Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route
Open from May to mid/late-November, the Japanese National Route 292, otherwise known as the Shiga-Kusatsu Kogen Route is a scenic alpine driving route that winds through the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. Running from Kusatsu Onsen toward the Jigokudani Monkey Park an up through Shiga Kogen Ski Resort, the route offers visitors stunning views of scenic vistas including Mt Shirane, Mt Yokote and other scenic areas deep into the national park, as well as convenient access between these two amazing locations in Central Japan from the comfort of your own vehicle or from private transport!
In winter, much of the area the route dissects is within the boundaries of Shiga Kogen – Japan’s largest ski resort. Only open outside of Winter, the route provides access to a beautiful alpine landscape. Declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981, the area is home to important and unique alpine flora and fauna, making it a must-see in Autumn, Spring, or Summer for any eager National Park goers or scenery lovers that wish to absorb the unique ecology of mountainous Japan.
Nature-lovers can rejoice in walking trails that crisscross the alpine valleys and lead toward five mountain peaks spread through the park. The Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route ultimately leads through Joshinetsu Kogen National Park and down to the Jigokudani Monkey Park – nestled in the foothills of the Joshinetsu Kogen and home to the famous onsen-bathing monkeys.
Please note – the route takes you past Mt. Shirane, an active volcano. When driving the route your personal safety should be your first priority. The Japan Meteorological Agency provides real-time advice and warnings for the entire country. Prior to visiting Shirane, we recommend checking the following website. As of October 2023, access to Mt. Shirane remains closed due to a sudden eruption in 2018 which discontinued the use of most of the trails that would lead to the picture-eqsue Yugama Crater Lake.
The route will reach eventually reach its precipice through the winding mountain roads and offer a fantastic view of the surrounding landscape at a staggering 2,172 meters (7,126 feet). Whether riding in your own rented vehicle or a requisitioned private charter transport, you will want to stop at this observation point to truly understand the magnificence of traversing one of Japan’s own National Parks.
Access from the charming town of Karuizawa
Located right on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line from Tokyo, Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture has earned quite the reputation from people visiting Japan from around the globe, even captivating the attention of icon John Lennon, who appreciated the area for its blending of urban and nature aspects. Karuizawa also serves as a fantastic springboard to travel northward toward the quaint Kusatsu Onsen town, and thus, the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route to see some of Japan’s renowned natural scenery.
Located only 13 kilometers north of Karuizawa Station, Shiraito Falls provides an atmosphere of peace and contemplation, as well as good photo-ops for all travelers. Translating from Japanese as “white threads,” the text is represented beautifully in the environment as dozens of streams of water cascade from all directions into the spring below. Visiting in summer is the offers lush vegetation surrounding the falls, whereas colored beauty of autumn cannot be understated in the appreciation of the falls, making visiting at any time truly wonderful.
Have you ever wondered what the aftermath of a volcanic eruption looks like? Well, the answer lies even further northward toward the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route in Onioshidashi Volcanic Park. In 1783, the nearby Mount Asama erupted violently. Covering the entire area in a thick layer of lava, ash and molten rock. In time, as these elements cooled, they formed the rough, jagged terrain that characterizes Onioshidashi Park today. Volcanic rocks formed from the sediment of the 1783 Asama eruption give the park an appearance that looks less like a conventional Japanese nature reserve and more like the kind of rocky landscape one would expect to see on a “Star Trek” away mission to some strange, new world. From this elevated viewpoint, visitors can also enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding towns and villages.
Hotel and Transport Information
With so many alluring destinations along the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route, it surely seems like it would make for a fulfilling day’s itinerary, especially if you are departing all the way from Karuizawa. As the sun begins to kiss the landscape mountains in sunset, there are a several worthy locations to rest and regain your strength for more adventure. The end of the route offers a choice: to turn left to descend the mountains into the onsen town of Yudanaka, or to turn right to remain in the Shiga Highlands to continue your mountain exploits.
If you choose to continue your journey into the Shiga Highlands, our recommendation would be to stay at a ski resort hotel in Shiga Kogen. Many of these hotels, such as Hotel Grand Phenix Okushiga, offer many “green season” activities during the non-winter months such as various of yoga, guided mountain trekking, firefly viewing, stargazing, and golfing. Although there is not enough snow to ski at the times when the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route is open, there are a plethora of activities for the entire family to enjoy within ski resort grounds.
|Hotel Grand Phenix Okushiga|
|Feature||Bar/LoungeBreakfast IncludedChinese-speakingConcierge ServicesDinner & Breakfast IncludedDry RoomEnglish-SpeakingFamily RoomsFree WifiJapanese RoomsNearby Ski ResortParkingPrivate BathroomRestaurantRoom ServiceShuttle ServiceSki In/OutSki/Snowboard RentalSwimming PoolToursWestern RoomsWheelchair Access|
JPY10,000 ~ 70,000 / pp
There are also several options on how to make the logistical aspects of this trip a reality: such as renting your own vehicle to drive (please be aware that renting a vehicle requires you to hold a driver’s license in your home country, as well as adherence to Japan’s road laws, rules, and customs), or requisitioning a private charter to take you to along this route and onto your final destination. If you are looking to travel in the peak of convenience and comfort, we would love to provide you with a charter through this stunning route. Just click the inquiry button and share your desired trip details, and see the section below for more information on our charters!
BOOK WITH US! NAGANO’S NO.1 TOUR & CHARTER OPERATOR
Central Japan offers many, many reasons to visit. Operating all year round, we are Nagano’s No.1-rated tour and charter operator, offering a range of services including group tours, private tours and charters. We can arrange transport including a private vehicle and driver, along with an English-speaking guide, to transport to, from and between any destinations in the region including Karuizawa and the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route.
Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations in combination with any activity that suits your schedule. All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety.
We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of your adventure in Central Japan and help you discover even more!
Why choose us?
Got a question about visiting the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route? Contact us and let’s get planning together!
Approx. 40-minutes drive from the Jigokudani Monkey Park
From the park: take route 292 through Joshintesu Kogen National Park and follow the signs to Mt Yokote, Mt Shirane and onto Kusatsu Onsen