Azumino Getaway: Breathe, Relax & Get Back to Nature
With domestic travel restrictions eased and the ‘Go To Travel’ campaign now in full swing, it’s an ideal time for residents of Japan to pack a bag and explore this beautiful country. Let’s face it, given the year we’ve had we all deserve a holiday, and none more so than people living in Tokyo.
It appears that residents of Tokyo – both Japanese citizens and foreign residents – will soon have access to the national ‘Go To Travel’ campaign, most likely from October 1st onward, and with that it’s the ideal time to plan your next getaway.
As a region known for its pristine natural landscapes, abundant farmlands and outdoor activities, Central Japan offers escape and relaxation, faraway from the congestion, hassle and hum of the large cities.
One such place is Azumino, a quiet rural enclave positioned between the famous castle city of Matsumoto and the imposing North Japan Alps. Known for its abundant farmlands, rural vistas and relaxing pace of life, Azumino also boasts galleries, museums, restaurants and more that are best enjoyed while cycling yourself from one to the other.
The ‘Azumino Tsunagu Project’ is an invitation to everyone in need of getaway to pack their pages and come back to the country, to enjoy the peace, tranquility and healing of rural Japan. Using the Limited Express Azusa service from Shinjuku Station, Azumino is less than hours from Tokyo and most easily access from/to Hotaka Station.
While in Azumino, we recommend staying in the hot spring village of Hotaka Onsen-kyo. Blessed with natural hot springs and some of the region’s best ‘ryokan’, Hotaka Onsen-kyo lies in in the wooded foothills of the North Japan Alps and offers visitors a revitalising getaway surrounded by beautiful vistas and the space to explore, cycle and forget their daily worries. For accommodation listings in the area, please see our ‘Hotaka Onsen-kyo’ hotel page.
Our ’20 Things To Do In & Around Azumino’ page lists some of the most enjoyable activities and attractions available in the area, allowing you to create your own itinerary including an overnight trip from Tokyo.
We can also arrange private tours including transport, accommodation and your choice of activities all led by a locally-based guide. With savings of up to 35% of offer, now is a great time to contact us for a quote, book and save!
Under our ‘Clean Green & Healthy’ campaign, we want to welcome everyone back to Central Japan to enjoy the relaxation and therapeutic nature of its towns, villages and landscapes. For visitors wanting to plan their own visit, the following overnight itinerary can be easily enjoyed from Tokyo:
For visitors coming from Tokyo, start by taking the Limited Express Azusa service from Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto Station. The 2.5 hour journey is itself a real highlight, as the Azusa’s wide windows provide great views of the passing landscape as you make your way comfortably and quickly toward Azumino.
Most services cease at Matsumoto Station requiring a transfer to the Oito Line for the 25-minute onward journey to Hotaka Station, however a couple of Azusa services continue onto Hotaka Station each day.
Arriving at Hotaka Station, it’s worth popping into the Tourist Information Center to get your bearings and information on activities and attractions in the area. Once ready, grab your bags, hail a taxi and head straight to your guesthouse in Hotaka Onsen-kyo – under 10-minutes drive from the station.
Hotaka Onsen-kyo is blessed with natural hot springs and some of the region’s best ‘ryokan’. Sitting in the wooded foothills of the North Japan Alps, Hotaka Onsen-kyo offers visited a relaxing experience with beautiful rural and mountain vistas.
Depending on what time you arrive, the cool afternoon is a great time to grab a rental bicycle and begin your leisurely exploration of the area starting with nearby Azumino Park, Hotaka Shrine or Daio Wasabi Farm.
Daio Wasabi Farm is one of Japan’s largest producers of the surprisingly subtle and versatile root vegetable. Visitors to the farm can try everything wasabi-flavoured – including wasabi ice cream and wasabi beer – while strolling the picturesque farm.
The setting of scenes in Akira Kurosawa’s film, ‘Dreams’, Daio includes leisurely walking trails through its serene grounds and on clear days, beautiful views of the North Alps.
As the sun sets, it’s time to return to your guesthouse to enjoy its hot spring, ‘kaiseki’ meal service and relax into your rural getaway.
As you awake to a peaceful morning, there’s no need to rush. Enjoy your breakfast, another hot spring and take your time. Always best enjoyed on a bicycle, Azumino has plenty to offer on your second day including fruit-picking, local galleries and museums along the Azumino Art Line.
Extending from over 50km from Azumino City to Hakuba Village, the ‘Azumino Art Line’ includes19 museums and art galleries showcasing both traditional and contemporary arts within the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Cycling from your choice of galleries and museums, allows you to go slow and breathe in the landscape.
Make sure to allow time for lunch, which of course when in Azumino, has to include soba! Azumino is known for the quality of its soba and with plenty of restaurants to choose from, enjoying a soba lunch or dinner is something of a must-do while there.
Fruit-picking is another late-summer and autumn activity synonymous with Azumino. 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.
This leisurely activity is suitable for all ages and is particularly popular with families, whose children relish the rare chance to be among orchards and choosing their own delicious apples directly from the tree.
As the afternoon winds down and turns toward evening, it’s time to return to your guesthouse or for those moving on, back to Hotaka Station and onto your next destination.
When planning and booking your trip to Azumino or anywhere in Central Japan, it’s important that you can do so with confidence that your intended destinations will be both enjoyable and safe.
As Nagano’s No.1-rated tour and charter operator, we offer a range of services including group tours, private tours and private charters to help you get the most out of your time in the region including our packaged 2-day private tour to Azumino.
We can also arrange transport to and from any destination in the region, with a customised itinerary to suit your travel needs. Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from any destination.
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 that experience and help you discover even more!
Why choose us?
Awarded a 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for our 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – recognised as one of the Top 10 Experiences in Japan – we have the local knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your time in Nagano.
Got a question about visiting Azumino? Feel free to contact us and let’s get planning together!