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Utsukushigahara Hot Springs 2009/10/4 11:36
Will be in Matsumoto at end Nov and thinking of visiting Utsukushigahara Hot Springs for the "soaking in hot spring above the clouds experience".

Other than the Utsukushigahara Open-Air Museum, what is other must do/ must see in the area? And how much time is needed to see the area?

Thank you.
by Chloe (guest)  

Utsukushigahara Plateau 2009/10/4 14:18
As your last post was taken out, I'll repeat here. Utsukushigahara Plateau is about outdoor and open country. It is popular for hiking and viewing alpine flowers. The only thing is that the Open-Air Museum will be closed from Nov. 15 this year till late April 2010.
by William5 rate this post as useful

-- 2009/10/4 18:17
Hi William5,

Thanks for the information. I guess winter would not be a good time to go since hiking will be difficult and there's probably no alpine flowers to view.

I have 5 days to spend in Nagano prefecture from 30 Nov to 4 Dec and need advice on my itinerary:

Day 1:
Arrive from Takayama around 11am, visit Matsumoto Castle + Daio Wasabi Farm, Asama Hot spring, night at Matsumoto.

Day 2:
Kiso Valley (Too far?), night at Matsumoto

Day 3:
Chuo Alps Komagatake Ropeway (suitable in winter?), night at Matsumoto.

Snow Monkey Park and zenkoji temple, night at Nagano.

Day 5:
Obuse Chestnut path + (? Need your suggestion). Night at Nagano.

Thank you.
by Chloe (guest) rate this post as useful

some thoughts 2009/10/5 04:33
Time on day 1 is too tight if you arrive 11.00 at Matsumoto. Hotaka is 30 min JR from Matsumoto and Daio Wasabi Farm is more than 30 min walk from Hotaka JR station. We did it on 15 min. rental bike but I'm not sure about biking in winter time. A taxi ride should not take more than 10 min. and cost about 1200 yen. You read my post on the other thread about Matsumoto. Matsumoto Castle and the rest of town could easily take up half a day, not to mention you want to go to Asama Onsen! Another thing you should note is that daytime in winter is short with sunset possibly before 17.00.

One full day for Kiso Valley from Matsumoto should be OK. You can take an early 75 min. direct train from Matsumoto to Nakatsugawa followed by 25 min bus to Magome. Do the 2 hr. hike to Tsumago. Take a 7 min bus from Tsumago to Nagiso for 1 hr direct JR back to Matsumoto. Time allowed, you can also take in Narai. Though less visited than Magome and Tsumago, it was the more important post town on the Nakasendo. Narai is less than 50 min direct JR from Matsumoto.

One full day for the snow monkey park from Nagano is possible. Direct train from Nagano to Yudanaka is less than an hour, but you have to time it carefully due to the infrequent bus connection. There are more discussions about the park here:

If time is a factor, take 7 min. bus #1 from Nagano JR sta. to Zenko-ji, though the long walk would let you pass some interesting shops on both sides of the street. BTW, in Zenko-ji don't forget to go for the Okaidan basement walk in complete darkness, a path said to lead to eternal enlightenment.

As for the Komagatake Ropeway and the chestnut path near the Hokusai Museum, I could not comment as I have yet to go to these places.

South of Yudanaka is the unique town of Kusatsu, worth going if you want an onsen experience.

I read from your other thread about the Shiraito-no-taki. If you are going to that area, consider Karizawa and the nearby Onioshidashi Rock Garden which are both worth visiting on your way to Tokyo from Nagano.
by William5 rate this post as useful

Thanks 2009/10/5 10:02
Hi William5,

Thanks a zillion for your invaluable advice that is detailed. : )

It is a definitely yes for Okaidan basement Walk after reading about it in your other post. The interesting shops along the walk to the temple sounds good to me. How much time do you think I need to allocate for the visit to Zenko-ji Temple if I wish to walk around the area ? I remembered I spent a whole day walking around the shops near Kiyomizudera in Kyoto last year.

My past experience with onsen was to booked into a Ryokan and use the onsen in the Ryokan. However, I saw photos of Yudanaka tourists in bathrobe walking on the street. Is it a practice to visit different onsens in that area? If so, I will probably need a day there?

And yes, on my way to Toyko, I'm planning a stop by at Karuizawa for the outlet mall and if time permit will also visit the Onioshidashi Rock Garden as you have suggested.


by Chloe (guest) rate this post as useful

some more thoughts 2009/10/5 23:10
A whole day round the shops at Kiyomizu-dera, Wow! I can assure you, the Chuo-dori shopping street at Zenko-ji is not as interesting. I found the souvenir stores on both side of the temple approach, the Nakamise-dori, to be more colourful, and it is a shorter walk! We spend only an hour or so in Zenko-ji. The main entrance, the San-mon, was under renovation while we were there. The Hondo main hall is not big. Besides the Okaidan beneath the main altar, there is the popular wooden statue of the Buddhist physician Binzuru which people keep rubbing for pain relief. BTW, for Okaidan, you need to buy a 500 yen ticket from a ticket machine and take off your shoes when entering. Of minor interest on Nakamise-dori are Daihongan (the nunnery and residence of the female priest of Zenko-ji), Mizuko Jizo (shrine/statue of patron saint of stillborn babies), Daikanjin (high priest residence of Zenko-ji), and of course the photogenic Roku Jizo (6 large outdoor guardian statues on your right as you face the temple).

Yes, it is a common sight that people walk in their yukata during their stay in onsen towns. We did it too. But don't forget to put on warm clothing on top if you're doing it in winter. My wife tried that in Ginzan Onsen while we were there in Feb. and didn't last a couple of minutes in the snow! We didn't stay in Yudanaka, just pass it by on our way to the snow monkey park. We opt instead to stay the night in the lovely onsen town of Kusatsu.

Karuizawa has more to offer than just the Prince Shopping Outlet. Time allowed, have a look at the beautiful Uchimura Kanzo Memorial Stone Church
There is also a small but interesting Trick Art Gallery

As for the Onioshidashi Rock Garden, it is big. To cover the whole area may take more than an hour's walk if not two. You don't have to walk the entire ground if you don't want to and there is a restaurant there if you need a break.
by William5 rate this post as useful

Driving in Karuizawa 2009/10/6 11:31
Wow! With your detailed guide, I can almost see myself in the temple already. : ) Thanks, will try to take the Nakamise-dori, walk if time permits!

Karuizawa: The two places you recommended look amazing! Thanks for sharing. Definitely adding them into my itinerary.

A few questions on the Uchimura Kanzo Memorial Stone Church -Is the church opened daily? Need to buy ticket or inform the church of my visit?

Also, as I'm just stopping by before heading to Tokyo in the evening, I'm thinking of renting car while I am there to save the time spend on waiting for bus. Is parking easy in the town? I have not driven in Japan, is road sign easy to follow?

by Chloe (guest) rate this post as useful

Karuizawa 2009/10/6 22:03
The Stone Church is opened 9.00-18.00, admission is free but not permitted to enter if there is a wedding ceremony going on.

Driving around Karuizawa should not be too difficult. Unlike Tokyo, traffic there is comparatively light. In a full day we did the major sites there on a rental car, though I wasn't the driver. We even went to Shiraito Falls. Coming back to Karuizawa from the Rock Garden, we past Asama-san and stop by a slope where we saw steam vents and bubbling mud ponds, quite a sight for photo-taking. Having said that, I am not sure about the winter condition as we went during April.
by William5 rate this post as useful

Course and map 2009/10/7 12:17
Thanks William.

Good to know that it is possible to see the major sites in a day. Can you advise on the course to take? Actually I'm very interested in the one you took because the places you mentioned all sound interesting to me. : )

Also, do you know where I can download a good tourist map of Karuizawa?


by Chloe (guest) rate this post as useful

Karuizawa 2009/10/7 20:58
My friend was doing the driving and I cannot recall the travelling time between places. All I remember is that early in the morning before leaving town, we went to the stone church and the trick art gallery. Then we went to Shiraito Falls. After that we went to the rock garden and had a late lunch in the restaurant there before walking through the ground. The last stop before leaving is of course the Prince shopping outlet. When we finished shopping, it was almost dark.

map of Karuizawa and its suburb:

car rental:

other reference sites
by William5 rate this post as useful

Thanks 2009/10/8 11:34
Wow! The websites are very useful. Thanks once again. I 'm so looking forward to the trip : )

by Chloe (guest) rate this post as useful

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