1-Day Highlights of Central Japan Tour: Matsumoto Castle & Kamikochi Alpine Valley
May to November
10:00 - 18:30
|120,000 ~ / group||JPY|
1-Day Highlights of Central Japan Tour: Matsumoto Castle & Kamikochi Alpine Valley
Defined by its mountains and natural landscapes, Central Japan is the literal heartland of this beautiful country and a road less travelled by many international visitors. This engaging one-day tour takes you to Matsumoto Castle – one of the few remaining original castles in Japan and a registered National Treasure – before heading high into the grandeur of the North Alps and onto the protected alpine oasis of Kamikochi. Led by a locally-based guide and including lunch and direct transport to and from Kamikochi, this tour captures the essence of Central Japan by combining two of its most iconic destinations.
- Visit Matsumoto Castle – one of Japan’s few remaining original castles and a registered National Treasure – on a guided tour and learn all about its history, legend and secrets
- Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant including the region’s renowned ‘soba’ (buckwheat noodles) and other tasty dishes
- Explore the stunning alpine valley of Kamikochi, considered the jewel of the Chubu Sangaku National Park, with a guided walk along the Azusa River from Taisho Pond to Kappabashi Bridge
Want to join this tour from Nagano or Tokyo? It’s easy to do! Scroll to the bottom for our FAQs including train services that can you use to join the tour!
The tour starts at Matsumoto Station, where your guide will greet you at 10:00 and have you board the tour bus and head straight to the castle. More than 400 years old and a registered National Treasure, Matsumoto Castle is one of Central Japan’s most impressive cultural sites, known for its structural beauty set against the splendid mountain backdrop of the North Alps.
The castle dates back to the end of the ‘Warring States Period’ with much of the original structure still intact. One of the most beautiful historic buildings in Japan, it is one of only two 6-storey castles remaining today – yet only exists due to the intervention of local residents who have saved it from destruction more than once. 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 storeys, should you choose to!
You’ll then head for an early lunch at a nearby restaurant, where you can enjoy the region’s renowned ‘soba’ (buckwheat noodles) along with some other local, tasty side dishes.
It’s then time to begin your journey into the North Alps. Taking around 1.5 hours to reach Kamikochi, your guide will first give you the chance to rest and relax after lunch before stopping after 45-minutes to stretch your legs as you ascend into the stunning Chubu Sangaku National Park. Re-boarding the bus, your guide will start to introduce the story of the Chubu Sangaku – one of Japan’s original eight national parks – as you enjoy the beautiful mountain road leading to Kamikochi.
Situated 1500 meters above sea level deep within the Chubu Sangaku National Park, Kamikochi is famous for its natural beauty, pristine rivers and ponds, and dramatic mountain peaks rising to over 3000 meters. Starting at Taisho-ike (Taisho Pond) and following the river through mixed forest and onto to the parks famous Kappabashi (Kappa Bridge), the guided portion of your tour ends with the majestic view of the triple peaks of Hotaka.
Depending on the pace of the group, your guide will then give you 1 to 1.5 hours to enjoy for yourself. Stroll a little further along the river or sit at a café or restaurant and simply take in the view. Set against the majestic backdrop of Mount Hodataka, Kamikochi never fails to thrill guests and is often listed as one of Japan’s best experiences. At 17:00 the tour bus will depart and begin the journey back toward Nagano, where the tour is scheduled to conclude where it started, at Matsumoto Station at 18:30*.
*If you prefer to end the tour at Kamikochi – allowing you to stay there overnight or take an onward bus service to Takayama – we can drop you at Kamikochi Bus Terminal at 17:00. See our FAQs below for details.
|10:00||Meetup with your guide outside the West Exit of Matsumoto Station. They will be wearing a ‘Snow Monkey Resorts’ tour tag. Once all guests have arrived, you will board the tour bus and head straight to Matsumoto Castle.|
|10:15||Arrive at the castle where your guide will lead you around the historic grounds, explaining the fascinating history of one of Japan’s last remaining original castles. Should you wish to, you can head inside and climb all the way to the sixth storey, or else just stroll and relax during your free-time.|
|11:40||Enjoy an early lunch at a nearby restaurant.|
|12:30||Depart Matsumoto and begin your journey into the North Alps. Enroute to Kamikochi, you will stop in the mountains after around 45-minutes to break-up the long but beautiful drive and allow you to stretch your legs and use the bathroom. Once back on the road, it's another 30-minutes until your arrival in Kamikochi.|
|14:00||Arrive at Taisho Pond and follow a gentle walking trail along the Azusa River, as you are guided toward Kappabashi.|
|15:30||Arrive at Kappabashi at which time your guide will set you free to enjoy the next hour to hour-and-a-half (depending on the pace of the tour) by yourself. You can stroll further into the park or find a cafe or restaurant to sit down at and breathe in one of Japan's most captivating landscapes.|
|17:00||Board the tour bus and being the journey back toward Matsumoto (guests wanting to transfer to bus services bound for Hirayu Onsen and Takayama are welcome to leave the tour at this point).|
|18:30||Drop-off at Matsumoto Station where the tour officially concludes.|
TOUR MEETUP POINT
1 / MATSUMOTO STATION @ 10:00
The meetup point is at the West Exit of the station, in front of the taxi stand. Be sure to look for the guide wearing a SNOW MONKEY RESORTS tour tag.
- Transportation fee to and between all listed destinations and activities including Matsumoto and Kamikochi
- Entry ticket to Matsumoto Castle and guided tour
- Lunch (vegetarian options are available)
- Guided walk at Kamickochi from Taisho-ike (Taisho Pond) to Kappabashi (Kappa Bridge)
- English-speaking guide
- Additional food, snacks and drinks
- Additional travel costs including train tickets
- Accommodation (unless requested)
- Onward bus tickets from Kamikochi to Hirayu Onsen and / or Takayama
- This tour is capped at a maximum of 14 guests and we use our own transport for the entire day including direct transport in and out of Kamikochi, without the need to transfer onto public buses.
- This tour spends the majority of the day outdoors including at Mastumoto Castle and Kamikochi. Please ensure you prepared for changing weather conditions by carrying a waterproof jacket, umbrella, hat and sunglasses. While the weather is Kamikochi is likely to be notably cooler than Matsumoto, the sun can be strong so we also recommend bringing sunscreen.
- Kamikochi is located at 1500 meters above sea level and weather can change quickly. Please ensure you have clothing suitable for changing conditions including rain and cooler temperatures (7 to 22℃). In late-autumn (October to November), temperatures can drop to 0℃.
- This tour includes a reasonable amount of walking including at Matsumoto Castle and at Kamikochi. You have the option of entering the castle and climbing to the top-floor. This climb is steep and staircases are tight therefore may not be appropriate for some people. Please follow the instruction of your guide if they suggest you wait outside where you can freely stroll and enjoy the historic grounds.
- At Kamikochi, your guide will lead along the walking trail from Taisho-ike (Taisho Pond) to Kappabashi (Kappa Bridge) – approximately 2.7km. Your guide will allow 1.5 hours to walk this trail at a leisurely pace. If you cannot walk the trail, you have the option of going ahead in the tour vehicle and meeting the group at Kappabashi, when they arrive at around 15:30.
- This tour is not wheelchair accessible and may not be suitable for guests who are mobility impaired. Should this be a concern, please contact us prior to booking to discuss suitability.
- An early lunch will be taken at a nearby restaurant from 11:40. There will also be opportunities to buy further food, snacks and drinks around the Kappabashi area of Kamikochi around 15:30 onward.
- From approximately 15:30 until 16:50 your guide will allow free-time to explore Kamikochi however please ensure that you cooperate with your guides instruction regarding meeting places and times. The tour bus will need to depart on-time.
- Guests have the option of being dropped at Matsumoto Station or dropped at Kamikochi Bus Terminal for those wanting to stay in Kamikochi or take the Nohi bus service onto Hirayu Onsen and / or Takayama. This service can be provided at no additional charge.
- The tour application deadline is 2 days before the tour date at 17:00
MEETING PLACEGoogle Map
1-chōme-1 Fukashi, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0815
- I’d like to join the tour from Nagano. Is that possible?
Yes! Joining the tour from Nagano is simple. The Limited Express Shinano is a quick, comfortable and scenic train service connecting Nagano Station and Matsumoto Station. There is a morning service departing Nagano Station at 09;01 and arriving at Matsumoto Station at 09:51. For international visitors holding a Japan Rail (JR) Pass, this train service (including reservations) can be used without any additional charge. If possible, we recommend booking a seat in advance and then sit back and enjoy one of Central Japan’s most beautiful train rides.
- I’d like to join the tour from Tokyo. Is that possible?
If you’d like to join us from Tokyo, we’d love to have you with us! You can do so by taking the following Limited Express Azusa service: departing JR Shinjuku Station at 07:00 and arriving at Matsumoto Station at 09:38. Rather than heading straight back to Tokyo, we recommend staying in Kamikochi after the tour or booking accommodation nearby Matsumoto Station. For international visitors holding a Japan Rail (JR) Pass, both train services (including reservations) can be used without any additional charge.
- I’d like to start the tour at Matsumoto but end at Kamikochi. Can I do this and can I bring my luggage?
Yes. We will be happy to pick you up at Matsumoto Station and drop you at Kamikochi Bus Terminal including transporting your luggage. Please note however, that luggage is typically restricted to one suitcase per guest. If you are traveling with more, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to booking to discuss our ability to accommodate your request.
- Can I choose to end the tour at Kamikochi in order to stay there or take the bus onto another destination?
Yes. If you would like to leave the tour at Kamikochi, we can certainly say goodbye there. The tour will depart Kamikochi at 17:00 at which time we would leave you at the Kamikochi Bus Terminal. From there, guests staying in Kamikochi would need to take themselves to their accommodation – please check the location carefully as hotels are spread at distance along the valley with many only accessible on-foot – or can use the Nohi bus service onto Hirayu Onsen with services departing at 17:30 and 18:00. Taking only 25-minutes to reach Hirayu Onsen, there is an onward service to Takayama at 18:40, arriving at 19:30. If you choose to use the onward bus services to Hirayu Onsen or Takayama, please note that that ticket cost is not included in this tour.
- Can I add accommodation to my tour booking?
Yes. We can add accommodation in Matsumoto City. To do so, contact us by email at email@example.com any time to discuss options.
- What should I wear/bring?
This tour runs from May to November and includes a significant amount of time in the mountains. Please ensure you have clothing suitable for changing conditions including rain and cooler temperatures, typically ranging from 7 to 22℃). In summer, it will be notably cooler than the cities but still hot – 30℃+ – and the sun can be strong. Please ensure you bring a hat, sunglasses and some people may require sunscreen. You’re unlikely to need them but it’s also best to bring a waterproof jacket and small umbrella. In late-autumn (October to November), temperatures can drop to 0℃. At all times of year, please ensure you are wearing good quality footwear suitable for alpine walking on uneven ground and we recommend always bringing a small pack or bag to carry water, snacks, etc. Of course, your phone or a camera is a must!
- Is this tour wheelchair accessible/appropriate for guests with limited mobility?
The nature of this tour means it is not wheelchair accessible and may not be appropriate for guests with limited mobility, given the amount of walking involved. Should this be of concern, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to booking to discuss options.
- Other than lunch, is any other food or drinks provided on the tour?
The tour includes an early ‘soba’ (buckwheat noodle) lunch around 11:40. Outside of this, the next opportunity to buy food or drinks will be at Kamikochi, around 15:30 at Kappabashi where cafes and food vendors are selling a good range of options. For that reason, it’s a good idea to carry water or other drink and small snacks with you for the walk in Kamikochi.
- This tour is more expensive than some of your other tours. Why is that?
The price of this tour is a reflection of the distance covered, activities including entry to the castle, use of our own transport, a guide for the day and our choice to cap the number of guests. This tour has a maximum of 14 participants. We do this to ensure the best possible experience for our guests. We also transport you directly to and from Kamikochi without the need for multiple transfers and lining-up to get on the large public buses to access the beautiful reserve. So while the price is little higher than some of our tours, we’re confident you’ll enjoy every aspect!
(Travel Agency License No: Nagano 2-562)
Snow Monkey Resorts Tours
Nagano City Kurita 1015-7, NK Copo 202, Nagano, 380-0921 Japan
Member of All Nippon Travel Agents Association
Travel Service Supervisor: Tomoko Kasahara
May to November
10:00 - 18:30
|120,000 ~ / group||JPY|