Trip to Nagano and the Japanese Alps

September 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm Leave a comment

The typhoon finally passed last night, but not before causing all the trains and subways to be stopped (leaving hundreds of people in Tokyo stranded), flooding almost all the rivers in Kanto (Tokyo and surrounding area), and generally causing a lot of damage. Oh yeah, we also had a 5.3 magnitude earthquake during the typhoon. Figures, huh? I think I’m pretty much done with natural disasters for this year. I’ve had enough to last a lifetime. Please, Earth? No more.

Today, the weather is lovely, clear, and cool, albeit still a little windy. The air is always so fresh after a typhoon. It’s like natures air purifier.

Hisa and I were saying last night how glad we were that we came home from Nagano when we did. Two days later, and we would have been stranded in Nagano during the typhoon.

Speaking of Nagano, we had a wonderful time! It was fabulous! I love getting away from civilization and into the mountains. Everywhere we went was so beautiful. The air was so fresh, the water was so clear, the trees were so green, and the food was so good!

Thursday, Hisa and I went to Tokyo to see a concert that night (which was awesome I might add). Afterwards we spent the night at a hotel in Tokyo. The next morning, we met up with our two friends and caught a bus from Shinjuku and Matsumoto city in Nagano. Once there, we had lunch, and then walked to Matsumoto Castle. If you pay, you can go inside the castle and look around, which we did. Japanese castles are really cool, but you have to watch your head if you’re tall like me, because there’s a lot of low beams everywhere. Also the stairs are incredibly steep. I’m not sure why…

Matsumoto castle

After leaving the castle, we caught a train to the town of Narai in the mountains.

During the Edo era (1603-1868), the Nakasendo highway was one of the main routes linking Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. People traveling from one city to the other would use this road (usually on foot) throughout the year.
Narai is one of the towns located along the Nakasendo highway where people would usually rest and spend the night at a hotel before crossing the mountains. The buildings in the town have been maintained since then (some for hundreds of years), so the street looks the same as it did during Edo period Japan.

The hotel we stayed at was about 200 years old. It looked like something straight out of an old period Japanese movie. Actually, the whole town looked that way. Filmmakers sometimes even go to Narai to film period movies and tv shows.

Hisa, me, and our friend in front of our hotel.

Inside the hotel lobby.

Dinner laid out for all the guests in the dining room.

Dinner for our group of four.

Here’s close-up of some of the side dishes.

Koi (carp), squid, and tuna sashimi.

Lightly fried koi (carp) with mushroom and other vegetables in a thick sauce. This was so good. Just sayin’.

Our hotel had big Japanese style baths on the first floor, so after dinner, we all took baths. Hisa thoroughly enjoyed his bath.

This was our breakfast the next morning (plus miso soup, steamed rice, and green tea). It was goooood!

Here’s a view of the main street that runs through the town. Our hotel was on this street.

Another view of the street. Most of these buildings were hotels during the Edo era, but now they’re mainly just people’s houses.

After leaving Narai early Saturday morning, we took a train and a bus to get to Norikura in the Alps. We arrived at the Tourist Center where we ate lunch, and then took another bus to the peak of Norikura mountain (3026 meters/9930 ft above sea level). Unfortunately, when we got there it was super misty and rainy, but we hiked around and enjoyed ourselves none-the-less.

At the peak of Norikura. It was also quite cold there! We were expecting it though, so we all had some warm clothes prepared.

This was the area we hiked around. It was too high up for trees to grow, so the plant life included mainly short grasses and shrubbery. I love that word, shrubbery.

Hisa’s on top of the wooooorld!! Well, at least the top of Mt. Norikura. 😀

After hiking around the peak of Norikura, we got back on a bus, and headed back to the town area of Norikura, where our hotel was located. We checked into our hotel, enjoyed a delicious dinner, and took baths in the hotel’s natural hot spring baths.

Here’s a rather poorly lit picture of part of my dinner. There was also tempura, steamed rice, and nabe (vegetables and meat cooked in a soup in a dutch oven-style pot over a portable gas stove right on the table) for us to enjoy. See the slices of red meat near the left of the picture? That’s bassashi, slices of raw horse meat. Yes, you eat it raw. I’m not a big fan of the raw red meat personally, but the rest of the food was fabulous!

The next day, Sunday, we caught a bus to Kamikochi, the Japanese Alps National Park. Normal cars aren’t allowed within the park, so you either have to take a bus or a taxi to get there. But oh, it was so beautiful there! The scenery was amazing!

See? Beautiful, right? The day we went it was sunny and cool, but not too cool. Just right.



We actually saw some wild monkeys while we were there. Can you see it? This was my first time to see wild monkeys in Japan (or anywhere for that matter).

Yup, beautiful.

We hiked all morning, ate lunch, and then hiked some more. In the early evening, we caught a bus back to our hotel, where we promptly took baths in the hot spring, and then relaxed some before eating dinner.

Hisa enjoyed his bath in the hot spring, again.

This was my breakfast (minus the steamed rice and green tea) the next morning, Monday, the day we left to come home. I think every meal we had at our hotels was delicious, but always too much food. None of us could ever finish it all.

Before leaving Nagano, we had a little time, so we hiked around the area our hotel was located at. After that we checked out, and began the long trip home. We took a bus, a train, another bus to get back to Tokyo, and then two more trains to get back home. The bus to Tokyo ended up being delayed by two and a half hours because of traffic (aw, Tokyo), so we got home quite a bit later than we expected.

All in all, we had an amazing trip! The food was good, the company was good, and the location was good! You can’t go wrong with that.

If you’re ever visiting Japan or already live here, and you like hiking/nature/mountains, I recommend you visit the Japanese Alps in Nagano. Especially Kamikochi. You won’t be disappointed!


Entry filed under: Japan, Life, Travel. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

Typhoon! …and Today’s Lunch Today’s Lunch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

About Me

My name is Rachel. I'm a small-town girl born and raised in Oklahoma, currently living in Japan, who likes cooking, baking, reading, working out, and traveling. Join me in my culinary adventures, my domestic doings, and the story of my life, one day at a time.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 12 other followers

September 2011
« Aug   Oct »


%d bloggers like this: