The Official Tourism Site of Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan
Weather
Archive by month

Natural Springs and Historic Wells

Genchi Well

Thanks to Matsumoto City’s supply of ground water, fresh spring water wells up abundantly even within the inner city area. You can enjoy a number of different walking routes leading you to streams and fountains that you can even drink from, including the fountain in front of Kurassic-kan.

ido_03

Kurassic-kan Well


23483109_10110958215719775_2043075567_o
Please note that the water is naturally sourced and is not treated.

A natural waterfall formed from Nawate's rejuvenating waters.

A natural waterfall formed from Nawate’s rejuvenating waters springs forth in front of Yohashira Shrine.

Nawate Rejuvenating Waters

Nawate Rejuvenating Waters

23468557_10110958215694825_35733352_o

Streams such as the Hebi Stream weave their ways through the city.

Spring water is used regularly by locals. In addition to serving as drinking water, the water is also used in soba noodle making and sake brewing. The Kametaya Brewery uses the water from the spring right in front of their building to brew their sake!

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the more well known spots include the Genchi Well also pictured above and Iori Reisui Well. Well and spring locations are indicated on Matsumoto City maps. Keep an eye out for the Matsumoto Spring Water Excursion Map that will be published at the beginning of 2018!

35696042051_728624e22e_z

Genchi Well

Iori Resui Well: Located in front of the grave of the samurai Iori Suzuki.

Iori Resui Well: Located in front of the grave of the samurai Iori Suzuki.

23483176_10110958213693835_1588006216_o

Catching the End of Fall in Norikura Highlands

After almost every October weekend was thwarted by typhoons and rainy weather during what is supposed to be the best season to see the fall colors in Norikura, I finally made it on the last week of the month! Though the leaves up in the highlands are pretty much brown by now, I can at least share the photos :)

Wonderful view of Norikura from one of the ponds in the Ichinose area

Wonderful view of Norikura from one of the ponds in the Ichinose area

The weather still turned out to be cloudy and drizzly, but the mountains of Norikura did not fail to impress. I decided to go to the Ichinose area since it’s one of the most famous spots to see the fall leaves. There are several laid-back walking trails where not only did I get to see amazing colors, but I also found several natural ponds and marshes, saw the beautifully white-patterned bark of the birch trees, and got a panoramic view of a now-snowy Mt. Norikuradake. If I had made it to Ichinose about one week earlier, I could’ve seen the famous fire-red maple tree as well, but the typhoon winds had swept most of its leaves off (though admittedly they were still pretty on the ground).

One of the pretty ponds in the Ichinose area

One of the pretty ponds in the Ichinose area

The famous fire-red leaves of Ichinose's giant maple tree making a brilliant carpet on the ground.

The famous fire-red leaves of Ichinose’s giant maple tree making a brilliant carpet on the ground.

White-barked birches

White-barked birches

Colorful fall leaves with the snowy peaks of Mt. Norikuradake in the background

Colorful fall leaves with the snowy peaks of Mt. Norikuradake in the background

Next stop was the short trail that goes between Sengenbuchi Falls and Bandokoro Waterfall. This trail is a wooded path through the forest along a rocky stream, so instead of seeing broad views of the colorful trees across the mountainsides, here I got to see autumn from the within the canopy: pretty fallen leaves crunching under my boots with the brilliant colors of fall directly above. The fun parts about this trail are the suspended bridges that cross over the stream and the roaring waterfalls you encounter along the way. Just one little tip: be careful walking on the bridges because they get slippery when wet (I almost wiped out crossing the bridge in the photo below, but caught myself on the ropes!).

Bridge along the forest trail near Sengenbuchi Falls

Bridge along the forest trail near Sengenbuchi Falls

Brilliantly colored leaves from underneath the trees

Brilliantly colored leaves from underneath the trees

Sengenbuchi Falls <3

Sengenbuchi Falls

Again, for this year, the leaves are pretty brown or gone by now in Norikura, but just in case, here is the access info in case you’re looking at this at a later time.

Access Info:

To get to the Ichinose area, take the Norikura Highlands bus to the Norikura Visitors Center (map) and walk from there, or if you have a car, there are also several places to park within the Ichinose area itself (for example here).

For the Sengenbuchi Falls trail, take the Norikura Highlands bus to the Path to Otaki (Falls) bus stop, or if you have a car, you can park at the Otaki Falls parking lot (map) or at the JA building (map) further up the road (which is nearer to Sengenbuchi Falls).

P.S. For more info on the waterfalls of Norikura including a map of locations, check out this blog article.

Peak Autumn Colors in the Mountains of Matsumoto!

11014974_10153331815364331_5005454401651181508_n

Despite a sudden return to warm weather, autumn leaves have reached their peak in the following areas!

Kamikochi (open until Nov. 15)

View from Taisho Pond (Photo credit: Kamikochi.org)

View from Taisho Pond (Photo credit: Kamikochi.org)


Differing from the typical multi-color autumn foliage, the central area of Kamikochi turns a brilliant gold thanks to the large number of birch trees.

Karasawa area of Kamikochi

Karasawa area of Kamikochi (Photo credit: kamikochi.org)

Karasawa area of Kamikochi (Photo credit: kamikochi.org)


Karasawa is perhaps one of the most famous spots for seeing the fall colors in Nagano. Here the mountains are said to be “on fire” in the autumn. It requires a long hike from central kamikochi and an overnight stay at the Karasawa Hut, but it will be worth ever step. The leaves will fade soon, so now is the time to go! Check out this post on the Kamikochi site for more info and photos.

Norikura Highlands and Mt. Norikuradake

Fall leaves on Mt. Norikuradake (Photo credit: Norikura Highlands tourism website -  norikurakogen.info)

Fall leaves on Mt. Norikuradake (Photo credit: Norikura Highlands tourism website –
norikurakogen.info)


Another famous spot for seeing fall leaves in Nagano! The highlands are easy to access by bus from Matsumoto and there are several laid-back trails to walk. From there you can take another bus up to the summit of Mt. Norikuradake (though, the colors are starting to fade here). See more info on our Norikura page here. Also, see autumn photos of Norikura Highlands and Mt. Norikuradake on the Japanese Norikura tourism website.

Tengu no Taki (Waterfall)

Located in the Nagawa area of Matsumoto, off the beaten path, and a beautiful sight with the waterfall among the colorful leaves! Unfortunately, you need a car (or taxi) to get there. (See map)

Other areas currently good to see now (mid-Oct.)

Will start changing colors soon (end of Oct)

12115546_10153331816014331_3662068647256792787_n

Tsukimi–A Timeless Tradition of Appreciating the Beauty of the Moon

20170929_192952

Tsukimi means “moon viewing”, and in Japan, gatherings are held to view the harvest moon—often in conjunction with harvest festivals. Tsukimi is officially celebrated on the 15th night of the eighth month according to the lunar calendar.

Matsumoto Castle Tsukimi

IMG_7894

Live music being performed within the castle.

Matsumoto Castle is celebrating tsukimi with live music performances and tea ceremony demonstrations on the castle grounds. The event is being held this week 9/29(Fri)–10/4(Wed) 5:30–8:30 p.m. It is free to enter the castle grounds and ¥500 to view the tea ceremony up close and receive freshly whisked matcha or green tea. Other light snacks are also available for purchase.

Come bask in the radiance of the moon and illuminated castle while listening to traditional music. Instruments include the shamisen and the koto, and the sound of the music floating across the grounds leaves you feeling that you have been transported back in time.

FullSizeRender

A flower display exhibiting the Japanese art ikebana and sweets called dango add a sense of festivity to the occasion. 

20170929_191505

The Waterfalls of Norikura Highlands

One of my absolutely favorite things to see in nature are waterfalls – and Norikura is one place that has plenty. In fact, the most well-know waterfalls in Norikura are all easily accessible from the nearest parking lot or bus stop without requiring miles of hiking.

Each waterfall has its own unique characteristics and each is worth seeing at least once, if not more. I’ll introduce all the major ones here, but let the photos do most of the talking. I’ve also included a map at the end of this post.

Great Bandokoro Waterfall (番所大滝)

Located less than 10-minute downhill hike from the Path to Otaki (Falls) bus stop/Otaki parking lot. With a 40-meter drop and huge volume of water, this waterfall is one of the most impressive and powerful of all of Norikura’s falls. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can continue hiking the trail that leads down the canyon along the stream.

Bandokoro Falls

Bandokoro Falls

The canyon below the Great Bandokoro Falls

The canyon below the Great Bandokoro Falls

Sengenbuchi Falls (千間淵滝) and Little Bandokoro Waterfall (番所小滝)

These two waterfalls are located on the same trail and same stream as the Great Bandokoro Waterfall (use the same bus stop/parking lot). Though much smaller and perhaps less impress the the “Great” waterfall down stream, the surrounding forest and sunlight trickling through the leaves gives these falls their own special appeal. To reach furthest waterfall, Sengenbuchi Falls, you only need to hike about 15-20 minutes, but the trail can be a little rough at some points.

I wouldn’t pass up seeing Sengenbuchi Falls – here the stream has carved out a natural alcove on either side of the waterfall, making for some remarkable scenery.

The path to Sengenbuchi and Little Bandokoro Falls

The path to Sengenbuchi and Little Bandokoro Falls

Little Bandokoro Falls

Little Bandokoro Falls

Sengenbuchi Falls

Sengenbuchi Falls

Zengoro Falls (善五郞の滝)

Legend has it that a lumberjack named Zengoro was drug into the waterfall by a huge fish caught on his fishing line, hence the name Zengoro Falls. Like the Great Bandokoro Waterfall, Zengoro Falls is also quite impressive with its 21.5-meter drop and 8-meter width. Since the forest canopy above the waterfall is open, you have a good chance of seeing a big rainbow formed in the falls’ mist. And speaking of mist, prepare to get a little wet if you want to see Zengoro from the nearest platform!

You can reach the falls by an easy, 30-40-minute hike from either the Norikura Kogen Tourist Information Center or the Kyukamura hotel/hot spring (both have their own bus stops and parking lots). There is also a small parking lot along the road between the Tourist Information Center and Kyukamura; if you walk from there it will only take 15 minutes.

P.S. Although I haven’t seen it yet, in the winter, Zengoro Falls freezes completely creating an amazing, natural ice sculpture. Renting snowshoes to hike down to Zengoro is apparently the best way to go and see the frozen falls! (You can get an idea of what it looks like in the Japanese blog article with photos here.)

The path to Zengoro Falls

The path to Zengoro Falls

Zengoro Falls

Zengoro Falls

Sanbondaki Falls (三本滝)

The first time I saw Sanbondaki Falls, I was awestruck. Sanbondaki is actually a combination of three separate waterfalls that surround you with roaring water from almost all sides. One waterfall runs down humongous boulders, dropping from the river above, and gradually fans out into a wide and beautiful falling stream. The second waterfall is a narrow, yet powerful and straight drop falling off the ridge of rock wall. And the third waterfall is a small trickle that falls from the forest high above the stream. Here, you can climb up on of the giant boulders at the bottom of the falls and soak in all the glory of magical atmosphere of Sanbondaki.

The falls are an easy 20-25 minute hike from the Sanbondaki Parking Lot/Sanbon-daki (Falls) Bus Stop. The hike itself is very enjoyable, with boardwalks and a mossy forest along the way.

Along the trail to the waterfalls

Along the trail to the waterfalls

Sanbondaki

Can you find the rainbow?

Can you find the rainbow?

Sanbondaki

Map of Waterfall Locations

Japan Alps Kamikochi – A Serene Summer’s Day in the National Park

36852953475_6a4c617d9e_z

Whether you’re an avid hiker or just looking to take in the world-famous scenery on a stroll at the base of the mountains, Kamikochi is an unforgettable outdoor experience. Even on a hot summer’s day, like the one I visited on, I was treated to a cool breeze, icy-cold water, and plenty of shade on well-maintained paths. Unless you hire a guide, you cannot access the park in the winter, but spring, summer, and fall give you a unique landscape depending on when you visit. The green season offers a barrage of colors including vibrant greens and other colors from the various foliage and sediment.

20170821_103854

20170821_092248

Taisho Pond

Even before entering the heart of the park, you are treated to a expansive reflection of the mountains on Taisho Pond.

36572955381_c179fdc3db_z

Shimizu River

20170821_091824

Some of the clearest water you’ve ever seen.

In order to preserve the environment of the park, there are strict regulations including not allowing cars into the area. The regulations, higher altitude, and natural springs make for fresh air and stunningly clear water.

20170821_092136_004

Kappa Bashi (Kappa Bridge)

The view of the Kappa Bridge overlaid on Mt. Hotaka is one of the most famous images of the park. Crossing the suspension bridge, you can gaze out over the pristine water of the Azusa River.

20170821_100745

36572958791_127f9fd98d_z

Kamonjigoya

36573148861_0a6bef0afc_z

This century-old mountain hut now serves as a restaurant as well lodgings and makes for a great place to rest before visiting the nearby Hotaka Shrine and Myojin Pond. Try a classic summer dish, grilled ayu.

20170821_113340

Raised in the nearby river, this sweet-fish is fresh and juicy. Grilled over an open fire, the salted skin makes for a delicate crust while the meat is kept moist. You can eat the entire fish from head to tail!

Replenish your salt levels after your trek!

If eating fish heads isn’t your thing, not to worry, there is other food such as soba (buckwheat noodles) and cake available for you to enjoy.

Myojin Pond

20170821_115711

20170821_114209

This area is said to be sacred to the gods and thus known as a place where the gods come down.

Myojin Pond has two areas: Ichino Pond and Nino Pond. The Hotaka Shrine sits just in front of Ichino Pond.

Although you cannot ride in them, two boats float on the pond and are used during a local festival.

20170821_115609

Hotaka Shrine

Ichino Pond

Ichino Pond

Nino Pond

Nino Pond

Tashiro Pond and Wetlands

20170821_131847

Although it has been steadily filled in by natural decay and sediment buildup, water still flows through this area, creating a stark contrast between the orange sand and the surrounding greenery.

20170821_131633

Mt. Yakedake

20170821_134628

Signs of the eruption that occurred 100 years ago still remain.

Mt. Yakedake is still an active volcano. It’s activity is constantly monitored and the current level is level 1.

Access and Accommodations

Details on how to get to the park and more information such as hotel and campsite information are available on the official English website here.

Amongst the Clouds and Flowers at Tatamidaira

Boardwalk through the meadow

Boardwalk through the meadow

After hearing Tatamidaira at the top of Mt. Norikuradake had a beautiful flower meadow abloom with alpine wildflowers in the summer, I decided to venture up to the top in mid-August. Like Kamikochi, the higher elevation areas of Norikura are closed to personal cars so you need to take a bus from the Norikura Visitor’s Center (you can get to the Visitor’s Center by car or using a bus from Shin-Shimashima Station). I recommend getting the round-trip ticket, which is cheaper than two one-way tickets, unless you plan on hiking back down. The other options are to hike or bicycle (serious hill climb) up to the top.

Tatamidaira

Tatamidaira

Tatamidaira is a crater basin that was created from a volcanic eruption long, long ago, and is surrounded by several of the mountain peaks of Norikura. The bus arrives at the Tatamidaira visitor’s center which is located at 2702 meters (8,865 feet), making it the highest bus stop in Japan. From here you can easily walk to the flower meadow and see Tatamidaira’s pristine lake, Tsurugaike Pond. If you arrive earlier in the day, there are also a couple of short hiking trails (15 – 90 minutes, one way, depending on the trail) that let you climb to the summits of the surrounding peaks: Mt. Fujimidake, Mt. Daikokudake, Mt. Maoudake, Mt. Marishitendake, and Mt. Kengamine.

Tatamidaira

Tatamidaira

For the alpine flower meadow, the peak season is mid-July to mid-August. A nice wooden boardwalk lets you walk around the meadow and get a close look at many species of rare flowers which come in all sorts of shapes and colors. You’ll also see some huge boulders lying around the meadow which probably tumbled down from the mountain peaks years ago. I’m a big fan of wildflowers so I loved being surrounded by hundreds of cute little flowers!

Tatamidaira

Giant boulders lying around the meadow.

Giant boulders lying around the meadow.

Tatamidaira

Now, the one tricky thing about going to Tatamidaira is the weather at the top. Even if it’s a perfectly sunny day in Matsumoto, there are often clouds hanging about the summit of Mt. Norikuradake. The day that I went to Tatamidaira, I could see a few clouds from the Norikura Visitor’s Center, but I figured they wouldn’t be a problem. However, as you can see from the photos, when I arrived at the top, I was enveloped in a thick cloud that made it impossible to see anything past a few meters in front of me. Though being stuck in a cloud is a unique and mystical experience in itself, I couldn’t enjoy the beautiful scenery to its fullest.

Tatamidaira inside of a cloud

Tatamidaira inside of a cloud

.

The highest bus stop in Japan! This is what the scenery looks like when you're not in a cloud.

The highest bus stop in Japan! This is what the scenery looks like when you’re not in a cloud.

Another thing you want to keep in mind is the temperature difference. It is cold! Even when the summer is blazing down below, at 2,700 meters it’s going to feel like late fall or early winter. I went in mid-August and was wishing I had brought light gloves and a decent sweater. You’ll definitely want a windbreaker, preferably waterproof, too.

Buses run to Tatamidaira from July to the end of October and you can count on seeing something different every season! See the bus schedule here.

There are all kinds of unique bus stops at Tatamidaira. This one features the "raicho" or rock ptarmigan which you can sometimes spot at Tatamidaira.

There are all kinds of unique bus stops at Tatamidaira. This one features the “raicho” or rock ptarmigan which you can sometimes spot at Tatamidaira.

Mount Yakedake – Hiking an Active Volcano

Hiking toward Mount Yake's gas plumes.

Hiking toward Mount Yake’s gas plumes.

This last weekend, I enjoyed a hike to the top of an active volcano on the edge of Matsumoto’s mountain region. Mount Yakedake (Yakedake = Burning Mountain) can be most easily accessed from one of two approaches; Kamikochi, which can be reached by bus, and Nakanoyu, which can be reached by car, taxi, or bus, though the trailhead might be hard to find from the Nakanoyu bus stop.

I was lucky enough to catch a ride in my friend’s car so we took the Nakanoyu approach. To find the trailhead, drive up the road a few minutes past Nakanoyu Onsen Ryokan. You’ll know when you find it because there will be other cars parked on the side of the road. Although we left Matsumoto before 5:00 in the morning, we grabbed the last parking spot immediately in front of the trailhead. At the trailhead, you’ll also likely find warning signs explaining the current dangers of the volcano.

Sign explaining the volcanic activity on the mountain just a week earlier.

Sign explaining the volcanic activity on the mountain just a week earlier.

The start of the hike reminded me of hiking back home in Seattle. The mountainous trail, greenery everywhere, the tall trees, and the light rain made me feel comfortable and confident. You’ll find moss-covered logs with new plants sprouting out of them, tangle roots holding pools of water, and bursts of color amongst the sea of green.

Plants growing out of a dying tree.

Plants growing out of a dying tree.

 

Orange fungus growing on a dying tree.

Orange fungus growing on a dying tree.

 

Don't eat strange berries unless you know what you're doing.

Don’t eat strange berries unless you know what you’re doing.

 

Purple Flowers growing in a clearing.

Purple flowers growing in a clearing.

 

These wooden paths keep you out of the mud... some of the time.

These wooden paths keep you out of the mud… some of the time.

 

Be careful of the puddles collecting in the tree roots!

Be careful of the puddles collecting in the tree roots!

Even with the rain and the clouds obstructing the view, it was a beautiful and enchanting hike.

Now and then, the rain slowed and we could see farther up the mountain.

Now and then, the rain slowed and we could see farther up the mountain.

 

Eventually, we made it above the rain.

Eventually, we made it above the rain.

After a couple of hours of hiking, the clouds finally disbursed and we enjoyed the full view Mt. Yakedake had to offer. Looking up, we could see the poisonous gases billowing from vents in the rock. A fast hiker could make it from the trailhead to the top in around 2~3 hours. My hiking buddy and I took our time and finally reached the peak in around 4 hours.

The hiking trail goes past vents spewing poisonous gases. Don't get too close!

The hiking trail goes past vents spewing poisonous gases. Don’t get too close!

 

The trail follows a catwalk toward the gas vents.

The trail follows a catwalk toward the gas vents.

We rested, ate, and took photos at the peak. The weather occasionally offered us some amazing photo opportunities. From the top, you can look down on the large gas vents, a beautiful lake in the center of the volcano’s crater, and the many surrounding mountains and valleys. The constant plumes of gases rising into the air nearby reminds you of the many warnings to be cautious of any activity that feels out of place. All the signs tell you to evacuate immediately if there is any activity you feel is unsafe or abnormal. Apparently, the billowing gas plumes are normal!

We finally reached the top of Mount Yake!

We finally reached the top of Mount Yakedake!

 

Great view of the the vents from above.

Great view of the the vents from above. Can you spot the tiny hiker?

 

A cloudy view of the crater's lake from the peak.

A cloudy view of the crater’s lake from the peak.

 

Great views of the valleys bellow.

Great views of the valleys below.

 

I wasn't brave enough to climb on these precarious rocks.

I wasn’t brave enough to climb on these precarious rocks.

 

There are plenty of great photo opportunities without taking risks.

There are plenty of great photo opportunities without taking risks.

We stayed at the peak for over an hour before heading back down. I noticed steaming vents on the actual trail where we climbed down to the walking path. I recommend not breathing the gases coming from these small vents!

Be careful of the little gas vents on the final climb to the peak!

Be careful of the little gas vents on the final climb to the peak!

The skies had cleared up considerably for our hike down the mountain. We took a small break on a rock to rest and take photos. Lucky for us, this rock was a butterfly magnet! They landed all over our stuff – and on us!

Great views from Butterfly Rock.

Great views from Butterfly Rock.

 

Butterflied were on our bags.

Butterflies landed on our bags.

 

Butterflies even landed on us!

Butterflies even landed on us!

There were plenty of other bugs and animals to spot during the hike. I saw spiders, flies, grasshoppers, birds, and even a snake!

A dragonfly on a branch.

A dragonfly on a branch.

 

Crickets on a moss-covered rock.

Crickets on a moss-covered rock.

 

Fly on a green blade.

Fly on a green blade.

 

A harmless snake winding down the trail.

A harmless snake winding down the trail.

Although this is a relatively simple hike, it is steep. My unconditioned knees were aching on the way down, even with having worn knee braces the entire hike. Yet, I still felt refreshed and satisfied when we reached the car.

We finally made it back to the car!

We finally made it back to the car!

The beauty and power of Mount Yakedake is a memory that will stay with me for a long time. Don’t “blow” your chance to visit this magnificent active volcano! Go check it out!

Beautiful view of the path ahead when you hike Mount Yake.

Beautiful view of the path ahead when you hike Mount Yakedake.


You can see my videos on Matsumoto (and more!) on my Discovery Makes Knowledge Youtube channel!

Matsumoto Summer Fest 2017 – Beer Garden and Live Performances

Matsumoto Summer Fest 2017 is under way! Come out and enjoy a wide selection of food and drinks in the summer air. You’ll find a variety of German and local beers, wine, and dishes which include German sausage, Korean Samgyeopsal-gui, ramen with lobster, chicken tacos, pizza, Indian curry, steak, and more from numerous local restaurants and vendors! There are nearly 30 stalls all with multiple dishes or drinks. Live performances are also taking place on stage, making for a very festive atmosphere.

20933769_10155179921824331_1277535021542109295_o

I made it just before last order, so I only had time to try assorted sausage, kimbap, and a chicken taco accompanied by Kölsch beer (pictured above), but it was all delicious! I highly recommend going with friends and/or family so that you can share the dishes!

WHEN: August 17 (Thurs.) – August 28 (Mon.)
Weekdays: 5PM – 9PM (Order stop 8:45PM); Sat/Sun: 11AM – 9PM (Order stop 8:45PM)

WHERE: Hanadokei (flower clock) Park 花時計公園 (South side of the Matsumoto PARCO department store)
A six minute walk from Matsumoto Station.
*Seating with tents is available in case it rains.*

COST: Prices on beers range from around ¥600 to ¥1,200 and food items (both single-serving and sharing sizes) start at around ¥400. Coupons that can be used at participating shops and other local businesses are also available in the free Matsumoto Guide Book, and they are valid through November!
Glass system: In order to cover the cost of the glass in the event that it is not returned, a ¥1,000 deposit is required with the purchase of beer. The deposit will be returned to you when you turn in your glass.

 

Official website and Facebook page (Japanese only).

Hayashi Castle Ruins Hike in Iriyamabe

We all know the super famous Matsumoto Castle, but did you know that long before Matsumoto Castle was built that there were several castles built on the mountains that surround Matsumoto? (Here you can see a basic map of the major castle locations). Unfortunately, they are mostly in ruins or only barely recognizable by a bump in the earth, but for a couple of the castles you can still see large parts of the stonewalls and climb around on the ruins. I don’t know about you, but I love to explore old ruins like that and imagine what it was like when the castles were actually still in commission!

So, a couple of weeks ago I discovered the Hayashi Castle hiking trail in the Yamabe area where you can not only walk through a beautiful forest trail, but you also get to see the ruins of two castles along the way. The trail only takes 2 to 3 hours to complete so it’s a perfect way to get in some light hiking in the morning or afternoon.

Hayashi Castle ruins

Hayashi Castle ruins (“big castle”)

For just a bit of history, Hayashi Castle actually consists of two separate castles located on two separate, but nearby mountains. They were built sometime around the 15th century by Ogasawara clan which governed the Shinano Province, but it was taken over by Takeda Shingen in the battle of Shiojiri Pass in 1548. There is an excellent overview of the history here for those who want to know more.

There are a couple of entrances to the trail, but the easiest one to find and start at is located right at the base of the mountain at the start of the Iriyamabe area along the Susuki River. It’s marked with a fairly large sign written in Japanese and you’ll find a supply of bamboo hiking sticks that are free to use, as well as a box that contains a map of the trail (assuming they haven’t run out). (I added English translations to the original map to mark the most important points. Click here to see or download)

Bamboo hiking sticks free to borrow! Maps located in the box.

Bamboo hiking sticks free to borrow! Maps located in the box.

Right off the bat, you’ll have to climb up a steep slope for several minutes, but you’ll be rewarded with a great panoramic view of Matsumoto and the Japan Alps along the way. After hiking through a nice pine forest and reaching the top of the mountain, you’ll find the first castle ruins – Hayashi-Ojo (林城(大城), lit. big Hayashi Castle). The basic earthworks and some of the stonewalls are still there, and you’ll find some round stones that have a square carved out of them (I think maybe some kind of post support? See photo).

After that, follow the signs toward Hayashi-Kojo (林小城) and Otsuki (大嵩崎), heading back down the mountain on the other side, where you’ll spot a small “Otsuki Mountain God” shrine before coming out into the small village (called Otsuki). If you check the little altar of the shrine, there will probably be some offerings of snacks and/or sake placed there.

Start of the trail

Start of the trail

In the pine forest

In the pine forest

Nice view of Matsumoto

Nice view of Matsumoto

I think these are old post stones from the castle

Old post stones?

The "mountain god" shrine

The “mountain god” shrine

You’ll walk down the road through the village for a few minutes, keep an eye out for the old metal fire bell that’s hanging from a wooden post along the road. Then look for the sign that points to where the trail continues. Basically you have to turn left into what looks like a road into the fields, but at the foot of the mountain there you’ll see a big fence and gate. This is where the trail continues. It’s okay to open the gate and enter, just make sure you close it properly. Inside the gate and just as you enter the forest, you see one of my favorite spots on the the trail – “Jigoku no Kama” or “Hell’s Cauldron.” This is basically a sinkhole of some sort and on the sign it reads that no one knows if it’s natural or man-made, but apparently a horse got trapped in the sinkhole and died sometime in the past. Or as my colleague theorizes, perhaps it was some kind of trap or protection for guarding the castle!

Walking through the village

Walking through the village

The gate into the mountains

The gate into the mountains

Jigoku no Kama - Hell's Cauldron

Jigoku no Kama – Hell’s Cauldron

After passing Hell’s Cauldron (don’t fall in!), you’ll trek up the second mountain to reach the second castle, Hayashi-kojo (林小城, lit. small Hayashi Castle). This castle is somewhat smaller, but the castles walls and shape are more prominent than the first one. You can see the basic outline/form of the castle and climb around on the top. It wouldn’t be a bad place for a picnic, as you can see a good view of Matsumoto through the trees from the top of the castle. After you’re done frolicking around on the castle, backtrack just a little bit to where there is a split in the trail at the foot of the castle, where there is a sign pointing toward Kotakuji Temple (廣澤寺). Follow the signs toward the temple until you reach the bottom of the mountain on the other side. Once you come out at the bottom (there’s another gate there), you can head back to where you started the trail to grab your bicycle or bus or walk back down the river to the city. (Of course you can optionally visit the temple too, though it’s in the opposite direction).

Hayashi Castle walls at the "small castle"

Hayashi Castle walls at the “small castle”

On top of the "small castle"

On top of the “small castle”

Sign to Kotakuji Temple

Sign to Kotakuji Temple

The rice patties once reaching the bottom of the mountain.

The rice patties once reaching the bottom of the mountain.

Access:
The closest bus stop is Satoyamabe Shutchojo on the Iriyamabe Line. However, the bus runs quite infrequently so you will need to plan well, or even better, use a bicycle. Just ride up the Susuki River until you reach the foot of the mountain. You could even walk from Matsumoto Station in about one hour. There will be a sign marking the start of the trail across the bridge at the edge of the trees. You can also park along the river in some places if you have a car.
See on Google Maps

Trail Map:
I added some English to the original Japanese map to mark the most important spots on the trail. See the PDF below:
Hayashi Castle Ruins Trail Map with English (PDF)


Recent Comments