The Limited Express Shinano is a service operated by JR Central that runs between Nagoya Station and Nagano Station. The train is also called the “Wide View Shinano” because of its large windows that offer spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
The name “Shinano” is actually an old name for Nagano city. Services are frequent with trains departing every hour between 7.00 and 16.00 and thereafter at 17.40, 18.40, and 19.40. This service is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass. At Nagoya Station the Shinano departs from Platform 10.
The Limited Express Shinano stops at the following stations. Stations in brackets are not served by all trains.
Nagoya – [Kanayama] – Chikusa – Tajimi – [Ena] – Nakatsugawa – [Nagiso] – [Agematsu] – Kiso-Fukushima – Shiojiri – Matsumoto – [Akashina] – [Hijiri-Kogen] – Shinonoi – Nagano
Below are the key destinations on this route with example train times and train fares are given from Nagoya.
The town of Kiso is a gateway to the picturesque Kiso Valley and the popular Nakasendo hiking trail. The Nakasendo, which means “central mountain way”, is a historic highway between the cities of Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo), which runs inland through the modern prefectures of Shiga, Gifu, Nagano, Gunma and Saitama. The section of the route that runs through the Kiso Valley is said to be particularly beautiful with many well preserved post towns, pristine forests, mountain views and old fashioned ryokan style inns in which to rest along the way.
Train fare: 4,620 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 29 minutes
Within the city bounds of Shiojiri is the historic post town of Narai-juku, a Nationally Designated Architectural Preservation Site, which has many original Edo era buildings.
Train fare: 5,700 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 57 minutes
Matsumoto is Nagano Prefecture’s second largest city and famous for the magnificent Matsumoto Castle, a designated National Treasure and one of only 12 original castles in the country (the others are post-war reconstructions). Other historic sites are the Meiji era Kaichi School building (now a museum), the well-preserved merchant buildings of the Nakamachi Dori area, and the wooden court building at Rekishi no Sato which dates from 1908. From Matsumoto you can also easily reach the beautiful mountain trails of the Kamikochi area.
Train fare: 6,030 yen
Train time: 2 hours and 8 minutes
Nagano City’s most popular attraction is Zenkoji Temple, known for its gigantic Sanmon and Niomon gates. Nagano is better known though as a jumping off point for the Japan Alps, and the popular ski resorts of Hakuba, Shiga Kogen and Nozawa Onsen (also known for its hot springs). Other nearby attractions include the town of Obuse, the former home of famed ukiyo-e painter Katsushika Hokusai, and the snow monkeys of the hot spring town Yudanaka.
Train fare: 7,330 yen
Train time: 3 hours and 1 minutes
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.