A Touch of Class at Hoshino Resorts Kai Matsumoto Ryokan

Hoshino Resorts KAI Matsumoto

One of the times I am most relaxed and at peace is when I am in the pristine beauty of Alpine country. Prior to arriving at Kai Matsumoto, we had started off our day in Takayama before driving to Shinhotaka Ropeway. The ropeway climbs over 1000 metres up the Hotake Mountain Range to Nishihotakaguchi Station which is 2 156 metres (or over 7 000 feet above sea level). The journey actually consists of two ropeways. The first and shorter section is 200 metres while the second ropeway is 800 metres.

Shinhotaka Ropeway
Shinhotaka Ropeway

One of the distinguishing features of Shinhotaka Ropeway is that it has the only double-decker gondola cars.

Double-decker gondala cars at Shinhotaka Ropeway
Double-decker gondala cars at Shinhotaka Ropeway

After visiting Shinhotaka Ropeway we drove to Kamikochi which is also known as Chubu Sangaku National Park. It’s not possible to drive a car direct to Kamikochi so we parked at the Sawando Parking Area and then caught a bus to Kamikochi. The bus trip from Sawando to Kamikochi took about 30 minutes.

Highland Express Bus Service to Kamikochi
Highland Express Bus Service to Kamikochi

The alpine scenery was absolutely stunning at Kamikochi.

Kamikochi National Park
Kamikochi National Park

Our kids also had a fantastic time playing in the snow.

Stunt falls at Kamikochi National Park
Stunt falls at Kamikochi National Park

After taking the bus back to the Sawando car park, we then had a drive of just over an hour to get to Kai Matsumoto. By this point, we were very much looking forward to relaxing and unwinding.

Entrance to Kai Matsumoto
Entrance to Kai Matsumoto

After a long day on the road, on entering Matsumoto the first thing that caught our attention was the 13-metre high ceiling in the lobby which was absolutely stunning. The lobby is also where the nightly jazz and classical concerts occur and you could also see that the lobby area offered excellent acoustics.

13-metre high ceiling in the Kai Matsumoto lobby.
13-metre high ceiling in the Kai Matsumoto lobby. Photo credit to Hoshino Resorts

It was great to be able to relax in the lobby with a complimentary drink before being shown to our room.  Note that our stay at KAI Matsumoto was sponsored by Hoshino Resorts.

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What is a Hoshino Resort?

I first discovered Hoshino Resorts by accident, when I was researching tattoo-friendly onsens.  I contacted Hoshino Resorts to request further information on whether they were tattoo-friendly. This led to us being invited to stay at four different Hoshino Resorts out of their 15 luxury ryokans located across Japan on our recent trip to Japan.  We stayed in KAI Nikko, KAI Hakone, KAI Kinugawa, and KAI Matsumoto.

Overall we had a fantastic time at each of the Hoshino ryokans. Each resort offered unique location-specific food, architecture and activities to immerse guests in the rich cultures of the regions in which the properties are located. What was common amongst all resorts was that each was a true luxury ryokan onsen experience. 

One highlight of our stay at all four Kai resorts was their kaiseki dinner menus which each featured regional and seasonal food specialities. My oldest son particularly enjoyed the focus on beef at Kai Matsumoto. Some dishes took us out of our Western palate comfort zones, but most were delicious and all were artfully presented!  Each of the four resorts also offered children’s menus which were simpler in flavour. Our youngest son really enjoyed the meals from the children’s menu, such that our older son requested to shift from the adult to the children’s menu for his dinners.

Each resort had a different style of onsen, which included a variety of both indoor and outdoor baths to experience.  Men and women bathed separately, and in some of the resorts, they alternated the men’s and women’s areas at different times of the day to enable visitors to the resort to visit both bathing areas.  Usually, they were quite different so this way you could have the full experience! Of the four Kai resorts we stayed at, Kai Matsumoto had the widest range of hot spring baths with eight different types of baths and 13 baths in total.

Each Hoshino Resort also had a different set of activities based on local customs and history.  Activities we participated in ranged from learning about local pottery, local wine tastings, musical performances, making local crafts such as drink coasters and much more!  Two of the unique aspects of Kai Matsumoto was a wine tasting experience and nightly jazz or classical music concerts.

Another feature of all the Kai resorts we stayed at was that the customer service struck the perfect balance of being friendly without artificial, and attentive but not intrusive.

Guitar concert in the lobby
Guitar concert in the lobby

Where is KAI Matsumoto Ryokan?

KAI Matsumoto is located in the city of Matsumoto which is part of the Nagano region. The city of Matsumoto is located approximately 230 km north-west of Tokyo by car or about a 3 hr train journey. You can either catch a shinkansen to Nagano and then change trains to Matsumoto or you can catch a slower limited express train direct from Tokyo to Matsumoto. Both train journeys take about the same time because the direct train to Matsumoto while slower is more direct and doesn’t require a change of trains. After arriving at Matsumoto Station, you can catch a taxi to Kai Matsumoto which takes about 15 minutes.

See the map below for transport options for travel from Tokyo to Matsumoto.

KAI Matsumoto Resort Overview

Unlike the other Kai resorts we visited which were located in rural or semi-rural areas, Kai Matsumoto is located on the eastern fringe of a larger city. The city of Matsumoto has a population of almost 240 000 people. KAI Matsumoto has a large common area for guests located near the reception desk.  Under the soaring ceilings of this lobby area, you can sit and relax with a glass of tea or coffee from the self-service tea and coffee station or read some books from the library.  The lobby is also where the concerts are performed each evening which you can enjoy over a glass or two of Shinshu wine.

Kai Matsumoto Lobby
Kai Matsumoto Lobby

Near the gift shop is another place to relax and enjoy a tea or coffee overlooking the lobby.

Kai Matsumoto overlooking lobby
Another place to relax and enjoy a tea or coffee overlooking the lobby
Reception in foreground and shop in the background
Reception in the foreground with the shop in the background
Kai Matsumoto Self-Service Tea and Coffee Station
Kai Matsumoto Self-Service Tea and Coffee Station

As with other Kai gift shops, the KAI Matsumoto gift shop showcases a great range of regional foods and drinks, products and handicrafts.

Kai Matsumoto Gift Shop
Kai Matsumoto Gift Shop

I was sorely tempted to buy one of the Daruma dolls (on the top shelf of the picture below) as they featured in a series of books called “The Young Samurai” by Chris Bradford that most of our family have enjoyed over time. Our children are also mad Pokemon fans and one of the pokemon, Darumaka, is based on Daruma dolls. 

Kai Matsumoto Gift Shop
Kai Matsumoto Gift Shop

Activities at Kai Matsumoto

We had a great time participating in a number of different activities while staying at Kai Matsumoto – wine tasting in a dedicated wine tasting room, and the nightly music concert after dinner. 

The host of our wine tasting experience had an impressive knowledge of local wines and wineries. He also featured in a video of the story behind three local wineries that was played during our wine tasting. As we are Australians, we learnt that he had also visited various wineries around the world including in Australia and New Zealand. 

Our Wine Tasting Host
Our Wine Tasting Host
The four Merlots we tasted
The four Merlots we tasted

The second experience was to listen to a music concert after dinner which was a great way to relax and unwind. The concerts vary from night to night. In our case, we enjoyed the soothing sounds of acoustic guitar music performed by a pair of accomplished musicians. The acoustics in the lobby were also truly impressive. 

Acoustic Guitar Concert
The acoustic guitar musicians for our concert performance
Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko is an amazing luxury ryokan located near Nikko. Check out our experiences of the resort, onsen baths and keiseki restaurant!
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Overview of KAI Matsumoto Guest Rooms

There are 26 rooms at Kai Matsumoto. The largest room available is Japanese-style suite which is 120m2 in size. There are also 3 Japanese style rooms with an outdoor bath and terrace, and 12 Japanse-style rooms with outdoor bath but no terrace. These rooms are between 60-70m2 in size. Finally, there are 9 Japanese-style rooms which don’t have an outdoor bath.

The first thing we noticed when we entered our room was the dramatic feature wall. In the entryway (or genkan) to our room, we swapped into slippers, put our luggage away, and stepped into the room. 

Decorative wall feature in our room at Kai Matsumoto
Decorative wall feature in our room at Kai Matsumoto

Due to its city fringe location, our room didn’t have the same natural views as we had experienced at other Kai Ryokans. Our room had views over the city of Matsumoto with snow-covered mountain ranges in the background. We also had forest views as the hotel is located at the edge of the city. Here’s an example of the views from our room.

Our room view over the eastern edge of Matsumoto with mountains beyond
Our room view over the eastern edge of Matsumoto with mountains beyond
Forest view from our room
Forest view from our room

Another thing we noticed about our room was that unlike our rooms at the three other Kai resorts we stayed out, the room didn’t have mattresses. Instead, like more traditional ryokans, the room had futons which were laid out for us while we were at dinner which proved to be extremely comfortable.

Room Furnishing at Kai Matsumoto
This was where our futons were laid out for the night.

The photos below show how the rest of the room was furnished. In the first photo, you can see the private outdoor bath in the background on the right of the picture.

Room Furnishing at Kai Matsumoto
Room Furnishing at Kai Matsumoto
Sitting area in our room at Kai Matsumoto
Sitting area in our room at Kai Matsumoto

Our bathroom had a large vanity with double basins and came with the same quality amenities that we had enjoyed at the other Kai resorts, including a hair dryer, shampoo, conditioner, skin lotion and soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and razors. 

Bathroom vanity and amenities in our room at Kai Matsumoto
Bathroom vanity and amenities in our room at Kai Matsumoto

The room also came with a fantastic shower which you could then step out of into the private outdoor bath.

Private outdoor bath in our room
Private outdoor bath in our room

In each of the rooms, there were also tea making facilities which included complimentary local snacks.  The minibar was filled with a selection of local alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and snacks available for purchase. 

Complimentary Tea Making Facilities at Kai Matsumoto
Complimentary Tea Making Facilities at Kai Matsumoto

Kai Matsumoto Restaurant

After relaxing in our room we changed into our yukatas and went to dinner at Kai Matsumoto’s restaurant. Standard room prices at KAI Matsumoto include half board which means that your breakfast is included in your room price.  You can separately book in to experience a  kaiseki multi-course dinner.

KAI Matsumoto Restaurant Kaiseki Dinner

As with our visits to Kai Hakone, Kai Kinugawa and Kai Nikko, the kaiseki dinner at Kai Matsumoto was one of the highlights of our stay. 

The kaiseki dinners really highlighted regional foods and seasonal flavours. At Kai Matsumoto, the menu showcases wagyu beef and the local Shinshu wines. All courses were beautifully presented and were further enhanced by the dishware they were presented on. They were such a feast for the eyes that at times we almost felt guilty eating them. As with our stays at the other Kai resorts, the people serving us were friendly and patient when explaining each dish to us. 

Below is a photo of the dinner menu from the first night we stayed at Kai Matsumoto, followed by some photos from each course for your enjoyment!  

Kai Matsumoto Dinner Menu - Part One
Kai Matsumoto Dinner Menu – Part One
Kai Matsumoto Dinner Menu - Part Two
Kai Matsumoto Dinner Menu – Part Two
Roasted Round Beef, Soba and Seaweed
Roasted Round Beef, Soba and Seaweed
Tail Soup, Sliced Leeks and Black Pepper
Tail Soup, Sliced Leeks and Black Pepper
Assorted Delicacies
Assorted Delicacies
Ox Tongue, Roasted Beef and Sea Urchin
Ox Tongue, Roasted Beef and Sea Urchin
Deep-Fried Tenderloin Beef Cutlets
Deep-Fried Tenderloin Beef Cutlets

We also really enjoyed the steamed Wagyu beef Shabu Shabu. It lacked the theatre of it being cooked in front of you which we had enjoyed at Kai Nikko, but it tasted just as delicious!

Steamed Sirloin and Lettuce
Steamed Sirloin and Lettuce

For our next section of the meal, we were able to enjoy three different cuts of Wagyu beef. Our family enjoyed cooking the beef and vegetables over our own teppan.

Teppanyaki of Beef Rump, Tenderloin and Eye of Knuckle
Teppanyaki of Beef Rump, Tenderloin and Eye of Knuckle
Cooking beef and vegetables on our teppan
Cooking beef and vegetables on our teppan

The two types of Shinshu wine jelly weren’t overly sweet and were a pleasant way to finish our meal.

Shinshu Wine Jelly
Shinshu Wine Jelly

KAI Matsumoto also offers a children’s meal with some common elements from a kaiseki menu but with a limited range of courses. Our two sons (aged 10 and 13) really enjoyed the dishes served as part of the children’s meal. However, our oldest son was definitely aggrieved that his meal didn’t have the variety of Wagyu breed that we were enjoying as part of the adult menu and proceeded to beg for as much Wagyu beef he could get. Below is a photo of the children’s dinner menu.

Children's Dinner Menu at Kai Matsumoto
Children’s Dinner Menu at Kai Matsumoto
Children's Meal at Kai Matsumoto
Children’s Meal at Kai Matsumoto

The dessert from the children’s menu looked fantastic and tasted just as good.

Children's Menu Dessert
Children’s Menu Dessert

Breakfast at KAI Matsumoto

The Japanese style breakfast at KAI Matsumoto was also an experience. Unlike the kaiseki dinner, breakfast was served as a single course, so we could easily have a quick breakfast and then get on with our day.  Below is the breakfast menu from our visit and some photos to give you an idea of the typical food provided for breakfast.  There was no option to have a western-style breakfast at KAI Matsumoto.

Breakfast Menu at Kai Matsumoto
Breakfast Menu at Kai Matsumoto
Breakfast at Kai Matsumoto
Breakfast at Kai Matsumoto
Breakfast at Kai Matsumoto
Breakfast at Kai Matsumoto

KAI Matsumoto Onsen Experience

A visit to KAI Matsumoto is not complete without using their hot spring facilities. The hot spring baths use water from Osama Onsen which has been used the lords of Matsumoto Castle as far back as the 17th Century. There are two separate spa areas for males and female. The best part is that between 1 am and 4 am, they clean and switch them, so you can take advantage of every single bathing option at Kai Matsumoto. 

Of the four Kai resorts we visited, Kai Matsumoto onsen had the widest selection of bathing options available. There were eight different types of onsen experiences at Kai Matsumoto not all of which were hot spring baths. For example, there was a sauna scented with cypress, a mist room, and heated stones to lie flat on. The heated stones were incredibly relaxing, so much so that my wife almost fell asleep on. There was also a lot of variety with the hot spring baths themselves including outdoor baths, indoor baths, a bath you could stand up in, shallow lie flat baths (see the background of the picture below), and barrel-shaped baths (in the background of the second picture below). There was such a diversity of experiences that it was like a hot spring theme park. My son and I found ourselves dashing from bath to bath until we started to settle on the experiences we enjoyed the most to spend more time in.

Hot spring baths at Kai Matsumoto. Photo credit to Hoshino Resorts
Hot spring baths at Kai Matsumoto. Photo credit to Hoshino Resorts
Hot spring baths at Kai Matsumoto. Photo credit to Hoshino Resorts
Hot spring baths at Kai Matsumoto. Photo credit to Hoshino Resorts

After you enter the male or female onsen area, you enter a change room where you can remove your yukata and store it in the provided baskets. There are also towels and grooming facilities, as well as a rehydration station to avoid dehydration between turns in the hot spring baths. Note that you are not allowed to wear any clothing items in the baths, and tattoos must be covered by adhesive plasters which you can request at the reception desk.  

Storage Baskets at Kai Matsumoto Onsen
Storage Baskets at Kai Matsumoto Onsen
Grooming stations in change area at Kai Matsumoto Onsen
Grooming stations in change area at Kai Matsumoto Onsen
Hydration Station at Kai Matsumoto Onsen
Hydration Station at Kai Matsumoto Onsen

After getting changed, there are bathing facilities where you are expected to wash and rinse before you enter the onsen baths which can be seen in the background of the photo below.

Indoor hot spring bath with bathing facilities in the background. Photo credit to Hoshino Resorts

Use the bath buckets to wash and acclimate to the water temperature in the hot spring baths.

Indoor hot spring bath at Kai Matsumoto with bath bucket on left.
Indoor hot spring bath at Kai Matsumoto with bath bucket on left. Photo credit to Hoshino Resorts

Before entering the bath, soak yourself up to your waist, then once you are used to the water temperature slowly lower yourself deeper. We have now experienced many onsen baths, and we usually find that about 10 minutes in an onsen bath is enough.  Pay attention to your body and when you feel like you are getting too hot then it is time to get out.  After you bathe you can then have another shower, have a drink and then decide whether to bathe again!

For more information about onsen etiquette check out the Hoshino Resorts video below.

How to Book Your Visit to KAI Matsumoto Resort

You can either book directly through the KAI Matsumoto Resort website, or check out the options through your preferred accommodation provider through Hotels Combined at this link.

Exploring around Kai Matsumoto

When staying at Kai Matsumoto, there is a lot to see and do both within the city of Matsumoto itself or within a short distance from Matsumoto.

Matsumoto Castle

Over multiple trips to Japan, we have now visited a significant number of castles and I would rate Matsumoto Castle as the most impressive and authentic of all the castles we have experienced. In my mind, it is not quite as stunningly beautiful as Himeji Castle (White Heron Castle) but is still rated as one of the three most beautiful castles in Japan.

Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle

It dates back to the early 16th Century and managed to escape damage in World War 2.

Ninja Warriors at Matsumoto Castle
Ninja Warriors at Matsumoto Castle

The wooden interior gives an authentic taste of what castle life was like in the Edo period. There are lots of interesting features to enjoy including the steep wooden steps with some rises being up to 40 centimetres, projecting shelves (called ishiotoshi) used for dropping stones on enemies, and slots for archers to fire on attackers.

Ishiotoshi openings for dropping stones
Ishiotoshi at Matsumoto Castle – Openings for dropping stones on enemies

There is also a gallery inside the castle with an impressive collection of weaponry as well as a variety of other interesting exhibits.

Samurai Armour in Matsumoto Castle
Samurai Armour in Matsumoto Castle
Historical map of Matsumoto
Historical map of Matsumoto

There is also a great observation deck when you reach the top of the castle.

Views over Matsumoto from the top of Matsumoto Castle
Views over Matsumoto from the top of Matsumoto Castle

Also within the grounds of the castle is the Matsumoto City Museum which offers a really interesting insight into the history of Matsumoto.

Matsumoto City Museum Exhibit
Matsumoto City Museum Exhibit
Exhibit at Matsumoto City Museum
Exhibit at Matsumoto City Museum

If you are staying in Matsumoto or just passing through I would strongly suggest you take the time to visit Matsumoto Castle.

Nawate Dori

Nawate Dori, also known as Frog Street, is a five-minute walk from Matsumoto Castle.

Looking down Nawate Dori
Looking down Nawate Dori

It’s an Edo-era themed shopping street that runs for about 200 metres beside the Metoba River.

Metoba River
Nawate Dori sits beside the Metoba River

The street dates back to the 150os and has frogs everywhere. When we visited Nawate Dori I was excited to be able to share it with my mother who adores frogs and we had to get her a frog souvenir. At the west entrance to Nawate Dori we were greeted by 3 giant frogs sculptures, two of them decked at as samurai warriors.

Battle Frogs
Battle Frogs at the entrance to Nawate Dori
Frog Sculpture on Naawate Dori
Frog Sculpture on Naawate Dori

There are about 50 shops altogether selling a variety of knick-knacks and souvenirs, snacks and candies, ceramics, and frogs in all different shapes and forms.

Shop on Nawate Dori
Shop on Nawate Dori. Check out the frogs

We had a very pleasant experience browsing through the shops with the burble of Metoba River in the background and would thoroughly recommend visiting Nawate Dori when visiting Matsumoto.

Shop on Nawate Dori
Shop on Nawate Dori

Various Museums

Matsumoto is home to a range of interesting museums in addition to Matsumoto City Museum in the grounds of Matsumoto Castle.

The Matsumoto City Musem of Art showcases the work of artists associated with the city. The major drawcard of the museum is the collection of works by Kusama Yayoi who is best known for her vivid pieces such as the Yellow Pumpkin which has become the artistic icon of Naoshima Island. Naoshima Island is an island in the Seto Inland Sea known for its art museums.

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2019.7.31  松本市美術館へ  行くはずだったカフェが定休日だったので、急遽近くにある美術館に行ってきました。松本市美術館には、松本市生まれで世界的に有名な草間彌生さんの常設展があります。巨大なかぼちゃや、鏡を使ったインスタレーションなどが展示されていて、結構見応えがあります🎃  彼女の水玉模様は、展示室にとどまらず、美術館のあちこちにありますよ。是非チェックしてみてくださいね👍  Matsumoto City Museum of Art  The cafe I was supposed to visit was closed, I visited the museum instead. The world famous modern artist, Yayoi Kusama was born in Matsumoto city and her works are on permanent exhibition at the museum. You can see her sculpture like, gigantic Pumpkin and several works using mirrors.   Not only in exhibition room, her trademark, polka dots are displayed everywhere at the museum!(including vending machine)   #matsumotocity #matsumotocitymuseumofart #yayoikusama #polkadots #草間彌生 #旅好きの人と繋がりたい #アート好きな人と繋がりたい #travelgram

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Another interesting museum to visit is the Matsumoto Timepiece Musem. The museum has over 300 timepieces, many of them in working order spread over three floors. Outside the museum is the largest pendulum clock in Japan which can be seen in the photo below.

Matsumoto Timepiece Museum.
Matsumoto Timepiece Museum. Photo credit:663highland [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]
As a school teacher myself, next time we go to Matsumoto I would be interested in visiting Kaichi School Museum which is a short walk from Matsumoto Castle. It was one of Japan’s first schools, opening on its current site in 1876 and in 2019 was designated a National Treasure of Japan. It’s a great example of Meiji era architecture and hosts various exhibits of 19th and 20th-century items including furniture, textbooks and drawings. Reportedly, not all items have English translations which may make it difficult for English speakers to get the context behind the items on display.

Kaichi School Museum
Kaichi School Museum. Photo Credit: Wiiii [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Kaichi School Classroom
Kaichi School Classroom. Photo Credit: 663highland [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]
The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum is a 10-minute taxi ride from Matsumoto Station. It displays woodblock prints (ukiyoe) from the collection of Sakai Yoshiaki who started collecting ukiyo-e and other art approximately 300 years ago. His descendants have now amassed a collection of over 100 000 pieces but the museum can only display a small proportion of the collection at any one time.

Japan Ukiyo-e Museum.
Japan Ukiyo-e Museum. Photo Credit: Qurren (talk)Taken with Canon IXY 10S [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Visit a Winery

The Nagano prefecture has the second-highest number of wineries in all of Japan with 33 wineries. There are 4 winery areas in Nagano which are collectively known as Shinshu Wine Valley. There are five red grape and five white grape varieties that are grown in the region. Nagano is the largest producer of Merlot in Japan which is the wine type we sampled when we stayed at Kai Matsumoto. This article highlights 3 wineries (Yamabe Winery, Alps Wine and Goichi Wine) located within a 30-minute drive of Matsumoto.

Day Trips from Matsumoto

Matsumoto provides an excellent base for a range of day trips. Two of the day trips we would highly recommend are Kamikochi National Park and the Tateyama Korobe Alpine Route.

Kamikochi National Park

If you love Alpine scenery or hiking, I would thoroughly recommend a day trip to Kamikochi National Park.

Azusa River in Kamikochi National Park
Azusa River in Kamikochi National Park

It’s generally open from around Golden Week (in 2019 this was 17 April) to around mid-November. If you are hiring a car, the total journey time takes around 90 minutes. You can’t drive the full way so would need to park in the Sawando parking area then catch a bus or take a taxi for the rest of the journey. If you want to use public transport I would suggest taking the train from Matsumoto Station to Shin-Shimashima Station and then take a bus from there to Kamikochi National Park.

Kappa Bridge (Kappabashi) in Kamakochi National Park
Kappa Bridge (Kappabashi) in Kamakochi National Park

There are lots of hiking trails throughout Kamikochi. The main ones go from Kappa Bridge (near the bus terminal) to Taisho Pond, or from Kappa Bridge to Myojin Pond & Shrine. There are various routes to both of these, some of them are flatter than others. To just follow along the river, there’s a paved path on a short route, appropriate for wheelchairs or people with low mobility. We had planned to do some hiking on our visit to Kamikochi but unfortunately, we visited early in the season and it would have been very difficult to walk these trails without heavy snow gear. As a result, we had to be content with walking in the area near Kappa Bridge where the paths had been mostly cleared of snow.

Walking through Kamikochi National Park
Walking through Kamikochi National Park

Particularly coming from Australia as we do, the alpine scenery in Kamikochi National Park is truly awe-inspiring and we would love to spend a day or two exploring the area further on a future visit to Japan.

Tateyama Korobe Alpine Route

We have now taken the Tateyama Korobe Alpine Route on two occasions, first in Autumn and then in Spring. One of the main attractions of the Alpine route is the many unique vehicles you use to travel from Ogizawa to Tateyama.

Ogizawa Trolley Bus Terminal in Autumn
Ogizawa Trolley Bus Terminal in Autumn. The bus takes you to Kurobe Dam
Ropeway from Kurobedaira to Daikanbo
Ropeway from Kurobedaira to Daikanbo. Autumn colours in the background.
Kurobe Cable Car
Kurobe Cable Car

These vehicles and the seasonal changes in scenery are some of the main attractions of the route. When we first visited right at the end of September, the autumn scenery and the various hiking options available particularly at Murodo were some of the high points of our visit.

Murodo in Autumn
Murodo in Autumn
Murodo in Autumn
Murodo in Autumn

This year we visited towards the end of April, and the stunning snow-capped landscape and the Murudo snow walls were spectacular.

Kurobe Dam in early Spring
Kurobe Dam in early Spring
Alpine Scenery from Kurobedaira Ropeway
Alpine Scenery from Kurobedaira Ropeway
Murudo Ice Wall
Murudo Ice Wall

There are slight variations from year to year for when the Tateyama Korobe Alpine Route is open. This year the route opened from 15th April and will close on 30 November. 

The easiest way to get to Tateyama Korobe Alpine route is to catch a train from Matsumoto Station to Shinano-Omachi Station which takes anything from 30 to 60 minutes. Try to catch a limited express train because it will be much faster. It’s then a 40-minute bus ride to the start of the route at Ogizawa. Buses from Shinano-Omachi leave every 30 minutes or so. 

This website has a wealth of information to help you plan if you are interested in visiting the Tateyama Korobe Alpine Route.

Events and Celebrations

Matsumoto hosts a wide range of interesting events and celebrations. Here’s just a small sample.

Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival

The Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival runs from mid-August to early September each year.  Seiji Ozawa is one of Japan’s top conductors. The festival started in 1992 and hosts a wide range of orchestra and opera performances by top musicians from all over the world. The festival makes Matsumoto a top destination for classical music lovers and inspired the series of nightly concerts performed at Kai Matsumoto. Here’s an example of the festival program for 2019.

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【SKOブラス・アンサンブル千秋楽】 ツアーファイナルの東京公演。 万雷の拍手の中のカーテンコールでは、フェスティバルカラーである“青”のバラを、松本でのフェスティバル閉幕時のように客席のお客様に投げるシーンも🌹💙 . 松本、東海市、大阪、広島、水戸、いわき、東京公演にご来場頂きました皆様、関係者の皆様、本当にありがとうございました。 このブラスアンサンブルを、より多くの人にお届けしに、またいつの日か日本各地を、そして世界各地を巡る旅が出来ること、メンバー一同楽しみにしております。 またお会いしましょう‼️🎺📯🎶 ・ 【Last concert of SKO Brass Ensemble!】 Today we had a last concert of this tour in Tokyo. You can find the festival color “blue” roses when the curtain calls and they throw it as like the end of the festival in Matsumoto. Thank you for your all! We are very looking forward to see you all over Japan and all over the world again. #SKOBrass #SKOブラス #サイトウキネンオーケストラ #SaitoKinenOrchestra #SKO #セイジオザワ松本フェスティバル #OMF #千秋楽 #松本 #東海市 #大阪 #広島 #水戸 #いわき #東京 #ホールニューワールド #バードランド #ペニーレイン #マンボ #シャコンヌ #パヴァーヌ @kioi_pr #紀尾井ホール #編曲 #高橋敦 #竹島悟史

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Matsumoto Bonbon

Matsumoto Bon Bon is a music festival held on the first Saturday of August each year. Various groups of locals come together and dance through the streets of Matsumoto.

Asama Onsen Taimatsu Matsuri

The Asama Onsen Taimatsu Festival is held in Osama Onsen in early October. Asama Onsen is about 4km from Matsumoto. Taimatsu means great burning torch. Large bales of hay made from straw left over from the rice harvest are set alight, roped and dragged through the town from Osama Onsen Square to Misha Jinja Togu accompanied by drums. There are more than 100 flaming torches paraded through the town some of them as big as 3 metres (10 feet) in diameter and height making for a spectacular sight.

 

Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko is an amazing luxury ryokan located near Nikko. Check out our experiences of the resort, onsen baths and keiseki restaurant!
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Join the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group

You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

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