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Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/16 03:41
Hello lovely Japan Guide people!

My husband and I are looking into our 2nd trip to Japan! This time it shall be slower, and more nature based.

I wanted to ask you all if you think a ryokan with onsen in Okuhida is a good "base of operations" for side trips to the nearby popular spots.
We were thinking 3-4 nights in Okuhida.

Side trips without staying overnight (so that we don't have to carry the big luggage around):
Takayama - 1 day
Shirakawa - 1 day
Kamikochi - 1 day
Okuhida Ropeway - squeeze in somewhere

=> So basically I imagined it like this: On each morning, get a bus to the other cities. Spend the day there. Come back to the ryokan in Okuhida and relax in the own onsen. Rinse and repeat.

We didn't decide yet if we want to come into the region from Tokyo, or from Kyoto. From Tokyo sounds more reasonable, right? Because our base of operations is on the east side. Coming from Kyoto would mean passing by almost all the cities we would see as side trips.
We also didn't decide on the season yet. Either spring for Sakura season (like in our first trip). Or in autumn for fall foliage (that would be new for us), thinking of late October - November.

Looking forward to your feedback!
by AndreaFricke  

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/16 06:48
The thought of spending the nights in a rustic mountain environment instead of a city sounds very appealing to me personally.

The only issue I can see is that you may get too much food by staying at a ryokan for so many consecutive days. Many ryokan serve rather large meals, although recently some ryokan also offer plans with lighter meals. Some ryokan also offer no-meal plans, although I don't think that you have many dining options in Okuhida outside of the ryokan, especially outside Hirayu.
by Uji rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/16 09:50
I was also thinking about doing the same thing in November 2022. I was going to take the Nohi bus from Shinjuku to Hyrayu Onsen, and stay there for two nights, before heading to Takayama for two more nights. My plan is to do a Shirakawa-go bus tour and visit the Hida Village and Old Town.

The Nohi bus service has some value tickets for that the Hyrayu Onsen area. Check out their Marigoto Value Ticket and the Nohi Bus website (itfs offered in English). There are two flavors of tickets, one includes Kamikochi, and one that does not. I was planning to do the ropeway and to visit the Black Castle in Matsumoto, so my plan was to get the value ticket without Kamikochi.

My plan was to stay two nights in an Onsen in Hyrayu, and then two nights in a hotel in Takayama, probably the Washington. I think your plan is reasonable.

Good Luck, in planning your trip.
by ebaychucky311 rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/16 09:53
Your trip, so no reason why you cannot plan it like that. Travelling from Tokyo you can get there easily via Matsumoto and the scenery is nice.
I do think you are adding a bit of repetitive travel with Takayama and Shirakawa as separate trips, but I am sure you have factored that in to your plan.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/16 12:25
I am not a fan a Shirakawa Go. I much preferred Hida no Sato, it was a lot more interesting and honestly, easier to get to.

I think your plan works, other fun things to do if you stop off in Matsumoto outside of the castle are: a great small art museum; some cute cafes; and a bunch of public wells: https://visitmatsumoto.com/en/sightseeing/natural-springs-and-historic...
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/16 15:56
Thanks for all your answers so far!!

@Uji: Where do you see a problem in getting "too much food"? Don't understand how you mean that.

@JapanCustomTours: True, when going to Takayama, we will pass by Shirakawa AGAIN. But I also don't want to do both places in 1 day, which would remove that partly double trip.

@rkold: Hmm, wasn't planning Matsumoto in, but I'll check out your link.

@All: Do you have any pro/cons for visiting in autumn vs. spring? For example that it might get really cold during November in the alps, and that we would have to pack too much clothing for catering to mild Tokyo + Kyoto November weather, and for much colder weather in the Alps.
What is your experience with the rain amount during either season? Being on vacation when it rains the whole day is also not very cool, were forced to try that out on the USA east coast in 2019. It basically ruined a whole city because we had 1 night there, and on the day before and after it was CONSTANTLY raining.
by AndreaFricke rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/16 18:31
As for rain, I have encountered some showers in the season of cherry blossoms.
by Natanezuyu (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/16 20:02
Regarding too much food. Ryokans come with breakfast and dinner included and it is (for Japanese standards) abounded food. So 3 days in a row might be too much for some people.

Regarding weather, you obviously never know but I would say autumn has less rain than cherry blossom season. In general.

Anyway you will be too late/early for autumn colors or Sakura in ALL your locations. Ie when there are peak autumn colours in The Alps there are none yet in kyoto. Same for cherry blossoms. If you have peak in kyoto they will still be firmly closed in the Alps.
by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/16 20:47
@AndreaFricke: I think Rkoldfs comment about Matsumoto was directed at me, because I posted my itinerary which includes visiting the Black Castle in Matsumoto.

The bus that goes from Takayama to Matsumoto passes stops at Hirayu Onsen bus terminal. Itfs about a 90 minute trip to Matsumoto, and about 60 minute trip to Takayama. The cost of a round trip bus to Matsumoto -\4800.

The fact that Nohi offers passes means that others do the same thing that you and I are planning.

About Ujifs comment on food, the Onsens usually offer a huge dinner consisting of many dishes. Itfs similar to what some people go through on a cruise ship, and end up gaining weight.

As for spring -vs- fall, this is a ski resort area, with chair lifts just a few kilometers away. I believe that fall colors might be better than cherry blossoms. My plan is to arrive at the very end of October.

Good Luck, in planning your trip.
by ebaychucky311 rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/16 21:23
About ryocan meals is true, but some ryocan provide less amount for senior guests, for those who are on diet, for environment, etc, nowadays.

Less rain or rainy days in the Autumn but the rain itself will be heavy once a typhoon hits, while rains in the spring/natanezuyu are not that heavy. Typhoon season should be gone before the time that you expect to be there but I can't say 'no typhoon' because of climate change, I remember there was one, which hit in mid October and it caused quite heavy rain.
by kiki (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/16 21:30
@LikeBike: Okay, but I can factor that into the travel direction, right?
As of now, my top 1 priority would be to catch approaching peak or full peak of autumn leaves in Kyoto. So that would come last on the list. We will start in Toyko, do a side trip to Nikko (where the autumn leaves should already be developed?), and then head into the alps. And then go via Kanazawa to Kyoto to arrive during approaching peak.
That was the idea.

If I try to find the best "column" on this page https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2014_when.html , that looks like going to Tokyo in late October (no autumn leaves there, but seeing them in Nikko), being ealry Nov in the alps (Kamikochi is not marked there, but not caring so much how the autumn leaves look there), and ending mid November in Kyoto (autumn leaves should be there, or at least start).

On that note: Why is Kamikochi truly closed from November 16th to mid/late April? Too much snow there? Would we come into cold snow weather then already?
by AndreaFricke rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/17 01:48
I visited that area in late april of '19.

The bus system is very efficient and you can move around easily, but they do not run all the time. Make sure you lnow about the bus schedule. If you are staying by the bus station it is no issue, but if staying a ways away farther in town, dont miss the bus.

When i visited Kamikochi on the first day it was open, it was very cold and it snowed.
by Rols (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/17 03:30
In regards to Matsumoto, I also just partially brought it up because if you are going to Okuhida from Tokyo (vs. Kansai) stopping in Matsumoto is easy. I like Japanese highway buses and I know they have rest stops, but I also am just at a stage where I'd personally break it up with an overnight or at least an actual walk around in Matsumoto before heading to Hirayu. But this is a personal preference and mostly, I would take a day in Matsumoto over a day in Shirakawa Go in a second. I suspect I am the person on this forum who most thinks Shirakawa Go is overrated lol There also use to specifically be a bus pass that went: Matsumoto, Hirayu onsen, Takayama, Shirakawa Go and then ended in Kanazawa and assuming it is still on offer you might want to consider it. You would use it to go Matsumoto to Hirayu (then pay our of pocket for your trip to ryokan assuming you don't stay in Hirayu itself) Then pay out of pocket for Kamikochi, then pay out of pocket to round trip to Takayama, and then when ready to leave, use the pass again to go to Takayama, from there to Shirakawa Go and from there to Kanazawa, The train between Takayama and Toyama is a scenic but a pain, and since you want to end in Kanazawa any way, that makes more sense.

Generally, when an area closes for the Winter, yes, it means they are expecting a lot of snow. More than likely in early November, there could even be light snow in Kamikochi. I think deep into the Winter there are snow shoe hikes you can do in Kamikochi, but I think it needs to be deeper into Winter, like January. I got caught in a blizzard near Towadako in late April '09 on a road that had recently opened post the Winter closure, so I now respect Japanese Winter closures a lot more than I did before that experience.

I was in Kamikochi when it did nothing but pour in June 2018. It was pretty miserable and I thought they were going to have to evacuate us because the river was close to jumping its banks and had already done so in some areas. I actually don't mind cities in the rain, but I don't enjoy anything more physical than a nice walk in the rain.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/17 05:16
@rkold: Oh wow, that rain downpour experience in Kamikochi, doesn't sound pleasant :( . Well, but you made it ;) .
I see what you mean about 1 full bus trip for 5h, vs. stepping outside of the train in Matsumoto, doing some walking, and only then continuing. Sounds also good.
Well, I read some "Shirakawa is over-hyped" by now, so either that was all you, or multiple people, so you are not alone with your opinion ;) . I don't think though that I could convince my husband not to go, nor myself ;) . It's also because there's a cool anime that is based on that village, "Higurashi no naku koro ni", veeeery cool horror anime!

Why is the train to Toyama a pain?
By the way, do you know all of this by heart, the connections and so on, or did you also look it up? ;)

@Rols: Thank you as well! Yes, I plan to study the bus schedule thoroughly, and I think we would stay at Hirayu Onsen because it's the most developed, and because of the bus hub.
by AndreaFricke rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/17 07:05

If you mean the general 3 Star Bus Pass route, it was a popular route for people who want to go between Kanazawa and Matsumoto so I memorized the route. If you wanted actual bus or train times I would need to look those up, and again, I don't know if the pass is back up and active yet, this was all pre-covid. But if it were me, I would do the train from Tokyo to Matsumoto in the morning, spend a few hours in Matsumoto and start my pass and plan to get to my ryokan for dinner and some onsen soaking. I would pay out of pocket for the train from Tokyo to Matsumoto (assuming you had no other reason to need any JR pass earlier.) get the 3 Star Route which I want to say use to be 5500 yen. The out of pocket bus trips would be out of pocket regardless, and then just pay for the train from Kanazawa to Kyoto out of pocket, again depending on what you planned to do in Kansai.

Matsumoto had tons of lockers, and you should not have a hard time finding one for a carry on sized bag while you visit the city. Takayama also had a lot of lockers, though I found it easier to get a locker in Matsumoto. But neither were a struggle when I visited them in June 2017 and June 2018 respectively. (I didn't need a locker when I went to Takayama in February 2010.)

I recommend the pass (assuming it is active) vs. the train because 1) it is cheaper and pretty much covers a lot of Matsumoto to Kanazawa. 2) If you want to go to Shirakawa Go, it's part way to Kanazawa and why back track since that is your ending goal. 3) There are 8 trains a day from Takayama to Toyama. 4 express and 4 locals. Outside of the last express, if you miss an earlier express, taking the locals only gets you in about 30 minutes earlier, you just spend a lot more time in transit vs. waiting around Takayama. I know about this first hand, because I missed my limited express from Takayama to Toyama and got stuck waiting around 2+ hours unexpectedly in Takayama. I was heading to Nagano, so taking the bus to Matsumoto and then another train wasn't going to help me much either. (Though I regret not doing it, since I like Matsumoto a lot and taking a bus to Shirakawa Go and then onwards to Kanazawa was also not going to help much.) There are nearly hourly limited express between Takayama and Nagoya (as well as buses and locals) since that is the much more popular route. Takayama to Nagano, not so much.

Most ryokan kick you out early (think 10 am) so it would not be too hard to plan to take the bus to Shirakawa Go, spend a few hours day and then end in Kanazawa after dark. (This is assuming you have time to sightsee in Kanazawa at some point the next day. Kanazawa is another city I personally like.)

I've gone some weird places for my interests, so I get that. I regularly make pilgrimages for lack of a better word to Ononimachi in Fukushima-ken and went to Hashimoto on my first Japan trip because I read a book that took place in Wakayama-ken. I just find Shirakawa Go really touristy.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/17 07:30
I personally havenft been to Shirakawago, but went to Gokayama and Ainokura. Ainokura was really nice, but it is hard (impossible?) to reach without private transport. Gokayama aaa okay but touristy. Now Shirakawago is even more touristy.
But all this is pre covid. So maybe if you can go quite soon before tourism has picked up fully again, you can enjoy Shirakawago.
by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/17 10:32
You had better realize some responds to your question regarding rain are important for your safety.
by www (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/17 10:42
I would have thought you passed Takayama on the way to Shirakawa-go unless you are going a weird/different route, but the bus goes to Takayama first in all the trips along that route I've done.
Building on some of the above comments, and I did not add this yesterday, the trip to Takayama via Matsumoto from Tokyo is very good in my opinion. I did an over-night in Matsumoto recently (because it is an easy to get to spot for me and I could enjoy some onsen at the place I stayed) and I certainly like the castle and town (the art museum was free the week I was there as it is now closed for a year for renovations).
The bus from Matsumoto through to Takayama makes some spectacular scenery accessible, and gets you to Hirayu Onsen.
I can easily spend several days in Takayama - more to see than just the touristy bit of the town.
As for season, I prefer autumn. Weather can get cool (cold and possible snow) quickly, but can be very nice as well earlier in the month.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/17 11:42
I don't think about rain in the autumn means that you must go there in the spring. Not many people here realize what does typhoon like, what may be caused, it is just a remind, although possibility that it happens late October is low.

And, about meals of ryokan is not a comment just posted to kill the time, I am sure it was added to share as an additional useful info as well.
by kiki (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Okuhida as a base for side trips? 2021/6/18 04:57
@Uji or @rkold: I am re-thinking taking the bus from Shinjuku to Hyrayu Onsen, and might spend a night in Matsumoto instead. I may have a third day left on a JR Tokyo wide pass, which does allow you to get reservations from Shinjuku to Kobuchizawa station on the Limited Express Azusa, but not all the way to Matsumoto.

The first two days would be round trip Limited Express trains to Nikko (\8160), and Kawaguchico (\8260). The JR Tokyo Wide Area at \10180 has been paid for with the first two days travel. The Shinjuku to Kobuchizawa Limited Express Azusa is \5320.

Will I just have to pay the difference, \1300, to continue riding to Matsumoto, or, will I have to purchase the Kobuchizawa to Matsumoto leg separately for \2190?

I am assuming I will pay this when I show my pass at the window, and get my ticket for the Azusa.

Thank You, in advance, for any information that you can give me.
by ebaychucky311 rate this post as useful

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