The Japanese Alps   日本アルプス

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A snow resort in the Japanese Alps.

A snow resort in the Japanese Alps.

Matsumoto Castle, also known as the raven because of its black color.

Matsumoto Castle, also known as the raven because of its black color.

View of the snowy peaks of the Japanese Alps.

View of the snowy peaks of the Japanese Alps.

Tsumago an old postal town.

Tsumago an old postal town.

The other Mont Blanc

Between Kansai and Kanto stand the Japanese Alps: a majestic mountain range, which reaches 3000m, ideal for hiking.

Surrounded by the peaks of the Japanese Alps, Matsumoto station is not the essential starting point for mountain activities. You can visit one of the castles perched highest in the country, Matsumoto-jo, nicknamed the "Crow Castle" because of its dark roof. A few minutes walk from there is the school-museum Kaichi, with its a classroom unchanged from 1876, at the time of the Meiji regime aimed to change its people through education; while the district of Naka-machi ("inner city") has retained its kura, former warehouses typical of the late nineteenth century. For some of that famous mustard that burns its way up your nose, the small town of Hotaka (named after a famous summit) is the capital of wasabi, the colorful green horseradish that adorns so many Japanese dishes. Some specialized farms are open to visitors (including Dai-O).

Skiing and hot springs

To the west, the Japan Alps National Park owes its popularity to Western climbers who planted their axes there in the 1880s. This park is not the ideal place for skiing in Japan (its main station, Kamikochi, is accessible only from early May to late October) but for hiking or climbing, and for basking in the many onsen in the area (Hirayu and Fukuchi, quiet Maguse or the old farm 's Osawayama Onsen ). On the other hand, many ski areas are spread all around near Nagano: the traditional Nozawa, and busy stations Shiga Kogen and Hakuba.

You can extend your stay in the area by joining the beautiful Kanazawa via "little Kyoto," Takayama, and the famous village of Shirakawa-gô in Hakusan National Park: traditional houses with thatched roofs classified as a Unesco World Heritage.

Film set

Another way (easily accessible from Matsumoto) instantly transports you to 400 years ago, at the time of Tokugawa, when merchants and courtiers were constantly traveling between Edo (Tokyo - the political and economic capital) and Kyoto (Imperial City) by taking the Nakasendō. In the shade of dense forests of Kisoji cypress tress, is this valley and its old paved road with 69 stops. We visit three, tastefully preserved: Narai (formerly the most important), and especially Tsumago and Magome. Small towns outside of time, which give the impression of walking in a setting of vintage movie ...

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