Road Trip from Itogawa to Matsumoto (Part 2)

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Road Trip from Itogawa to Matsumoto


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Road Trip from Itogawa to Matsumoto (Part 2)

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Three walkers continue their road trip along the 120km Chikuni Kaido road over six days. On the third day, the second participant, Caiya, takes a 40-minute cable car ride to the mountain top.

She has oden for lunch before heading back down and checking into Hotel Cerulean Alpine for the night. She relaxes in a hot spring near the hotel before calling it a night. Caiya has covered a distance of 9.4km along Chikuni Kaido on the third day.

The next morning, Caiya continues strolling along Shionomichi, another name for Chikuni Kaido. She enjoys the serene surroundings, such as a beautiful waterfall surrounded by colourful autumn leaves. She makes a stopover at a shop selling seasonal fruit. Apples are famous in this area so she tries a type of apple called Shinano Sweet. She resumes walking and after 2.5 hours, reaches the scenic Lake Kizaki at the foot of the Northern Alps. During the Edo era, trout fishing was a popular activity here. Then, she walks until she reaches a shopping area. She has an A5 grade wagyu steak for lunch at a Western restaurant which opened 43 years ago. After dinner, she heads to a hotel near the train station. Over two days, Caiya has walked a distance of 44.3km. At the hotel, she meets the final participant of this road trip, Masato.

On the fifth day, it takes Masato nearly an hour to find the starting point of his leg of the trip along Shionomichi. His first stop is the Shionomichi Museum. It was previously the house of the Hirabayashi family, who prospered as salt traders in the Edo era. Their house was built according to the machiya-zukuri style and is now a museum of salt. Masato tries on an outfit of the Bokka - a group of people who used to walk from Itoigawa to transport salt in a 60kg-straw bag called Kamasu.

Masato resumes walking along Chikuni Kaido and stops by a shop to gather information about places to visit. He is told to check out a shrine called Nishina Shinmeiguu. It was originally constructed in the Heian era in Omachi. Like Ise Jingu, it is rebuilt every 20 years. A highlight of the shrine is a huge 800-year-old cedar tree which has been designated as a natural treasure in Nagano Prefecture. Masato prays at the shrine for a safe journey before continuing along Chikuni Kaido. He next goes to Fuji Men-ya for lunch to try Nagano’s famous soba. The traditional soba restaurant, which was established more than 100 years ago, serves Juwari-style shin-soba.

After his meal, Masato wants to find a hotel with a hot spring. But a passer-by tells him there are no such hotels nearby and the closest one is in Hotaka Onsenkyo, 5km away in the mountains. He is however quite keen to relax in a hot spring so he walks along the mountain trail for an hour in the dark. He decides to try the bath at a hotel called Yamano Takohei. He is thrilled to finally relax in its outdoor bath; he has walked a distance of 13km on the fifth day.

On the sixth and last day of this trip along Chikuni Kaido, Masato has to reach the goal of Matsumoto Castle before sunset. He continues walking along Shionomichi and passes by a beautiful river in Azumino. Azumino is said to be the top wasabi producer in Japan. So Masato drops by a speciality shop which has been around for 60 years. It has its own wasabi field and sells original products using wasabi. Interestingly, as wasabi is a root vegetable grown underground just like potatoes, the locals called it “potato”.

After sampling some raw wasabi in the shop, Masato has an early lunch at an eel restaurant which has been operating since 1882. He then walks along Chikuni Kaido to a direct shop selling local vegetables and fruits. He buys the apple angel cake, which uses rice flour from Nagano. He asks the shopkeeper what time Matsumoto Castle, which is half an hour away, is open until. He is shocked when he is told it closes at 4.30pm - it is already 3.45pm by now. He runs to the castle and reaches just in time before the gate closes, thus successfully completing his leg of this six-day journey.


1) Watch out for bears when walking along mountain trails; carry a bell with you for protection
2) A must-try speciality of Azumino is wasabi