This 6-day winter tour starts in the buzzy city of Matsumoto and continues into the scenic Japanese Alps for adventures like snowshoeing tours, cable-car rides, and peaceful walks through snow corridors. Stay in traditional alpine villages like Nagano and Oku-Hida where you'll sleep at onsen ryokan inns with relaxing hot springs. End your trip by preparing and eating traditional Japanese cuisine with locals before enjoying a little retail therapy in the city of Takayama.

Highlights

  • Snowshoe through alpine forests in the Norikura Highlands
  • Learn to cook traditional Japanese cuisine with a local
  • Discover frozen waterfalls and lakes in the Japanese Alps
  • Ride a 1,000-meter cable car to view Mount Okuhotaka
  • Explore the streets of bustling Takayama

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Matsumoto - Explore Matsumoto
Day 2 Travel to the Japanese Alps - Stay at a Traditional Ryokan Inn Nagano
Day 3 Snowshoe Tour in Norikura Highlands Nagano
Day 4 Stay in the Oku-Hida Mountains at a Secluded Inn Hida
Day 5 Take a Cable Car to View Japan's Third-Highest Mountain Hida
Day 6 Enjoy Local Cooking in Hida-Furukawa - Transfer to Takayama  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Matsumoto - Explore

Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle

Welcome to Japan! After arriving in Tokyo or Nagoya, grab a train to the city of Matsumoto and enjoy the scenic views along the way. Nestled between mountains in the heart of Japan, Matsumoto serves as a gateway to the Japanese Alps and is home to one of Japan’s best-preserved and most evocative castles.
 
If arriving earlier in the day, take the opportunity to enjoy the city. You can visit Matsumoto Castle, as well as the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Then meander some of the back alleys and outlying areas of the town where much of its heritage from the past can still be seen today.

You'll spend the night at a traditional Onsen Ryokan, where you can soak in a hot spring to help combat your jet lag.

Day 2: Travel to the Japanese Alps - Stay at a Traditional Ryokan Inn

Traditional Hot Spring Bath in Japan
Traditional Hot Spring Bath in Japan

Enjoy your morning in Matsumoto before starting your journey to the northern Japanese Alps. You'll travel by local train and bus, viewing panoramic winter landscapes along the way.

This evening you'll stay in a peaceful remote mountain village surrounded by snow-covered mountain peaks. This is the perfect setting to enjoy the stunning natural beauty of Japan's alpine region. Your accommodation is a traditional hot-spring ryokan inn, which has lovely indoor and outdoor thermal baths. The waters here have long been revered for their therapeutic healing qualities.

Day 3: Snowshoe Tour in Norikura Highlands

Snowshoeing in Alpine Forests
Snowshoeing in Alpine Forests

Today you will explore Japan's pristine winter landscape with a full-day guided snowshoe tour. The gentle scenic walk takes you through serene snow-covered forests before turning to views of impressive frozen waterfalls and lakes, as well as grand vistas of the surrounding Japanese Alps.

Transportation from your inn, snowshoes, walking poles, and lunch are all provided. No previous snowshoeing experience is necessary.

Walking Details:

  • Walking distance: 3.7- 4.3 miles (6-7 km)
  • Elevation gain: 321 feet of ascent (98 m) and 774 feet (236 m) of descent
  • Time: about 7 hours in total, including lunch and rest breaks

After your snowshoeing adventure, return to your accommodation and relax with a soak in the hot springs.

Day 4: Stay in the Oku-Hida Mountains at a Secluded Inn

Enjoy Japan's Scenic Alpine Region
Enjoy Japan's Scenic Alpine Region

Now that you've enjoyed the quaint streets of Nagano for two nights, it's time to discover another alpine village. You'll travel by local bus further into the Oku-Hida mountains, visiting a local onsen town, which features several different thermal bathing opportunities as well as an onsen museum.

From here, you'll continue onwards to your accommodation for the night. You'll stay at a quiet, secluded onsen ryokan inn. The traditional atmosphere and relaxing hot springs make this the perfect place to relax deep in the Oku-Hida region.

Day 5: Take a Cable Car to View Japan's Third-Highest Mountain

Traditional lodging in Japan
Traditional lodging in Japan

This morning, you'll travel by bus to the Hotaka Mountain Range and ride a cable car over 1,000 meters to a viewpoint overlooking the surrounding Northern Alps. Here you can view Japan’s third-highest peak, Mount Okuhotaka. During times of heavy snow, visitors can experience walking along a 'snow corridor’, a narrow pathway between soaring snow walls creating a winter wonderland setting.

Then, pass through the city of Takayama on your way to the peaceful castle town of Hida-Furukawa, which is surrounded by mountains. Explore this picturesque town, known for its master woodworkers and carpenters who still use local goods and traditional techniques without the use of nails. You can also discover one of the local sake breweries, or walk alongside the atmospheric townhouses and Setogawa canal.

After a day of exploring, settle into your accommodation for the night. You'll stay at another traditional Onsen Ryokan in the beautiful village of Hida-Furukawa.

Day 6: Enjoy Local Cooking in Hida-Furukawa - Transfer to Takayama

Exploring the Streets of Takayama
Exploring the Streets of Takayama

Spend your final morning discovering the secrets of Japanese cuisine with a culinary experience at the home of a local resident in Hida-Furukawa. Learn how to prepare dishes unique to the region, and enjoy tasting them!

Afterwards, you can either spend a bit more time exploring Hida-Furukawa, or take an early train to the alpine city of Takayama, where your tour ends. Takayama is great city for a little retail therapy before you head back home, or onto the next portion of your trip. From here, you can find many bus or train services back to Tokyo or Nagoya.