Photo Album

Transportation 2: Bike

It’s fine today.
The sky is blue and there is a pleasant breeze.
I recomend that you rent a bike for traveling around Azumino
on such a nice day.
There are 2 bicycle rental stores near Hotaka station.
The name of the stores are Hitsujiya and Shinano-an.
Both stores have regular bikes, children bikes, mountain bikes, and
battery assisted bikes.
While you are traviling by bike, they can hold your luggage.
They will give you an original cycling map and if you need they can
give you advice on where to go.
Many school students come to Azumino from the city for school
They use bikes for sightseeing.
Coming from the city they really enjoy the beautiful rivers, the clean
air and the wide open spaces.
They love the feeling when riding bicycles in this environment.
Enjoy cycling!!

Mount Jonen Hike Oct 2010

I climbed Mt. Jonen, 2857m (9373 ft), in the Japan Alps on October 11. It was just before the trail`s peak is covered by snow (usually snow falls before Oct 11, but this year snowfall was late because of global warming).
It is a 8-9 hour hike, so you can possibly go on a one-day hike from early morning if the condition is not bad.
After walking up a long trail enjoying the beautiful fall foliage, suddenly the famous Mt. Yari, 3180 m (10433 ft), came in to my sight, at Jonen-Nokkoshi. It was an amazing experience.

Then I left my rucksack by the side of the Jonen Hut and climbed up to the summit of Mt. Jonen (a one and half hour tougher hike than expected).
It was a perfectly sunny day.
At the top, I could see most of the mountains of Japan Alps and Mt Fuji.

See Alex’s blog article about the access to the trailhead to Mt. Jonen.

Soba Making

I’ve been told that local soba (buckwheat noodles) and rice are the most delicious during fall in Nagano, just after harvest. Also after a year of touting soba as my favorite noodle, due to its delicious taste and buckwheat health benefits, I figured it was time to learn. So I grabbed a friend and headed to Hotaka’s soba house, KoneKone.

Restaurants and shops throughout Nagano often have viewing areas or offer soba making opportunities, but KoneKone is the only soba house I have found designed to be half restaurant and half instructional school open to the public.
During my Sunday morning visit, I was delighted to find families, couples, and children learning as well. Reservations are recommended, but it seemed as though many Japanese families put their name in as they came and were accommodated as instructors and/or tables opened up.
Though there was a wonderful local family feeling, each class is individual and you or your group receives private instruction. It is nice to speak some Japanese, but I found you don’t really need it. All of the instructors are extremely warm and will show you how to do every step as you go.

The best part…eating your soba after! Kone Kone will cook your soba for you and serve it with their dipping sauce, local pickles, and tea. You can of course order their delicious tempura or oyaki from their restaurant menu as well. Or if you are in a time crunch or can’t eat all of your soba, they will pack your noodles with ice for you to take home and stay fresh.

Hiking and Biking in Azumino

This October, I enjoyed hiking and biking in Azumino.
One sunny day, I walked along an old railroad track. It was discontinued 20 years ago. The rails were taken away and an unpaved flat, straight route remains. So, it’s a perfect walking route without any traffic. I enjoyed a 15 km hike through the beautiful and peaceful woods.

There is a cool unused brick tunnel that was built 100 years ago. The course it getting popular among Japanese this year. I think it’s attractive also for foreign travelers since you can walk from JR Akashina Station.

The other day, I rented a bike from a bike shop near Hotaka Station and enjoyed biking along a really beautiful river near the wasabi farm with foreigners members of this site.
Azumino is one of the most fascinating places for hiking and biking in Japan!

Mount Jonen Hike

Start of the Jonen trailAt an altitude of 2,857m, Mount Jonen (常念岳) is one the highest peaks in all of the Northern Alpine range and overlooks the vast majority of Azumino as well as the neighbouring Kamikochi area. Having lived in Jonen’s shadow for the best part of the last three years, I finally decided to make a go of hiking this magnificent mountain by conscripting the company of my good friend and Japanese mountain-expert, Brian, and making a 2-day camping trip of it with the hope of taking in the Azumino sunset and sunrise.

Azumino SunriseGetting up to the base of Jonen can be tricky without a car, but taxis in the area often take hikers up to the parking area, which is about 5 minutes walk from the hike’s starting point. As we were intending to camp near Jonen’s summit, we started the hike just after lunch and passed several hikers making their descent along the way. The first part of the hike is perhaps the most challenging as it involves a rather steep ascent up a forest trail. After about a 700m climb, the trail became more manageable and we found ourselves overlooking a spectacular panorama of the surrounding mountainside as well as the valley below.

Jonen AscentAfter getting to Mae-Jonen, a resting-point about 200m below the peak, we set-up our tent in a small but comfortable mountain hut that was to protect us from the freezing mountain winds and serve as a vantage point for watching the sunset that evening, as well as the sunrise the next morning. As we had hoped, the views failed to disappoint, and we were treated to one of the most beautiful scenes that can be found in Japan – even spotting Mount Fuji in the far horizon!

Details: Trail head begins at Ichi-no-sawa (beware: there is an alternate hiking route that begins at Mitsumata and is much more difficult) which is about 20 minutes by car/taxi from Hotaka train station. (From Matsumoto, north to Hotaka, it takes about 30 minutes by car or train.)
From the trailhead (restrooms, drinking water, shelter) the route follows a beautiful mountain stream as it gradually narrows; the trail gets steeper, then the final hour is mostly switchbacks leading to the saddle where the lodge is located. Trailhead to lodge is about 3.5 to 4.5 hours, then another hour (steep) to the summit. Hikers are advised to allow some time at the top as it is one of the most beautiful vistas in the Japanese Alps.

Hiking & Climbing Season

April and May sees the start of the hiking season in Azumino.
We climbed Mt. Hikarijoyama on April 18th. We enjoyed a great view of the cherry blossom canopy and the Alps.
Mt. Hikarijoyama is 912m high and can be climbed by people of all ages and abilities starting in March.
Azumino is also a ‘gateway’ to mountains in the Japanese Alps, such as Mt. Yari, Mt. Hotaka, Mt. Jonen and Mt. Tsubakuro, which are some of most popular mountains among climbers in Japan.
This year, there wasn’t as much snowfall as in the past, resulting in easier spring climbs in the higher mountains. But mountains like can have snow until June or July, so be prepared with the right equipment!