Not to be confused with the JR Chuo-Sobu Line, the JR Chuo Main Line stretches 424 km all the way from Tokyo Station through the mountains of central Japan to Nagoya Station. While the latter is far easier to travel to via the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train, the Chuo Main Line is a great way to get to the mountains of Nagano Prefecture from Shinjuku on intercity express trains.
JR Chuo Main Line trains leave from platforms 9 and 10 at Shinjuku Station.
The Azusa and Super Azusa trains are limited express services that operate on the Chuo Main Line and the JR Shinonoi Line.
This charming city in Nagano Prefecture has one of the rare gems of traditional Japanese architecture: Matsumoto Castle. Built in the late 16th century, it was never torn down like most other samurai castles, and visitors today can climb to the highest part of the keep and take in the panoramic views. Surrounded by a moat that’s home to swans and other waterfowl, the fortress is extremely photogenic. Matsumoto City also features a historic area near the castle with traditional shop houses from the Edo and Meiji periods.
The city is a gateway to the onsen hot-springs resorts of the Japan Alps including Shirahone Onsen, which is accessible by Alpico bus. The easiest way to reach Matsumoto is via Super Azusa limited express from Shinjuku Station. Azusa limited express trains also travel to Matsumoto, but take about 25 minutes longer.
Train fare: 6,380 yen (Super Azusa limited express)
Train time: 2 hours 33 minutes
Nagiso Station (Kiso Valley)
Nagiso Station and nearby Ochiaigawa Station in Nagano and Gifu prefectures, respectively, are close to the ancient Kiso Valley post towns of Tsumago and Magome. These two stations along the old Nakasendo road have been carefully preserved and in some parts look like they haven’t changed since the 1600s: tile-roofed wooden inns, temples and shops line the cobblestone streets. More information about Kiso Valley.
Train fare: 7,460 yen (Azusa limited express)
Train time: 5 hours 40 minutes
Article and photos by Tim Hornyak. All rights reserved.