Written by Ramona (GREATERTOKYO_Explorer)
Touch The Sky! JR TOKYO Wide Pass: A Trip To The Yatsugatake Mountains
The Yatsugatake Mountains, well-known for the great scenery and clear starry night skies, are the ideal destination for a day trip from Tokyo. Traveling to this area is very convenient and cost-efficient if you use the JR TOKYO Wide Pass.
The Yatsugatake Mountains - Fabulous Views and Fascinating Places to Visit!
The Yatsugatake Mountains, one of the most beautiful areas in Japan, can be reached in about two hours by train from Tokyo. The majestic peaks of this mountain range are a beautiful sight in every season.
The great views can be best enjoyed by taking a trip along the JR Koumi Line, which connects Kobuchizawa in Yamanashi Prefecture and Komoro in Nagano Prefecture.
This time, we'll introduce an itinerary that includes Kobuchizawa and Kiyosato, two popular weekend getaway destinations of the Tokyoites, as well as Nobeyama, which boasts the JR station located at the highest elevation and an exciting space research facility that's open to visitors: the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan Nobeyama.
The most cost-efficient way to travel to this area from Tokyo is by using the JR TOKYO Wide Pass (10,000 yen), a 3-day discount ticket that allows unlimited train rides on the JR East lines.
Purchasing the JR TOKYO Wide Pass
The JR TOKYO Wide Pass can be purchased at the JR EAST Travel Service Centers located within several major JR stations within the Tokyo area, including Narita Airport, Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station, Ueno Station, and others. For detailed information, please refer to the official website. Please make sure you have your passport with you at the time of the purchase.
The ticket is valid for three consecutive days and is priced at 10,000 yen for adults and 5,000 yen for children (*1). With this ticket, you can ride any trains on the JR East lines and partner lines for no extra fee. It can be used even on limited express trains and some shinkansen lines. (For limited express and bullet train seat reservations, please inquire at the JR EAST Travel Service Centers. Seat reservation can also be done online on the JR-EAST Train Reservation website. No extra fee is required.) The ticket can be purchased either on the same day of your trip or in advance.
*1... The information is from December 2018.
So let's embark on our trip to the Yatsugatake Mountains!
8:00 - 9:53 -- Traveling from Shinjuku Station to Kobuchizawa Station
To reach Kobuchizawa Station, our first destination, take the Super Azusa Limited Express, which departs from platform 9 of Shinjuku Station at 8:00.
Kobuchizawa Station has an observation deck that allows an unobstructed view of the Yatsugatake Mountains. To the south, you can even see Mt. Fuji on clear days!
Shortly before 10:30, head to platform 5 of the station (*2). This is the departure platform of the HIGH RAIL 1375, one of the highlights of our route.
*2... The information is from December 2018.
10:30 -- Taking the HIGH RAIL 1 from Kobuchizawa Station
The HIGH RAIL 1375 is a sightseeing train that operates on the Kobuchizawa-Komoro interval three times a day. "1375" refers to 1375 m, the highest altitude point on a JR Line, which is located between Kiyosato and Nobeyama stations.
The HIGH RAIL 1375 is a starry sky-themed train. That is because the entire area along the Koumi Line, especially Nobeyama, is famous for its beautiful, clear starry skies.
There are four types of seats (single seats, paired seats, reclining seats, and box seats) on this train and they all make it possible for the passengers to enjoy the views along the Koumi Line. In addition to being able to enjoy food and drinks during the ride, the passengers can also use the HIGH RAIL gallery available on the train. It is full of books with beautiful pictures of the sky and stars. The constellations of the season are projected onto the ceiling of the gallery.
At one end of the train, there is even a sales counter where passengers can purchase drinks, snacks, and HIGH RAIL 1375 souvenirs.
JR TOKYO Wide Pass holders can ride the HIGH RAIL 1375 for no extra charge. However, please stop by the ticket office to reserve your seat before getting on the train.
For more information on the features and services available on HIGH RAIL 1375, please refer to the official JR East web page.
11:05 -- Arriving at Nobeyama Station
With Nobeyama being famous as a stargazing destination, even the signboard of the train station is star-themed.
The passengers of HIGH RAIL HOSHIZORA, which operates in the evening, can take part in a stargazing event. The HIGH RAIL HOSHIZORA stops at Nobeyama Station for about 60 minutes and the passengers can get off to listen to a local stargazing guide's explanation of the stars and constellations visible from Nobeyama.
11:30 - 13:00 -- Visit a Space Research Center! The NAOJ Nobeyama Radio Observatory
The NAOJ Nobeyama Radio Observatory, one of the largest space research facilities in Japan, is located close to Nobeyama Station. At the intersection in front of the station, go to the left and walk straight for about 20-25 minutes. The large antennas of the observatory will soon come in sight.
Thanks to its high altitude, Nobeyama is an ideal place for astronomical observation using radio telescopes. Especially in the winter months, the air is dry, which makes it possible for radio waves to be intercepted without disturbance from water vapors.
There are several types of antennas scanning the skies at all times. Each cluster of antennas has a specific purpose. Some are observing the activity of the sun, while others pick up signals from other celestial bodies.
In addition to being able to view the antennas from close, visitors can also enter the exhibit areas. There are panels with detailed information, miniature antennas, videos and pictures on display.
Every visitor will most surely be impressed by the Nobeyama 45-m Radio Telescope, one of the largest telescopes in Japan and in the world. Established in 1982, this telescope has been used to detect faint radio signals from the universe. The observation results brought by this telescope include the discovery of a black hole and the observation of the interstellar gas that plays an important role in the formation of stars.
A visit to the NAOJ Nobeyama Radio Observatory will undoubtedly be an exciting experience not only for space enthusiasts. It is a facility where anyone can see the ways in which our daily lives are connected to the activity of celestial objects and to the universe.
In order to catch the train to the next destination, we suggest leaving at about 13:00 for the station. Take the 13:47 train from Nobeyama Station in the directin of Kobuchizawa and get off at Kiyosato Station at 13:54.
14:10 - 15:00 -- Lunch at ROCK Kiyosato Moeginomura
Moeginomura is a leisure complex located about 8 minutes away on foot from Kiyosato Station. It includes restaurants, museums, galleries, and shops where visitors can spend a relaxing time.
ROCK is a dining place whose 40 year history is deeply intertwined with that of Kiyosato.
ROCK Kiyosato Moeginomura is well-known for its signature dish, the ROCK beef curry, and for its award-winning Touchdown beer. We especially recommend their Kiyosato Lager (780 yen), which has a refreshing, refined taste, and the Premium Rock Bock (860 yen), a gold-prize winning beer with a deep aroma.
The ROCK Beef Curry (1,080 yen) is made with an original recipe that has been perfected along the years ever since the opening of ROCK. The dish has a distinctive rich texture, the result of cooking the curry sauce for at least 10 hours in a row. The dish is complemented with fresh vegetables from the local farms. It is a meal that allows you to taste the best local ingredients.
In addition to the ROCK beef curry, there is a wide variety of dishes for every taste. At the ROCK STORE, located near the entrance, you can buy Chozumeya sausages, craft beer and even the original ROCK beef curry.
15:10 - 16:00 -- Rediscover Music at Moeginomura Organ Museum Hall of Halls
Moeginomura Organ Museum Hall of Halls opened in 1986. The purpose of the facility is to spread the knowledge about automatic music instruments, of which the museum possesses a collection of about 300 pieces.
Visitors are invited to take part in demonstrations of how these instruments function, where they can actually listen to music played by the automata. While some of the instruments are large sized and look similar to pipe organs, others are small-sized music boxes or puppet-shaped automata.
Among the music boxes on display, there is even a Limonaire 1900 mechanic organ that was built for the 1900 Paris World Exhibition. Visitors can even listen to tunes played on this precious organ.
The museum shop offers a wide variety of music boxes that make great souvenirs. Some of them are rare objects and very precious.
A visit to the Hall of Halls is a touching encounter with the human efforts of bringing music into daily life.
16:29 - 16:54 -- Ride the HIGH RAIL 2 Back to Kobuchizawa Station
The last destination of our day trip to Yatsugatake is in Kobuchizawa. Try to make it in time to catch the HIGH RAIL 2 departing at 16:29 from Kiyosato Station.
If you have time, climb to the observatory deck of the station once again to see the surroundings at night. The silhouettes of the mountains can still be discerned against the evening sky and the lights of the city create a dreamlike atmosphere.
17:20 -- View the Winter Illuminations at RISONARE Yatsugatake
During the winter months, the Piment Street within Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Yatsugatake is decorated with illuminations. The event is open to anyone and visiting is free of charge. Just hop on the RISONARE Yatsugatake shuttle bus that stops in front of Kobuchizawa Station and you'll reach the facility in about 5 minutes. The timetable of the shuttle bus is available on the official website.
Piment Street is decorated with thousands of beautiful lights. There are 19 shops and cafes along the street offering local products and seasonal delights. At the Woodstove Cafe, which opens temporarily here during this season, visitors can heat up food and warm themselves with hot wine.
From December 28th until March 10th, part of the Piment Street becomes a mini ski slope, where visitors can enjoy skiing and playing in the snow. In other words, whenever you visit, there is an exciting special event that you can enjoy here at RISONARE Yatsugatake.
At one end of Piment Street is BOOKS&CAFE, a cozy highland cafe, where you can enjoy hot drinks while browsing through the books. Because Kobuchizawa is famous for wine production, visitors can also take part in a wine tasting here.
In addition to the cafe and shops on Piment Street, the pool of RISONARE Yatsugatake is also open to everyone, whether you stay at the facility or not. If you would like to spend a little more time at RISONARE Yatsugatake, please take a look at the facilities available here.
To return to the station, take the shuttle bus departing at 19:05.
19:18 - 21:06 -- Return to Shinjuku Station
If you take the 19:18 Azusa limited express for Shinjuku, you will be back in Tokyo at 21:06.
Any trip to Kobuchizawa, Kiyosato, and Nobeyama, which lie at the foot of the Yatsugatake Mountains, will leave a lasting impression. The great scenery and the one of a kind facilities located in this area are truly worth taking a day trip here.
Shinjuku Station → Kobuchizawa Station → Nobeyama Station → NAOJ Nobeyama Radio Observatory → Nobeyama Station → Kiyosato Station → Lunch at Moeginomura ROCK → Hall of Halls → Kiyosato Station → Kobuchizawa Station → Risonare Yatsugatake → Kobuchizawa Station → Shinjuku Station
Travel Expenses: 10,000 yen (JR TOKYO Wide Pass) *The information is from December 2018.
Admission Fees: 800 yen
Lunch, snacks, souvenirs, etc.: around 3000 yen
For more information on the JR TOKYO Wide Pass and other destinations that can be visited using this pass, please refer to this website: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/index.html
Supported by East Japan Railway Company