Guesthouse Raicho in Norikura Kogen: Our best stay in Japan

Guesthouse Raicho in Norikura Kogen: Our best stay in Japan

Guesthouse Raicho in Norikura Kogen: Our best stay in Japan

Guesthouse Raicho was one of those places you wished you could stay for one more night, at the very least. Their hot springs were the most fabulous part of our stay but it definitely wasn’t the only thing we liked about the accommodation.

Guesthouse Raicho - Norikura Kogen Japan

We first zeroed in on Norikura Kogen as one of the destinations for our winter trip. I really wanted to do something specific to the season and Norikura Kogen was one of those destinations that kept turning up in my searches. Turned out, it was easily accessible from Matsumoto, one of our planned stops via the JR east Nagano-Niigata pass.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

Guesthouse Raicho was one of the accommodations which offered guided tours in the region. I wasn’t about to attempt venturing in unfamiliar snow terrain without an experienced guide so I thought Guesthouse Raicho was a great choice. And it turned out better than expected!

How to get to Norikura Kogen and Guesthouse Raicho?

Getting to Norikura Kogen is fairly simple from Matsumoto and will take you about 90 minutes by train and bus. If you’re coming from Tokyo, it will take more than 4 hours so I highly recommend a stopover in Matsumoto in between.

The super quick guide on how to get there:

From Matsumoto train station — take the Matsumoto Electric Railway to Shin-shimashima station — take the Alpico bus to Norikura Kogen visitor center

Now for the detailed version:

We purchased two round trip passes from the Matsumoto bus terminal which cost 3300 yen per person. Thankfully they accepted credit card payments! We bought the passes only on the day of departure since we were told by the staff that they couldn’t be bought in advance.

After purchasing the tickets, we crossed opposite from the bus terminal to the Matsumoto train station to catch the electric railway.

Guesthouse Raicho - Matsumoto-1

Matsumoto Electric Railway - Matsumoto to Norikura Kogen

The train goes through a couple of stops in the countryside…

Matsumoto Electric Railway - Matsumoto to Norikura Kogen

Before arriving at the Shin-shimashima station after approximately 30 minutes.

Guesthouse Raicho - Norikura Kogen Japan-2

Guesthouse Raicho - Norikura Kogen Japan-3

Right next to the station was a small bus terminal where we caught the bus that brought us up to Norikura Kogen.

Bus from Shin-Shima Shima to Norikura Kogen

The bus meandered around the mountains, treating us to fantastic views of Azusa lake and its surrounding dams before arriving at the Norikura Kogen visitor centre about 45 minutes later.

Bus from Shin-Shima Shima to Norikura Kogen

Bus from Shin-Shima Shima to Norikura Kogen

Here’s the view from the stop where we alighted.

Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

It took us a bit of walking to find Guesthouse Raicho and I’d advise contacting them beforehand to see if they could pick you up from the bus stop. We took nearly 30 minutes to find the guesthouse when Google estimated only 8 minutes on foot. 😅

For the full train and bus schedule, click here.

 

What we liked about Guesthouse Raicho

Guesthouse Raicho worked out to be about $140 for the night we stayed. I could have gotten a basic room in Matsumoto for $60 that night which I almost settled for but nearby lodges or guesthouses would have set me back by $200 at least.

Given that I could have settled for something for less than half the price, I initially thought it was rather pricey but I was willing to fork out more for the experience. However, during my stay, I came to realized that the price was extremely reasonable; I would even say I got the room at a steal!

Private hot springs

One of the reasons I felt so was the hot springs at Guesthouse Raicho. I always wanted to go to a Japanese onsen but was a little shy about the public bath experience. There were places which offered private onsens but those were usually a lot pricier.

Over at Raicho, they found a balance between the price point of their accommodations and the needs of overseas guests who may not be accustomed to public baths. And that would be designated private bath times!

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

They have a chalkboard at their reception where you can book half-hour slots for both their indoor and outdoor baths. The indoor baths are private for two hours in the evening while the outdoor one is private throughout the operation period.

Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity to try both!

Indoor bath at Guesthouse Raicho

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

The indoor baths were segregated by gender. There was the classic bath area with a small wooden tub and a low stool for you to wash yourself before the dip.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

Their onsens were sulphuric so the guesthouse placed large foil sheets over the onsen to maintain the temperature. It was my first time trying the onsen and I was shocked by the temperature. I was totally convinced that I will be scalded. 😂

But of course, it was totally safe. I got used to the temperature by pouring buckets of the water over myself before entering. And once I got in? It was the most comfortable feeling ever and it was reinvigorating.

Outdoor bath at Guesthouse Raicho

The outdoor bath was actually kind of fun.

First, you have to go outdoors to a small room in the blistering cold a short distance away from the onsen to strip down. Guesthouse Raicho allows their guests to enjoy the outdoor onsen with swimsuits. This is a rare exception in a country with really strict rules about how to enjoy their onsens.

We literally had to sprint from the room to the bath in order not to freeze ourselves to deaths.

But it was all good once we entered the bath. It was such a surreal feeling, to be submerged in comforting warmth of the sulphuric waters, heads in the cold, alone in the dark and silence, surrounded by snow.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

Similar to the indoor onsen, the guesthouse also placed foil sheets over the water to maintain its temperature. We got into a frenzy when a strong gust of wind threatened to blow the sheets away. Thankfully, we reacted fast and held on to it before it disappeared into the darkness.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

I’ll definitely do this again if I get the chance and I highly recommend everyone to try it!

Comfortable rooms in Guesthouse Raicho

Throughout this Japan trip, we’ve been staying mostly in business hotels where the rooms were cramped and the air was generally dry, characteristic of winter and air-conditioned rooms.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

We booked the economy room in Guesthouse Raicho and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a spacious tatami room. That alone, was a notch above the business hotel rooms. There was ample space to lay two futons, house a kotatsu (a low wooden table with electric heater on the underside), a heater and two chairs. The room was simply but adequately furnished.

Only their family rooms had en-suite washrooms. Guests in the economy rooms and shared rooms would have to share a common toilet. It was clean and we didn’t really have to wait to use the washrooms, perhaps due to the limited rooms they offered.

The air also had some humidity. Together with the thick futon and weighted blankets, the room was just exceedingly comfortable to sleep in.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

And the KOTATSU!

It was simply magical. We saw it a lot in Japanese dramas and anime and as with the onsen and tatami room, this was our first time experiencing its magic. It was soooo comfortable to sit around the table and stick your legs underneath the warmed table.

Cozy, well-furnished common areas

We didn’t get to use the common areas as much as we’d like since we were only there for less than 24 hours and most of our time was spent in the onsens or resting. Unfortunately.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

The reception was decorated with what appeared to be souvenirs from around Japan. They also had a couple of chalkboards scribbled with handwritten welcome notes and information for guests. The whole place was exuding a cozy, welcoming vibe.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

There was also a couple of areas where guests could just sit down and chill.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan
Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

The guesthouse also stocked up on some beverages free for their guests. Others, such as bottled water, was charged at reasonable prices. You could also pay a small amount of money to use their ingredients and kitchen facilities to make your own breakfast.

Great service by Guesthouse Raicho

Even before we arrived at Guesthouse Raicho, I was firing lots of questions to them (especially because I was booking a snowshoeing tour for the first time in my life and was getting a little nervous over it). Yuma, the owner of Guesthouse Raicho, was proficient in English and patiently attended to all my queries over emails. It definitely helped allayed most of my anxiety before the trip.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

Their office area is just behind the reception, so it was easy to find someone for help during our stay. In the winter months, the skies turn dark really early so it’s difficult for people unacquainted with the area to walk around, especially with the thick snow. The staff will gladly ferry you to and fro the restaurant of your choice if you inform them in advance.

Some of the restaurants we went to were this Soba place, which served the best Soba we had on our trip…


Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

And this homely family-owned restaurant which would remembered by us for their comfort food and curry rice with a humongous serving.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

And I’m not the only one who thinks that Guesthouse Raicho is awesome.

They’re ranked number one on TripAdvisor! I think this is an impressive feat since I understand from Yuma that they’ve only operated for 3 years.

Guesthouse Raicho - Rated 5 star on trip advisor

So, what can you do around Guesthouse Raicho?

Or in Norikura Kogen in general.

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

Guesthouse Raicho, Hot Springs, Norikura Kogen, Matsumoto, Japan

Guesthouse Raicho thoughtfully listed the activities on a large chalkboard in their common areas. There was snowshoeing, which was hiking but in the snow, winter camping, skiing and snowboarding. Some of the sights were also within one or two hours from the guesthouse.

Kamikochi, Japanese Alps, Snowshoeing

We did the snowshoeing tour to Kamikochi and it was the most divine experience ever, which I will share more in my upcoming posts.

I hope I got Norikura Kogen and Guesthouse Raicho on everyone’s radar after this read! Feel free to let me know if you’ve got any questions by leaving a comment on this post.

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18 Comments

  • 9 months ago

    OMGGGGG it looks SO CUTE AND COZY!! When I visited Japan, but I only stayed in Tokyo and didn’t get a chance to experience an traditional bath house! I want to visit again, but maybe for a month, and I am putting this on the list!!

    • Eunice
      9 months ago

      Yes, it’s super cozy! Please make it a point to experience their onsens, I don’t know why I took so long to do it. It’s really awesome.

      • Koushik K
        9 months ago

        Seems like you had a great time out there. Couldn’t imagine how freezing it was out there in front of the guesthouse.

        • Eunice
          9 months ago

          Yes, it was super cold!

          • Eunice
            9 months ago

            Let me know if you do! And if you enjoy it! 🙂

  • 9 months ago

    Wow what an awesome place! You had me at private hot springs! What a dream. I’ll definitely try and stay here at my next trip to Japan!

    • Eunice
      9 months ago

      Yes it’s super comfy. Regrettably we only had one night there. 🙁

  • Yukti
    9 months ago

    Wow, Guesthouse Raicho looks very comfy and cozy stay. Loved those indoor as well as sulphuric natural baths. I never knew that these things have opted in hotel stays. Great to have free tea of many varieties. Thanks for sharing some unique place to stay.

    • Eunice
      9 months ago

      Yes it’s really cozy!

      • Eunice
        9 months ago

        The snow is awesome! Maybe because I don’t get snow in my country? The snow is just super magical to me 🙂

  • 9 months ago

    I love all the snow outside! Seems like a place I would stay for sure

  • 9 months ago

    I think that I would really like the outside hot bath! Especially with the snow! Also, all those snacks look super delicious!

    • Eunice
      9 months ago

      Yes, Japanese convenience stores are the best!

  • 9 months ago

    That looks like such a cute and cozy guest house!! And the views are insane!

  • 8 months ago

    This is so beautiful, all the pictures are so pretty. And the house looked so warm and cute.

    • Eunice
      6 months ago

      Me too! This is like my first venture to somewhere not so touristy. And it turned out great!

  • WW
    5 months ago

    Thanks for writing this! It’s what convinced me to go ahead and book 2 nights with them in autumn. Will you happen to remember the name of the udon/soba restaurant? Thanks!

    • Eunice
      5 months ago

      I’m glad the post was of some help. I didn’t get the name of the restaurant but if you show the guesthouse staff the photos I’m sure they will know which one it is!

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