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2-DAY PRIVATE TOUR: MATSUMOTO CASTLE, NAKASENDO, and COUNTRYSIDE AZUMINO

2-DAY PRIVATE TOUR: MATSUMOTO CASTLE, NAKASENDO, and COUNTRYSIDE AZUMINO

Period

Aug. - Nov.

Time

(Day1) 08:30 - (Day2) 18:30

Meeting Place

JR Nagano Station Information Board

Price

265,000 ~ / group JPY

Situated between Matsumoto and its famous castle, and the dramatic alpine backdrop of the Northern Alps including the ski fields of Hakuba, Azumino is a quiet, rural area known for its beauty and traditional Japanese character. Although quiet and not as well-known as its famous neighbors, Azumino should not be overlooked! It is a place where time slows and the congestion and buzz of the cities, recedes in the distance. A place where the tradition thrives and where you can breathe in the true essence of rural Japan.

 

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Starting at JR Nagano Station, our 2-Day private tour takes you to Japan’s rural heart with your choice of activities which highlight the best of the region, combined with visit to iconic Matsumoto Castle, historic Narai-juku on the ancient Nakasendo Trail, and one nights accommodation in Hotaka Onsen-kyo – where you can experience traditional Japanese service and relaxation in the quaint hot spring town.

 

Day 1

 

Your guide will meet you at JR Nagano Station at 08:30 and have you board your private vehicle and being your journey to Narai. Known as ‘Narai Senken’ or ‘Narai of a Thousand Houses’, this beautifully preserved town marked the midpoint of Nakasendo – one of five major trade routes that connected Kyoto with Tokyo (then called Edo) during the Edo Period – the thirty-fourth of sixty-nine stations which monitored, controlled, and taxed traffic along the road. Today the remaining historic town runs approximately 1km in length and is 200 meters wide, home to numerous shops, restaurants, traditional accommodation and peoples’ homes.

 

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Your guide will take you around the time before allowing you time to explore for yourself followed by a traditional lunch including ‘soba’ (buckwheat noodles) and all manner of delicious local dishes.

 

From Narai you then head to Matsumoto and its famous castle – a registered National Treasure. More than 400 years, Matsumoto Castle is one of Nagano’s most impressive cultural sites, known for its structural beauty set against a splendid mountain backdrop. You will be guided into the castle grounds as your guide reveals the history and features which make it so lauded, before giving you time to explore for yourself (including ascending all the way to the top of its six stories, should you choose to!).

 

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Once done your guide will have you board the tour vehicle and quickly make your way to your accommodation in Hotaka Onsen-kyo. This quaint hot spring village offers a range of accommodation – included in your tour package – offering visitors traditional Japanese service and comfort. Including dinner, breakfast, and the relaxation of your accommodations ‘onsen’ (natural hot spring), the evening is yours to relax, unwind, and breathe in the surrounding atmosphere of beautiful Azumino

 

Accommodation in Azumino

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* Accommodation may vary depends on availability

 

Day 2

 

The day begins with breakfast at your guesthouse before your guide will meet you in the hotel lobby*. Whereas the first day of your tour is set, this day gives you the flexibility of choosing a morning and afternoon activity from the list below. Of course if you know of something else in the region that you’d like to try, just let us know and we’ll see what can be arranged.

 

The schedule allocates 2 hours for each activity – in both the morning and afternoon:

 

Daio Wasabi Farm (all year round)

 

Japanese food is one of the most enjoyable and seductive reasons to visit the country. Offering an array of cuisine and tastes, one constant across the wide spectrum of Japan’s celebrated food culture is ‘wasabi’. Known in the West for its nasal-clearing heat, real wasabi is a much more subtle and highly versatile taste than many people realize. Azumino’s Daio Wasabi Farm is one of  Japan’s largest producer of wasabi and in itself, a beautiful destination well-worth visiting.

 

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Wasabi requires large amounts of clear water to grow and the streams and pools that flow across the farm create a picturesque and idyllic setting in which to wander. Daio Shrine and wooden water wheels on the Tade and Yorozui Rivers – the setting for Kurosawa Akira’s 1989 film ‘Dreams’ – only add to that atmosphere. While at the farm you can delight in the varied uses of wasabi including both wasabi ice cream and wasabi beer.

 

Daisekkei Sake Brewery (all year round)

 

Established in 1898, Daisekkei Sake Brewery utilizes the pure and mineral rich waters from the heavy snow of Azumino and the surrounding mountains to produce some of the region’s best ‘sake’. Known as ‘nihonshu’ in Japanese, sake is Japan’s national drink and highly complex world which takes a lifetime to master.

 

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Daisekkei is a great venue to dip your toes into this rich and warming world, offering tours of the brewery including the production process, and welcoming front bar and store where you can sample and buy, their very best nihonshu!

 

Fruit-picking at one of the region’s numerous farms and orchards (April to November)

 

Blessed with an ideal climate for growing countless varieties of fruit and vegetables, Nagano is most famous for its apples and grapes, both of which grow to impressive size and deliciously flavorful in the higher elevation of Azumino’s orchards. Growing many varieties of apples including well-loved Fuji and San Fuji types, the pronounced temperature difference between day and night promotes the growth of delicious apples which you can pick and enjoy for yourself and several of the region’s many orchards.

 

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Explore the museums and galleries of the ‘Azumino Art Line’ (all year round)

 

Extending from over 50km from Azumino City to Hakuba Village, the ‘Azumino Art Line’ includes 19 museums and art galleries showcasing both traditional and contemporary arts within the beauty of the surrounding landscape. The museums forming the Art Line range in scale and focus with notable stops including Rokuzan Art Museum (a small but beautiful museum housing a sculpture collection of artist Morie Ogiwara), the Chihiro Art Museum (featuring illustrators and artists of childrens’ books) and the Azumino Art Hills Museum of glass art.

 

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Collections vary between classic to cute, contemporary to traditional in an eclectic array of museums. Your best starting point is from Hotaka Station from where you can drive or cycle between the museums of your choosing. The station’s friendly English-speaking information staff will happily provide you with all the details and maps you need to set-off on your self-guided discovery.

 

Hike the abandoned train line of the ‘Haisenjiki’ (April to November)

 

In operation from 1902 until 1988, the former Shinano Line connected the region’s principal cities of Matsumoto and Nagano by train, along a mountainous, often beautiful route which can still be traced today. Now out of use for former than 30 years, the abandoned train is now a popular hiking course now called the ‘Haisenjiki’.

 

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Winding through a lush terrain of mountain forest the Haisenjiki is an evocative journey through time and space; one that takes you through tunnels and past artefacts which tell the story of its former use. This is a relaxed hiking course with a unique atmosphere, an experience that really does take you off the beaten track!

 

Azumino Tensan Center (all year round)

 

Azumino’s pristine natural environment provides the perfect environment for wild silkworms to thrive. In the late-18th century, the residents of Azumino began collecting the eggs and established a local silk production industry.

 

The Azumino Tensan Center opened in 1978 in order to revive the wild silkworm industry, which had struggled in recent years. The center introduces visitors to the ecology, history, and workings of wild silk production including a weaving studio providing demonstrations and museum shop wear silk products can be purchased.

 

Silk Weaving

 

Rural cycling from Hotaka Station (April to November)

 

There’s no better way to experience the rural atmosphere, sights and sounds of Azumino than cycling through the landscape of rice fields and farms all set against the stunning backdrop of the Northern Alps. Your guide can arrange bicycles for you and lead you on a course suitable to your level of fitness, interests, and which shows-off the beautiful surrounding landscape.

 

Mountain Stream Climbing (best tried in summer)**

 

Situated in the shadows of Japan’s Northern Alps, the lush farms of Azumino are nourished by the streams and rivers that flow from the mountains to the plain below. In recent years, exploring and “climbing” mountain streams has become a popular activity in the region, suitable for guests of all ages and great fun!

 

Led by an English-speaking guide who will provide safety gear including a helmet and life jackets to all guests, you’ll be led up the Nakabusa River as you jump, dive, swim and float your way along the beautiful waters of Azumino.

 

Between your morning and afternoon activities, your guide will take you for lunch. Azumino is known for its delicious ‘soba’ (buckwheat noodles) and there’s no better way to enjoy the local delicacy than by making your own. You will be guided on the preparation and cooking of your own soba before sitting down for a well-deserved lunch.

 

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Finally, after lunch is done and you’ve enjoyed your chosen afternoon activity, it’s time to go. Your guide will have you board the tour vehicle and from Azumino, you’ll make your way back to Nagano Station where the tour is schedule to conclude at 18:30***.

 

*If you prefer an early start we can pick you up and take you to a nearby viewpoint to enjoy the beautiful sight of the rising sun against the mountains of the Northern Alps. If you’d like to know more about this option please ask at time of booking.

**Mountain stream climbing takes approximately 3 hours therefore if you would like to include this option we can arrange it in the morning, followed by lunch and a shortened activity in the afternoon.

***If you prefer to end the tour at Matsumoto Station or nearby accommodation, we can drop you there around 17:00.

ITINERARY

Day1 08:30 Meetup with your guide at JR Nagano Station and begin your journey south, toward the beautiful Kiso Valley and Narai-juku.
10:30 Arrive at Narai, where your guide will show you around the beautifully preserved historic town before allowing you time to explore for yourself. Once done, you'll be treated to a traditional lunch.
13:30 Depart Narai and head toward Matsumoto.
14:45 Arrive at Matsumoto, where your guide will show your around the castle while explaining its history, and why it survived when other castles didn't.
17:00 Arrive at your accommodation in Hotaka Onsen-kyo where the days tour concludes.
Day2 09:00 Following breakfast your guide will collect you from your hotel and head toward your morning activity
09:30 Enjoy your chosen morning activity for 2 hours.
12:00 Arrive at a local restaurant where you will experience soba-making before sitting down to lunch and your own handmade noodles.
14:30 Enjoy your chosen afternoon activity for 2 hours.
18:30 The tour concludes at JR Nagano Station.

NOTES

Included:
  • Transportation from/to Nagano Station, Azumino and all listed destinations and activities
  • Guided visits to Narai and Matsumoto Castle (including entry fee) on Day 1
  • Lunch in Narai on Day 1
  • Your choice of two activities on Day 2 (including any fees or operational costs)
  • Soba-making experience including lunch on Day 2
  • Accommodation in Hotaka Onsen-kyo on Day1 (including dinner & breakfast)
  • Private vehicle & driver on both days
  • English-speaking guide on both days
Excluded:
  • Additional food, snacks, and drinks
  • Accomodation on Day 2
  • Shinkansen/bullet or other train tickets
Other Information:
  • Available from minimum 2 pax
  • Please wear suitable shoes and clothing for outdoor activity including a moderate amount of walking.
  •  Accommodation in Hotaka Onsen-kyo will be confirmed at time of booking. If you have a preference for Japanese (on-floor ‘futon’ bedding) or Western-style bedding, please let us know at time of booking. Some guesthouses only provide Japanese-style rooms/bedding and may not therefore be available if your preference is for a Western room.
  • Many guesthouses and ‘onsen’ do not allow guests with tattoos to use their hot spring. If you have any concern about this, please let us know in advance and we can confirm whether the guesthouse will allow entry to their hot spring. When using any ‘onsen’, please ensure you follow the rules of use.
  • The lunch menu on Day 1 is set by the restaurant and dependent on the season. If you have dietary requirements including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or allergies, please let us know in advance.
  • If you are interested in the mountain stream climbing activity, please bring/wear clothes that you are happy to get wet. Please also note that this activity takes approximatley 3 hours and will therefore shorten the time available for an afternoon activity.

MEETING PLACE

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JR Nagano Station Information Board

Kurita, Nagano-shi, Nagano, 380-0921, Japan