Here is the 1st day of our week-long road trip through the Hokuriku and Central areas of Japan. Matsumoto is the second largest city in Nagano Prefecture and is a 3.5 hour drive from Tokyo. It is famous for the Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan’s most beautiful original castles, and the birth place of the avante-garde artist, Yayoi Kusama. The city is also a great base for trips into the Japanese Alps, (e.g. Kamikochi, Norikura or the Kurobe Gorge).
Start your day early for your 3.5 hour drive to the Japan Alps. Here is also our packing recommendations for your Family Road Trip Essentials.
HOKURIKU AREA ROAD TRIP with KIDS
Day 1: Kamikochi & Matsumoto with Kids
Day 2: Toyama with Kids
Day 3: Wajima with Kids
Day 4: Fukui with Kids
Day 5: Kanazawa with Kids
Day 6: Takayama with Kids
Day 7: Lake Suwa with Kids
more days to come…..
Things to do in Matsumoto with Kids
- Kamikochi Area – Kappa Bridge, Taisho Pond
- Matsumoto City Museum of Art (Yayoi Kusama)
- Nakamachi Shopping Street
* Tokyo to Nagawado Dam by car
(3.5 hours / 245 kilometers)
Leave Tokyo early in the morning for your drive toward Kamikochi, the Japan Alps (set your car navigation to the Sawandoohashi Parking Lot to grab a bite at one of the restaurants in the area). Stop off at the Nagawado Dam, a concrete arch damn built by Tepco with the Azuza Lake on one side and the Azuza River on the other. It’s the third highest arch dam after the Kurobe Dam and Onui Dam. Route 158 runs from Matsumoto to the Kamiko district on the dam. A good spot to stretch your legs and get a panoramic view of the area.
Kamikochi – Chubu Sangaku National Park
* Nagawado Dam to the Kamikochi
(11 min / 7 kilometers)
Kamikochi is an untouched, natural mountain resort situated within Chubu Sangaku National Park. It has rich natural beauty; the rocky mountains of Hotakadake, riverside forests and clear streams. There are countless trails for novice to experienced hikers, camp grounds, hot springs and lodging in the area.
On August 11, 2016 the Inaugural Ceremony for Mountain Day was held at Kamikochi with the Crown Prince Naruhito (current Emperor), Crown Princess Masako (current Emperess) and Princess Aiko in attendance. Mountain Day is the 16th National Holiday in Japan
Our taxi driver recommended we get off at the Kamikochi Imperial Hotel, walk on the west side of the river to get a view of the mountains, continue on the trail to Kappa Bridge then return to our car from the Kamikochi Bus Terminal.
Cars and motorcycles are restricted from the national park, so a bus or taxi are the only means of transport. There are parking areas at the Sawando Parking Area (close to Matsumoto) or the Hirayu Parking Area (close to Takayama) that cost 700 JPY per hour (the first hour is free). From the parking areas, you can access Kamikochi by bus or taxi (20-30 min). You can purchase round-trip bus tickets from Sawando and Hirayu Bus Terminals.
Due to heavy snowfall in winter, Kamikochi’s buses and hotels only run from mid April to mid November.
Kamikochi – Chubu Sangaku National Park Details:
Bus Ticket Round Trip: Adult 2,300 JPY; Child (elementary school and up) 1,150 JPY
Tax (flat fee): To Taisho Pond 3,900 JPY; To the Kamikochi Tourist Center 4,600 JPY
Large Taxi (Flat fee): To Taisho Pond 6,200 JPY; To the Kamikochi Tourist Center 7,500 JPY
Matsumoto City Museum of Art
* Kamikochi to Matsumoto City Museum of Art
(By Car 1 hour / 36 kilometers)
Matsumoto city, birthplace of avant-garde artist, Yayoi Kusama, houses a vast collection of her work. It is on permanent display on the third floor, as well as on the buildings facade and exterior. Walking through her display in the museum is like walking through her world. Other exhibits ranging from Japanese calligraphy masters and painter are also not to be overlooked.
Matsumoto City Museum of Art Details:
Admission: 410 yen for Adults (Group Admission Fee: 310 yen), 200 yen for University and High School Students (Group Admission Fee: 100 yen)
Address: 4-2-22, Chuo, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano-ken (Google Map) *Free Parking
Hours: 9:00-17:00 (Entry until 16:30)
Closed: Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday), (12/29-1/2)
Matsumoto Castle & Park
* Matsumoto City Museum of Art to Matsumoto Castle
(By car 5 min / 1.8 kilometers)
Matsumoto Castle & the castle park grounds are beautiful and immaculately maintained. Touring the castle gives an introduction to the feudal period of Japanese history, with armor and matchlock guns on display. Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan’s premier historic castles, along with Himeji and Kumamoto castles. The building is also known as the “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior.
Visitors are required to remove shoes upon entering and should be prepared to take many stairs. There are 7 separate sets of stairs that rise at a steep 55 to 61 degree incline. The stairs between the 4th and 5th floor are the steepest (40cm rise between each step).
Other Beautiful Japanese Castles and areas:
Matsumoto Castle & Castle Park Details:
|Adults||Elementary and Junior High students||Remarks|
|Private||700 yen||300 yen|
|Groups||630 yen||270 yen||Over 20 and under 99 persons|
|560 yen||240 yen||Over 100 and under 299 persons|
|490 yen||210 yen||Over 300 persons|
|* Elementary and under no charge
* For all other details please inquire at the management office.
|Hours||8:30 – 17:00 (last admission is 16:30)|
|During Golden Week
Between Apr. 25 (Sat), 2020 – May 6 (Wed)
|8:00 – 18:00 (last admission is 17:30)|
Between Aug. 8 (Sat), 2020 – Aug. 16 (Sun)
Parking: 300 JPY/hour
What to eat in Matsumoto
- Matsumoto Karaage (fried chicken)
- Oyaki (dumplings made from Soba/buckwheat)
- Raw horse meat
- Bee/wasp larvae (hachi no ko), grasshoppers (inago)
MATSUMOTO WITH KIDS – Hokuriku Road Trip with Kids
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