Kamikochi 上高地

Kamikochi 上高地 is a popular getaway in the mountains with low effort, high reward "hiking" that's not too far from Matsumoto - in the winter, I think it is actually not open, so we did a weekend trip in September, staying one night at Nakanoyu Onsen Ryokan 中の湯温泉旅館.
Nakanoyu Onsen Ryokan
Nakanoyu Onsen Ryokan's outdoor hot spring bath 中の湯温泉旅館

Everything here is surprisingly nicer than we imagined! We reserved the 2:45 pm free 75-minute shuttle from Matsumoto Station's West Exit by emailing the hotel directly - very friendly and quick response (in Japanese). The hotel shuttle saves you the train+bus fare of 2450 yen one way or 4550 yen round trip. If you're taking the bus yourself and want to walk from the Nakanoyu (中の湯) bus stop, apparently it's 45 minutes uphill to the hotel - but there's a shop nearby where the staff can arrange pick-up to the hotel anytime (a 10-minute drive).

The ryokan is up in the mountains facing the mountains, at the end of Curve#7 up some very windy roads and many many tunnels. It's got 100 years of history but it's been renovated so it feels traditional yet seems quite new and very clean - a great place with a spacious lobby looking out onto the mountains shrouded in clouds! Wifi is not fast but available, just in the lobby though. Go out & walk up the road for a few minutes to Curve#8 to see some more mountains and valley. We saw some wild monkeys in the trees too!!

the hotel
the room

Our room's small but nice including a toilet & sink - with Japanese style futons set up for you at night. There are 24-hour indoor & outdoor hot springs; men and women switch sides at 10 pm but both look into the forest with robust fresh mountain air. The outdoor one closer to the lobby has an amazing mountain view! There's also a small indoor private/family one on a first-come-first-serve basis, but it doesn't look that nice.

Decent multi-dish dinner at 6 or 6:30 pm and breakfast at 7 or 8 am. With advance notice, they substituted seafood dishes for one of us who doesn't eat fish. Very good service & friendly helpful staff here! They also provide maps of the area highlighting the 1500m-above-sea-level hiking trails with time estimates. The entrance to Mount Yake (Yakedake 焼岳) trails is right by the hotel. It's about 10-15 degrees cooler than Tokyo, just perfect in 35-degree early September.

Free shuttles leaving the hotel at 8 or 9 am bound for Kamikochi Bus Terminal takes 20 minutes down to Taisho Pond(大正池)which is about an hour walk to Kappa Bridge, very close to the Bus Terminal - many shops there. The walk is mostly flat with many scenic spots! From there, the loop to Myojin Bridge and back takes 2 hours and is pleasant but not quite as scenic. It costs 300 yen to see Myojin Pond - there's a restaurant there. It took us an extra hour to stop & take photos along the way, so 4 hours in total for both walks. The hotel shuttle leaving the Bus Terminal back to Matsumoto Station is at 12:20 pm, arriving at 1:40 pm.