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Tour de Utsukushigahara Heights 2017

Tour de Utsukushigahara - Cyclists

Tour de Utsukushigahara is one of the premiere Japanese bicycle races.

Once a year, thousands of people line the streets to watch and compete in the Tour de Utsukushigahara Heights bicycle race! These bicyclists trek the 21.6 km at a 5.9% average incline. That’s a 1,270 meter altitude difference from start to finish! I was lucky enough to watch this premiere Japanese bicycle race this year.

I woke up at 6:30AM on Sunday, June 25, 2017. I was at the starting line by 7:00AM, just north of the Matsumoto Baseball Stadium. With 30 minutes left before the race kicked off, the area was already full of bicyclists, workers, and spectators.

Participants were practicing their warm-up traditions. Some stretched, some were doing warm-up laps, and some spend the whole time reviewing their bicycle and gear. It was almost time! Workers ran around, keeping people off the course and away from technical equipment, as photographers, cyclists, and spectators crowded the starting line to see the start of the race.

The time-card girls flashed the 1 minute card… then the 30 second card. BANG! With the sound of the gun, the first round of cyclists rushed down the street and around the corner!

Tour de Utsukushigahara - 1 Minute

The time-card girl showing the 1 minute card.

Tour de Utsukushigahara - Start

The race begins!

The course makes its way through the bathhouse district and into hillside neighborhoods. From there, the trees take over as the course winds its way up the mountain side. After enjoying the start of the race, I made my way up the hill along the side of the course. Every time a new round of cyclists started the race, the crowds on the side of the road cheered and made loud noises with make-shift shakers and drums. I stopped to take photos of each wave of cyclists. When the last cyclist of a wave finally turned around the corner, disappearing behind buildings, the spectators would quiet down while waiting for the next batch of cyclists to come by.

Tour de Utsukushigahara - Mountain

The mountain looms menacingly.

If you want to participate in the race, the application period is usually from March to May. To just watch, definitely get there early! The road up the mountain is blocked off starting at 6:00AM. It’s possible to walk up the course a fair distance, but I recommend staying in the city/neighborhood areas to do your cheering. Get there by 7:00AM to claim the spot you want.

Tour de Utsukushigahara - Hill

Cyclists pushing uphill.

I was impressed by the size and intensity of the race. I was even more impressed by the men and women – young to old – who pushed themselves to accomplish this amazing feat! Regardless of if you participate, I highly recommend attending the Tour de Utsukushigahara if you ever have the chance! It’s a very inspiring experience!


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

Cherries and Sumo Wrestlers Coming Back Early April

Last year's cherries with the Castle (April 9th)

Last year’s cherries with the Castle (April 9th)

According to the ‘Cherry Blooming Forecast’, cherries at the Castle and downtown Matsumoto might begin blooming April 3rd. The event ‘Nighttime Cherry Blossom Viewing’ will be held from three days after cherries begin blooming and continue 8 days (so possibly around April 6th till 13th)
The special illumination for the cherries will start from the same day and will continue two days longer (10 days).

00006078On April 7th, ‘Sumo road-show in Matsumoto’ will be held again. The last year’s road-show was heated because of a new hero ‘Mitake-umi’ from Kiso in Nagano Prefecture. You might see some sumo wrestlers viewing cherries somewhere after the show if you are very lucky.


2 Days Free Bus Passport (& 4 days also available)

Good news for the tourists who wish to visit Kamikochi, Norikura, Matsumoto and Utsukushigahara all at once.

Very reasonable 2 Days Free Bus Passport is now available at ALPICO bus terminals in Matsumoto and Shinshimashima.



This 2 days free passport is 5,150 yen for adults (half price for kids (including tax)), available at ALPICO counter in Matsumoto Bus Terninal and Shinshimashima Bus Terminal. It is handy to use and perfect for touring Matsumoto area! Just to show this passport to the driver before get off the bus (except for Kamikochi line). For Kamikochi line, you need to get a “Numbered ticket (determining order of service)”at Kamikochi Bus Terminal in addition to this 2 days passport for boarding.

With this amazing open ticket, all bus services including Kamikochi line(train), Utsukushigahara line and of course Matsumoto city zone lines become free within 2 days after the purchasing.

In addition to this, by paying double the price of 2 days pass, you can get 4 days free ticket called “Shinshu – Hida Wide Free Passport“.
With this 4 days pass, you can even visit Takayama and Shirakawa village and come back to Matsumoto. The pass is available at ALPICO counter in Matsumoto and Shinshimashima bus terminals, Takayama Nohi Bus Center and Gero Bus Center in Gifu.

Have fun!

Matsumoto Yamaga FC’s Home Game, March 24th & 31st!!

Matsumoto Yamaga FC is a professional football team which joins Japan Professional Football League (J League).  Matsumoto, Shiojiri and Azumino cities and Yamagata village in Nagano prefecture are Matsumoto Yamaga FC’s home towns.

Yamaga is going to have home games on this coming Sunday the 24th and the last Sunday of this month, 31st at their home stadium “Alwin” in Matsumoto.

This season, Matsumoto Yamaga FC has been in a very good mood, after the game on March 21st, Yamaga has moved up to fourth slot (7 pts) on J-2 league table.

【J League Division 2, 5th sec】 March 24th Sunday at Alwin in Matsumoto City
Matsumoto Yamaga FC vs V・Varen Nagasaki
Kick off 13:00 S-seat : 3,000 yen at the gate (2,500 yen for advance), A-seat : 2,500 yen at the gate (2,000 yen for advance), unreserved seat : 1,700 yen at the gate (1,200 yen for advance) ⇒further info MATSUMOTO YAMAGA FC

【J League Division 2, 6th sec】 March 31st Sunday at Alwin in Matsumoto City
Matsumoto Yamaga FC vs Vissel Kobe
Kick off 13:00


This is the 2nd year for the manager Sorimachi (former manager for Japan’s olympic team), as well as the promotion to the Division 2.  With new players, they have striven to achieve further promotion to J-1. It will be so exciting to see their heated games with the enthusiastic supporters.

【How to get to the stadium】
Shuttle Bus Services are available from down town Matsumoto & i-City 21 (a shopping mall in Yamagata Village).
● Matsumoto Bus Terminal (in Front of ARIO)・・・the bus will leave in every 15 minutes from four hours and 30 minutes before the kick off.
One-Way ticket costs 500 yen, a round trip is 1,000 yen from Matsumoto Bus Terminal.
● i-City 21・・・the first bus leaves i-city 21 on three hours and 30 minutes before the kick off, and shuttle bus services are provided as needs.
One-Way ticket costs 200 yen, a round trip is 400 yen from “i-City 21”.

And of course, don’t forget about Yamaga’s famous food service!  Pork cutlet bowl, Sanzokuyaki burgers, sushi, curry, soba, kebab and Yamaga Beer, there are twenty five different regular food booths in the stadium.  ⇒ see Foodium


With Alwin’s delicious drinks and food, please enjoy exciting matches in warm spring days!!

(All the photos are provided by the office of Matsumoto Yamaga FC.)

Matsumoto Yamaga F.C. 2013 has started!

Matsumoto Yamaga Football Club‘s second season in J.League Division 2 has started.

Very popular football team in Matsumoto area, Yamaga was first founded as a local football club in 1965,  after the official debut  in J. League in 2010, with a team manager, Yasuharu Sorimachi (former Japan’s Olympic coach) Yamaga has achieved good results in their first J.2 season last year.  The games of Yamaga’s are always full of excitements with a great numbers of  enthusiastic audience.


【Previous articles on Yamaga】
2011 Dec 8th: Yamaga on promotion to the J2 League
2011 Oct 9th: Winning report vs. Yokohama
Yamaga’s promotion to the JFL
2009 Dec 29th:  report of end season
2007 Jul 8th: report from middle season


(Photo taken by a Yamaga’s season ticket holder)

【Ticket Purchase】 Get advance ticket through internet!
● Ticket Pia  ⇒  YAMAGA Games
● Lawson  ⇒ Lowson Ticket YAMAGA
● e plus  ⇒ YAMAGA e+
●  J LEAGUE TICKET  ⇒ J LEAGUE YAMAGA

or see YAMAGA’s official website for the detail.  (Tickets are also available at the gate.)
S – seat : adult 2,500 yen (advance), 3,000 yen (at the gate)  kids 1,500 yen (advance and at the gate)
A- seat: adult 2,000 yen(advance), 2,500 yen (at the gate)  kids 1,000 yen (advance and at the gate)
Unreserved seat : adult 1,200 yen (advance), 1,700 yen (at the gate)

【How to get to the stadium】 way to “Alwin” the home stadium
Shuttle bus services are available from Matsumoto Bus Terminal  ⇒ Shuttle bus from Matsumoto (¥1000 for a round-trip)
The first shuttle bus will leave the terminal 3 hours and 30 minutes before the game start and the last bus leave 45 minutes before the kickoff. Don’t be late for the last bus!!

【Goddies】
See ⇒ YAMAGA FOODIUM
Alwin is famous for its fantastic high grade food services.  There are varieties of local food booths including “Yanzokuyaki burger”, “Yamaga Oyaki”, “Yamaga beer (green beer)” and  “Shinshu beef skewers”.

【Next Home Games】
March 17th (Sunday) 13:00~ :  vs. Roasso Kumamoto
March 24th (Sunday) 13:00~ : vs. V-Varen Nagasaki
March 31st (Sunday) 13:00~ : vs.  Vissel Kobe
April 14th (Sunday) 13:00~ :  vs. FC GIFU
April 21st (Sunday) 13:00~ : vs. Tokyo Verdy

Check further schedule ⇒ YAMAGA 2013 Schedule


(Photo taken by an enthusiastic fan)

Join “One Soul” with the hottest football club, MATSUMOTO YAMAGA!

Ski Kids Day in Norikura Ski Resort Feb. 17th Sunday

This coming Sunday, February 17th is “Ski Kids Day” in Mt. Norikura Ski Resort .

DAY PASS lift ticket for elementary school kids and preschool kids is only 500 yen for “Ski Kids Day”.  And “No Charge” for the children under 3 yrs old.

On kids day, there will be some fun events for kids.  Around 14:00~ they are going to serve a gigantic “Sanzkuyaki Burger” at the restaurant.   Sanzokuyaki is Matsumoto’s popular local dish, very similar to fried chicken.  This gigantic burger is for 100 guests, the diameter is about 70~80 centimeters.

Not only the burger, there will be kids lottery,  free snow mobile riding, and of course, your kids will be happy to take photos with “Sanzokukku”, the popular mascot.

Moreover, there are some wonderful news for both young students and adult beginners.

For “Young Students” including undergraduates,  DAY PASS lift ticket is HALF- PRICE only in February.  Check it out! ⇒ Half – price DAY PASS Ticket

And for very beginners (for elementary school students and older including adults), “Norikura Debut Package” will be suitable.
The package plan includes a DAY PASS ticket, rental ski gears  and 2 hours beginner’s lesson.   The charge is only 4000 yen.
To sign up for this reasonable package,  you have to be at the ski rental shop at 8:45 ~ 9:30 for morning session and 11:45 ~ 12:30 for afternoon session.
*To take this advantage, it is very important that you are a very beginner who ski for the first time.   If  your ski skill is too good to be a beginner, they will charge the difference of ski lesson fee.


Norikura Ski Resort is famous for its high quality powder snow and the difference in elevation of 1,400 meters.

And, Onsen!!  Both DAY PASS and HALF DAY PASS come with a onsen coupon ticket.   Yukemurikan is a communal onsen really close from the ski area.

Have a wonderful holiday!

“Kids Ski Day” on the 16th at Nomugi Ski Resort

February 16th Saturday is a “Kids Ski Day” in Nomugi Ski Resort.
Elementary school children and younger (Age under 12 yrs old) are free of charge for ski lift and there will be fun events (like treasure hunting and such)  for them.

Also every Sunday, free lunch will be served for the kids under 13 yrs old (preschoolers and elementary school children) after purchasing a DayPass. (Sorry, not for their parents, though.)

And during the season, a Day Pass Lift ticket will become half-price for the residents or workers in Matsumoto area (Matsumoto, Shiojiri, Azumino Cities and Asahi &Yamagata Village) . Don’t forget to bring your ID or some provable forms.


Nomugi Ski Resort is proud of its highest altitude (2130 meters above sea level) and long course (4000 meters length) with finest powder snow.

In a sunny day, you can see “diamond dust” (a phenomenon caused by tiny particle of snow and air in the right condition) in Nomugi.

Talk about food and onsen, Nomugi prepares both.

“Ramen” to our local “sanzokuyaki”, variety of delicious meals are prepared at the rest house.

And, of course “ONSEN”!!  Some Ryokans (Japanese style B&B) and lodges around Nomugi Ski area allow visitors to use their onsen bath (Sanso Watari,  WOODY MOCK, Ryokan Senraku ) with charge from 400 to 500 yen(/per guest).

Soba in Nomugi (Nagawa) area is always more than perfect, since original flavorous buckwheat is grown in this region.  See Nagawa soba festival page ⇒Nagawa Soba
After enjoying Ski and onsen, it will be nice to have delicious “soba” before leaving Nomugi.


Kaida Kogen Ski Resort

Kaida Kogen (heights) is located in Kiso region, less than 80 km from JR Matsumoto station.  The foothill of Mt. Ontake (3,067m),  there are several good ski resorts as well as nice hot springs in Kaida Kogen area.

Access: Take route19, make a turn toward west (follow route 361) at “Kiso Ohashi” bridge traffic light. Pass the Kiso Fukushima Ski Resort,  about 2 km away you are in Kaida kogen.

In this season, a Day Pass ticket for Kaida Kogen MIA Ski Resort is only 1,000 yen on weekdays except holidays.  Check this out!

The opening will be December 7th Friday! There are good restaurants which serve delicious local  foods and the kids park is well prepared.


And of course, hot springs (onsen) make you refresh and relax!  Yamayuri so is a public facility with nice Onsens.

Have a fun time in Kaida Kogen Resort!

Mt. Norikura Ski Resort “Pre-opening” on Nov 30th to Dec 2nd!

Mt. Norikura Ski Resort has opened from TODAY!
A spell of cold weather in these days enabled their ski slopes.

The good news is you can enjoy these pre-opening days with free of charge if you show ID card that can prove you are citizen of Matsumoto. If you are not, don’t get disappointed!  The charge of the guests from other places is only 1,000 yen until December 2nd.

Pre opening is November 30th, December 1st and 2nd.

Charge: Free for Matsumoto citizen,
1,000 yen for Non-Matsumoto guest

Opening hour: 9:00~16:00

After ski, it will be nice to enjoy hot springs in Norikura.  Have a nice weekend!


2012 Ski season has already started from TODAY!

Hakuba Goryu, Hakuba 47, Hakuba Happone and  Shigakogen Kumanoyu, has opened from Today, the 17th of November.

About snow conditions and prices, check the following website → Ski in Nagano


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