The Official Tourism Site of Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan
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Fun with the kids at Alps Park

Alps Park is well-known for having one of the best views of the Japan Alps in Matsumoto, but it is also a great place to visit if you have kids. With the park’s wide range of outdoor playground equipment, petting zoo, and plenty of places to explore nature, kids (and adults!) are going to have a blast at this park!

Weeee!

Weeee!

Of course, for an experience in the “deep nature” of Matsumoto, you’ll probably want to head out into the mountains or Kamikochi, but this park is perfect if your kids (or friend’s kids) are too young yet you still want to have some fun outdoors. (I was with my friend’s less-than-two-year-old toddler, so any hiking was out of the question)

Awesome view of the Japan Alps from Alps Park

Awesome view of the Japan Alps from Alps Park

You can get here by car, bus, or taxi. If you’re taking the bus, use the Alps Park Line bus which you can catch from Matsumoto Bus Terminal by the station. Note that the bus only runs twice a day (departing 10:00 and 14:00), so make sure you plan accordingly, especially for your return trip (Schedule PDF in Japanese)

We parked at the East Parking Lot and at the entrance, we were greeted by a long bridge over a ravine. Continuing on, the park paths are surrounded by trees and views of the surroundings, so it’s nice to come here for simply taking walks or jogging. We caught a glimpse of a couple of pretty wild birds, too!

Bridge over to the park from the parking lot

Bridge over to the park from the parking lot

Park scenery

Park scenery

Info center and rest house

Info center and rest house

For kids, head to the Kids Adventure Plaza (子供冒険広場). It is full of super fun playground equipment, obstacle course, a huge climbing wall that looks like a mountain, and different kinds of slides.

Fun on the playground

Fun on the playground

Roller slide!

Roller slide!

This big play structure below was popular with the kids at the park, as it had different kinds of slides, a wobbly bridge, rope-and-ball swings, and fun obstacles:

Super fun playground equipment

Super fun playground equipment

I personally really like the climbing wall. It was set up with handholds, ropes, ledges, and all kinds of fun ways you could try to make your way up to the top. Climbing would be too dangerous for really small children, but I think later elementary school kids and up could handle it. Not to mention it’s a blast for adults too!

The climbing mountain with all sorts of climbing paths

The climbing mountain with all sorts of climbing paths

Alps Park even has a small zoo that’s free of charge, which includes a petting zoo where the kids can pet goats and guinea pigs. The other animals you can see are monkeys, different kinds of birds of prey, wild boars, horses, and more.

Pet the goats!

Pet the goats!

Guinea pig petting pet

Guinea pig petting pet

The park isn’t very green in the winter, but the view of the mountains tends to be nicer because the air is clearer and there is more snow on the peaks. Still, if you want to enjoy the trees, flowers, and greenery, I’d recommend going in the spring, summer, or fall. This is also an excellent place for cherry blossom viewing!

Besides the things I mentioned in this post, the park also has a nature museum, a huge slide coaster called the Alps Dream Coaster, and several tables where you can enjoy having a picnic.

2018 Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Forecast

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With cherry-blossom-flavored everything emerging across the country, we bring you the projected dates for the area and details of the major hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots in Matsumoto. Grab your tarp and stake out your spot (don’t take someone else’s spot!) or enjoy the flowers as you stroll along.

WHEN can I see the cherry blossoms?

As of Feb 8, 2018, the sakura are projected to begin blooming in Nagano City (temperature similar to Matsumoto’s) from Apr 14 while places further south are expected to begin blooming a few days to a week sooner. These dates are of course subject to change. The flowers typically last about two weeks, but can start falling sooner depending on the weather. In previous years, the first blooms at Matsumoto Castle have been as follows:

Year Month & Day
2017 4/10
2016 4/1
2015 4/4
2014 4/9
2013 4/3

WHERE can I see the cherry blossoms?

The following locations can also be found on the downloadable Matsumoto Concierge Map.

Matsumoto Castle

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The castle’s inner grounds offer splendid views of pearly pink cherry blossoms against a backdrop of the dark crow castle. Do be aware that drinking and eating is typically prohibited in the Honmaru Garden.

Illuminated Cherry Trees
Both inner and outer areas of the castle, including the trees along the eastern moat, are also spectacularly lit.  At night, the fairy-tale like illuminated cherry blossoms are free to view.

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Hours & Admission

8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (last entry 4:30 p.m.) Regular entry to the inner area is ¥610 for adults, ¥300 for elementary and middle school students.

5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. FREE

Access from Matsumoto Station

Bus: Town Sneaker Northern Course, Matsumotojo/Shiyakushomae stop; 5 min (¥200)

Walking: 15 min

Bicycle: Free rental bicycles are available at the bike parking area in front of the Matsumoto Station Oshiro (Castle) Exit. See our Local Transportation page for more information including other rental locations.

Mt. Kobo – Koboyama Tumulus

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This hill – the top of which once served as a tomb – is covered in over 4,000 cherry trees with blossoms of various shades of pink. You can observe the trees from below or walk to the top of the hill for an expansive view of the snow-capped Japan Alps.

Illuminated Cherry Trees

Lanterns are strung through the trees and lit up at night.

Hours & Admission

The park is open 24-hours and is free to enter.

Access from Matsumoto Station Area

Bus: Namiyanagidanchi Line, Koboyama Iriguchi stop; 15 min (¥260); 6 buses per day (times subject to change): 7:20, 9:05, 11:05, 14:05, 16:05, 18:55

Walking (from Minami-Matsumoto Station): 30 min

Susuki River, Just South-East of Agatanomori Park

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Cherry blossom trees line the raised embankments of the Susuki River, and there are wide-open spaces to sit along the water. Also near one of the Orange (anime/manga) locations!

Access from Matsumoto Station

Depending on what part of the river you would like to get to, their are a few different methods you can use.

Quick Access

Take the Town Sneaker Southern Course bus and get off at stops such as Aizawa Hospital.

Bicycle: just 5−10 min by free rental bicycle from the station

Upstream

Bus & Walking: Town Sneaker Eastern Course, 10 min (¥200). The closest drop-off point brings you to Agatanomori Park. From Agatanomori Park, it is about a 10-minute walk to the river.

Joyama Park

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Located near a temple, you’ll also find a zoo, playgrounds, and an art museum in and around the premises.

Hours & Admission

The park is open 24-hours and is free to enter.

Access from Matsumoto Station Area

Bus: 100 Kita-Shinai Line (western route 西まわり) bus bound for Jidosha Gakko, Joyama Koenguchi(城山公園口) stop; 20 min (¥210)
OR 41 Okada Line bus bound for Yamashiroguchi(山城口), Joyama Koenguchi(城山公園口) stop; 20 min (¥200)
OR 45 Alps Koen Line bus bound for Matsumoto Bus Terminal, Hokoji(放光寺) stop; 13 min (¥260); only 2 buses per day

Alps Park

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Less crowded than some of the other flower-viewing spots, there are trails for exploring and areas for picnicking under the blossoms. You’ll also find a look-out area with a full view of the Japan Alps. Cherry trees in Alps Park bloom a little later than those in downtown areas such as the castle.

Hours & Admission

9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. FREE

Access from Matsumoto Station Area

Bus: 45 Alps Koen Line , Alps Koen(アルプス公園, the terminal) stop; 20 min (¥340); only 2 buses per day

 

A Great Day of Boarding in Matsumoto at Mt. Norikura Snow Resort

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Not to be confused with Hakuba Norikura Onsen Ski Resort, the Mt. Norikura Snow Resort in Matsumoto City is a medium-sized resort that offers off-piste skiing/boarding, a kid-friendly area, hot spring bathing, and more.

*BEFORE YOU GO*

Norikura Kogen tends to be a very windy area. Make sure the lifts are operating before you go!

Access via Public Transportation

You can take a bus or a combination of train and bus to the resort.

The round-trip ticket is very efficient as it covers both train and bus fare. It costs ¥3,300 and is valid for 7 days. Don’t lose it! Purchase your ticket at the Alpico ticket office across the street from Matsumoto Station’s Castle (Oshiro) Exit.

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Only one bus runs directly to the resort, and it leaves in the afternoon. Otherwise, take the Matsumoto Electric Railway from track 7, which is next to track 6. You will not see the track listed on the panels near the ticket gates, but head through to the ticket gates and to your right.

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Last stop: Shin-Shimashima

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Once you arrive at Shin-Shimashima Station, you should have at least 10 minutes to transfer to the bus out front. The transfer is fairly smooth. You can purchase bus tickets there as well. If you do not purchase your tickets in advance, you will need to pay (cash only) when you board the bus.

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Enjoy the scenery

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View the Nagawado Dam along the way!

Get off at stop N31 Ski Resort (also announced “ski-jo mae”). You should see a large dark grey building directly in front of you.

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The last bus bound for Shin-Shimashima Station leaves the resort at 6:22 p.m.

Trails & Facilities

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One of the quad lifts

Rentals

Gear and wear rentals are available at a number of shops.

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Coin Lockers

If you are not driving up or staying at one of the hotels, coins lockers are available in places such as the rental shop located in the dark grey building near the ticket vendor. Other lockers are available in the restaurant nearby, but the restaurant closes at 3:00 p.m. on weekdays, so you will need to get your belongings out before then.

Trails

Many of the beginner trails are wide and slope gently. Beginner snow boarders should note that sections of beginner areas, such as trail 19 and 13/11 will flatten out considerably. There is also a kids’ area near the bottom of trail 9 that can be accessed on your way down the trail or from the nearby parking lot.

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The more advanced can enjoy tree runs, the terrain park, and off-piste skiing/boarding. Mt. Norikura backcountry tours take you from the top of the highest lift into an expanse of mountain peaks and fields of snow.

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Overall the trails were not crowded, and the snow was not packed.

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Restaurants

There a few restaurants along the trails and one at the base of the resort. Be careful though! Many dishes are sold out as early as 1:30 p.m.

Hot Springs

Wind down with a dip in the milky white waters of the local hot springs. Hot springs such as Yukemurikan and Kyukamura Onsen are close to the base of the resort. Yukemurikan is about a 9 minute walk, and you can board the return bus to Matsumoto from the Tourist Center (Kanko Center Mae) bus stop out front.

 

Ski Resort Access From Matsumoto 2017-2018 Season

Matsumoto–>Mt. Norikura Snow Resort

Located to the west of central Matsumoto, the resort offers over 20 trails that cater to all levels as well as kid’s park and terrain park areas. Both ski and snow schools are available. Day-trip onsen bathing is also available at Yukemurikan!

FREE Alpico Shuttle Bus (Saturdays/Sundays: Jan 13, 20, 27, and 28; Feb 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 24, and 25; Mar 3, 4, 10, and 17)

*Reservations Required*

Reservations can only be made through Alpico Highland Bus at +81-263-24-1300 Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (closed Dec 28-Jan 4) until noon of the Friday before. The bus has 45 seats. You cannot reserve or change/cancel your reservation at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal or Shin-Shimashima Station.

Depart Bus Stop Return
7:50 Matsumoto Bus Terminal Boarding Point #9 5:20 p.m.
8:10 Matsumoto Godochosha (Pref. Govt. Office) 5:00 p.m.
8:30 Shin-Shimashima Sta. 4:40 p.m.
8:35 Matsumoto City Hall’s Azumi Branch Office 4:35 p.m.
9:25 Yukemurikan (Onsen) 3:45 p.m.
9:30 Mt. Norikura Skow Resort No. 3 Parking Lot 3:40 p.m.

Norikura_shuttlebus

Regular Alpico Bus Shirahone Line

Take the Matsumoto Dentetsu Line from Matsumoto to Shin-Shimashima (30 minutes), then board a bus bound for Kyukamura or Shirahone Onsen and get off at Ski Resort(Ski-Jo Mae) (50 minutes from Shin-Shimashima). There is also one direct bus from the Matsumoto bus terminal. The English timetable is here.

 Matsumoto–>Hakuba

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Alpico Bus (until Mar 18, 2018)

Fares

One Way

Adult: ¥1,800
Child: ¥900

Round Trip

Adult: ¥2,800
Child: ¥1,400

Timetable

Reservations (not necessary) & Where to Buy

Oito Line Train

The train runs from Matsumoto Station to Hakuba Station.

Light Hiking in Asama Hot Springs with an Amazing View

While climbing the rugged Japan Alps is quite an adventure, if you’re looking for a more laid-back option, there is a nice hiking trail in the Asama Hot Springs area that has a lot to offer: easy access by bus or even bicycle from downtown Matsumoto, historical Shinto shrines in the forest, and best of all, a spectacular view of the Japan Alps (sometimes it’s just as impressive to see the Alps from afar as it is climbing the mountains themselves!). I checked it out last weekend and I’ve got a custom Google Map of the trails and points of interest below! If you prefer a Japanese map, there is a hiking map available in PDF format for this course here as well.

View from the look out point above Asama Hot Springs

View from the look out point above Asama Hot Springs

The trail up to the view point, which is on Mt. Gotenyama, takes 30 to 45 minutes from the trail heads and is easy enough for just about anyone to walk. First off, if you’re taking the bus, you can use the Asama Onsen bound bus (departs from Matsumoto Bus Terminal by the Matsumoto Station. See schedule here) and get off at the Asama Onsen bus stop. You just need to walk up the hill for about 10 minutes to get to the trail heads.

I started at Trail Head A (see map) and ended at Misha Shrine (where Trail Head B is located). I’ll go through the course I took below, photos included.

Fudo Falls (optional)

Now, before heading to the trail head, I would recommend checking out this cool little waterfall hidden just off the road on the way to Trail Head A and C. The waterfall itself is small, but it runs down from a small temple/shrine into a natural hollow carved into the rock wall. There is also a Buddhist carving in the wall as well as a fearsome stone sculpture. When walking through the town, you might notice there are some street signs pointing in the direction to the falls. Once you get near the falls, you’ll have to walk down a narrow path along a stream to find the actual waterfall. There isn’t an obvious sign in English at the entrance to the path so it can be hard to miss (use the map as guide).

Sign pointing to the Fudo Falls in the Asama Hot Springs area

Sign pointing to the Fudo Falls in the Asama Hot Springs area

The Buddhist stone sculpture at Fudo Falls

The Buddhist stone sculpture at Fudo Falls

A Buddhist carving behind the trickling Fudo Falls

A Buddhist carving behind the trickling Fudo Falls

Trail Head A to the Look Out Point

I started from Trail Head A located above the whole Asama Hot Springs area at the top of a steep hill. There is a big trail map at the entrance and a nice view of Mt. Norikuradake! In the fall, if it’s a nice day, you’ll be able to see the mountains through the trees as you’re hiking. Walk down the trail for about 15 minutes and you’ll come to a fork: take a right here to get to the look out point.

Trail map at trail head A

Trail map at trail head A

Mt. Norikuradake from trail head A

Mt. Norikuradake from trail head A

The Japan Alps peaking through the trees.

The Japan Alps peaking through the trees.

Trail near the look out point

Trail just below the look out point

The Look Out Point!

Once you get to the look out point, you’ll be rewarded with a great view of the city of Matsumoto and the Japan Alps (assuming there aren’t clouds hanging over the mountains)! There are also a couple of wooden benches here, so you can take a break or eat a snack.

Matsumoto with a snowy Mt. Norikuradake above

Matsumoto with a snowy Mt. Norikuradake above

Look Out Point to Tenmangu Shrine (天満宮)

After you had your fill of the look out point view, head back down the trail you came up until you reach the fork in the road again. Turn right to go toward Tenmangu Shrine (天満宮). Shortly after, there is another fork in the trail, where you ‘ll turn left to continue toward the shrine. After passing through a pleasant forest trail, you will see Tenmangu Shrine come into sight after just a couple minutes. Once you reach the shrine, check out its red torii gate, the small wooden pavilion, and the main shrine structure at the top of the stairs.

According to the sign standing next to the shrine, it was originally built back in the year 1659 as offering of gratitude to the gods after a source of lead was found in the area.

Pretty trail with fallen leaves

Pretty trail with fallen leaves

Torii gate in the woods below Tenmangu Shrine

Torii gate in the woods below Tenmangu Shrine

A wooden pavilion below Tenmangu Shrine

A wooden pavilion below Tenmangu Shrine

Tenmangu Shrine in the forest

Tenmangu Shrine in the forest

Tenmangu Shrine to Misha Shrine (御射神社)

Just below Tenmangu Shrine is a small suspended bridge. Check out the bridge if you like, then head down the trail towards Misha Shrine (御射神社 in Japanese; toward the right if Tenmagu Shrine is at your back). The trail will exit the forest and you will briefly walk through a residential area. Misha Shrine shouldn’t be hard to miss because it has an impressive red torii gate at its entrance. To see the main building of Misha Shrine, take the trek up the stone steps.

A small, but fun suspended bridge constructed out of wood.

A small, but fun suspended bridge constructed out of wood.

Beautiful torii gate at Misha Shrine

Beautiful torii gate at Misha Shrine

After you’re all finished exploring, you can take the bus back to downtown, or even better, take a soak in at the Hot Plaza Asama hot spring facility first! This is the only public hot spring in Asama Hot Springs, and here you don’t need a reservation. It only costs ¥650 – see more details here.

If you’re looking for some more light hiking, check out the Hayashi Castle course in the Satoyamabe area here.

Winter Light Displays

Christmas Candle Night at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art

Yayoi Kusama's gigantic flower sculpture lit up in candlelight

Yayoi Kusama’s gigantic flower sculpture lit up in candlelight


Enjoy listening to music while strolling around the art museum garden lit up in numerous soft candle lights.

Date: Saturday, December 9
Time: 4:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m.
Location: Matsumoto Museum of Art
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lights Pageant in Daimyocho and on the Chitose Bridge

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Nearly 80,000 lights decorate the trees lining Daimyocho, the road leading up to Matsumoto Castle. After viewing the lit-up trees, you can see the lit-up Matsumoto Castle just down the road.
The lights are up from early December until February 28 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (on until later Dec. 20 through Jan. 3)20171204_194838

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JR Matsumoto Station

The front of Matsumoto Station is lit up with a festive images on the side of the station building.

Matsumoto Station Illumination

Asama Onsen

Look forward to the warm glow of decorative lights when you visit Asama Onsen’s Hot Plaza. Hot Plaza offers day-trip bathing and a hot spring foot bath, while overnight stays are available at a number of traditional Japanese inns in the area. Find out more about the area here.

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Foot Hot Spring

Forest of Lights Pageant in Azumino

Twin Illlumination
The Alps Azumino National Government Park is holding an illumination event from Nov. 11, 2017 (Sat) to Jan. 8, 2018 (Mon/holiday). The displays tell the story of “The Secret of the Seven Jewels”.

The illumination will be on display in two separate areas: the Horigane-Hotaka area and the Omachi-Matsugawa area. Please see below for access information.

In addition to the light displays, various other activities will be taking place. A single ticket allows you to enter both areas on the same day. Visit the official website here (Japanese only).

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Admission

Hours: 4:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
* Park hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but you may remain in the park to view the lights.

Prices

Adult: 410 yen

Elementary/Junior High School Student: 80 yen

Senior (65+): 210 yen

Preschool: Free

 

Fireworks (Horigane-Hotaka Area)

A 5-minute fireworks show will take place every Saturday between Nov. 11, 2017 (Sat) and Jan. 6, 2018 (Sat) and also on Christmas Eve from 8 p.m. to 8:05 p.m.

The show will be cancelled in the event of rain or bad weather.

Food Tasting (Omachi-Matsukawa Area)

Grilled mochi, mochi in a sweet bean sauce, and baked apples!

100 yen *Limited to the first 100 people.

Live Performances (Omachi-Matsukawa Area)

Christmas Stage: Various performances (dates and times)

Magic Show: Jan. 6 (Sat)-8 (Mon/holiday) 4:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m., 6:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m., and from 7:30 p.m. FREE

Crafts (Both Areas)

Horigane-Hotaka Area

Omachi-Matsugawa Area

Miniature Aquariums Display (Horigane-Hotaka Area)

Tropical Christmas

Access

Free Shuttle Bus

JR Matsumoto Station –> Toyoshina Station –> Horigane-Hotaka Area: Dec. 23 (Sat/holiday)-24(Sun) 4:00 p.m.-9:15 p.m.

View in Google Maps

JR Matsumoto Station –> Shinano Omachi Station –> Omachi-Matsukawa Area: Dec. 23 (Sat/holiday)-24(Sun) 3:45 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

View in Google Maps

By Taxi

(JR Oita Line) Matsumoto Station –> Toyoshina Station + taxi

(JR Oita Line) Matsumoto Station –> Shinano Omachi Station + taxi

Inquiries (Japanese)

Horigane-Hotaka Area: 0263-71-5511

Omachi-Matsukawa Area: 0261-21-1212

 

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.

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Kurassic-kan Well


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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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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)

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

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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

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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.

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

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