounge and souvenir shop. For Muslims, if you would like to bathe in an onsen, you can stay in the room with a private bath.
Room with a garden terrace.
At night, you can dine at the ryokan’s restaurant where they are able to provide a Halal shabu-shabu cuisine. Bear in mind that this cuisine includes a lot of courses, so make sure your stomach is empty before you go for dinner. Besides that, wearing yukata around the ryokan is highly valued. Each room will be provided with an individual yukata, so make sure you try to wear them once.
Shabu-shabu in a small dining room.
Address: 60, Ikahomachi Ikaho, Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture 377-0102, Japan
Contact Number: +81-279-72-2601
9:30AM Sightseeing around Ikaho Onsen
11:00AM Akagi Nature Park
12:00PM Tsukiyono Vidro Park (Lunch)
2:45PM Depart to Echigo Yuzawa via Genbi Shinkansen
4:45PM Former Saito Family Villa (Japanese matcha tea)
7:00PM Check in Bandai Silver Hotel (Including dinner)
Since Moriaki Ryokan is near to Ikaho Onsen, you can visit souvenir shops to purchase their unique items. If you must know, Ikaho Onsen has 365 stone steps that represent the number of days in a year. Moreover, this hot spring town includes arcade shops, hot spring baths and a Jinja Shrine. The shrine is situated at the top of the 365th steps and it is actually the symbol of Ikaho Onsen.
As you descend from the shrine, one of the famous places for autumn foliage is Kajika Bridge. Other than that, Ikaho Onsen is also famous for their red-bean Ikaho Manju where you can easily purchase them anywhere along the onsen town.
One of the famous Ikaho Manju’s shops.
Half an hour from Ikaho Onsen, Akagi Nature Park is considered as one of Japan’s forest bathing sites. You may refer to this article to learn more about forest bathing. Loaded with rare species of flowers and insects, this park is perfect for those who seek tranquillity and serene ambience.
Akagi Nature Park.
This nature park consists of several zones with distinctive features such as garden for Rhododendron flowers, a gazebo and habitats for rare beetles. Overall, after spending time in the concrete jungle, you can come to Akagi Nature Park to unwind for an hour or two.
Akagi Nature Park
Address: 892 Minami Akagisan, Akagi-machi, Shibukawa-shi, Gunma-ken 379-1113
Operating Hours: 9:00AM – 4:30PM
Admission Fees: ¥1,000 (Adult), Free (Children & Disable People), ¥500 (Groups of 20 people or more)
Contact Number: 0279-56-5211
Official Website: https://akagishizenen.jp/english/
As you completed your forest therapy, head to the glass factory called Tsukiyono Vidro Park for sand-blasting workshop and lunch. Next to the factory is the Dobry Den restaurant that serves soba noodles and tempura.
Inaka soba noodles with tempura.
After lunch, go to the sand-blasting workshop to create your own mug. The staff will instruct you on how to design the mug and you will be provided with a variety of mug stickers. Once you’re done decorating, place your mug in the sand-blasting machine to create a smoked glass effect. The workshop will take only around 30 minutes.
In addition, they will take you around the factory to see how glassware is made. Other than a sand-blasting workshop, you can also partake in a glassblowing class where you can shape your own glassware by blowing through its pipe.
Tsukiyono Vidro Park
Address: 737-1, Gokan, Minakami-machi Tone-gun, Gumma, 379-1305, Japan
Operating Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Workshop Fees: ¥870 (Sand-blasting), ¥2,160 (Glassblowing)
Contact Number: +81-278-62-2211 (Call for workshop reservation)
Have you ever heard or ride Genbi Shinkansen? Known as the world’s fastest art experience, this joyful train ride boasts six cars with each installed with a unique theme to express artists’ creations. For JR East Pass user, there is a discounted offer if you plan to ride this shinkansen. Please check the schedule as the Shinkansen does not operate daily.
From the glass factory, head to Jomokogen Station to Echigo Yuzawa Station and take Genbi Shinkansen to Niigata Station.
For those who want to reserve their seats, they can choose the Car No.11. Inside the shinkansen, you will find a play area in Car No.13 and also the Genbi Shinkansen Café that caters only desserts and beverages. Other than these cars, the rest are free-seating areas, so feel free to walk around to see beautiful arts inside the shinkansen.
Make your way to the Former Saito Summer Villa which is only 10 minutes away from Niigata Station. Here you will be soaked in a very calm environment as the villa is surrounded with trees, small waterfall and a pond. The villa used to belong to a well-known family in Niigata called the Saitos back in 1917. Now, the villa is recognized as National Place of Scenic Beauty.
When you arrive at the villa, the host will offer you a bowl of matcha tea and wagashi to eat while facing the garden. He will explain the history of the villa and take you on a tour inside the area. You will discover several Saito’s villa special features such as a pagoda, stone basin and many more.
Former Saito Family Villa
Address: 576 Nishi Ohatacho, Chuo-ku, Niigata 951-8104
Operating Hours: 9:00AM – 6:00PM
Admission Fees: ¥300 (Adults), ¥100 (Children)
Contact Number: 025-210-8350
Bandai Silver Hotel is situated near shopping malls like AEON and you can drop by during your free time. For dinner, the hotel’s restaurant provides Halal meals which are very helpful. Apart from Japanese cuisines, they also serve Indian and Western cuisines.
Lamb steak served with biryani rice and pita bread.
Bandai Silver Hotel
Address: 950-8533 Niigata, Niigata, Bandai 1-3-30, Japan
Contact Number: 025-243-3711
We will update the last part of the Hokuriku itinerary in our upcoming post.