Renting a Bicycle: A Great Way to See & Share More of Matsumoto
Downtown Matsumoto is a great place to get your Instagram on. From the grandeur of the castle backed by Mt. Jonen to the funky details of Frog Street there’s no end to the pics you can post. But if you’re looking for a great way to see and share more of Matsumoto, we highly recommend renting a bicycle and heading out of town. With e-Bikes available and a million roads to roll down, taking in the mountains and the countryside is a cinch. To make it even easier to find that perfect shot, let’s take a quick tour.
Pedal this way and you’ll find yourself slowly rising toward the grape fields of the Yamabe Valley. There’s a nice path along the Susukigawa River that keeps you separated from the cars which allows you to safely take in the view of the 2,000-meter highlands of Utsukushi-ga-hara.
Up this way you can find a few historical sites as well. Like Kotaku-ji Temple and the hilltops where the Ogasawara clan built their twin castles in the middle of the 15th Century. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Yamabe Winery (along with the fact that it is, strictly speaking, illegal to drink and cycle).
And while you’re in the area, don’t forget to look west!
Pedal from Frog Street along the Metoba River and around the bend, for more gradual uphill riding but a markedly different feel. To the east of the river lies the onsen village of Asama, with hiking trails and hot springs and a chance to try – or even make! – some of this area’s famed soba noodles.
In Autumn the orchards up here turn red with some of the best apples you’ll find anywhere. And for you history buffs there are the scattered and half-hidden remnants of the old Edo Era post town of Okada-juku. And a surprising gem: the Yamato Horse Farm.
Pedal across the tracks and out toward those mountains to the west and you’ll find yourself out in the wide open spaces of the Fuchu Plains. Quiet roads roll through farmland and rice fields, watched over by the peaks of the Northern Alps. If you’re looking that sweeping panoramic shot of the Japanese mountains, this is the place.
For the energetic and ambitious there’s a long, flat cycling path that takes you north through Azumino and, if you want to go all the way, to the Daio Wasabi Farm. Be warned, this is a long ride! But we’ve done it many times and would be happy to show you the way.
Ride this way and you’ll encounter busy main road and serpentine side roads. Go far enough and you’ll eventually be out in the open.
But really, we can offer no compelling reason to try to navigate these southbound roads when there’s so much to enjoy to the North, East, and West! (Hey, it’s the truth.)
Where To Start
The City of Matsumoto has established a bicycle rental system called “Hello Cycling”. All over downtown you’ll find these electric-assist bikes, sitting in their charging stations, waiting to be rented: in front of the train station, at the castle, at City Hall and a half dozen other places.
Sound great, renting a bicycle looks easy. Until you try!
We’re simply being honest when we say that the process is a nightmare. You’ll need to go through Google Play to get to the Hello Cycling app – which is only available through a Japanese google account, which you’ll have to set up, which requires a Google Japan email address. You’ll also need to pay with either a credit card (the international fees are borderline extortionist, and debit cards are invalid) or a prepaid card from a convenience store which will then also require a Suica card, a widely-used and widely-accepted Japanese method of payment that comes with an initial charge of 1,500 yen. You can pick up a pamphlet at the visitor information center that explains everything perfectly – in Japanese.
A Better Way To Roll
By the time you’ve figured out the Hello Cycle system you could have applied for a work visa, gotten a job, saved up some money and bought a bicycle. We suspect you don’t have the time.
So what to do? Let us handle it! We’re all set up – renting a bicycle with us is a breeze! Ride with us out into the countryside, to the views, the vibe, and all the cool things out there. It’s a great way to see and share more of Matsumoto.
So come on! Let’s roll!
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