Friday, January 27, 2017

Chubu Nagano & Niigata 中部 長野、新潟 - Nagano JR Station 長野駅, Nagaden Nagano Station 長電長野駅

Railway lines serving Nagano JR Station include:
(1) Hokuriku Shinkansen line (北陸新幹線) between Tokyo and Kanazawa, via Karuizawa, Nagano and Joetsu Myoko.
(2) Iiyama line (飯山線), from Nagano to Echigo Kawaguchi (越後川口) in Niigata Prefecture, via Iiyama (飯山) and Tokamachi (十日町).
(3) Shinano line (しなの線) which connects Karuizawa to Nagano, and Kitashinano line (北しなの線) which connects Nagano to Myoko Kogen (妙高高原); both lines are operated by Shinano Railway.

Shinkansen and limited express trains serving Nagano JR Station include:
(1) Kagayaki, is the fastest service on Hokuriku Shinkansen line as it makes the least number of stops during its journey between Tokyo and Kanazawa. From Tokyo, it only stops at major train stations such as Ueno, Omiya, Nagano, Toyama and Kanazawa.
(2) Hakutaka, commutes between Tokyo and Kanazawa on Hokuriku Shinkansen line.
(3) Asama, commutes between Tokyo and Nagano on Hokuriku Shinkansen line.
(4) Ltd Express Shinano, commutes between Nagoya and Nagano, via Matsumoto.

What's nearby?

Right: Nagano Station; Top left: local train; Bottom left: Snow Monkey Express Train.
(1) Nagaden Nagano Station 長電長野駅
Operated by Nagaden, trains commute on Nagano line between Nagano and Yudanaka (湯田中), via Obuse (小布施). This is an underground train station accessible via the basement of Midori, a shopping mall connected seamlessly to Nagano JR Station. Nagano line is the gateway to several attractions located on the outskirts of Nagano city. For my trip, I embarked on a day trip to visit two places served by Nagano line:
- Yudanaka (湯田中): From the terminus station, take a bus to Kanbayashi Onsen and walk to Snow Monkey Park (Jigokudani Yaen Koen 地獄谷野猿公園), whose photos have been famously circulated online. Here, visitors get to observe Japanese Macaques carrying out their daily routines - bathing/soaking comfortably in the hot spring, especially during the cold winter months.
- Obuse (小布施): A quaint town which is well known for its chestnuts and an art museum which exhibits original paintings left behind by a renowned ukiyo-e artist, Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎) during the Edo period.

Nagaden Free Pass (長電フリー乗車券)
Purchased a 1-day pass at the ticket counter of Nagaden Nagano Station for my day trip to visit Snow Monkey Park and Obuse. The pass, which is also available in 2-day version, only covers unlimited rides on normal/local trains and a top up fee of 100 yen is required for every rapid/express train service utilised. The additional rapid/express train service fee can be paid through the ticket machines in the train station (you will receive a ticket stub after the transaction is made).
- 1-day pass: 1,860 yen
- 2-day pass: 2,320 yen

My itinerary: 
Nagano > Yudanaka ---- 1,160 yen
Yudanaka > Obuse ---- 590 yen
Obuse > Nagano ---- 670 yen
Total = 2,420 yen
1 day pass = 1,860 yen
Savings = 560 yen (23%)

My original plan was to make use Snow Monkey Pass (スノーモンキーパス) offered by Nagaden to cover all transportation costs (both local and express trains, and bus) and admission fee to Snow Monkey Park. Upon checking with the staff at the tourist information center, I found out that the pass is only available during specific periods (Dec to Mar).
Snow Monkey Pass = 3,200 yen

Bus stop #1 for buses to Zenkoji.
(2) Bus stops, located outside Zenkoji Exit.
Bus stop #1: Hop onto any buses here if you are heading down to Zenkoji Temple (善光寺). [Fee = 150 yen]

(3) Tourist information center, a stone throw away from the ticket gates.

Spotted Arukuma, the mascot of Nagano in Midori! Wearing an apple hat because Nagano has bountiful apple orchards.
(4) Midori, a shopping mall part of the bigger train station building. Here, you can find familiar brands such as MUJI and Tokyu Hands, eateries and shops selling local specialties and souvenirs.


Commemorative stamps:

Nagano JR Station

Nagaden Nagano Station

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