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.

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

  1. Dear Takeshi-san,

    I just want to ask how to get to Nagano-ken, Iijima-machi from Nagoya airport? I found that I can ride the JR train or ride a bus. Which one would be cheaper? Thank you.

  2. I am having trouble finding the a timetable for the Oito Line from Matsumoto to Shinano Omachi. Would you be able to help me find this? I am planning to go from Matsumoto > Shinano Omachi > Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route > Kanazana in one day. I want to make sure the times of the transportation allows for this capability. I would appreciate your opinion.

  3. hi i will like to travel from kamikochi to lake suwa. i am planning to buy the

    Option 1: Leave Kamikochi to Hirayu Onsen via bus, then change to bus terminal Matsumoto (2 hrs)
    Option 2: Leave Kamikochi to Shin-Shimashima Station, then train to Matsumoto station (2hrs)
    I am thinking of buying the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass
    I understand that to get to lake suwa i will need to take the JR Chuo Line for KOFU
    hence from matusmoto to SHIMO-SUWA station.

    could you assist which option is preferred and would the pass cover the JR chuo line ? thanks

    1. Hi Bharat,

      Option 2 is usually primary route between Kamikochi and Matsumoto. I think the bus runs more frequently than option 1.
      Takayama Hokuriku area pass does not cover any transportation in this trip plan of option 1 and 2. All places are outside coverage area.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi takeshi, we will arrive in Nagoya sept 2 stay for 3 nights then stay four nights in Kyoto. We will depart from kansai airport on sept 9. We plan to go to Nagano or Matsumoto from Nagoya and then osaka and himeji castle from Kyoto. Is it advisable to buy a jr pass? What kind? Thank you so much

    1. Hi Alyssa,

      JR pass 7 days is recommended, but it does not give you a big discount. Total fare is not so much different from regular ticket. Anyway JR pass is only deal to cover your trip.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html

      I recommend you to use JR pass for the last 7 days of your trip. It does not cover Chubu airport to Nagoya and subway/city bus in Nagoya. So you don’t need JR pass when you are in Nagoya actually.
      http://www.kotsu.city.nagoya.jp/en/pc/SUBWAY/TRP0001067.htm

      You may start using JR Pass when you go to Nagano or Matsumoto. I think if you start using it on day 2, it will cover until you get Kansai.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. We will be staying in Big Week Karuizawa, as I check it is a 10 minute walk from JR Nagano Shinkansen Karuizawa Stn but As I search the quick route from Narita Airport , pls check if correct
    1. Narita Airport to Tokyo via JR Narita EXpress
    2. Tokyo to Karuizawa via JR shinkansen Hakutaka (but this is every 4 hours)

    I am confuse because there are other route which advise to take the Hokuriku (Nagano )Shinkansen. Is it a different train and route? and if you still have time , your suggestion of possible tourist attractions for ages 4, 18 and 50 yeras old will be much appreciated.

    1. Hi Cheru,

      Narita Express and Hokuriku Shinkansen are the best and the fastest route to get Karuizawa. You can find all train timetable in the links below:
      http://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/english/wb/common/timetable/e_nex_u/index.html
      http://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/english/wb/common/timetable/e_hokuriku_d/index.html

      It’s hard to tell you about attraction for all ages. Please see the link below to find the info:
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6030.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. arigatou gozaimasu takeshi-san,

        your information is very helpful. May I also ask for travel guide going to the following destination?

        1. Karuizawa to Maihana, Urayasu (Tokyo Bay Maihama Hotel)
        2. Maihana to Takahagi Sano (Sano Premium Outlet)
        3. Sano to Narita Airport

          1. Dear Takeshi-san,
            Another question. Can we travel via bus? Can you also send bus schedule?
            1. from Tokyo to Sano Premium Outlet
            2. from Sano Premium Outlet to Narita Airport Terminal 2

          2. hello again, Takeshi-san, we are now in Japan thank you for your guidance, we are using JR all pass good for 7 days which started last MAy 12 until May 18. May I ask again for some help for there are change of schedule?
            1. On May 15 we will go to Tokyobay MAihama Club Resort, you say before from Karuizawa station is shinkansen to Tokyo Station then local train to Tokyo Station to Maihama Station. Is that correct? Meaning no more payment since I have a JR pass?
            2. How do I go to Ameyoko MArket from Maihama station using JR pass on May 18?
            Thank you once again

  6. Can you tell me what platforms the shinkansen going to Nagano depart from in Tokyo Station and what is the best way to find these platforms?

  7. Hi Takeshi, what rail pass would you recommend for Gifu (Takayama etc) and Nagano area (Matsumoto, Kamikochi, Narai-Juku). Starting/end point would probably be Osaka (KIX) or Nagoya (Centrair) – there doesn’t seem to be a lot of options?

    Trying to avoid the 7-day national pass as it’s going to be wasted on just 2 areas.

    1. Hi Cks,

      If you start and end at Osaka, JR pass is only choice. There is no choices other than this pass or single fare ticket to cover these areas. Single ticket may be cheaper than JR pass. It depends on the duration and route.

      If you start and end at Chubu, single fare ticket may be most affordable.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi, I came up with a revised plan – I have to drop Nagoya though (pity, always wanted to visit).
        So I will use JR East Nagano-Niigata (5-day flexi) instead, and the very rough plan:

        1. Tokyo -> Matsumoto (pass day 1)
        2. Bus: Matsumoto Kamikochi
        3. Bus: Matsumoto -> Takayama (there is a discount for JR East Nagano/Niigata)
        4. Takayama Gokayama
        5. Takayama -> Matsumoto (bus) -> Nagano (pass day 2)
        6. Nagano -> Niigata (pass day 3) – but not sure what attractions in Niigata?
        7. Niigata -> Tokyo (pass day 4)
        8. Tokyo -> Gunma? Nikko? Ibaraki? (pass day 5)
        9. Fly out

        1. Hi CKS,

          In my opinion, Niigata is not highly recommended honestly. As you think, Niigata does not have many attractions. If you want to stay in Onsen, Niigata has Echigo-Yuzawa, Minakami. These places are very popular to enjoy Onsen. But if you don’t, I recommend you to go to Nikko from Niigata and stay there. YOu can use the last day of JR East pass for visiting other places, such as Hitachi seasind park in Ibaraki or Boso peninsula in Chiba.
          http://en.hitachikaihin.jp/
          http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6430.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. I have a two part question: The first regards the duration of the JR pass. Online, it mentions a voucher for trips lasting fewer than 90 days, however each 560$ ticket only says 21-day pass. Is there a way to buy a pass that spans 2 months? (60 days)

    Second: Are both the Hokuriku Shinkansen as well as the Shinano lines both covered by a JR rail pass?

    I am reading through your guides, and I’m starting to figure everything out! Thank you for your time.

    1. Hi MK,

      1. JR Pass
      You have to exchange an actual pass in 3 month from the day of purchase. When you exchange the pass, you can decide when you want to start using the pass.
      For example
      Purchase an exchange order (voucher) of JR Pass on Oct 10
      Deadline to exchange to actual pass is Jan 9
      And then you can start using the pass, 7 days, 14 days and 21 days. Actually you can choose the date when you start using within 30 days from the exchange date. So if you purchase it on Oct 10, technically you can start using it in even early February.

      2. Both trains are covered fully.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. I love the look of Karuizawa old town in your picture. Japan seems to be a beautiful place to explore especially by train.

    I always wanted to visit Japan, especially when I was younger and practicing Judo and Aikido. I will have to save up an visit with my family one day.

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