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Reviewed November 10, 2012

We recently stayed at the ‘Hoshi' (means "star" in Japanese) suite at Ougatou Hotel. Ougatou literally means a "Head of the King". Wanted to book a room for a family of four in early September and this was the only available room in the hotel; the hotel was booked solid throughout Oct and Nov. Apparently, we were advised that bookings are often received 6 months prior and can be impossible to get a room over weekends and during the busy season (i.e. late spring, summer, autumn foliage, new year) unless you book early. Unfortunately the hotel's website is only in Japanese, so you might want to contact the hotel directly by email at u-kougen@mhl.janis.or.jp (Strangely, the hotel email address is not even on their website!). There seems to be one or two English speakers at the hotel, so you should be able to receive a reply. The hotel sends a confirmation letter and a bill both by email and post. I made my reservation in Japan - hopefully the same arrangement applies for reservations made from overseas.

This hotel is not a mountain cottage catering for mountaineers or hikers. Its a hotel for family and friends who want to enjoy stunning views of mountains, getting close to nature and wonderfully prepared food. Its very well-run and offers personal and warm hospitality and services. Room rates range from 13,650 and 30,000 Yen per person. We each paid about 28,000 Yen (approx US$360) for an overnight stay with half-board. Found it quite great value for money.

Access: The hotel is located about 1 hour away from Matsumoto station. There is a hotel bus that picks up guests from the station carpark at just after 2pm. This bus service is offered only once a day and the pick-up time changes depending on the season. If you're coming by the 8am express train, Super Azusa, from Tokyo (Shinjyuku station), make sure you book or get a seat on the left side of the train heading to Matsumoto to have better views of Mt. Fuji and other mountains along the way. It takes about 2 hours and 40 mins, to Matsumoto, so there's time to explore Matsumoto Castle before the hotel pick-up. You can leave your luggage in the locker at the station before heading to the Castle, which is within walking distance. The Castle and its grounds are worth a visit but lots of step-climbing needed to get to see the views from the top of the structure. We had a nice soba noodle lunch on the way back to the station. The hotel bus was already there and almost full when we arrived at the pick-up point just after 2pm – so very Japanese, I have to say. The bus ride to the hotel goes through winding mountain roads, and is quite enjoyable. You could of course drive up on your own but there are access restrictions for cars as this is a national park area. So the best options are either to hike or take the hotel bus.

Facilities: The exterior of the hotel building is nothing special; and looks rather boring and uninspiring especially with the TV and radio transmission towers nearby. But the interiors are warm and homely. They have indoor and semi-open air public baths available for females and males respectively. In addition there were 3 private baths overlooking the mountains on the 4th floor where you could use freely. Our suite came two single beds, a dining area, a Japanese tatami-floor room with attached balcony, and a large bathing area with a big bathtub and shower box that overlooked the mountains. What a view!! The room was very nicely designed with all the modern features and amenities, and spacious enough for 4 adults. There was also a small common lounge serving the 3 suite rooms which was stocked with books, fresh juices and milk.

Food: Dinner was fantastic!! All the meals were prepared fresh and with locally sourced products. Food in this area is traditionally known for being rather salty and having a strong taste, so I was pleasantly surprised that the food tasted so fresh and delicate. My mum enjoyed the grilled Japanese Iwana fish while my husband and I enjoyed the different kinds of appetizers that were prepared quite innovatively. My mother-in-law, who is in her mid-70’s from Singapore, thoroughly enjoyed the meal as she finished everything except for the beef stew. Freshly cut fruit such as Japanese pear, apple, grapes tasted heavenly and I particularly loved the taste of the new grape variety called Nagano purple. Breakfast was also sumptuous and delicious. You can either choose a Japanese or Western breakfast.

Activities: The hotel certainly tries to keep guests entertained! The spectacular sunsets here are well know and draws photographers from all over Japan. The sunset we saw that evening was absolutely gorgeous with rich, vibrant colours. But it was cold. The hotel served an excellent glass of grape juice or wine once the sun went down. After dinner, there was a slide show presentation showing beautiful photos of the hotel and its surrounding in the different seasons. My mum decided that she would like to come back either in June or July right there and then. There was also a short bus tour at night to see the deers grazing near the hotel and to star-gaze. The bus they used looked like something from the 1950’s or 60’s. I was a bit disappointed with the stars - expected to see much more but unfortunately the night was a bit cloudy. The hotel staff thoughtfully served hot drinks and steamed sweet potatoes at the reception upon our return - which was most welcomed!. The final event was of course to observe sunrise, which was about 5.30 am. Sunrise was observed just next to the main entrance of the hotel, but again the clouds obscured much of the colours. But one lesson I learnt from other hotel guests who were taking a photography class at the hotel is that the best time to take great photos is about 30-45 mins after sunset and about 30-45 mins before sunrise. I guess weather does play a very important factor if you're coming to this hotel for the views and to enjoy spectacular sunrises/sunsets. Good luck and pray hard, my fellow travelers. As we wanted to take another route to go back to Matsumoto, we signed up for the ‘noodle tour’ through the Utsukishigahara Venus Line (1,200 Yen per person) to Matsumoto station, which offered great views of the autumn foliage.

Service: Thumbs up to the hotel management in finding and training such an outstanding group of staff. They were cheerful, hospitable and most importantly, very professional. I find some 4-5 star hotels and ryokans in Japan have a somewhat authoritarian and rather detached style of services, but this hotel provided excellent services without overstepping into the guests’ comfort zones.

One staff member told me that there was a solo traveler who came to stay at the hotel for almost a week. This has given me an idea to come here to stay again with piles of books for a few more nights just to enjoy the hotel's comfortable service and pristine environment. Not sure if my husband can stay that long though; as the hotel doesn't have wi-fi. Winter might be too cold for us too, so we shall be back in late spring or summer. A truly memorable stay and we are quite looking forward to our next visit to this wonderful hotel above the clouds.

Room Tip: Cheaper room will have views of TV and radio towers. There are selections of Japanese tatami mat rooms (small and medium size), Western rooms (with beds), combination of Japanese and Western rooms, and rooms with private bath overlooking mountains. Best is to choose a room overlooking ranch and the mountains.
  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled with family
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32  Thank Bohemian2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 20, 2010

We decided to go for this hotel at end last August, when it was unbearably hot in Tokyo. We were desparate to escape to some high altitude location. We chose this hotel as we were aware of its high reputation: location, setting and services.

This hotel is located about 2000m alt. We rented a car from Kamisuwa railway station to a near-by parking point and walked up to the hotel (45 min. nice and easy walk through ranch). The access to the hotel by private car is restricted. I understand they have also transfer services from a nearest parking point as well as from Matsumoto railway station, but the number of services is limited.

It was hot but pleasantly hot at this hight.
We arrived early before check-in time and took a bath in the meantime. They have two public baths, indoor(closed) and covered open-air. They have also private baths guests can use in turn. They have breathtaking views onto mountains and ranch. They are not hot spring bath, yet we appreciated them so much.

Our room was small and we knew it when booking, so no problem. The hotel was in fact already full, and it seems to sell this remaining small room witout in-room bath by telephone only to properly explain its size and comfort. Their other rooms are much larger with style and comfort, as presented on their web site. Our room was clean and practical. Futon matresses were comfortable ones. It was cool at night. We had vey a good sleep without air-con.

Before dinner, we took a walk around the hotel to appreciate the various views. So refreshing, so nice.

They served a free wine-like drink before dinner time, which we enjoyed on the terrace in front of the lobby.

The dinner was unexpectedly good and delicous. japanese dinner with lots of local food (meat, fish, vegetable), cooked magically with ttraditional and innovative ideas. We liked the lively atmosphere of the restaurant. The waiter to our table took care of us with lots of attention.

The slide show after dinner was also very interesting, showing the area in different seasons. I should return in snow season.

After dinner, they also organised a small bus tour to watch stars and observe animals. So many wild animals which were not seen during daytime were out on the field, mainly dears. Amazing scene. We were lucky to have clear sky this evening. We got off the bus to appreciate the beautiful sky with stars twinkling so near.

Another event at this hotel is sunrise.
Many of guests got up around 4-5 pm to appreciate the sunrise: some from their room, many others out on the hotel's terrace.

Breakfast was again very good. You can choose between western and Japanese.

It is very exceptional to have this quality at this altitude in such an isolated location in Japan, I should say: food, bath, room, services, and I sincerely appreciate it with respects to their passion and efforts.

I have no idea how much of foreign language they speak, but it seems they have experienced some foreign guests and have a feeling non-Japanese speakers could be accommodated well.

Some rooms have better view than others: some towers for TV beside the hotel.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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15  Thank porta
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed yesterday
Google Translation

  • Stayed: September 2018, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 6 days ago
Google Translation

Room Tip: やはり特別室でしょうか。お部屋食が楽しめます。
  • Stayed: October 2017, traveled as a couple
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 1 week ago
Google Translation

Room Tip: 料金に応じた部屋になっています。目的に合わせて部屋を選べば良いと思います。
  • Stayed: September 2018, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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