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Almost 100 International Visitors to Nakamachi’s Japanese Culture Event, Day 2!

Nakamachi japanse culture event day 2

Almost 100 international tourists and foreign residents participated in the last day of Nakamachi’s hands-on Japanese culture event! The second, and last, day of the event was held this past Saturday. This time, two big taiko drums were set out in front of the Kurassic-kan and visitors, kids and adults alike, took no time to pick up the sticks to start drumming out some powerful beats that echoed throughout the town.

Inside the Kurassic-kan, the activity tables were full with people eagerly trying to fold origami into perfect shapes and writing their names translated into Japanese characters with a brush and ink. The tea ceremony corner was also full of enthusiastic “students” who enjoyed the grace and elegance of the tea making tradition.

Diligent origami folders

Diligent origami folders

Matsumoto’s resident ninja and rickshaw puller were especially popular with the kids and young visitors – they got shoot down imaginary enemy ninjas with the darts they blew out of the ninja blowguns and got to experience sitting in a real, traditional rickshaw.

Photo shoot on a rickshaw!

Photo shoot on a rickshaw!

Personally, it was my second time at the event, but I still got to try something new! This time, the experienced shamisen player from Itoya came out to demonstrate the classic geisha game called Konpira Fune-fune. It’s a simple yet challenging game involving two players in which you have tap a cup and pillow in a certain pattern along to shamisen music without making a mistake. The music keeps getting faster and faster, so becomes harder and harder to keep your concentration (not to mention your nerves!).

The Konpira Fune-Fune game in front of Itoya

The Konpira Fune-Fune game in front of Itoya

Although all the activities were engaging and fun, perhaps the best part was meeting new people from all over the world and interacting with the Matsumoto locals. I met a cyclist from Andorra (that tiny country between Spain and France) who had bike all the way from Aomori, a photographer from India, tourists from Egypt, and a researcher from England. In the end, I think it was more than just an event about sharing Japanese culture – it was a great opportunity for international culture exchange for everyone!

Visitors trying out the stilts - part of the old-fashioned Japanese toy corner

Visitors trying out the stilts – part of the old-fashioned Japanese toy corner

Let’s hope we see more events like this coming up again in Matsumoto!

* A report of the 1st day is here.

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

Even More Free Rental Bikes Now Available for Tourists

Did you know you can rent bicycles for free in places all over Matsumoto? If you’re planning a day in the central part of the city, bicycles are one of the best – and most flexible – ways to get around. Matsumoto even has designated bike lanes on its main roads, so you don’t need to fight with pedestrians for riding space!

Rental bikes at Matsumoto Station bicycle parking lot

The new rental bikes at Matsumoto Station bicycle parking lot



Eighteen brand new rental bikes (photo above) have been added to the free bike pool offered by the Sui Sui Town public bike service. These new bikes are available at the bicycle parking outside Matsumoto Station’s Castle Exit (East Exit) and the North Bicycle Parking Area just a short walk from the station. The rental service is available from 9 AM to 5 PM, but you can return the bikes up until 9 PM.

The get to the Sui Sui Town right outside the station, simply walk to the right of Matsumoto Station’s Castle Exit toward the car lottery. You will see a bicycle parking lot to the left by the main road, which is where the rental bikes are located. Ask the attendant about the bikes. (See Google Map)

Matsumoto Station Bike Parking

Matsumoto Station Bike Parking



The Sui Sui Town at the North Bike Parking Area is can be tricky to find. To get there, immediately turn left from Matsumoto Station’s Castle Exit and walk down the sidewalk (do not cross the street). Turn left down the alley immediately before the Super Hotel Matsumoto and you will see an indoor bike parking lot, which is where the rentals are located. Again, ask the attendant about the bikes. (See Google Map)

North Bicycle Parking Area

North Bicycle Parking Area



One word of caution: The free bikes at the station tend to be completely rented out during busy times like the weekends. However, there are several other spots that also offer free rentals not too far from the station, including the car parking lot on Nakamachi Street, the “M Wing” near Parco, and the Matsumoto City Museum near the castle. See a map of rental bike locations on this page (also includes English information about Sui Sui Town toward the bottom) and more info on transportion in general here.

Cycling roads in the city

Cycling roads in the city



If you do run out of luck and can’t find a bicycle available to rent, Matsumoto is definitely compact enough that you can see many of the best sights on foot. You can also use the convenient Town Sneaker buses. But if you really want an extra classy ride, keep an eye out for Matsumoto’s one and only rickshaw puller! (He is often found at or around Matsumoto Castle).

For the best tour of Matsumoto, take a rickshaw ride!

For the best tour of Matsumoto, take a rickshaw ride!

Nakamachi Japanese Culture Event

Get an Early Preview of Matsumoto’s New Aeon Mall

The new Aeon Mall in Matsumoto opened its doors to local residents yesterday (Sep. 16), calling it a “soft open” before the official grand opening on Sep. 21. The mall is sprawled across three separate buildings: the “Sky Garden” (空庭) which consists of a movie theater and shops selling local goods, the “Wind Garden” (風庭) which is apparently one of Nagano’s largest food courts, and the “Sun Garden” (晴庭) which is the main section that includes all the typical kinds of stores you would expect to find in a mall like apparel, accessories, toy stores, and even a huge grocery store.

The first floor of the food court

The first floor of the food court

Aeon Mall

A shop selling local fruits, vegetables, meat, and other food products like miso.

A shop selling local fruits, vegetables, meat, and other food products like miso.

It seems like Aeon Mall put a lot of thought into trying to give the place a local feel, as you’ll find they incorporate little pieces Matsumoto-inspired design all over the mall. I particularly enjoyed the unique the hanging temari decorations (temari are a traditonal craft from Matsumoto) in the food court area and the huge daruma doll in the Sky Garden area.

"Temari" decorations inspired by the traditional temari crafts originating in Matsumoto

“Temari” decorations inspired by the traditional temari crafts originating in Matsumoto

A gigantic "daruma" on display

A gigantic “daruma” on display

Overall, I think the mall has something that everyone will enjoy, even if you don’t like all parts of it. If you have kids, there are toy stores and fun shops like a candy shop modeled after old-fashioned Japanese candy stores, a model train shop with a moving, interactive model train, and an arcade. Besides your typical clothes & accessory stores, there is a large book store, an electronics store, a sporting goods shop, Kaldi – the import food/wine and coffee retailer, a big wine and liquor section where you can buy wine ranging from table wine to high quality bottles, and more. The mall also has large retailers like Muji and H&M.

A fun "dagashi" candy shop for kids

A fun “dagashi” candy shop for kids

A big toy train that you and your kids can play with

A big toy train that you and your kids can play with

A nice big book store!

A nice big book store!

Huge wine selection

Huge wine selection

Personally, I’m extra excited about the new theater, Aeon Cinema. The theater has eight screens including a 4K digital projector screen. The base price for a movie is 1,800 yen but they offer some great discounts like matinee shows, late show discounts, and 1,100 yen tickets every Monday for all movie goers!

The entrance to the movie theater

The entrance to the movie theater

The mall is located about a 20 minute walk from the station, but you can easily take the Town Sneaker bus or a bicycle, too (there is ample bicycle parking). The theater is open from 10:00 – Midnight, and the main mall from 9 AM – 10 PM (* On 9/21 and 9/22, it opens at 10 AM).

Aean Mall website (Japanese): http://matsumoto-aeonmall.com/
Aeon Cinema Matsumoto website (Japanese): http://www.aeoncinema.com/cinema/matsumoto/

Japanese Culture Experience in Nakamachi – Day 1 Report

Looking for a chance to experience a piece of Japanese culture? This month, Nakamachi in central Matsumoto is holding a special event on two separate days for foreign visitors and residents to try out various Japanese arts, crafts, and other cultural activities. The first day of the event was last week so I went to try out a few of the activities (the next day is on Sep. 23).

Nakamachi Japanese Culture Event

The first day of the Japanese Culture event started off with a kagamibiraki ceremony that entails busting open a sake barrel with wooden mallets (and yes, the event does include sake tasting of Nakamachi original-brand sake!). To help out with the activities and interpreting Japanese to English, students from a local high school also came to lend a hand, as well.

Many visitors from all over the world, including France, Malaysia, Germany, Taiwan, Australia, and the U.S., came to try out the different kinds of hands-on activities like the Japanese tea ceremony, origami, and Japanese calligraphy. I also tried out as many activities as I could – and had a blast doing it! Even though I’ve been living in Japan for a few years now, I got to try some new things that I’ve never done before like riding in a rickshaw and shooting ninja darts through a blowgun.

The main activities are held at the Kurassic-kan, and here I started off with calligraphy, quickly realizing how challenging (yet fun!) it is to write well-balanced Japanese characters with a calligraphy brush. I saw other participants also getting their names translated into Japanese so they could write it themselves, and writing the names of the cities/places they had visited.

Learn to write your name in Japanese or any of your favorite words & phrases

Learn to write your name in Japanese or any of your favorite words & phrases

My next stop was at the Japanese tea ceremony activity. Here, the teacher taught me not only how to properly mix the matcha tea with the tea brush, but also how to properly sit, hold the cup, and drink the tea (not to mention you also get to munch on some tasty Japanese sweets while drinking the tea!).

Visitors learning the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and how to make matcha

Visitors learning the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and how to make matcha

After that, it was time for my first ride in a rickshaw! I had never ridden in a rickshaw before and it was so much more fun that I thought. The breeze feels nice as you get pulled down the street and you can see everything from the open carriage as if you’re riding in a kind of traditional convertible. Plus, seeing a rickshaw in Matsumoto is not so common as in some other cities like Kyoto, so everyone loves to wave at you as you ride by! Highly recommended if you’ve never tried a rickshaw ride before.

Matsumoto's one and only rickshaw!

Matsumoto’s one and only rickshaw!

Lastly, I did a quick kimono/yukata rental with my friend and walked around Nakamachi Street to some of the shops who were offering their own activities: I tried on different kinds of traditional Japanese footwear like geta at the Yaguchi shop, wine and amazake tasting at Senri, and the fun little bean-and-chopsticks game at the Ihara shop (you get a pair of your own chopsticks for trying the game!). All the shopkeepers were extremely nice and were happy to see us wearing yukata’s around the town.

Trying out Japanese footwear in my Yukata

Trying out Japanese footwear in my Yukata

By the way, I recommend trying out the ninja blowgun activity… it’s super fun no matter what your age, plus the blowgun is one of the weapons/techniques that ninjas actually used to get their job done way back in the day!

Ninja blowgun game. You can also rent a ninja outfit, like this  person here!

Ninja blowgun game. You can also rent a ninja outfit, like this person here!

Learn ninja tricks from this guy ;)

Learn ninja tricks from this guy ;)

If you missed the first day of the event, or didn’t get to do all the activities, the second day is being held on Saturday, Sep. 23 at the Kurassic-kan and various shops around Nakamachi Street.

See all the event details here or bookmark the event on Facebook here.

The origami table

The origami table

Rickshaw rides!!

Rickshaw rides!!

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

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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.

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Taisho Pond

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

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Shimizu River

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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.

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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.

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Kamonjigoya

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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.

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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

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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.

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Hotaka Shrine

Ichino Pond

Ichino Pond

Nino Pond

Nino Pond

Tashiro Pond and Wetlands

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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.

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Mt. Yakedake

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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.

Germany – Japan Baking Exchange in Norikura

Last weekend in Norikura, I got to participate in a fun cultural exchange event hosted by the Norikura Highlands Tourism Association and a German-style bakery, Brot Hügel, in Matsumoto. For a 2 day event, two master German bakers from Saxony, Torsten Eckert and Erik Wunderlich, were invited to Matsumoto to share one of Germany’s most celebrated cultural traditions – baking!

21231159_1673091Germany - Japan Bread Exchange

The first day consisted of a welcome party with a taiko drum performance by the Norikura elementary school taiko club, locally brewed rye beer, German bread, sausages, and regional dishes, and a speech by the German guests.

The Norikura elementary school taiko club

The Norikura elementary school taiko club

The German and Japanese Bakers

The German and Japanese Bakers

Mountains of pretzels!

Mountains of pretzels!

On the second day, the bakers taught a special baking (and cooking) course. We made different kinds of bread made with sourdough rye dough (baked in a wood-burning oven!), eclairs, creme puffs, a beautiful buttercream cake, and a potato salad and radish salad from Saxony. Because truly authentic German bread and food is a rarity in Japan, it was a unique opportunity for all of to get a taste of the real thing and see how it’s actually made.

Participants eagerly watching the bakers demonstrate how to make the bread dough

Participants eagerly watching the bakers demonstrate how to make the bread dough

Preparing the bread dough

Preparing the bread dough

Squeezing out dough for creme puffs

Squeezing out dough for creme puffs

Eclairs and creme puff shells baking in the wood-burning oven

Eclairs and creme puff shells baking in the wood-burning oven

The finished cake!

The finished cake!

The whole Germany – Japan Baking Exchange got started when the baker from Brot Hügel connected with the German bakers on Facebook. After building their friendship online, Brot Hügel traveled to Saxony last year to teach about some quintessentially Japanese breads like melon pan (a sweet roll with a cookie-based crust), anpan (roll filled with sweet red bean paste), and creme pan (roll filled with custard cream). As a continuation of the cultural exchange, the German bakers were then invited to Matsumoto this year. The bakers are eager to continue their friendship and offer more cultural exchange in both Saxony and Matsumoto, so let’s hope we see more events like this in the future!

Finished rye bread!

Finished rye bread!

In the meantime, if you’re interested in German bread, beer, or food, there are a couple of options right here in Matsumoto!

German-style bakeries:

Food & Beer:

  • Sonnenblume – serves various German-inspired dishes and has a huge selection of imported German beers (Location on map | Website – Japanese | facebook)
  • Baden-Baden – Specializes in homemade sausages and offers a selection of beer (including German ones) (Location on Map | Website – Japanese)
  • Matsumoto Brewery – Matsumoto’s craft beer brewery and bar (Location on Map | Facebook)
  • Easy to Reach Bath House Sakura no Yu

    The entrance is brightly lit at night.

    The entrance is brightly lit at night.

    Sakura no Yu is a clean and reasonably priced bath house that was built relatively recently. It is located on a main street, but has a quiet atmosphere and visitors include both men and women, young and old.

    The large bath is fairly spacious compared to baths at other traditional Japanese bath houses. It has a seating area with jets for your back and legs and also a section with bubbling water that you can submerge yourself in to ease your aching muscles.
    The type of water in the smaller bath is rotated on a daily basis, allowing you to enjoy bath soaks such as lavender, lemon, floral, and more.

    yu_edit

    Look for the yu (ゆ)sign which indicates that the building is a bath house.

    Facility

    Hours: 15:00 (3pm) – 22:00 (10pm)

    Closed: Friday

    Prices: ¥400 for entry

    *Amenities such as shampoo and soap are not provided, so please bring your own or purchase some at the front desk.
    A set of shampoo, conditioner, soap, and a towel costs ¥300 altogether (Items are sold individually).*

    Other items available: hairdryer, lockers, vending machines

    Access:

    1-4-14 Metoba, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0806

    By bus:
    From Matsumoto Bus Terminal platform 3, you can take the 31/30 Utsukushigahara Onsen Line Bus bound for Utsukushigahara Onsen. (This bus runs until 9:45 pm on weekdays and 8:45 pm on weekends/holidays.) Get off at Sakuramachi. It takes about 13 minutes and costs ¥200.

    From Matsumoto Station, you can take the 100 North City Bus bound for Jidosha Gakko and get off at Shimizu Nakaku. The ride takes about 8 minutes and costs ¥200. From that stop you will turn left at the light then cross the bridge.

    Walking: The bath house is about a 22-minute walk from Matsumoto Station’s East Exit, but only about a 12-minute walk from Matsumoto Castle.
    It is also walking distance from a number of hostels, so if you are staying around the Castle it’s an easy location to reach!

    Parking: For those who drive, the parking lot is just across the street.

    Bathing Etiquette and Tips

    Here are a few tips to help make your bathing experience more enjoyable:

    – Put your belongings in a locker and/or a wicker basket. (Be sure to put valuables in a locker. The bath house will not be responsible for stolen items.)

    – Bathing with bathing suits or clothes on is not allowed.

    – Be sure to wash your body first before entering the bath. There is no set order, but many people wash their body, warm themselves in the bath, then proceed to wash their hair and so forth.

    – It is common to bring a small towel in the bathing area, but don’t put your bath towel in the water.

    – Water temperatures can be quite hot, so take breaks. You may start to feel light headed and dizzy after more than a few minutes.

    – When returning to the changing room, be sure to dry your body off near the doorway so you don’t get the floor wet.

    – A common way to cool down after the bath is with a nice, refreshing bottle of milk!

     

     

    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

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    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.

    Japanese Culture Event at Kurassic-kan in Nakamachi!

    Event flyer

    As announced in our previous blog post, Nakamachi is holding a fun Japanese culture event at the Kurassic-kan on Sep. 6 (Wed) and Sep 23 (Sat). Here you can try all kinds of Japanese arts, crafts, activities, and other cultural experiences, not to mention everything is hands-on and mostly free! Besides the main event at the Kurassic-kan, several of the shops and restaurants around Nakamachi will also be offering cultural activities like traditional games or food/drink tastings. See below for a list of activities and where you can get the official details, event flyer, or see the event on Facebook!

    There will also be volunteers providing translation/interpretation to help with communication, including local high school students and local guides. So not only is this a great opportunity to experience Japanese culture, but also a nice chance to communicate with the locals!

    Event Details

    Place: Kurassic-kan in Nakamachi, Matsumoto
    Date & Time: Sep. 6 and Sep. 23, 10 am – 4 pm (times for activities at the shops differ. Check the event flyer or webpage)
    Event webpage: http://nakamachi-street.com/en/experiencedays/
    Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1607791399271217/

    Get the official PDF flyer here which includes a map and all activity details:

    Japanese Culture Experience Days flyer

    Click here to download the PDF

    List of main activities at the Kurassic-kan:

    • Origami folding
    • Japanese calligraphy
    • Japanese Tea Ceremony (traditional way of making matcha green tea)
    • Japanese folding fan decorating
    • Play with old-fashioned and traditional Japanese toys
    • Sake tasting with Nakamachi’s original-brand sake
    • Kimono (yukata) and ninja costume rental (paid activity)
    • Rickshaw rides around Nakamachi (paid activity, discount with kimono rental)
    • Ninja blowgun activity (paid activity, free with ninja costume rental)


    List of shops offering activities around Nakamachi:

    • Geiyukan: Try plaing the shamisen, a traditional Japanese music instrument.
    • Kuriya: Make fresh wasabi from real wasabi root.
    • Senri: Japanese wine, sake, amazake, and juice tasting
    • Yamahei: Introduction of some Japanese local foods
    • Yaguchi: Try wearing geta, a traditional form of Japanese footwear.
    • Ihara: Chopsticks and beans game
    • Itoya: Play the konpira fune-fune game, a traditional game played at geisha banquets, and other activities.
    • Okinado Kura Branch: Try playing the Japanese taiko drum. Also, exhibit of traditional tools used for making Japanese confections/sweets
    • Temariya: Free Japanese tea



    Flyer page listing shop activities. Download the PDF for all the details.

    Flyer page listing shop activities. Download the PDF for all the details.


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