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Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/9 22:27

I will be traveling from Mount Fuji area to Nagano (Daio Wasabi Farm/Shibu Onsen), afterward heading to the following places:

1- Kurobe Gorge Railway
2- Tateyama Ropeway (only interested in this section of the Alpine route)
3- Kamikochi

Note that these places are relatively close to each other (chubu sangaku mountain range) but not connected to each other, so you have to work to way around it, through different entry points, which is time and money consuming.

Also, i'm considering, to replace Tateyama ropeway wiht the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway if the last is more beautifull and accesable.

Afterwards we'll be going to Kyoto. All with JR-pass.

What is the best route to travel between these places?

by Mike02  

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/10 23:03

How much time do you have to do all these places and what time of year are you planning this trip?

A lot of these places just take a while to get to and you will end up circling around quite a bit. I am also less sure a JR Pass will help since most of these places are not covered by such.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/10 23:59


I think 1 will have approximately one day at each destination unless daily travel takes to much time. So it will be something like this:

0- Fuji Area - 3 days
1- Kamochi - 1 day
2- Nagano - 1 day
3- Kurobe Gorge Railway - 1 day
2- Tateyama Ropeway - 1 day

by Mike02 rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/11 02:57

I am going to be working under the assumption you know the opening and closing season for Kamikochi and the Alpine Route or you can look on line to check that info for yourself.

Honestly, I would subtract one day from Kawaguchiko. While a lot of the places in the alps look quite close on a map, speed limits are low and travel outside of the actual Hokuriku shinkansen itself can be slow going and hourly or less often.

Personally, I would probably take the 8:30 bus from Kawaguchiko to Hirayu onsen:

and get off there and transfer to a bus to Kamikochi. Otherwise you are looking at a 3-4 train trip to Matsumoto before then transferring to Kamikochi there which is going to take you another 2+ hours by bus and train. I suspect taking the bus to Hirayu is probably the fastest method. Overnight in Kamikochi

For day 2, you take the bus back to Matsumoto and transfer there for Nagano. If you leave early enough I would check out Matsumoto Castle. From Nagano, you then need to transfer to the private line to Shibu onsen. I would then overnight there. Depending on when you left Kamikochi you would have time to see Matsumoto and/or Zenkoji before heading to Shibu onsen. I would see the monkeys on the morning of day

For Day 3, You can either take the bus to Ogiawa from Nagano to start the Kurobe Alpine Route or go to Toyama to start.

I personally think this sounds exhausting and every day you will be spending hours sitting on various transport, but hey, maybe you enjoy that.

If you wanted to add in an extra day, I would overnight in Toyama or Ogizwa, so that you can start the Kurobe Alpine Route super early and you would then wouldn't be in a huge rush on day 2 and day 3 trying to make connections, so it would be more like:

Day 1 take the bus to Hirayu and then transfer to Kamikochi (overnight there)
Day 2 spend morning in Kamikochi and then take bus to Matsumoto, train to Nagano and overnight in Nagano. If you go to Kamikochi in July or August I think there are direct buses back to Nagano. We always seem to just miss their starting date.
Day 3 Go in the morning to see the monkeys and then overnight in Toyama or Ogizawa.
Day 4 Do the Alpine Route and overnight in Kanazawa before heading to Kyoto the next day.

A lot of people here would say this is too fast. But your original 3 days really cuts things tight. The Kurobe Alpine Route seems to be quite popular and it can get backed up.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/11 03:09
If you really want to stay overnight in Shibu onsen, just be aware you're looking at a minimum ~4 hour trip from Kamikochi. (~2 hours from Kamikochi to Matsumoto, ~45 minutes from Matsumoto to Nagano, and ~45 Nagano to Yudanaka onsen.) This all works under the assumption with just 15 minute transfers between Matsumoto to Nagano and Nagano to Yudanaka onsen.) If your transfers are off or you don't take a limited express you are looking at ~5 hours or more. Times tables are not out yet for 2019, but you can use the current times tables to get some idea what transfers are like. If you are lucky and going when the direct bus from Kamikochi to Nagano is running , it will take 3 hours and won't involve any transfers, but will get you in way too late for dinner at Shibu onsen. (I believe it is 15:30-18:20.)
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/12 22:42
Thanks for the great tips. These buss routes come in handy.

I've still three questions regarding this.

1. You stated 'Day 4 Do the Alpine Route and overnight in Kanazawa before heading to Kyoto the next day.' I didn't see Kurobe George in the initiary. Did you mean Kurobe instead of Kyoto? Because we were planning to go to Kyoto afterwards, i.e. after Kurobe. In this case, will a overnight in Toyama, after visiting the Tateyama route, will more feasable, for doing the Kurobe George afterwards?

Second. The bus route from Kamikochi works fine, except for the fact that we will be traveling to Daoi Wasabi farm which is located in Azumino. Because this is more situated to Matsumoto, i'll be stopping here first before visiting Nagono (shibu onsen). This will effect the journey and arrival time. How does this translated in terms of the initiary?

3. will it be more handy to rent a car so i can shorten travel time?

I planned three days for the Fuji Area because i want to climb the mountain AND visit the surrounding attractions.

Really thankfull for your help in this mather.
by Mike02 rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/13 01:10

Technically, with the 4 day variation you would have time to do the gorge on either Day 3 after seeing the monkeys (because really how long do you plan to spend with the monkeys? For the Wasabi Farm you would do that post Kamikochi on Day 2 before heading to Nagano and just wouldn't have time for Matsumoto Castle or Zenkoji in Nagano. You're also going to have limited climbing time in Kamikochi since you won't be arriving until 12:30 or 1.

I get that you want to climb Mt. Fuji but I think it is impossible to do all the other things you want to do in 3 days even with a rental car. Having your own car would help but be aware some of the places you want to go you will need to figure out parking since they don't allow cars (Like Kamikochi and the Alpine Route.) You are also going to get huge drop-off fees depending on where you return it. You will also need to see what it costs using all the expressways, because if you don't use them the trip will not save you any time at all.

If you were rent a car from Kawaguchiko, it would take you at a minimum 2.5 hours to get to Sawando Parking lot to park for Kamikochi. I've been told Google Maps tends to underestimate driving times because it does a bad job of calculating speed limits. You will also be paying tolls for using the Chuo Expressway. At Sawando you have to wait for a bus to get to Kamikochi. I don't know how often they run. If you wanted to continue to Hirayu to park, the buses run 1 every 30 or so minutes. That would take you more like 3 hours. There are parking fees at either location.

Google claims it will take you 1 hour from Sawando to the Wasabi farm by car but I have my doubts. A good deal of the trip the speed limit is 40 or 45 kph and there is bus and truck traffic which slows things down. It will also have a toll for the Chuo Expressway portion where you can go 100 kph.

It is about 1.5 hours to Shibu onsen from the Wasabi farm as long as you take expressways most of the way there. Again there will be tolls.

It's 2.5 hours from Shibu onsen to Unazaki onsen. Again, you will need to figure out parking and tolls because it's mostly expressway.

There is parking in Ogizawa and Tateyama station for the Alpine route, but you will need to backtrack back to the parking lot to get your car which won't be covered by the discounted Alpine-Route ticket. The ropeway you want to do is around the halfway mark. I guess you could return the car before doing the route, there is a car transfer service but it will run you a hefty 25,000 yen.

The drop-off fees for a car rented in Kawaguchiko and returned around Toyama is going to be very high. I looked in 2017 into a renting a car from Takayama to then drop off in Matsumoto so we could more easily do Kamikochi, and the drop-off fee was 10,000 yen. The amount of time you save might make it worthwhile to you, but just be prepared that you might be looking at 10,000 yen+ since you don't really want to have to drive back to Kawaguchiko since it's not convenient at all. Since you are presumably a party of at least 2 adults, at least you can split the fees to make it work a bit better. I definitely wouldn't have a valid rail pass during this period if you are using a rental car. Assuming you started in Tokyo, I would bus it to Kawaguchiko, then rent the car, then maybe post the Alpine Route look into whether you need a pass, as it would depend on the rest of your trip. I personally, wouldn't drive from Toyama to Kyoto. It won't save you drop-off fees. And yes, I drive all the time where I live, as it is the countryside.

I guess another option would be to bus it to Kamikochi and rent a car when you get back to Matsumoto to drive to the Wasabi farm and then to Shibu onsen and then to Ogizawa to start the Alpine Route? I've never been to Ogizawa, but if it doesn't have a rental car return, I am sure Nagano does. That way you would just need to go from Toyama to Unazaki onsen and then back track to Toyama to head towards Kyoto. There would probably still be drop-off fees, but they wouldn't be as high since you are staying the whole time in Nagano-ken. Or if there is a rental place near Shin-Shimashima Station that would be even better because the buses from Kamikochi are not well timed with the trains on the Matsumoto Electric Railway and its pretty boring waiting around the station. It would definitely get you moving to the Wasabi farm earlier.

So I guess the rental car version would be more like:
Day 1 Kamikochi (overnight this is assuming there was a lot you wanted to do there, if there isn't, then go back to Matsumoto.)
Day 2 rent a car from Matsumoto or Shin-Shimashima and drive to Daio Wasabi farm and then drive to Shibu onsen. If you get there early enough see monkeys otherwise go in the morning
Day 3 see monkeys, drive to Ogizawa and return rental car (otherwise return in Nagano and bus it to Ogizawa) and take the Alpine Route (night Toyama or somewhere else near the Gorge)
Day 4 the Gorge, then head to Kyoto assuming you can arrive late in Kyoto. It should take ~4 hours to get from Unazakionsen to Kyoto.

I hope this makes sense!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/13 01:15
If there isn't a lot you wanted to do in Kamikochi and you overnight in Matsumoto instead, you might be able to drop the trip down to 3 days, but I think it would still be hard. I just think the Kurobe Alpine Route takes 5-6 hours and even though you just want to do one part, you would then either need to back track or continue onwards still giving you that 5-6 hour total and the part you do want to do is one of the most popular parts.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/13 18:15
thank you greatly for this detailed advice/instructions!

The 5 day, most possible car, schedule is fine i think.

I have no interest in the monkeys, only the classical onsens.

Matsumoto will not be missed because i've already been there before.

Besided Climbing from Kawaguchiko, in the Fuji Area i'll be visiting:

1- Oshino Hakai Village
2- Chureito Pagoda
3- Imamiya Shizuoka Tea Plantation
4- Shiraito Falls

Will this be possible to do in one day, perhaps renting the car a day earlier? The car route is not long, the buss will ride less frequent i read.

Concerning using the JR-raillpass after Tokyo i'll be visiting:

1- Nikko
2- Honke Bankyu Ryokan

After Kyoto i'll be visiting:

1- Miyajima
2- Osaka

Perhaps flying to Yaeyama afterwards and back to Kansai before heading home. But that's not sure.

I'm still doubting how to use the JR-railpass because of the overlap with the car rental in between. Otherwise changing the route from Tokyo to Kyoto isn't possible also. Any advise on this?

Thanks again!
by Mike02 rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/14 22:44
BTW: the total initiary will be 17 days in total
by Mike02 rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/17 19:21
Some advice on this, anybody?
by Mike02 rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/18 13:32

I've personally never been to Kawaguchiko. Outside of climbing Mt. Fuji it looks awful boring to me for a 2 hour one way trip to someplace. I guess if I was there during one of the flower festivals, I might consider, but Kawaguchiko is not a huge interest to me. I'm content just seeing Mt. Fuji from Tokyo.

Honestly, I think your itinerary is really packed and I think you need to be honest with yourself and figure out what exactly you want to do. Having a rental car can certainly help but again, it only helps so much and you really need to look into drop-off fees because they can be substantial. Your trip looks exhausting.

You might not need a JR Rail pass. JR Rail Passes are only good if you actually need one. Sometimes it is cheaper to pay out of pocket. Your itinerary might not be a good use for one. Since you are presumably going in the Summer you have not purchased your pass yet so it's not like you have to deal with trying to get a refund.

You have 17 days and I've no idea where you've been and what you want to do, since you have only shared partial pieces of your itinerary. I have no idea if you are flying out of Tokyo for both flights or are able to get flights into Tokyo one way and out of KIX or another airport for your other flights.

Your trip to Nikko it might make sense to get one of the Tobu line passes since Honke Bankyu is off Aizu-Kinugawa line, though again, you might need to rent a car or will be using a bus to access Yunishigawa onsen, which is again not covered by a JR Pass.

I've no idea of your breakdown outside of the at least 7 days you are spending in Kawaguchiko and the Alps. Generally arrival and/or departure days can be lost days depending on flight arrival/departure times and how you feel after your flight. That means 9 days of your 17 days with 8 more days for Tokyo, Kyoto and Yaeyama. The trip to Honke Bankyu is going to take a bit, since first you need to get to Kinugawa onsen station before taking the bus for 1 hour. If you plan to use the Yagan railway, make sure to actually get some idea of the schedule, supposedly that line is not as frequent. You are going to lose 2 days to get to Honke Bankyu (1 day there and 1 day back) you can fit in sightseeing in Nikko either day or fit in shopping at night in Tokyo, but you are unlikely to make it to a lot of Tokyo sights either of those days. This is now 11 days... so you have 6 days for Tokyo, Kyoto and Yaeyama.

If you are using Tokyo for both your flights, it might make sense to fly from KIX to Yaeyama but from Yaeyama back to Tokyo, so you don't need to backtrack on land.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/18 14:36
Hi, just on Kawaguchiko, we just spent a couple of nights on the lake.

Pleasant train ride there;
awesome views of Fuji (like it is MASSIVE from there);
pretty lake area;
good (but expensive) ryokans on the lake;
little cafe attached to the doll museum which serves the best hot dogs ever. I mean EVER!

Longish ride there;
Town not particularly interesting;
Lake is pleasant but not much to do;
awesome views of Fuji could be obscured by clouds;
no point going unless you are there overnight but be prepared to be skinned alive by overly expensive ryokans.

by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese Alps Best Route 2018/12/19 02:01
After looking at someone else's itinerary for the alps, you might actually want to fly from Komatsu Airport near Kanazawa to Naha and from there to Yaeyama. There are direct flights from Komatsu to Naha. You could then do a return flight to Osaka and see Kansai before returning to Tokyo to leave, assuming you must leave from Tokyo. It might save you time in the long run and really might tip the scales to you not needing a JR rail pass at all.
by rkold rate this post as useful

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