Peak wilderness delights in Japan's Alps—for climbers, skiers, hikers and nature fans
Nagano's Alps hold everything an outdoor sports enthusiast dreams of. The attractions here include the Kamikochi area with endless trekking possibilities, the Hakuba region and its Olympic-class powder and slopes, and the Senjojiki Cirque, carved by a glacier.
The mountains and the communities living nearby offer endless opportunities for exploration and adventure, including Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan's finest, and free kabuki festivals in Oshika.
- Breathtaking Senjojiki Cirque in the Central Alps
- Kamikochi highland's stunning alpine beauty
- Visiting Hakuba for some world-class skiing and snowboarding
How to Get There
Matsumoto is the most common gateway to Nagano's Northern Alps. It's less than a three-hour train ride from Tokyo on the JR Chuo Line-Limited Express from Shinjuku Station.
For those heading straight to the Kamikochi area, there are a number of direct night buses that run from Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.
If you're already in the area, take the Matsumoto Denkitetsudo train from Nagano's Matsumoto city to Shin-Shimashima Station, then a bus to Kamikochi. This takes around two hours. Private cars aren't permitted in the Kamikochi area.
The stunning Northern Alps
With world-class snow sports facilities and easy access from the lowlands and peaks reaching over 3,000 meters, the Northern Alps range is one of Japan's most famous alpine areas.
Nonstop adventure for wilderness fans
Located within Chubu Sangaku National Park, there's always plenty to see and do year-round. Whether you're taking in gorgeous views along Kamikochi's Azusa River, climbing the soaring spear of Mt. Yarigatake, or going deep with a multi-day trek to the pristine alpine plateau of Kumo-no-Daira, you'll never be short of options for outdoor adventures.
Visit historic Matsumoto Castle
The area around the Northern Alps has plenty to offer as well. A visit to Matsumoto Castle located in the neighboring area is the perfect place to spend some time en-route to the heights.
The ultimate snow-lover's getaway
The world-famous winter resort of Hakuba offers stellar powder, dozens of runs, and beautiful scenery even during the off-season, with year-round accommodation.
The Central Alps
Also known as the Kiso Alps, the Central Alps form the spine of southern Nagano, with the Ina Valley spreading to the east and the Kiso Valley running along the west.
Take the ropeway to an alpine wilderness
Mt. Hoken and Mt. Komagatake are the peaks most easily reached thanks to the Central Alps Komagatake Ropeway on the eastern side of the range. The ropeway whisks you 2,600 meters up, unveiling a world of gorgeous alpine scenery and rare plants at the Senjojiki Cirque, carved by glaciers 20,000 years ago.
Alpine adventures in the Southern Alps
While less accessible than the Northern or Central Alps, the Southern Alps area is a fantastic base for alpine adventures. Many of its peaks lie within the Minami Alps National Park, and the entire area, including the communities at the foot of the range, has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Trekking the southern pocket
You can trek the Southern Alps from Nagano, but the climbs are tougher and less accessible than from the other side in Yamanashi. The area along the foot of the range in Nagano's Ina Valley is well worth a visit.
Visit Oshika for cultural festivities
Oshika Village's free kabuki festivals in the spring and fall draw impressive crowds, as does Takato Castle Park's renowned cherry blossom festival in the spring. Iida's August puppet festival features performers from across Japan, and its puppet museum showcases 300 years of the fascinating traditional style of Bunraku puppetry.
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