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What to do in Norikura Kogen, Japanese Alps, Chubusangaku National Park, Japan

Norikura Kogen, also referred to as Norikura Highlands is home to Mount Norikura located within the Chubusangaku National Park.

If you happen to be visiting Nagano prefecture and looking for an amazing spot to enjoy some outdoor adventure sports and hiking then Norikura Kogen is worth visiting for a few days during your trip to Japan.

Norikura Mountains are located between Gifu and Nagano prefectures and are part of a large group of volcanoes that belong to the Norikura volcanic belt.

The volcanic landscape is what gives Norikura Kogen its natural scenic beauty making it a wonderful area for outdoor enthusiasts to hike and explore.

The Japanese Alps, also known as the Roof of Japan is divided into 3 mountainous regions: northern Hida Mountains, central Kiso Mountains, and southern Akaishi Mountains. The Northern Alps lies along the prefectural borders between Nagano, Gifu and Toyama.

For this article, I will focus on Norikura Kogen’s side of the Japanese Alps.

How to get to Norikura Kogen from Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture

If you plan on hiking around Norikura Kogen, the best advice would be to first travel to the city of Matsumoto, located in Nagano Prefecture.

Why not stay overnight in Matsumoto, then you can enjoy the nightlife and in the morning you can take a walking tour of Matsumoto castle and transfer easily from the city to Norikura Kogen later in the day.

You can opt to take a private guided tour around the castle town of Matsumoto. learn about the deep history connected with the castle and how the lifestyle and folk art culture have had an impact on the city today.

If you like, you can book a private taxi transfer with Alpico Taxi – transfer from Matsumoto city centre to Norikura Kogen.

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My suggestion would be to book the bus from Matsumoto to Norikura Kogen, you can reach Sawando National Park Gate (Bus Terminal) by Highland Express bus company. This is the best route to enter Chubusangaku National Park – from the Matsumoto and then you can connect onwards to the Norikura Kogen bus terminal.

Norikura Kogen bus terminal will soon be undergoing a renovation plan to update the facilities, so expect a modern terminal bus centre coming very soon.

Matsumoto has a direct JR train to Tokyo Shinjuku Station making the Japanese Northern Alps easily accessible, Perfect if you’re using a Japan Rail Pass.

Another option is to take the Shinkansen highspeed train and then transfer from Nagano to Matsumoto by local JR train.

One alternative option is to fly domestically, Matsumoto has its airport. Loads of options to get to Norikura Kogen.

Accomodation options in Norikura Kogen – Pension Poetical

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My suggestion for any visitor to Norikura Kogen would be to stay overnight in a local guest house.

This way you can truly enjoy the area without having to worry about running back to Matsumoto on the same day.

I would recommend the family-run guesthouse called Pension Poetical.

Located in the Suzuran area of Norikura Kogen, it offers Western-style rooms and a variation of home-cooked meals with different Western or Japanese-style breakfast and dinner options making the menu exciting every day.

Rooms are comfortable with all the facilities you need during your stay.

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The highlight of my stay at Pension Poetical was the selection of three different private onsens that you are welcome to book during your stay.

Each onsen offers a different experience, my favourite was the outdoor one at night time, a great way to connect with the surrounding nature.

Try and enjoy each one of them offering an authentic white muddy water experience. All equally relaxing after a long day of hiking around the area.

Norikura Kogen Mountain Bike Trail Adventure with North Star

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Normally the mountain bike trails are not open in the early hours of the morning, but North Star, a local mountain bike rental and guide adventure company in Norikura Kogen offer an early morning mountain bike experience package.

This includes heading out on Electric mountain bikes and enjoying the trails with a wonderful coffee stop along the way with incredible views of Mount Norikura early in the morning.

Norikura Kogen offers a Community of Mountain Bike trails – Japan’s first public MTB trail offering a range of different abilities and difficulties.

Discover a selection of Nine Mountain Bike Trails to enjoy across Norikura Kogen such as Bamboo Chutes, Tour Course, Bike Park, Round the Base, Deep Forest Creek, Ranch Run, and King of the Rocks. Horseback Road and Pump Track.

Another experience you can enjoy is the North Star Mountain bike track maintenance experience. Learn about the uniqueness of maintenance and management in Japan’s national parks.

Head to the top of Mount Norikura for an incredible Japanese Alps experience

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A highlight experience in the Japanese Alps area and if you’re visiting Norikura Kogen is to head to the top of Mount Norikura.

The wonderful part of this experience is you can reach most way up to the top of the mountain by bus making the mountain rather accessible even despite the mountain’s high altitude.

From Norikura Tourist Bus Center, the highest elevation you can reach by bus is 2,700m and will take you fifty minutes to drive.

The Tatami-daira bus terminal, allows you to easily continue the hike up to the top of Mount Norikura located at 3,026m above sea level.

The hiking trail known as Kengamine, will take you around three hours round trip to complete so plan accordingly as the bus can become busy by the end of the day so make sure you’re aware of your bus tickets and timings before you hit the trail.

For a mountain that’s over 3,000M, this is a rather easy trail considering the bus will do most of the work for you getting to the top. This is one of the few places in Japan where you can easily challenge yourself with a mountain over 3,000 meters in elevation.

Norikura-kogen to Tatami-daira (round trip) Bus fee is JPY 2500.

Tatamidaira bus station is the highest accessible point in Japan, making it the highest bus station in Japan and the highest road in Japan. This road is a rather popular route for many cycling enthusiasts due to the high-altitude climb.

Norikura Kogen is the first certified zero-carbon park in Japan

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Norikura Kogen is graded as a zero-carbon park as part of Chubusangaku National Park.

This is achieved by following several different methods such as: saving electricity and water, eliminating all use of single-use Plastic, reducing food loss, Focusing on wood stove heating, Increase in Solar power energy use, sourcing local ingredients, and promoting the use of EV car charging points. rental E-bike services. Local buses use biofuels such as sustainable recycled Deisel.

I was amazed to see the wide use of free water refill stations to reduce the need for plastic bottles. So be sure to bring along your water bottle to reduce the use of plastic,

It was also great to see the outdoor brand Columbia getting involved and offering rental gear for hikers to use.

Also, you could purchase the trail maps for 500Yen, encouraging visitors to use the digital map.

It was amazing to see how all the local businesses got involved in the project and avoided using single-use plastic and instead came up with alternative methods such as renting out flasks for visitors to enjoy coffee.

This is all great to see in Japan and wonderful for Norikura Kogen to set an example for how it can be done in all national parks.

Joyful walks – Norikura Kogen trails

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Norikura Kogen trails: Enjoy the great outdoors of Norikura and the beautiful surroundings of the Japanese Alps by hiking around the Joyful Walks Norikura trail system.

Three trails start at the Norikura Tourist Center and take about 2.5 to 6 hours to walk through waterfalls, ponds, and primaeval forests.

The great thing about the Joyful Walks – Norikura Kogen trails is they will change each season giving you a great reason to come back.

Hike to the Sanbondaki falls

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Hike to the Sanbondaki Falls – One of Japan’s 100 famous waterfalls of Japan. The three Streams from different sources converge here and create a rate and energetic waterfall.

The walk is an easy one and is connected easily with the joyful walk trail.

Perfect photography spot to capture three waterfalls at once and great for all seasons!

Walk around Ushidome Pond

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Walk around Ushidome Pond. – This quiet pond is surrounded by trees and nature and offers an incredible view of Mount Norikura from the viewing deck.

Also can be connected with the Joyful hiking trail map and is a light and easy walk to enjoy.

Keep a look out for the unique loop tree, you will know what I mean when you see it.

Learning about the local tradition of lacquered wood crafts

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In Japan, people have lived and breathed together with the mountains and nature, there is a wisdom to utilizing natural resources and what it brings.

The climate that surrounds Matsumoto and Norikura Kogen is perfect for woodworking.

I took a local woodcraft workshop to learn about the traditional skill of lacquered wood.

The idea was to learn from a local woodworker and lacquer artist to create a wooden spoon from Mizunara oak with the added layers of lacquering to give it a final finish.

These woodworking skills and Lacquer techniques from the area are traditions that need to be protected.

It was fascinating watching these skilled artists putting their traditional techniques to work.

Dine in style at the Star and Moon Restaurant

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Dine in style at the Star and Moon Restaurant, a private and premium dining experience that is unique to Norikura Kogen.

The restaurant takes place in the world’s first frameless transparent dome which is one with nature and your surroundings in the Chuba Sangaku National Park.

The restaurant uses thinned wood craft tableware and locally sourced ingredients. A premium dining experience to stimulate all five senses.

Bath in the moonlight and starlight. soak in the abundance of the local surrounding environment such as the sounds of nature before starting your culinary journey.

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The menu consists of locally sourced wild vegetables, mountain bounty, Shinshu premium beef as well as other Shinshu products.

Beverage pairing with your courses is also a fun experience, local craft beer from Matsumoto, Sake made in the area, and even the fresh apple juice was a highlight. as well as a selection of well-paired wines are on offer.

The electric vehicles (EVS) will be used to provide all the electricity needed to power the lighting and cooking in the venue.

Warmth will be served every step of the way by a local concierge who will guide you through the evening and explain all the dishes as well as offering pairing advice as well as nature tips.

Sit back, relax and soak in all the surrounding nature as you’re taken away on a culinary journey. In this Eco glamping dinner experience that can not be experienced in a city setting.

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The highlight of the evening for me has to be the star gazing experience after your meal.

Be sure to enjoy a spot of star gazing at the end of your meal as the generator is turned off and you will be surrounded by pure darkness and the starry sky above.

A perfect way to experience the Milky Way on a clear day.

It’s important to note at this stage that to enjoy this experience of the Star and Moon Restaurant yourself you must book in advance as the meals require preparation and planning to open.

Why not continue your adventure of the Japanese Alps by visiting Kamikouchi

It’s easy to spend a few days between Norikura and Kamikochi to enjoy your time exploring the Japanese Alps and easy to get to from Nagano or Matsumoto.

Japan’s most famous mountainous scenic spot, is primarily known for its breathtaking natural beauty.

Visitors can explore the area on foot, and popular attractions such as Kappa Bridge, Taisho Pond, Dakesawa Wetland, and Myojin Pond.

You can reach the gateway to Kamikochi from Sawando Bus Terminal and the journey time is about 30
minutes from Norikura Kogen.

Since Kamikochi is a car-free resort, you’ll need to transfer to a shuttle bus from Sawando.

In the winter time, you can also continue your journey towards the Snow Walls of Mout Norikuradake.

Loads to do in the area so be sure to add this outdoor adventure hub to your itinerary of Japan.

Thank you for reading my blog post about Norikura Kogen

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Thank you for passing by my blog and reading about my trip to Norikura Kogen in the Japanese Alps.

If you’re travelling around Japan and visiting Nagano Prefecture, be sure to check out the incredible outdoors that Norikura has to offer.

If you have any questions about Norikura Kogen or Nagano prefecture, be sure to send me a message and I will be happy to help.

This project was put together in collaboration with JTB Nagano and Norikura Kogen.

Have an amazing time travelling around Japan and the Nagano Prefecture area.

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