Guide for train access to Nagano, Matsumoto and other places in Shinshu and surrounding area.

Hokuriku Shinkansen was opened in mid March 2015. It connects Tokyo, Nagano, Toyama and Kanazawa without changing trains.
Hokuriku Shinkansen was opened in mid March 2015. It connects Tokyo, Nagano, Toyama and Kanazawa without changing trains.

Shinshu region is located in the heart of Japan. You might have heard Nagano where held winter Olympic games in 1998. There are lost of popular cities in this region, such as Nagano, Karuizawa and Matsumoto. And also Shinano-Omachi is well known as the gate way station to Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine route. Hakuba is very popular ski resort in winter season.

In this post, I summarize train access information to Shinshu and surrounding areas. You can find the information about access to Shinshu region from Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kanazawa and Toyama.

Gateway stations

This map shows you all trains to Shinshu area. Click to enlarge. (C) JP Rail.com
This map shows you all trains to Shinshu area. Click to enlarge. (C) JP Rail.com

As you see the map above, Tokyo, Shinjuku and Ueno are gateway stations from east side. Nagoya is a primary gateway station from west side. Naoetsu and Itoigawa are gateway stations from north side. Let’s see how to access to major cities in Shinshu region.

Access to Nagano

You can catch the direct transfer from Tokyo and Nagoya.

From Tokyo, Ueno, Yokohama and other cities in east part of Japan

Hokuriku Shinkansen (previously called Nagono Shinkansen) can take you directly from Tokyo. Average travel time is 1 hours 45 minutes. If you travel from other than Tokyo, transfer to Hokuriku Shinkansen at the following stations.

  • Omiya – Sendai Fukushima, Akita, Yamagata, Aomori and most cities in Tohoku and Hokkaido area. Tohoku Shinkansen to Omiya and transfer to Hokuriku Shinkansen.
  • Tokyo – All cities between Tokyo and Shizuoka. Take Tokaido Shinkansen to Tokyo and transfer to Hokuriku Shinkansen. Hamamatsu is closer to Nagoya than Tokyo. But if you can catch Hikari to Tokyo, Tokyo transfer route is sometimes faster than Nagoya transfer route.
  • Takasaki – Niigata, Nagaoka and most cities along west cost of Tohoku region. Take Joetsu Shinkansen to Takasaki and transfer to Hokuriku Shinkansen. Technically you can take Niigata – Naoetsu – Nagano route. But since Hokuriku Shinkansen opened, the segment between Naoetsu and Nagano is not JR line any more. You can take non JR local train to Joetsu-Myoko and transfer to Nagano Shinkansen. But trip distance of this route is shorter but travel time is longer. So don’t try to take this route unless you are very familiar to JR train system.

Please see the post, Hokuriku Shinkansen, direct access to Kanazawa, Nagano and Toyama from Tokyo to get the details about Hokuriku Shinkansen.

From Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and other cities to the west from Nagoya

Limited Express "Shinano"
13 round trips a day of Limited Express Shinano are operated.

Limited Express Wide View Shinano connects Nagoya with Nagano. So get on Shinkansen to get Nagoya and transfer to this train, Wide View Shinano. Travel time is about 3 hours to get Nagano from Nagoya. There is only one round trip between Osaka and Nagano. As of March 2015, Shinano #9 depart from Osaka at 08:57 and arrive at Nagano at 13:53. And Shinano #16 depart from Nagano at 14:04 to Osaka and arrive at Osaka 19:18. If you can take this train, you don’t need to transfer at Nagoya. But remember Shinkansen is much faster. It takes 1 hour from Nagoya to Shin-Osaka. It takes about 2 hours by Shinano. Even though you spend at least 10 minutes to transfer at Nagoya, taking Shinkansen is faster than direct transfer by Shinano.

Please see the post, Access to Nagano from Nagoya and Osaka. Limited Express Shinano to get the details.

From Kanazawa and Toyama

It was very inconvenient to take this route before Hokuriku Shinkansen opened. But now Hokuriku Shinkansen connects Kanazawa, Toyama and Nagano directly. The fastest train, “Kagayaki” on Hokuriku Shinkansen connects Kanazawa and Nagano in 1 hour 10 minutes.

Please see the post, Access to Nagano from Nagoya and Osaka. Limited Express Shinano to get the details.

Access to Karuizawa

Karuizawa old town district is very popular for shopping. ©Nagano Prefecture/© JNTO
Karuizawa old town district is very popular for shopping. ©Nagano Prefecture/© JNTO

Karuizawa is one of most popular highland resort in Japan.

If you access to Karuizawa from Tokyo, it is same way as access to Nagano by Nagano Shinkansen. If you access from Nagoya or to the west from Nagoya, don’t take Wide View Shinano from Nagoya. Simply getting on Tokaido Shinkansen to Tokyo and transfer to Hokuriku Shinkansen. This is faster than Shinano and transfer to Hokuriku Shinkansen at Nagano.

If you access from Kanazawa or Toyama, just hop in Hokuriku Shinkansen. Trip time is around 2 hours.

By the way, do you know Karuizawa is very close to Kusatsu. If you take a train. it is a big detour. But if you take a bus, it takes 1 hour 10 minutes. This is not covered by any rail pass. But you may consider this route if you want to go to both Kusatsu Onsen and Karuizawa. You can get the timetable and fare table here.

Access to Matsumoto and Lake Suwa area

Super Azusa operated by E351 series (c) Sonic Rail Garden
Super Azusa operated by E351 series is faster than Azusa by E257 series. (c) Sonic Rail Garden

You can access from both Nagoya and Shijuku / Tokyo. Technically you can access from Kanazawa and Toyama via Itoigawa.

From Tokyo, Shinjuku and other cities in east part of Japan

The easiest way is using Limited Express Azusa or Limited Exspress Super Azusa. It connects Shinjuku with Matsumoto directly. Average travel time is about 3 hours to Matsumoto from Shinjuku and 2 hours 20 minutes to get Kami-Suwa (Lake Suwa) from Shinjuku. Some of the trains can be caught at Tokyo and Chiba. Shinjuku can be accessed by local train from Tokyo and Chiba easily anyway. Please read the post, Train to Matsumoto, Kofu and Hakuba from Shinjuku, Limited Express Azusa, Super Azusa and Kaiji to get the details.

If you go to Matsumoro from Tokyo (not Shinjuku), sometimes Hokuriku Shinkansen and Limited Express Shinano combination is faster than Azusa / Super Azusa. Get on Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano and you can transfer to Limited Express Wide View Shinano at Nagano station. You have to transfer but it is faster. Especially if you leave from Tokyo, you may have to take local train to Shinjuku. You will spend 13 minutes and you have to spend some more minutes for transfer at Shinjuku. Compare both travel time when you make a plan. But don’t take this way to get Kami-Suwa or other places on the way to Matsumoto. In this case, Azusa / Super Azusa is faster.

Kamikochi can be accessed from Matsumoto. ©Matsumoto city/©JNTO
Kamikochi can be accessed from Matsumoto. ©Matsumoto city/©JNTO

If you access to Matsumoto from outside of Tokyo, just access to Shinjuku by Shonan Shijuku line from Yokohama, by Tohoku / Akita / Yamagata / Joetsu Shinkansen from Sendai, Morioka, Akita, Yamagata, Niigata and Shin-Aomori to get Tokyo.

If you access from Shizuoka and surrounding area, you can take Limited Express Fujikawa from Shizuoka to Kofu. And transfer to Azusa or Super Azusa. Please get the details about Fujikawa at the post, Access to Fuji, Shizuoka and Kofu. Limited Express Fujikawa

From Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and other cities to the west from Nagoya

Limited Express Wide View Shinano to Nagano makes a stop at Matsumoto. So it is same way to get Nagano. Please see the above chapter.

Please see the post, Access to Nagano from Nagoya and Osaka. Limited Express Shinano to get the details.

And you might see other route between Toyohashi and Matsumoto. Even if you want to access to Matsumoto or Kami-
Suwa from Toyohashi, don’t take this route. There are only two round trips of Limited Express Inaji and you will spend many minutes from Iida to Matsumoto by local train. This route is not very convenient.

From Kanazawa and Toyama

If you access from Kanazawa or Toyama, you can take both Itoigawa-Matsumoto or Naoetsu-Nagano-Matsumoto. I mentioned above, there is only local train between Naoetsu and Nagano. It is same thing between Itoigawa and Minami-Otari. This section is much more inconvenient for tourists. There are only 7 round trips a day. And also there is only one round trip of Limited Express train between Minami-Otari and Matsumoto too. If you get a good connection at Itoigawa and Minami-Otari, this route is the fastest. But usually Naoetsu-Nagano-Matsumoto route is a primary. If you leave from Kanazawa, you can check Kanazawa-Nagoya-Matumoto route too. You can take Limited Express Shirasagi from Kanazawa to Nagoya. And then transfer to Limited Express Wide View Shinano. It looks a big detour. But sometimes this route is the fastest.

Access to Hakuba, Shinano-Omachi

These areas are located along Oito line between Matsumoto and Itoigawa. Train services are not very frequent.

Resort View Furusato is operated by Hybrid train. There is only one round trip on weekend only. (C) Rsa
Resort View Furusato is operated by Hybrid train. There is only one round trip on weekend only. (C) Rsa

From Tokyo, Shinjuku and other cities in east part of Japan

It is same way to get Matsumoto. And Limited Express Azusa takes you these station directly. But there is only one round trip to Minami-Otari via Hakuba and Shinano-Omachi.
Chiba 6:38 -> Shinjuku 7:30 -> Minami Otari 11:42
Minami-Otari 14:22 -> Shinjuku 18:36

Mostly you have to transfer at Matsumoto. There is no scheduled express train other than Azusa. If you travel on weekend, you can take Rapid Resort View Furusato. It is more frequent the section between Itoigawa and Minami-Otari. But there is only local train. Travel time is 1 hour to get Shinano-Omachi from Matsumoto and 1.5 hours to get Hakuba. Please check the timetable before going to these stations.

From Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and other cities to the west from Nagoya

It is same way as access to Matsumoto. Once you get Matsumoto, transfer to local train on Oito line.

32 thoughts on “Guide for train access to Nagano, Matsumoto and other places in Shinshu and surrounding area.”

  1. Dear Takeshi san,
    Can we are use our 7 days JR pass to go from Nagano station to Hakuba station. At the same time we would like to stop over at Matsumoto for a 1/2 day walkabout.

    We are travelling around mid December 2017.

    Thank you,
    Pete

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