About Norikura Kogen
Norikura Kogen (乗鞍高原), a highland plateau in between Takayama, Kamikochi and Matsumoto City, is famous for its splendid nature. Situated in the Northern Alps, Norikura is made up of eight peaks, with the tallest being at a height of 3,026 meters, making it the 10th tallest mountain in Japan.
Closed to private vehicles, the highlands of Norikura have a thriving flora and fauna population. Only public buses go up and down a road from either Hirayu Onsen or the local transportation hub called Norikura Kogen Village to the top of the mountain. This road is called the Skyline Road and ends at an altitude of 2,700 meters at the Tatami-daira Bus Terminal, close to the highest top of the Norikura Mountain range.
At Tatami-daira there is lovely hiking or cross-country skiing to be done in late spring and summer as there are trails leading up to the summit, down to the Norikura Kogen Village, or to other mountains in the region. A popular sight is the 4-hectare Tatami-daira plateau with its blooming alpine flowers. From here a trail leads to Norikura’s highest peak called in 1.5 hours
Around Norikura Kogen Village there are hiking trails aplenty. Favorites attractions are the Ushidome Pond, a famous viewpoint as the water of the lake creates a beautiful mirror for its mountainous background. Another is Zengoro Falls, a massive waterfall at 25m tall and 10m wide. This waterfall freezes over in winter and makes for an impressive icy wall.
One of the best attractions in Norikura in spring is the 10-meter tall snow wall. A lesser cousin of the Snow Wall of Tateyama-Kurobe, the Norikura wall is not as tall as the Tateyama snow wall, but Norikura is typically without crowds. You can leisurely walk between the walls without being bothered by cars and tour groups.
The Haruyama bus from Alpico from the Norikura Kogen Tourist Information Center at Norikura Kogen Village going to Tatami-daira is bound for the wall. If you want to get back to the village, you can either take the bus back, or walk for 18km along a hiking trail to the Tourist Info Center. This will take up 4 to 5 hours so an early start is recommended. You can also ski or snowboard down from the wall (or country-cross from there), but know that there are no chairlifts to take you back up.
Besides the beautiful nature, visitors come to Norikura to try the hot springs of Yukemurikan (9:30-21:00, ¥720). The milky-white water of Yukemurikan springs from the same onsen source as the water of Shirahone Onsen and has the same qualities. At the onsen facility, you can grab a bit or a drink to rest after a long day out in the open.
The Mt. Norikura Ski Resort (8:30-16:30) is Matusmoto City’s largest ski field and, set at an elevation of between 1,500 to 2,000 meters, is open to the public from early December to early April. The ski area with its 22 trails and 11 lifts, is mostly for beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Besides slopes through the mountains, there is a kid-friendly area at the bottom for children to play around in the snow.
The aptly called Heavenly Marathon (¥3,500) is a marathon in the middle of the nature of the Norikura Mountains at an altitude of 2,700m. There are still some remnants of the snow wall although no longer at a height of 10m. The Norikura Mountain Cycling Race (¥9,000) at the end of August is a must for avid cyclists. The race, held on the highest road in Japan, ascends 1,260 meters and is 20.5km long.
General Information about Norikura Kogen
How to get to Tatami-daira in Norikura Kogen
Option 1: Tokyo → Nagano → Matsumoto → Shinshimashima → Norikura Kogen Tourist Center → Tatami-daira
1. From Tokyo Station to Nagano Station (1.5 hours):
Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station.
2. From Nagano Station to Matsumoto Station (1 hour):
From Nagano Station, take the Shinano Express to Matsumoto Station.
3. From Matsumoto Station to Shinshimashima Station (20 minutes):
Transfer to the Kamikochi Line bound for Shinshimashima.
4. From Shinshimashima Station to Norikura Tourist Information Center (45 minutes):
From Shinshimashima, take the local Alpico bus bound for Shirahone Onsen and get off at the Norikura Kogen Tourist Information (Kanko) Center.
5. From Norikura Tourist Information Center to Tatami-daira Bus Terminal (50 minutes):
From the Norikura Kogen Tourist Information (Kanko) Center, take the Haruyama bus to the Tatami-daira bus terminal. (only July to October)
Option 2: Tokyo → Nagoya → Takayama → Hirayu Onsen → Tatami-daira
1. From Tokyo Station to Nagoya Station (2 hours):
Take the Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Nagoya Station.
2. From Nagoya Station to Takayama Station (1.5 hours):
Change trains and take the Hida Line to Takayama City.
3. From Takayama Station to Hirayu Onsen (1 hour):
Take the Nohi Bus bound for Matsumoto and get off at the Honoki-daira Parking Lot at Hirayu Onsen.
4. From Hiruya Onsen to Tatami-daira Bus Terminal (1 hour):
From the Honoki-daira Parking Lot of Hiruya Onsen, take the Haruyama bus to the Tatami-daira bus terminal. (only May to October)