The Japanese Alps are a series of mountain ranges in Japan that divide the main island of Honshu in two. With several peaks over 3000 meters, the Japanese Alps, has several of the highest mountains of Japan after Mount Fuji. The Japanese Alps also hosts several hot springs (onsen), which you sometimes even need to share with local monkeys who also appreciate the springs. Futhermore the Alps has many ski slopes.
When traveling by public transport through Japan, there are two options to go from Takayama to Matsumoto. One may take the train, through Nagano, which takes about 5 hours. The other option is to take the bus, which goes through the Japanese Alps. This trip also takes about 5 hours. We decided to take the bus, even though the train would be for 'free' (because we had a Japan Rail Pass). We thought the Japanese Alps would be worth the extra trouble. And indeed it was. (For those interested in taking the bus, check this website).
In early spring the bus only travels four times a day from Takayama to Matsumoto, and because we wanted to make a short stop along the way, we decided to take the early bus, at 7 o'clock. We bought our tickets in Takayama (at about 3000 yen a person), and waited a while before the bus arrived exactly on time. We left only after the bus driver made some seemingly ritual gestures to indicate he was leaving.
Soon after leaving we really entered the Japanese Alps, and the mountains started to be covered in snow. Though much of it had melted already, it was still cold enough to leave large swaths of snow covering the mountains. With many splendid views the bus trip was definitely worth the extra effort and money.
We decided to get of mid-way, and visit the area around Shin-Hotaka onsen. Unfortunately, the timing of the busses was such that it would not leave us enough time to enter the onsen. At least not to get a reasonable price/quality ratio. Nevertheless, the onsen had a small source outside of the main building. The sulphoric smells tickled my nose, but I took off my shoes and put my feet in the small spring. The water was too hot to enjoy for longer than a few seconds, but it was a pleasant moment after a long bus trip. A woman told us that we should boil an egg in the water, and that it would be good for health. She handed us an egg, and we boiled it. Nice.
The trip continued with more breathtaking views, and before we knew it we were in Matsumoto.