Vegetarian's Japan Guide

How to Enjoy 14 Days in the Chūbu Region in Japan in Autumn

Japan’s Chūbu region, where the Japanese Alps are, is filled with amazing natural scenery. While many hidden gems can’t be reached by trains, they are worth exploring. Even if you enjoy shopping and eating more, you won’t be disappointed by the region’s many charms. After all, the local cuisine in the mountainous area is incredible. Shopping in the regional cities means you don’t need to queue up for ages at the fitting rooms and register. So, if you have two weeks and are unsure how to plan it, follow this itinerary to explore the beauty of nature in Japan!

Summary of the 14-Day Itinerary

This itinerary best suits those planning to visit Japan between mid-October and early November when fall foliage season peaks. But you can also use it if you visit Japan in other parts of the year. Note buses to Kamikōchi don’t operate from mid-November to mid-April. So, if you plan to explore the Chūbu region in the winter months, you can replace the days in Kamikōchi with Takayama and Shirakawa-gō.

Moreover, the itinerary is planned in a way that allows you to attend the Soba Festival in Togakushi. If you aren’t interested in the festival, you can adjust the sequence of the places to visit to:

Tokyo → Kamikōchi → MatsumotoNagano → Togakushi → KaruizawaKusatsu Onsen → Tokyo

DestinationAccommodation inAttractions
Day 1TokyoTokyo
Day 2KamikōchiKamikōchi
Day 3KamikōchiMatsumoto
Day 4MatsumotoMatsumotoMatsumoto Castle
Nawate Street
Nakamachi Street
Matsumoto City Museum of Art
Day 5MatsumotoMatsumotoDaiō Wasabi Farm
Museums in Matsumoto
Day 6KaruizawaKaruizawaKaruizawa New Art Museum
Kumoba Pond
Old Karuizawa Ginza Street
Usui Pass Observation Platform
Karuizawa Shiraito Falls
Day 7KaruizawaKaruizawaNaka-Karuizawa Area
Oiwake-Shuku
Day 8Kusatsu OnsenKusatsu OnsenKusatsu Onsen’s Three Public Bathhouses – Kusatsu Santō
Sainokawara Park
Kusatsu Mori no Iyashi Hodō Promenade
Day 9Kusatsu OnsenKusatsu OnsenYumomi Performance at Netsunoyu
Yubatake Souan Foot Spa Cafe
Sainokawara Street
Day 10TogakushiTogakushiTogakushi Shrine
Togakushi Forest Botanical Garden
Kagami-ike Pond
Kotoriga-ike Pond
Day 11Togakushi/KinasaNaganoTogakushi Ninja Museum・Ninja Trick Mansion
Kinasa
Day 12NaganoNaganoJigokudani Monkey Park
Obuse
Day 13NaganoNagano/TokyoZenkoji Temple
Nakamise Street
Day 14TokyoTokyoKichijōji
Summary of the 14-Day Itinerary in the Chūbu Region

Day 1 – Arriving Tokyo

Haneda/Narita Airport ⇒ Tokyo

Depending on when your flight arrives, you may or may not have time for proper sightseeing on the first day.

If you are unsure how to travel from Haneda/Narita Airport to Tokyo, refer to the below.

There are two services departing for Kamikōchi from Shinjuku each day. One departs in the early morning, and one late at night. If you can sleep on the bus, you can take the bus departing at night to save on accommodation costs on Day 1. Those who can’t sleep well on buses should stay close to Shinjuku Station for the first night and take the morning service on Day 2. This will make getting to Kamikōchi the next day easier.

Day 2 and Day 3 – Kamikōchi

Tokyo ⇒ Kamikōchi ⇒ Matsumoto
Kappa-Bridge-Kamikochi-Nagano-Japan-2
© Kamikōchi Resort Hotel Association

The bus departs Shinjuku at 7:15 am from Shinjuku Bus Terminal bus stop no. 26. As many tourists get lost in Shinjuku Station and Shinjuku Bus Terminal, we recommend locating the bus stop the night before so you won’t miss the bus in the morning.

During the day, you can either spend most of your time enjoying the breathtaking scenery by trekking on the well-maintained tracks or allocating some time for a relaxing morning or afternoon tea in one of the nicely decorated cafés.

For more information, please refer to our article on Kamikōchi (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Tip: There are a few hotels in Kamikōchi. If you are unsure, we recommend staying at Taishoike Hotel (大正池ホテル) so you can see the Taishō Pond’s stunning sunrise from your hotel room on Day 3’s morning!

There are several buses departing from Kamikōchi to Matsumoto. But you will need a reservation ticket to board. So, remember to book Online or at Kamikōchi Bus Terminal in advance. Amending the boarding time is possible at the ticket office at Kamikōchi Bus Terminal for a 100 yen processing fee.

The last bus departs Kamikōchi at 5:30 pm for Matsumoto.

Day 4 and 5 – Matsumoto

Matsumoto

Day 4 and 5 are allocated to explore Matsumoto. You can refer to our Matsumoto article for information about the city’s attractions. We recommend staying close to Matsumoto Station on Day 5. You want to get to the station as early as possible to explore Karuizawa on Day 6.

When you visit Matsumoto, the national treasure, Matsumoto Castle is a must-see. If you don’t want to go inside the castle, snap a few photos from its outer moat.

Matsumoto-Castle-and-Uzumi-Bridge-Matsumoto-Nagano-Japan
Ⓒ photo-ac.com

Nawate Street and Nakamachi Street are close to the castle. Each of them has a slightly different vibe. We highly recommend spending an hour or two checking out the boutique shops and cafes here. You will find a couple of interesting spots.

If you like museums, Matsumoto Museum of Art is a must-visit.

Daio-Wasabi-Farm-Wasabi-Statue-Azumino-Nagano-Japan

Matsumoto also has a couple of other museums that are worth visiting. For more information, refer to our article on the Museums in Matsumoto.

If you like hot spring, you can spend a night at Asama Onsen on Day 4.

On Day 5, you can continue exploring Matsumoto or visit the Daiō Wasabi Farm. The wasabi farm isn’t too far from Matsumoto and is a hidden gem. You can taste the freshest wasabi here and even purchase one or two to use during your stay in Japan!

Day 6 and Day 7 – Karuizawa

Matsumoto ⇒ Karuizawa

Get out of bed as early as possible on Day 6 if you want to maximize your time in Karuizawa. Take the local train to Nagano Station. Then, take the next bullet train from Nagano Station to Karuizawa. For the accommodations, stay close to Karuizawa Station so you don’t need to drag your luggage around.

Tip: If you are looking for a mid-range hotel in Karuizawa, consider APA Hotel Karuizawa Station Karuizawaso.

Refer to HERE for more information on how to take the bullet train.

Karuizawa has many attractions you can visit. Thus, one day is definitely not enough to explore this summer resort close to Tokyo.

You can refer to our Karuizawa article for all the spots you can visit and pick a couple that interest you the most.

The must-go spots for the fall foliage scenery are Kumoba Pond (雲場池), Usui Pass Observation Platform (碓氷峠見晴台), and Karuizawa Shiraito Falls (白糸の滝). For cafes and shopping, head to Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza (軽井沢・プリンスショッピングプラザ) and Old Karuizawa Ginza Street.

Kumoba-Pond-Autumn-Foliage-Karuizawa-Nagano-Japan.png
Ⓒ photo-ac.com

On Day 7, you can explore the Naka-Karuizawa area and Oiwake-Shuku. These two areas are less touristy and have more of a countryside vibe.

Tip: Instead of the bullet train, you can also take the sightseeing train, Rokumon, to Karuizawa.

On Day 7, keep an eye on the time. You won’t want to miss the last bus departing from Karuizawa Station’s north exit for Kusatsu Onsen. The last service departs at 3:40 pm (refer to HERE for the most up-to-date timetable). It takes around an hour to get to the hot spring town. If you take the last bus service, you will arrive just before dinner time.

There are many hotels and ryokans in Kusatsu Onsen. If you aren’t sure which one to pick, refer to our Guide to the Hotels/Ryokans in Kusatsu Onsen for the recommended accommodations.

Day 8 and Day 9 – Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen ⇒ Nagano
Kusatsu-Onsen-Gunma-Japan
Ⓒ photo-ac.com

The onsen town’s center is the magnificent Yubatake (湯畑). The spot where more than 4,000 liter of hot springs gushes out per minute becomes like a field of hot springs, which is why the locals named it Yubatake.

Kusatsu Onsen is one of the few hot spring towns in Japan with tattoo-friendly public bathhouses. Whether you have a tattoo or not, check out at least one of Kusatsu Onsen’s three public bathhouses, Kusatsu Santō (草津三湯).

The famous hot spring town is best known for the Yumomi show. Thus, visit Netsunoyu for the performance. You might even get to experience it!

Boutique shops and cafes can also be found on streets stretching from Yubatake. If you are a nature lover, there are a few promenades and hiking trails. There is even a ski resort, which is turned into an outdoor activity heaven in the warmer months!

For more information about the places to visit, refer to our article on Kusatsu Onsen!

After you have your fill at Kusatsu Onsen on Day 9, pick up your luggage from your accommodation and take a bus from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal to Nagano Station. We recommend staying close to Nagano Station because you need to take a bus from Nagano Station to Togakushi the next morning.

Tip: Book the same hotel for Day 9 and Day 11. The hotel can most likely hold your belonging while you are away for a night in Togakushi. But please confirm with the hotel first.

Day 10 and Day 11 – Togakushi and Kinasa

Nagano ⇒ Togakushi and Kinasa ⇒ Nagano

The first bus departing for Togakushi from Nagano Station is at 7 am. Between 7 am and 7 pm, there is at least one service per hour. It takes around an hour to get to Togakushi. Since it isn’t a major tourist spots, you can choose the service that suits you best. But we would recommend to get to Togakushi by 11 am so you can enjoy soba noodles at one of the popular noodle restaurants in Togakushi.

Refer to HERE for Togakushi’s access information.

The main attraction in Togakushi is Togakushi Shrine. If you want to trek through the approach that links the shrine’s five sub-shrines, allow yourself a day.

The bus from Nagano Station can take you to the last sub-shrine. So, if you don’t want to walk the entire day, you can utilize the bus services during the day.

Other attractions that might interest you include the Togakushi Ninja Museum・Ninja Trick Mansion, and the stunning Togakushi Forest Botanical Garden.

Togakushi-Shrine-Approach-Nagano-Japan
Ⓒ ながの観光コンベンションビューロー

Refer to our Togakushi article for the attractions in the area.

We recommend spending a night at Togakushi on Day 10. You can get up early on Day 11 and enjoy the nature Togakushi has to offer. But you can also take a bus back to Nagano Station if you don’t want to change hotels constantly.

Day 11 is mainly reserved for Kinasa, a small village next to Togakushi. If you don’t have access to a car and want to visit it, you need to travel back to Nagano Station, as there are no bus services connecting Togakushi with Kinasa.

Tip: Plan your Day 10 or 11 to fall on the 1st of November to join the Togakushi Soba Festival!

Day 12 and Day 13 – Nagano

Nagano ⇒ Tokyo
Jigokudani-Snow-Monkey-Park-Nagano-Japan
Ⓒ photo-ac.com

Day 12 and Day 13 are reserved for the attractions/destinations that can be reached from Nagano Station. For example, you can take a bus to Jigokudani Monkey Park to see the snow monkeys indulging in hot springs. Remember to check the park’s official website to ensure monkeys have come down to the park before heading out.

On the way to the park, stop by Obuse for chestnut desserts. If your Day 12 or Day 13 falls on the last Sunday of October, the Obuse Chestnut Festival should be on.

Obuse-Festival-Free-Ozenzai

You can get up early on Day 13’s morning for Zenkoji Temple’s morning service. The Rosary Blessing is a unique ritual that you can get from the head monk. If you are interested, refer to our Zenkoji article for more information.

You can spend the rest of Day 13 around the temple and check out the shops and cafes on Nakamise-dōri Street. There is also a sake brewery you can visit.

Day 14 – Tokyo

Kichijōji 
Kichijoji Petit Mura Kichijoji Tokyo Japan

If your flight isn’t in the morning, you can spend the rest of your time in Japan in Kichijōji. It is a nice neighborhood for shopping and relaxing. There are also a few unique cafes you might be interested in stopping by. If you are a Ghibli fan, the Ghibli Museum is located there.

You can refer to our Kichijōji article for more information!

Planning to Spend More than 7 Days in Japan? Check Out the Itinerary to Other Parts of Japan!

If you have more than 7 days to spend in Japan and are struggling to decide where to visit next, we have a couple more itineraries to other parts of Japan with fascinating attractions!

Please refer to our Japan Itinerary Category for more information!

Miyajimas-Autumn-Foliage-Japan
Click the photo for itineraries to other parts of Japan!

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