Need advice on Japan Alps

Old Nov 18th, 2009, 04:20 PM
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Need advice on Japan Alps

I'm planning to spend 4-6 nights with a family of 6 in the Japan Alps in July. I'm hoping to see Takayama, Matsumoto, Kamacochi, and do the walk from Tsumango to magone (pardon my spellings, I don't have a guide book in front of me). My question is, will it be convenient to base in one town (and if so, which town?) and take day trips to the others, or will it be better to stay in multiple places because the day-trip travel times would be too long. Ideally I would prefer to have a single base, but do not really want to make day trips that are more than 1-1.5 hours each way.

Anyone's thoughts? Thanks.
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 08:22 PM
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Haven't been to Takayama yet.....We recently stayed at the Matsumoto Hotel Kagestu in Matsumoto and really enjoyed ourselves and the neighborhood around the hotel. Matsumoto is an interesting town easily worth two nights. Matsumoto castle is a must if you are in the area anyway and we had a gorgeous castle view from our hotel window.

http://www.mcci.or.jp/www/kagetsu/englishtop.html

Matsumoto and Takayama are equal in travel time to Kamikochi so no advantage there if you are using the bus and train.

Are you thinking of driving?

Aloha!
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 08:45 PM
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Thanks, hawaiian - no, we plan to do everything by public transportation. So now I'm thinking 2 or 3 nights each in Takayama and Matsumoto - maybe hit Kamikochi from Takayama one day and the Tsumago/Magone walk from Matsumoto.
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 11:20 PM
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From Takayama you could make a day trip to Shirakawago. I highly recommend it. If you don't go to Shirakawago then definitely visit the Hida no Sato in Takayama.

I recommend not making Kamikochi a day trip from another place, though it might work better for your group to do that. I don't know. The shorter trip would be from Matsumoto to Kamikochi.

You can stop there for a few hours enroute between Matsumoto and Takayama. But you will need to be careful about getting bus tickets. There is lodging in Kamikochi and it looked like a great place to stay if you like hiking.

I took the bus from Takayama and immediately on arrival in Kamikochi bought a bus ticket to Matsumoto for later in the day. I got one of the last seats. You should try to arrange seats in advance. I think the same advice applies to the bus for Shirakawago since some/many of them are reserved seats and you have a large group.

Looks like you might be able to visit Magome and Tsumago on a day trip from Matsumoto. I have not been there yet. See the transportation map at the top of page 3 at the first link below (north is to the left on that map).

The Takayama Line north of Takayama is supposed to be one of the most scenic train routes in Japan. It would get you to Toyama you near to the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpline Route. The eastern end of that route is just north of Matsumoto.

The Takayama Line south from Takayama gets you to a station where you can take a local train east to Nakatsugawa. You will see that on the map too.

Here is a guide for Takayama & Shirakawago. It includes a transportation map that includes the region.
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/pdf/pg-409.pdf

Her is info about the Tateyama-Kurobe route:
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/pdf/pg-402.pdf

Kiso Valley:
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/pdf/pg-408.pdf

So I think if you started in Matsumoto and based there you could day trip to the lower Kiso Valley and to Kamikochi. Then the Alpine Route to Toyama and train to Takayama. Day trip to Shirakawago (or overnite). Gero Onsen is just south ot Takayama.
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 07:08 AM
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If you haven't already discovered this website for Matsumoto I think you will find it useful. The 'forum' part seems to be run by a group of enthusiastic ex-pats. They also have a lot of information on the city and surrounding areas reachable as day trips. Hope this helps. We will be visiting, Kiso, Matsumoto and Takayama in April. Sue

http://welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 04:00 PM
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I also think that splitting your time between Takayama and Matsumoto would probably be the best solution. From Takayama you will be able to visit Shirakawago as well. The bus trip from Takayama to Kamakochi (and likewise Kamakochi to Matsumoto is lovely) but too long for a day trip. Do Kamakochi from Matsumoto. We actually spent two nights at Tsumago (and absolutely adored it, probably the highlight of our four week trip) but I know that a lot of people do it as a day trip from Matsumoto.

As advised check out booking your bus tickets beforehand. When we there about a year ago, we had to book our Kanazawa/Shirkawago/Takayama tickets in advance. The tickets for Takayama through to Matsumoto we were told to buy on the day even though we were there at peak time (the Autumn festival) and we didn't have any troube at all getting seats. The tourist information office at Takayama were wonderful and booked our seats for us so we didn't have to worry about the vagaries of the Japanese only web site for the bus company. If she is still there Saori looked after us very well. ([email protected])

You should have a wonderful trip, the Alps are an absolutely wonderful area of Japan.
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 07:38 PM
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Thanks everyone - so I'm now thinking 2 nights in Tsumago, 2 in Matsumoto, and 3 in Takayama. We'll be coming in from Kyoto, and then going out to Tokyo. Trying to find as inexpensive accommodations as possible for 6 - currently looking at Kaze no yasuyado in Matsumoto, J-Hoppers in Takayama, and looking for something in Tsumago - any suggestions?
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Old Nov 20th, 2009, 04:25 PM
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We spent our two nights at Shimosagaya at Tsumago (booked through Japanese Guesthouse site www.japaneseguesthouses.com/index.htm ) It was the most traditional place we stayed at for the whole of our trip. The price was very reasonable and I am sure they could accommodate all of you, even if they need to do it in two rooms. It is a very old house with a very steep staircase and the owners have no English but we didn't find that a problem.

The only thing that might be an issue for you is, as a traditional ryokan, dinner and breakfast is included in the price and is very traditional Japanese. Possibly this would be a problem for your children. Even as two adults we both had one or two small dishes that we didn't eat, but that were so many other things we just ate what we did enjoy. At dinner there isn't anywhere else you can go to eat as an alternative. Possibly at Magome you would find somewhere else because it is bigger.

If you are interested in having a couple of nights of an authentic Japansese experience, this is the place to do it. If you wish to read more about Shimosagaya see my trip report at ww.fodors.com/community/asia/trip-report---a-magical-3-week-sojourn-through-japan.cfm

The Kiso valley is on the second day of the trip so close to the start. If also interested in Takayama and Matsumoto that is nearer to the end of the report.
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