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Japan Hour

Bus vs Local Trains In Nagano And Niigata Prefectures - Part 1

This week's "bus team versus train team" challenge has participants racing from Matsumoto Castle in Nagano to Takada Castle in Niigata, while completing challenges at four checkpoints along the way.

Our next “bus team versus train team” race takes place in the Shinetsu region. The teams will start from Matsumoto Castle, Matsumoto City in Nagano Prefecture and the goal is Takada Castle in Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture. They must cross four checkpoints - popular tourist attractions - where they have to complete missions before moving to the next checkpoint. Each team is given 10,000 yen to spend on taxis for the two days. The first checkpoint is Sasaen in Yamagata Village, 14km away from Matsumoto Castle. Both teams first head to Matsumoto Station, which is 2km away. 

After walking for 15 minutes from Matsumoto Castle, the train team arrives at the station first at 7.25am. They decide to take the 8am Kamikochi Line train to Samizo Station and then walk 6km to Sasaen.

The bus team reaches Matsumoto Station at 7.30am and finds out they can take the 7.55am Kamioike-bound bus to the Yamagata Village Office bus stop, which is about 1km away from the checkpoint. So they leave Matsumoto Station first, ahead of the train team. 

The train team catches the Kamikochi-bound train from Matsumoto Station at 8am. They aim to catch the 11.20am train on the Oito Line to the second checkpoint, Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium, from Matsumoto Station later.

The bus team alights at the Yamagata Village Office bus stop and walks 1km to Sasaen, where several types of apples are grown. At Sasaen, visitors can pick apples, which are Nagano's speciality fruit. Yamagata Village's apples are sweeter due to extreme temperature differences. The bus team reaches the checkpoint first and are told the mission is to find and eat the Shinano Sweet variety of apple which has a specific sugar content. If they choose the wrong apple, they need to eat it before picking the next one. 

The train team arrives at Samizo Station at 8.20am and plans to take the train at 10.20am from Samizo Station later. If they do not catch that train, they will miss the 11.20am train on the Oito Line. They walk for 6km to Sasaen. 

The bus team, meanwhile, is still looking for the apple with the specific sugar content. They see the train team arriving at the checkpoint. The bus team completes the apple challenge first after three attempts. They can thus proceed to the second checkpoint, Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium, which is about 70km away. It is now 9.45am and they must wait for one hour to take the next bus to Matsumoto Station.

The train team manages to complete the mission at Sasaen after the bus team has left. They had initially wanted to take the train from Samizo Station at 10.20am back to Matsumoto Station and then catch the 11.20am train to go to the second checkpoint. But it is now already 10am and they cannot reach the station in time to take the train. So they decide to take the 1.40pm train from Samizo Station to Matsumoto Station and then travel on the JR Shinonoi Line instead of the Kamikochi Line.

The other team finally takes the bus after waiting for an hour and alights at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal at around 11.20am. They visit the information centre to enquire about getting to Hakuba. They need to reach the second checkpoint before the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium closes at 5pm. The team is advised to take a bus bound for Shiga Shisho at 1pm from Matsumoto Station and then take the bus to Akashina. The journey to Shiga Shisho takes about 45 minutes but the bus to Akashina will only leave at 4.55pm. 

Another option for the bus team is to take a taxi from Matsumoto Station to the Tonohara bus stop and then catch a bus leaving at 12.50pm. So the team takes a taxi at about 11.35am but to save some taxi money, they alight at a bus stop called Kamiganai. The taxi fare comes up to about 5,500 yen. They then walk 3km to the Tonohara bus stop and then hop on the 12.50pm bus. From Shojina Kita, they want to transfer buses to head farther north. They are told there is an Omachi-bound bus which leaves Shojina Kita at 3.30pm. Alternatively, they can take a community bus leaving from Shinano Omachi, which is about 8km away from Shojina Kita. The team decides on the latter option. They arrive at Shojina Kita at 1.35pm and start walking to Shinano Omachi.

The train team rides on the 1.40pm train from Samizo Station to Matsumoto Station. They then take an Oito Line train departing at 2.15pm for Hakuba, which is about 70km away. They decide to return to Matsumoto Station again after completing their mission at the checkpoint.

The bus team arrives at Shinano Omachi Station at 2.50pm. From Omachi, there is no direct bus to Hakuba but they can take a Nagano-bound bus leaving at 3.10pm to Pokapoka Land Miasa. From the Pokapoka Land Mae bus stop in Nagano, there is a bus going to Hakuba.

The train team arrives at Hakuba Station and is now leading the race. They want to take the 6.15pm train from here after clearing the challenge at the checkpoint and return to Matsumoto Station. They must walk 3km to the Hakuba Ski Jumping Station and 3km again to return to Hakuba Station. 


1)    Takada Castle is a famous spot to view cherry blossoms at night
2)    Apples are a speciality of Nagano Prefecture

Source: CNA


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