Getting There

First things first: the most important thing you have to know is that this road is fundamentally only open during the summer. For the exact dates, call someone in the area (the lodge you intend to stay at would be a good choice). In most years, you should assume that the road will only be open in approximately July, August and maybe the first two or three weeks of September. These dates may change depending on when the spring thaw and first snow are predicted.

The date of your trip having been decided, you have to choose how to get there. Kiso-Fukushima is one of the express stops on one of the main JR lines (the Chuo Honsen). If you're coming from Tokyo, it would be most convenient to get off at Shiojiri station to the east, since it's a straight shot from Shinjuku. In either case, Narai is only a short distance from the station, so if you want to visit Narai you can do so without too much trouble.

The Shinano #15 tokkyu express leaves Osaka at 8:58 a.m. and gets to Kiso-Fukushima at 12:23 p.m. and Shiojiri at 12:49 p.m. This appears to be the best-timed train from Osaka. From Tokyo, it's quite a bit faster: leaving at 8:00 a.m. will get you to Shiojiri at 10:28.

The same highway (route 19) connects both train stations. It's a bit trafficky, but the turnoff onto the tiny prefectural road (route 26) at Yabuhara is only a few kilometers away from either starting point, and that road has very little traffic. This road joins up with the major highway, route 158, that goes between Matsumoto and Takayama, and this is where you will find by far the most traffic on the entire trip (and a lot of tunnels). Thankfully, you only have to go for five kilometers or so before turning left onto route 84, which leads all the way up Norikura.

(See our special report on cycling in tunnels in the Japan Alps: Japan Alps Tunnels)

As mentioned in the Route section, the rindo is apparently now fully paved, so it might be a better way of getting up the mountain. We’ll try to cover this option in the near future.


Unless you're Superman, I recommend staying at Norikura Kogen (at the 1600 meter elevation) and tackling the rest of the climb the following morning. If you insist on doing it all in one stretch, you may have to stay at the top; since there are only a couple of minshuku up there (and no camping as far as I know), you should probably make reservations in advance. The number for the association of minshuku at the 1600m level is (0263) 93-2952. They can undoubtedly refer you to a lodge at the 2700m summit. The youth hostel at 1600m, Norikura Kogen Onsen, is quite satisfactory; their number is (0263) 93-2748. As soon as you get near, ask for directions; it's a bit hard to find (far up the road and in toward the right).


The old traditional town of Narai was designated a National Cultural Asset some twenty years ago and the streets (make that "street" - it's a small town) have been preserved rather nicely. Most of the houses now are lacquer ware and comb shops, though the combs are actually made in neighboring Yabuhara. All of the towns along this river have sites of cultural and historical interest and would make a tour on their own. Unless you leave a day early, you'll probably only have time to stop briefly in Narai on the way.

The rest of the "sights" you'll find will be the spectacular mountain and eventually alpine scenery, particularly once you reach 2000m elevation.

As mentioned earlier, the road leading down from the summit to Hirayu Onsen is now available to cyclists. We've also received word that the "rindo" is completely paved, and that it's an easier climb up (KANcycling hopes to get up there soon to check it out).

Assuming you've gone down the hill to Hirayu Onsen, you have two choices. If you're tired after the morning's climb, you may just want to continue along highway 158 to Takayama. It's a nice enough ride since there aren't all those tunnels as in the section closer to Matsumoto (you do have to go through the 2.4km long Hirayu Tunnel, however). If you STILL haven't gotten enough exercise, there's a very nice side route you can take by going north at Hirayu on route 471 to the Shin-Hodaka area. If you want to explore onsen country, turn right at the junction and cycle up along the river to Shin-Hodaka and explore some of the many onsens in the area. Many are free, like the one shown in the Story section; it's about halfway to Shin-Hodaka from the junction. From there, cycle back and then continue along route 471 until you find route 76; turn left and curve around to just north of Takayama, then find your way into the city. If you follow the road all the way to highway 41 near Hida-Kokufu Station just north of Takayama, I'd recommend going down the parallel route across the river rather than the busy highway. Once again, this same-day alternate route is ONLY for those with boundless energy. It might be better to do this ride as a rather leisurely day-trip from Takayama.

Getting Away

Train transit from Takayama to Osaka is relatively easy; lots of tokkyu express trains go to Nagoya (about 2 hrs. 15 minutes) and some, like the one leaving at 3:08 p.m., go directly to Osaka (arriving 7:12 p.m.). To Tokyo, things appear to be a little more problematic; going to Nagoya and taking the bullet train (rather expensive) may be the only reasonable way to get back to the Big Mikan. By bus, travel is generally much cheaper and more convenient, and Nohi Bus runs buses to both destinations and accepts bagged bicycles as luggage (for storage in the compartment below) at no charge. Alpico (based in Nagano Prefecture) also accepts bagged bicycles. Beware of the major bus companies that do NOT accept bagged bicycles under any circumstances, such as Hankyu and Kintetsu. Also note the important caveat that all bus companies will refuse to take bagged bicycles on overnight buses.

For other options, see the Alternatives page.

Story & PhotosNorikura_Story_%26_Photos_1.htmlNorikura_Story_%26_Photos_1.htmlshapeimage_12_link_0
Nuts & Boltsshapeimage_13_link_0