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Mountain adventures at Japan's Alps

Top attractions in nagano.

Jigokudani Monkey Park

Jigokudani Monkey Park

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto City Museum of Art

Matsumoto City Museum of Art

Zenkoji Temple

Zenkoji Temple

Around nagano.

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Kamikochi is a popular resort and often associated with some of the best natural beauty that the central Japanese Alps—and indeed Japan—have to offer. Go for a hike on one of the many trails..

About Nagano

The mountainous prefecture of Nagano Prefecture (長野県, Nagano - ken ) is the perfect summer resort to avoid the heat, with the town of Karuizawa being one of the most popular summer getaway spots in Japan.

Take advantage of the relatively cool weather to explore the famous Matsumoto Castle , one of Japan’s oldest shrines in Suwa Taisha, and Zenko-ji , a major pilgrimage site. Nagano’s many tall mountains serve as challenging but beautiful hiking trails, especially those of Kamikochi .

That being said, Nagano is also a great destination in the winter, and it was the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. The prefecture’s mountains are some of the largest ski resorts in Japan, most notably Shika Kogen and Mount Hakuba . After being out in the cold, seek warmth in one of Nagano’s many famous hot springs. 

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Nagano Top 10

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Takato Castle Park Sakura Festival

Takato Castle Park Sakura Festival

Hotel Housei in Yudanaka

Hotel Housei in Yudanaka

Straddling the Skyline in Shibu Toge Pass

Straddling the Skyline in Shibu Toge Pass

Matsumoto Grand Taiko Festival

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Nagaoka Festival

Nagaoka Festival

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Achi Village Peach Blossom Festival

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Spring Festa at Alps Azumino National Park

Iiyama Nanohana Festival

Iiyama Nanohana Festival

Frog Street in Matsumoto

Frog Street in Matsumoto

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Takamori Kannon-do Sakura Festival

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Nagano Ebisukō Fireworks Festival

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Home » Travel Guides » Japan » 15 Best Things to Do in Nagano (Japan)

15 Best Things to Do in Nagano (Japan)

The city of Nagano is located in the Nagano Prefecture and this is known as one of the premium destinations to visit on Honshu if you are looking for some winter fun.

To that end you will find a number of ski slopes here that are perfect if you fancy going skiing or snowboarding, and you can also come here to check out the famous ‘snow monkeys’ that like to bath in the local hot springs when the temperatures drop.

As well as the monkeys and the snow however you will also find a range of other interesting sights in Nagano such as temples, gardens and museums, and this is also a good place to base yourself if you want to get out into the wider region.

There are some idyllic day trips on offer here that let you see a less visited side of Japan and this is one of the less touristy parts of the country that lets you see how people truly live and work in places outside the main hubs like Tokyo and Osaka.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Nagano …

1. Visit Zenkoji

Zenkoji, Nagano

Zenkoji is a temple that was built in the 7th century and this is also one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in Japan for the Buddhist community.

There is a hibutsu here which is known as a hidden Buddha and this is show to the public every six years and the next showing will be in 2022, and then every six years after that.

As such you need to time your visit carefully if you want to get a glimpse of the Buddha statue and you can also take in the serene grounds here and walk along the rows of shops in front of the temple that also sell lucky charms and talismans.

2. Explore Nishi-no-Mon

Nishi-no-Mon is the name for a sake brewery which is located in Nagano and also has a gift shop, museum and restaurant attached.

You can tour the brewery and museum where you can see a range of old photographs that tell the story of the brewery and you can also check out some ancient as well as modern brewing equipment on site.

At the end of the tour you can also sample some of the sake which is a kind of Japanese rice wine and buy a few bottles as souvenirs of your trip.

3. Try the onsen

Nagano is known for its onsen which are traditional Japanese hot springs where you can bathe both inside and outside which is a great way to relax at the end of a hot day.

One of the most famous onsen in Nagano is the Kagai onsen Ichiyoukan which has baths filled with brown water which are separated according to gender.

Another is the Omuro Onsen Makibanoyu which has a large bath located out of doors which is known as a rotenburo and allows you to look out over the neighboring Zenkouji Plain.

4. Try the local delicacies

Oyaki

Nagano is not one of the major food capitals of Japan but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still sample the local delicacies here.

Some of the favorites in this part of the country include oyaki which are Japanese dumplings that are steamed and come in both sweet and savory varieties.

Some of the various fillings used include pumpkin, eggplant and red bean paste, or you can also get them with pickled vegetables and mushrooms.

Also make sure you try the oden which is a stew made with white radishes, hard boiled eggs and fish cakes.

5. Visit the Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum

Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum

Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum is known as one of the most important museums in this part of Japan and art lovers flock here from all over the country.

There are a number of galleries here which are known for their pretty landscape paintings and you will find a range of European art on show as well as pieces from around Japan.

There are also a number of traditional nihon-ga paintings which show off one of the most famous styles of Japanese painting.

6. Go skiing

Shiga Kogen

The Nagano region is known for its ski resorts so if you are in Nagano City then you can easily go outside the city center and head to some of the most famous resorts in Japan.

These include Yabuhara Heights as well as Shiga Kogen Heights and Nozawa Onsen.

All these resorts have a range of slopes that you can try in the winter months and they also have a selection of ski lifts, ropeways and gondolas that you can ride to take in the scenery.

If you prefer then you can also go hiking around the resorts and in the winter time snow shoeing is also a popular activity.

7. Experience Binzuru

Binzuru, Nagano

Binzuru is the main summer event in Nagano and takes place on the first Saturday of August every year.

There are some 200 musical and dance groups that attend the festival every year and you there is also a procession here that honors the Indian Buddhist saint which was known as Pindola Bharadvaja.

To the end, people walk through the streets of Nagano to the Zenkoji temple where they then rub the statue of Binzuru which is meant to bring them good luck.

8. Visit Togakushi Shrine

Togakushi Shrine, Nagano

Togakushi Shrine is known for being one of the most beautiful shrines in Nagano and is there are actually several small shrines here as well as some hiking trails that take you out to the surrounding areas.

There are also signature features here such as the Kagami Pond which is known for its calming waters and you can also visit the famous noodle shop across the street which locals flock to for its toothsome soba noodles.

9. Check out the snow monkeys

Nagano Snow Monkey

One of the main reasons why people come to Nagano is to check out the famous ‘snow monkeys’ that live here.

The monkeys live in a place called Jigokudani in the valley which is part of the Yokoyu River and you can get there from Shiga Heights and the Shibu-Yudanaka Onsens.

There are more than two hundred monkeys here that are called snow monkeys as when the weather gets cold they flock to the local onsens or hot springs for a dip in the warm waters.

10. Try horse meat sashimi

Basashi Sashimi

If you are feeling brave when you are in Nagano then you may want to try one of its more unusual specialties which is horse meat.

The twist on this dish however is that the meat is known as basashi and is actually raw to make a kind of sashimi, but made out of thin slices of horse meat.

You will find this served up all over the city and local rave about the deep gamey flavor.

11. Visit Chibikko Ninja Village

If you like the ninja culture or are traveling with children then make sure that you check out the Chibikko Ninja Village.

Ninja were known across Japan in the 15th and 16th centuries when they worked as mercenaries and you can now find a ninja house here which has real life ninja who will show off a range of tricks around the home.

You can also have a go at training to be a ninja yourself and there are classes on how to throw knives as well as fight using a bamboo sword.

The classes may sound a bit alarming but many of them are also designed with children in mind so don’t be afraid to bring the family and make a day of it!

12. Visit the Sanada Treasure Museum

Sanada Treasure Museum

The Sanada Treasure Museum is known in Nagano for housing some of the memorabilia and antiques of the Sanada family who lived during the Edo period and were originally from humble beginnings before becoming more affluent as the years went on.

Nowadays you can see all the treasures that they accumulated during their lifetime and you can also walk around the scenic grounds where you will get a feel for how people would have lived in this part of Japan in the days of old.

This is one of the smaller museums in Nagano but it is well worth stopping by especially if you like antiques and old photographs.

13. Take a trip to Matsushiro

Matsushiro Castle

If you want to get out of Nagano for the day then you need to head to Matsushiro which is around 12 kilometers to the south of the city.

This part of Japan is known for its pretty little samurai houses which date from the days of old and will transport you back in time.

A huge number of the buildings here are still in the traditional style and you will also find a wealth of gorgeous Japanese Zen gardens here.

There are also some small museums here and dainty temples dotted around making this a great picturesque day trip if you have the time.

14. Togakushi Forest Botanical Garden

Togakushi Forest Botanical Garden

Togakushi Forest Botanical Garden stretches for some 771 hectares and is known for its amazing pine forests.

If you like bird watching then this is one of the best places to go it as the forests are the home to a huge range of avians and you can also enjoy checking out other flora and fauna here.

There are a number of cycling paths all over the garden and you can also spend time walking around the inner pathways and savoring the relaxing atmosphere and the colorful plants.

15. Stock up on Shichimi

Shichimi

Shichimi is the name for a famous Japanese condiment which is known as ‘Seven Flavors’ as it is made of a heady blend of different herbs and spices such as ground chilies, sesame seeds and citrus leaves.

This condiment is usually served on top of food such as soba noodle soup in order to give it a bit of a kick and you can buy it at Yawayata Isogoro which is a local store in Nagano that has been producing Shichimi for over 280 years.

If you want a taste of Japan long after you have gone home then this is the place to find it.

15 Best Things to Do in Nagano (Japan):

  • Visit Zenkoji
  • Explore Nishi-no-Mon
  • Try the onsen
  • Try the local delicacies
  • Visit the Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum
  • Experience Binzuru
  • Visit Togakushi Shrine
  • Check out the snow monkeys
  • Try horse meat sashimi
  • Visit Chibikko Ninja Village
  • Visit the Sanada Treasure Museum
  • Take a trip to Matsushiro
  • Togakushi Forest Botanical Garden
  • Stock up on Shichimi
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  • 20 Best Things to Do in Nagano: Bucket List Ideas, Attractions & Activities

20 Best Things to Do in Nagano | Bucket List Ideas | Attractions | Activities

nagano ken tourist spot

Last Updated: 11/10/2023

A prefecture where monkeys escape the cold by bathing in hot springs and observation decks rise above the clouds, the things to do in Nagano go beyond your typical sightseeing! Ancient castles such as Matsumoto remain standing to date, offering authentic ninja and samurai experiences and walks down Edo memory lane. The Northern Alps are the crown jewel of the region, and many of the best things to do in Nagano, namely sightseeing Hakuba valley, oscillate around the dreamy ranges. Hiking the Hakuba mountains is a life-changing experience, and you certainly won’t forget a night of firefly watching on Lake Aoki.

Have you ever had a taste of wasabi from the Daio Wasabi farm? The world’s best wasabi awaits, as does a host of precious handicrafts from forgotten generations. Create home accessories to spruce up your interior like handmade kaleidoscopes and traverse borders on cooking classes that take you on a culinary adventure beyond traditional Japan .

If your life is in need of incredible adventure, the things to do in Nagano are the gateway to a massive supermarket of history, culture, rare landscapes, idyllic lakes, and more!

1. Meet a moon goddess at Matsumoto Castle

nagano ken tourist spot

One of only three premier castles out of the dozens around Japan, Matsumoto Castle offers a beautiful exterior cascading over five levels. Behold the moon-viewing room at the very top, the highlight of any Matsumoto castle tour!

松本着物レンタル「花こみち」

2. Canoeing in mountain backdrops

nagano ken tourist spot

Enjoy the mountains and lush scenery canoeing on famous spots such as Lake Aoki, which offers reflections of the Hakuba mountains, and Lake Kizaki, famous for its hot springs! Shirakaba Lake is another with stunning views!

八ヶ岳アドベンチャーツアーズ

3. SUP in Anime settings as the Northern Alps watch on

nagano ken tourist spot

The three lakes of Nishina ensure SUP delights like no other! Paddle in waters mirroring the norther alps on lake Aoki and make time for Kizaki lake; so beautiful that it was once the filming location for a popular anime!

木崎湖POWWOW

4. Rafting: The best of Nagano’s waterways

nagano ken tourist spot

Rafting down the Tenryu river on a hot summer day ensures blissful relief and feisty rapids! Discover the treasures of Omachi, and heat up in hot springs when the cold begins to bite!

アルプスぼうけん組楽部(Alps Boken Club)

5. Jigokudani Monkey Park: Where wild monkeys let loose

nagano ken tourist spot

The Jigokudani wild monkey park offers sights of snow monkeys getting cozy in hot springs! Visibly undisturbed by human presence, you’ll get a glimpse into the society of Japanese macaques from point-blank range.

6. Trekking across beautiful dams and wetlands

nagano ken tourist spot

Conquer the snowy peaks of Mt. Takamine on one of the best Nagano hiking tours! These will entail scenic walks across the wetlands of Ikenotaira, nature observation at Kurobe, forest courses of the country’s indigenous flora, and so much more!

7. Exploring the best of nature at Kamikochi

nagano ken tourist spot

More on excellent trekking, Kamikochi hiking takes you through snowy slopes, yellow foliage, and white sand powdering the cobalt shades of the Azusa river. When the summer heat overwhelms, don’t be afraid to take a sip of the transparent pond water!

8. MTB: Riding in clouds

nagano ken tourist spot

From fat bikes to battle the snow of mountains to speedy MTBs that glide in the unpredictable- but beautiful- terrains, Nagano mountain biking fuses adventure and sightseeing! Explore the scenery at Mt. Kurumayama after honing your skills at Iwatake MTB park.

大町・青木湖アドベンチャークラブ

9. Paragliding: Watch from the clouds

nagano ken tourist spot

Get a bird’s eye view of the Fujimi panorama and admire the beauty of Aoki village and the Hakuba mountain ranges! The aerial views of lush plains are worth daring the heights!

パラグライダーパーク青木(Paraglider Park Aoki)

10. Find light in the darkness at Zenkoji temple

nagano ken tourist spot

The purple blossoms at Zenkoji temple are breathtaking, and make worthy residence for what is thought to be Japan’s first Buddha statue: the “Hibutsu.” No one is allowed a look at it, though, a tradition that has stood for centuries!

11. Nagano Go-karting: Are you fast enough?

nagano ken tourist spot

An experience for both the young and young-at-heart, Nagano go-karting matches the thrill of fast speed, and the therapy of nature walks, or rather, races. Go head-to-head against friends or family on an exciting whizz to the finish!

12. Ryuoo Sora Terrace Observation Deck

nagano ken tourist spot

Views don’t get better than an observation deck that towers above the clouds! The gondola ride to the top offers splendid scenery, and the ocean of white at the Ryuoo Sora Terrace observation deck is an experience that seems right out of a dream!

13. Ninja & Samurai Experiences

nagano ken tourist spot

Edo castles and ancient gardens? Check! Samurai and ninja armor? Check! Experienced professionals skilled in the martial arts? Check! Nagano has it all for the most authentic ninja and samurai experiences!

松本着物レンタル「花こみち」

14. Nagano's arts & crafts workshops

nagano ken tourist spot

Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew how to make a simple kaleidoscope from flowers and natural stones? Craft workshops in Nagano teach such nifty handicrafts so you can create unique souvenirs like these!

15. Firefly watching tours

nagano ken tourist spot

Several fires brighten the night sky on a Lake Aoki evening cruise, providing haphazard streaks of lovely light to match the appeal of the stars. Get a front-row seat to this rare showing by Mother Nature!

16. Daio Wasabi Farm’s green treasure

nagano ken tourist spot

Natured by a unique micro-climate and spring water, wasabi from the Daio Wasabi farm provides spoonful of new dimensions of goodness! Take scenic tours of the farm which sits in beautiful proximity of the Northern Alps.

17. Guided sightseeing tours

nagano ken tourist spot

Find out what goes on in a traditional sake brewery, and visit holy sites with ties to the famous Zenkoji temple. The incredible Ryugae and Shiraito falls are also on this blitz of popular Nagano sightseeing!

軽井沢トラベル&コンサルティング

18. Cooking Classes traversing borders

nagano ken tourist spot

Make deserts like an expert and create soba noodles from scratch like a Japanese native in Nagano cooking class tours! If you are a little lacking in the kitchen department, this is just what you need to improve your culinary skills!

19. Summer delight in the Northern Japan Alps

nagano ken tourist spot

Sightsee Hakuba valley, the pride of the Northern Japan Alps, and admire the fresh colors of alpine forests, moist with summer appeal. The sensational tree line is sure to explode your Instagram!

20. Matsushiro Castle: Get a taste of samurai life

nagano ken tourist spot

Clan armor and ancient samurai relics tell the tales of what feudal life was like at the Matsushiro Castle. Walk around the pale foliage and enjoy bathing like the samurais of old in a brown pond, colored as such because of its richness in iron, not dirt!

Recommended For You

Samurai and Ninja Adventures A Hands-On Historical Experience

And there you have it, fellow wanderers! Nagano is truly a treasure trove of diverse experiences, seamlessly blending history, nature, and adventure. Whether you're marveling at the playful antics at Jigokudani Monkey Park, absorbing the serenity of Zenkoji temple, standing in awe at the iconic Matsumoto Castle, or getting your adrenaline rush from mountain biking and Kamikochi hikes, Nagano promises memories that'll last a lifetime. So, when you're planning your next Japanese escapade, make sure Nagano tops your list. Pack your bags, lace up those shoes, and set off on a journey that promises both awe and wonder in the heart of Japan. Happy traveling!

Frequently asked questions

Q are there beginner-friendly options with instructors for canoeing.

A Absolutely! Nagano offers a range of canoeing experiences suitable for all levels. For beginners, there are guided tours with experienced instructors to ensure a safe and enjoyable outing amidst the breathtaking mountain scenery.

Q What's the best time of year to visit Jigokudani Monkey Park and see the monkeys?

A The Jigokudani Monkey Park is open year-round, but the most popular time is during winter, when snow monkeys are seen soaking in the hot springs against a snowy backdrop. However, every season offers a different charm and fewer crowds during off-peak months.

Q Are there specific trails or routes recommended for first-timers exploring Kamikochi?

A Yes, Kamikochi boasts a variety of trails, from leisurely walks along the Azusa River to more challenging hikes up surrounding peaks. For first-timers, the flat paths along the river, with views of iconic peaks like Mount Hotaka, are highly recommended.

Q Do I need prior experience or training to go paragliding in Nagano?

A While having experience is beneficial, many paragliding providers in Nagano offer tandem flights where you're paired with a professional instructor, making it accessible for novices.

Q What should I be aware of when visiting the Zenkoji temple?

A Zenkoji is a revered site, so it's important to dress modestly and respect local customs and etiquettes. Also, certain areas might have specific visiting hours or require an entrance fee, so it's advisable to check in advance.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude for your continued patronage.

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Even if you are a customer, when you continue to go out, in addition to avoiding so-called [three secrets], cough etiquette, thorough hand washing and alcohol disinfection, etc., on June 19, 2020 (Friday), Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, sightseeing Please be aware of the [new travel etiquette ] announced by the Japan Tourism Agency, take actions to avoid the risk of infectious diseases, and enjoy activities and leisure activities safely.

Even now, there are tourist facilities and activity operators whose business hours and dates have changed. Please check the calendar status at the time of application and check the latest information with each operator even after the reservation is completed. Please check with each operator regarding whether or not there is a cancellation fee due to sudden closure of the facility, cancellation of the activity experience, etc.

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nagano ken tourist spot

Nagano City (����) is the capital of Nagano Prefecture . It evolved as a temple town around Zenkoji , one of Japan's most popular temples . In 1998, the city hosted the Winter Olympic Games , and some former olympic facilities can still be viewed around town.

In the forested mountains northwest of the city center lies the Togakushi area which attracts tourists with its popular shrines and as the legendary home of the Togakure Ninja School. The Togakushi Ninpo Museum and the Kids Ninja Village provide good entertainment and a glimpse of the area's ninja past.

Top attractions in Nagano

nagano ken tourist spot

Togakushi Shrine •

nagano ken tourist spot

Zenkoji Temple •

nagano ken tourist spot

Ninpo Museum •

nagano ken tourist spot

Nagano Art Museum

nagano ken tourist spot

Kids Ninja Village

nagano ken tourist spot

Olympic Facilities

nagano ken tourist spot

Yamanouchi ••

nagano ken tourist spot

Matsumoto •

nagano ken tourist spot

Nozawa Onsen

nagano ken tourist spot

Bessho Onsen

Getting there and around.

Questions? Ask in our forum .

Links and Resources

Nagano city, hotels around nagano.

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Experiences around Nagano

nagano ken tourist spot

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nagano ken tourist spot

The only read you’ll need! Nagano Prefecture: a Guide to the Best of all Four Seasons

Just in the center of Honshu with the Japan’s fourth-largest area sits Nagano, a prefecture hugged by the Japanese Alps and rolling peaks that soar over 3,000 meters high. With plenty of natural landscapes as far as the eye can see, swing by for a cool escape in summer or for a time at Japan’s premier snow resorts in winter, known and loved by travelers all around. The prefecture is also sprinkled with historic castles and hot springs, making it ideal for a leisurely drive across all the many sights to see. Below is a handy roundup of all the best of Nagano so you can figure what best to try each season. From Shinshu soba to other local delights, buckle up for Nagano food that’s sure to bring you back for more.

Table of Contents

A guide to nagano transportation and getting around, if you plan to explore all of nagano prefecture, renting a car is recommended., enjoying spring in nagano..

  • Enjoying Summer in Nagano.
  • Enjoying Autumn in Nagano.
  • Enjoying Winter in Nagano.
  • Even more Nagano to love! The hot springs of Nagano Prefecture.
  • Check out the local eats of Nagano Prefecture!

The gateways to Nagano Prefecture include Shinshu Matsumoto Airport for air travel and the Nagano Shinkansen Station for rail travel. Here's how to access the main tourist spots in Nagano Prefecture.

From Tokyo:

  • To Karuizawa Station & Ueda Station: Tokyo Station → JR Hokuriku Shinkansen (Hakutaka & Asama services) approximately 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes → Karuizawa Station → JR Hokuriku Shinkansen (Hakutaka & Asama services) approximately 18 minutes
  • To Nagano Station: Tokyo Station → JR Hokuriku Shinkansen (Kagayaki, Hakutaka, & Asama services) approximately 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 50 minutes
  • To Shinano-Omachi Station: Tokyo Station → JR Limited Express Azusa approximately 2 hours 40 minutes → Matsumoto Station → About 1 hour on the Oito Line
  • To Matsumoto Station & Kamisuwa Station: Shinjuku Station → JR Limited Express Azusa approximately 2 hours 5 minutes to 25 minutes → Kamisuwa Station → JR Limited Express Azusa approximately 25 minutes to 45 minutes
  • To Komagane Station: Shinjuku Station → JR Limited Express Azusa approximately 2 hours 5 minutes to 25 minutes → Okaya Station → JR line approximately 1 hour 4 minutes

To Nagano Station, Ueda Station & Karuizawa Station: Osaka Station → JR Limited Express Thunderbird approximately 1 hour 17 minutes to 27 minutes → Tsuruga Station → JR Hokuriku Shinkansen (Kagayaki & Hakutaka services) approximately 1 hour 50 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes → Nagano Station → JR Hokuriku Shinkansen (Hakutaka service) approximately 11 minutes → Ueda Station → JR Hokuriku Shinkansen (Hakutaka service) approximately 19 minutes → Karuizawa Station To Shinano-Omachi Station: Osaka Station → JR Limited Express Thunderbird approximately 2 hours 50 minutes → Kanazawa Station → JR Hokuriku Shinkansen 1hour 30 minutes → Nagano Station → Express Bus about 1hour 10 minutes To Matsumoto Station: Osaka Station → JR Tokaido Shinkansen Nozomi approximately 48 to 54 minutes → Nagoya Station → JR Limited Express Shinano approximately 2 hours 5 minutes To Kamisuwa Station: Osaka Station → JR Tokaido Shinkansen Nozomi approximately 48 to 54 minutes → Nagoya Station → JR Limited Express Shinano approximately 1 hour 55 minutes → Shiojiri Station → JR line approximately 23 minutes To Komagane Station: Osaka Station → JR Tokaido Shinkansen Nozomi approximately 48 to 54 minutes → Nagoya Station → JR Limited Express Shinano approximately 1 hour 55 minutes → Shiojiri Station → JR line approximately 11 minutes → Okaya Station → JR line approximately 1 hour 6 minutes

Shinshu Matsumoto Airport → Airport Shuttle Bus approximately 30 minutes → Matsumoto Bus Terminal → 3 minutes walk → Matsumoto Station → JR Limited Express Shinano approximately 54 minutes → Nagano Station

Express Bus

To Nagano Station: Bus Terminal Shinjuku → Express Bus approximately 4 hours 30 minutes To Komoro Station: Bus Terminal Shinjuku → Express Bus approximately 3 hours To Ueda Station Front: Bus Terminal Shinjuku → Express Bus approximately 4 hours To Karuizawa Station: Bus Terminal Shinjuku → Express Bus approximately 3 hours 22 minutes To Shinano-Omachi Station: Bus Terminal Shinjuku → Express Bus approximately 4 hours To Matsumoto BT: Bus Terminal Shinjuku → Express Bus approximately 3 hours 18 minutes To Ina BT & Komagane BT: Bus Terminal Shinjuku → Express Bus approximately 3 hours 10 minutes → Ina BT → Express Bus for 20 minutes To Iida Station Front: Bus Terminal Shinjuku → Express Bus for 4 hours 15 minutes

  • To Nagano Station: Osaka (Hankyu Sanban Gai) → Express Bus for approximately 8 hours 52 minutes
  • To Komoro Station: Osaka → Express Bus for approximately 9 hours 48 minutes
  • To Karuizawa Station: Osaka → Express Bus for approximately 9 hours 12 minutes → Ueda Station → Express Bus for 1 hour 34 minutes
  • To Matsumoto BT: Osaka (Hankyu Sanban Gai) → Express Bus for approximately 5 hours 46 minutes
  • To Ina BT & Komagane BT: Osaka (Hankyu Sanban Gai) → Express Bus for approximately 5 hours 16 minutes → Ina BT → Express Bus for 25 minutes

[If you're planning to visit the popular Alpine route, it's recommended to stay in Omachi City!]

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a popular tourist destination. It is a mountain sightseeing route that spans a total of 37.2 km through the Northern Alps, with a highest point of 2,450 m. Entrances to the route are located in Nagano and Toyama prefectures, at both ends of the route. Ogizawa Station, the entrance to the Nagano Prefecture side of the route, is located in Omachi City. If you start from the station and take six different modes of transportation to tour this route, it will take about 8 hours. It is recommended to stay in Omachi City and enjoy the Alpine Route from the morning.

There are many hot spring resorts scattered throughout Omachi City. It is highly recommended to relax at a hot spring inn.

Major rental car companies, including budget options, are located near key transportation hubs like Shinshu Matsumoto Airport, Nagano Station, and Matsumoto Station. First, ensure you have a valid driver's license and its Japanese translation, and make your reservation online from your home country. Don’t forget your passport on the day of rental. If you’re heading to the suburbs, consider arranging a rental car at the airport or main stations. While it’s convenient to rent a car, there have been accidents involving tourists. It’s important to remember that Japan's traffic rules may differ from those in your country.

  • In Japan, vehicles drive on the left side of the road, and most cars have right-hand drive.
  • All vehicles must stop at red lights. Unlike in the U.S., right-on-red turns are prohibited even if no cars are coming from the left.
  • STOP signs are red inverted triangles. Be sure to note if it looks different than back home!
  • Right-turn accidents are a major hazard at intersections, so please exercise extreme caution when making right turns. .
  • Reduce speeds and be cautious of slipping due to ice in winter.

☆ For more details on Japanese traffic rules, visit the JAF (Japan Automobile Federation) website. Drive safe to enjoy your stay in Japan https://english.jaf.or.jp/

The Japanese 'Stop' sign.

Spring is synonymous with cherry blossoms in Japan. With its many famous castles, Nagano offers quintessentially Japanese scenes of castles adorned with cherry blossoms. Here are some spots where you can enjoy the beautiful collaboration of cherry blossoms with historic castles!

Cherry Blossoms at Takato Castle Ruins Park

[Matsumoto City] The national treasure, Matsumoto Castle, stands towering against the backdrop of the Northern Alps.

Matsumoto Castle , built during the Warring States period between 1593 and 1594, is Japan's oldest surviving castle with a five-story, six-floor keep. The castle's striking black and white contrast stands out beautifully against the backdrop of the Alps and is designated as a national treasure. In spring, the castle is adorned with cherry blossoms, creating a picturesque scene like a painting. The ”Yozakura-kai” (night cherry blossom viewing event) is also held, with the Honmaru Garden open to the public for free at night and illuminated beautifully.

The collaboration of Matsumoto Castle and cherry blossoms.

See more details of Matsumoto Castle

[Komoro City] The Komoro Castle Ruins and Kaiko-en Park are among the eminent cherry blossom spots in Nagano Prefecture where you can spend an entire day.

Komoro Castle is a unique "hole castle" set lower than the surrounding castle town. The site dates back to the Warring States period, known for its Important Cultural Property-designated structures like the Otemon Gate and the Sannomon Gate. The castle is renowned for its stunning beauty throughout the seasons, but especially in spring for its undeniable allure as one of the Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan. There’s plenty to see inside the park including a zoo, an amusement park and an art museum, making it a one-stop delight for children and adults.

The Sannomon Gate, designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan.

See more details of Komoro Castle Ruins / Kaiko-en Park

[Ueda City] Ueda Castle, known for its impregnable defense, also appeared in the anime movie "Summer Wars."

Ueda Castle was built in 1583 by Sanada Masayuki and is known today as an impregnable fortress for twice repelling Tokugawa forces during the first and second Battles of Ueda. The castle's highlights include the South Turret, North Turret, and Eastern Gateway Tower that still stand today. In spring, Somei Yoshino and Weeping Cherry trees bloom profusely, engulfing the castle in a sea of blossoms during the Ueda Castle Thousand Cherry Trees Festival.

Full-on Japanese vibes as the cherry blossoms flank the front of the turret.

See more details of Ueda Castle

[Omachi City] Omachi Park offers a stunning collaboration between the remaining snow of the Northern Alps and the beautiful cherry blossoms.

Located on the mountainside of Mount Higashi, this park offers a viewpoint where you can overlook the cityscape from within the park. During the period from mid-April to early May every year, cherry blossoms bloom, and against the backdrop of the cherry blossom trees, the snow-capped Northern Alps stretch out, making it a popular spot for photography. The Cherry Blossom Festival is also held, and during this period, the cherry blossoms are illuminated at night, providing a delightful experience.

You can witness the magnificent Northern Alps covered in snow and the beautiful collaboration with cherry blossoms.

[Iida City] A tunnel of cherry trees decorates the ~700m road leading to the shrine "Omiya Street's Cherry Blossom Trees"

One of the famous cherry blossom spots in Iida City, "Omiya Street's Cherry Blossom Trees," has many magnificent trees over 300 years old. About 150 cherry trees, including Somei-Yoshino, typically bloom around late March. During this period, night-time light-up is also conducted, attracting viewers with a different ambiance than the daytime.

The "Omiya Street Cherry Blossom Festival" is also held annually around the end of March.

[Hakubamura] "Oide Park," a scenic spot overlooking clear streams and the grand mountains of Hakuba

Once the cherry blossoms are in full seasonal bloom, you won’t want to miss a chance to see them up close from the observation terrace. The spring view of cherry blossoms against a backdrop of Hakuba’s snow-capped mountains is remarkable. In summer, you’ll find the lush greenery of picturesque rural landscape, while autumn brings the splendor of bright foliage before the silvery world of winter wonderland sets in. Each season offers a different backdrop to behold, ensuring you’ll want to visit again and again.

A hot spot for catching cherry blossoms as they bloom in spring.

See more details of Oide Park

[Iiyama City] Breeze through the fields of rapeseed flowers by bike "Rapeseed and Cycling"

Iiyama City, dotted with rapeseed spots like the Rapeseed Flower Park and Kitaryu Lake, is best enjoyed by cycling. Various routes starting from Iiyama Station are available, allowing one to enjoy a journey by bike while feeling the refreshing spring breeze.

Cycling swiftly through the dazzling yellow rapeseed fields!

[Azumino City] Daio Wasabi Farm, Surrounded by the rich nature of Azumino, Japan’s biggest Wasabi farm is where melted snow is gushing from the northern Alps.

The biggest Wasabi farm started cultivating in 1917. The water of Tadegawa river is pure and 3 watermills are alongside the river, which makes fantastic scenery. The best time to view Wasabi blossoms is from the middle of March to April. A promenade is well prepared so you will enjoy exploring while relaxing around the beautiful scenery of Wasabi farm.

The Japan’s biggest Wasabi farm is about 15 hectares

See more details of Daio Wasabi Farm

[Saku City] Nagano Prefecture's largest hot-air balloon festival "Saku Balloon Festival"

Held annually from May 3rd to 5th during the Golden Week holiday, it's one of the largest hot-air balloon festivals in the prefecture. The sight of colorful balloons flying on the refreshing winds over the Saku highlands is truly breathtaking! In addition to competitive flights, the festival also offers various experiences such as hot-air balloon workshops.

More than 40 hot-air balloons enchant the crowd as they fly across the sky.

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13 Places to Visit in Nagano, Matsumoto & Karuizawa + Things To Do

13 Places to Visit in Nagano, Matsumoto & Karuizawa + Things To Do

1. Matsumoto Castle

Location : 4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto . Save on Google Maps .

Matsumoto Castle was one of the main reasons why I decided to visit Nagano. It’s small compared to other castles in Japan but it’s also one of the prettiest thanks to its peaceful sprawling garden and distinctive black walls beautifully reflected by the surrounding moat.

To make your trip planning easy, I added links to the locations on Google Maps. Feel free to click/tap on the links posted. Then, use the “save” feature on the Google Maps app for easy reference. I’ve also shared photos from my  Instagram feed . Feel free to use Instagram’s save feature for quick access later.

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2. Nawate Shopping Street (Nawate-dori)

Nawate Street (Nawate-dori), Matsumoto

Save on Google Maps .

A row of small shops and food outlets with an old town Edo period feel. Nawate Shopping Street (Frog Street) is a great place to buy cheap souvenirs and try some Japanese snacks. It’s located 5 minutes on foot away from Matsumoto Castle.

3. Yohashira Shrine

Yohashira Shrine, Matsumoto

Location : 3 Chome-3-20 Ote, Matsumoto . Save on Google Maps .

A traditional Shinto shrine & popular destination for viewing colorful autumn foliage. You can easily find it near the entrance of Yohashira Shrine, so don’t miss it if you’re in the area.

Nagano Essentials & Top Discounts

5-day nagano pass.

See discounts

JR East Nagano-Niigata Area Pass (5 Days Flexible)

Japan mobile data sim card/pocket wifi.

Travel with ease & confidence throughout your trip. Get a data SIM card or pocket WIFI device! Access Google Maps and all your favorite travel apps. Share your travel stories instantly with all your friends. Click below and choose your pick-up location:

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4. Eat Soba Noodles at Kobayashi Soba

Soba Noodles at Kobayashi Soba, Matsumoto

A must-eat in Matsumoto! You can find Kobayashi Soba right next to Yohashira Shrine, along Nawate Street. This long-established family-run restaurant specializing in local cuisine, especially soba (buckwheat) noodles and tempura.

5. Eat Ramen at Mensho Sakura

Ramen at Mensho Sakura, Matsumoto

Location : 1 Chome-20-26 Central, Matsumoto . Save on Google Maps .

Craving for a hot bowl of ramen? Mensho Sakura is only of the highly rated restaurants in Matsumoto that serve delicious ramen. Prices are very reasonable too!

6. Matsumoto Shrine

Matsumoto Shrine, Matsumoto

Location : 10-37 Marunouchi, Matsumoto . Save on Google Maps .

A quiet and picturesque Shinto Shrine found just north of the Matsumoto Castle moat. Stop by and enjoy a refreshing drink from Matsumoto Shrine bubbling cool spring water.

7. Former Kaichi School

Former Kaichi School, Matsumoto

Kaichi Gakko Primary School is the oldest school in Matsumoto and one of the country’s oldest elementary schools. It is converted into a museum with exhibits about the education system and how it developed in Japan.

8. Matsumoto City Museum of Art

Matsumoto City Art Museum

Location : 4 Chome-2-22 Central, Matsumoto . Save on Google Maps .

Nagano City

9. Zenkō-ji Temple

Zenkō-ji Temple, Nagano City

Location : 491 Naganomotoyoshichō, Nagano City . Save on Google Maps .

The Zenkō-ji Temple is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Japan. Founded in the 7th century, the temple stores the first Buddhist statue ever to be brought into Japan. Train travel from Matsumoto to Nagano is 1 hour.

10. Shiraito Falls

Location : Shiraito Falls, Karuizawa-machi, Nagano Prefecture . Save on Google Maps .

I first knew about Shiraito Falls when I was researching about the most beautiful waterfalls in Japan. Turns out there are two waterfalls sharing the same name. I was able to visit the more spectacular Shiraito Falls near Mount Fuji previously. This time, since I was already in Nagano, I decided to check out Karuizawa’s Shiraito Falls along with other attractions in town. Shiraito no Taki literally means “the waterfall of white threads”, which aptly describes its appearance, as multiple streaks of water drape over the surface forming what seems like a white curtain.

11. Kumoba Pond

Location : Kyukaruizawa Karuizawa . Save on Google Maps .

Kumoba Pond is famous for its beautiful Autumn foliage. Take lots of scenic pictures as you go on a 15-minute walk around the lake.

12. Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza

Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza, Karuizawa

Location : In front of Karuizawa Station. . Save on Google Maps .

A bargain shopper’s paradise! This outdoor factory outlet mall features many high-end designer brands, sports brands, shops selling homewares and food outlets. There are over 200 shops covering a huge beautifully landscaped area.

13. Old Karuizawa Ginza Street

Old Karuizawa Ginza Street, Karuizawa

Location : 541 Karuizawa . Save on Google Maps .

Karuizawa’s old main street where you can find souvenir shops selling local products and cozy cafes.

What places have you added to your bucketlist? Have you been to beautiful places in Nagano that should be on this list? Feel free to share your thoughts!

Places to visit in Nagano

Nagano tourist spots, things to do in Nagano, where to go in Nagano & more.

Note: Destinations featured above are not listed by rank.

Where to Stay in Matsumoto

Click below & search recommended Matsumoto hotels/hostels/home rentals within your budget. Remember to set your  min/max price , travel dates, and  sort by review ratings . I often book online with these trusted booking sites below for rock-bottom prices & convenient bookings.

Agoda Airbnb Booking.com

Book sooner rather than later if you already have your dates set. Cheaper-priced rooms and hotels with high reviews tend to get fully booked faster, especially during busy days like weekends, holidays & peak tourist seasons.

Where to Stay in Karuizawa

Click below & search recommended Karuizawa hotels/hostels/home rentals within your budget. Remember to set your  min/max price , travel dates, and  sort by review ratings . I often book online with these trusted booking sites below for rock-bottom prices & convenient bookings.

Popular discounts and tours booked by other travelers:

JR Pass for Whole Japan

Japan Trail and Shinkansen Tickets

JR Osaka-Tokyo Hokuriku Arch Pass (7 Days)

5 Day JR Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Pass

Asia 4G LTE WIFI Hotspot (Manila Airport Pick Up)

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Don’t Stop Here

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16 Places To Visit in Japan

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May 16, 2020 at 11:40 pm

I would like to appreciate on this gorgeous travel procedure to see attractions of Nagano. Thanks for the info.

nagano ken tourist spot

Travel Travel Guides

The Best 50 Things To Do in Nagano Prefecture, Tried and Tested

Snow monkey-spotting, secluded shrines, historical districts and more

September 7, 2023 Updated On March 27, 2024

Domestically and internationally, Nagano Prefecture is most commonly known as a top winter destination, with over 130 resort areas for skiing, snowboarding and other sports. There’s a lot more to the place than that, though. Here is a selection of things to do in Nagano that should inspire you to take a trip to the heart of Honshu.

From the 2016 Onbashira festival

Onbashira Festival (Photo from the 2016 event)

1. One of the oldest castles in Japan, Matsumoto Castle, is sure to make you feel like you’re following in the footsteps of an honorable samurai . The structure is one of the few of its kind to be designated a National Treasure.

2. Nagano is first and foremost known for its slopes. Whether you’re a novice or pro skier, Hakuba remains one of the top destinations to experience Japan’s world-class snow.

3. If your schedule allows, definitely make time to check out the Iiyama Snow Festival in the deep Japanese Alps, held annually in February.

4. Pay a visit to Nagano’s snow monkeys (Japanese macaques) , who hang out in the natural sources of Jigokudani Yaen Koen in the winter to keep themselves warm.

5. Definitely attend the Onbashira Festival , one of Japan’s most dangerous festivals for participants (it is completely safe for spectators), that takes place every six years.

6. Togakushi Shrine is one of Nagano’s most important shrines. Walking down its path of monolithic cedar trees is humbling and a rare experience.

nagano ken tourist spot

Food and Drink

Must-try delicacies.

7. Oyaki is a traditional Nagano food, sometimes described as a dumpling, though it’s more of a big bun. Stuffed with vegetables, it’s especially delicious after a long day outside in the winter.

8. Another specialty is sasazushi, a type of sushi that is pressed and topped with edible wild vegetables and miso paste along with other smaller ingredients, all wrapped in a bamboo leaf.

9. Head to Iiyama for a hyper-local sweet treat called a banana boat, which is a banana wrapped in whipped cream and sponge cake. Note: There are only a few select shops where you can pick up authentic banana boats.

10. Nagano is one of Japan’s leading regions when it comes to domestic wine. Be sure to ask restaurant staff wherever you dine for local labels and recommendations.

11. Learn more about the cultivation of wasabi at Japan’s largest wasabi farm , Daio.

Recommended Eateries

12. En Boca in Karuizawa is a specialized Italian restaurant known for its pizza, as well as its wide variety of Belgian beers and European wine.

13. Another Karuizawa recommendation is French Bakery , which is famous for having served John Lennon, who reportedly absolutely loved the bread there.

14. Coffee aficionados will enjoy the Kyu-Karuizawa Mikado Coffee store. Enjoy everything from a simple cup of black coffee to coffee jelly topped with soft-serve ice cream.

15. For a truly unique eating experience, head to Takasugi for a hot beverage and some sweets at the flying mud boat tea houses. 

nagano ken tourist spot

Matsumoto City Museum of Art | Photo by Suthikait Teerawattanaphan via Shutterstock

Art and Culture

Window shopping.

16. For a blast from the past, walk around the Kyu-Karuizawa district. You’ll find cafés, small eateries and a few ceramic shops. Keep your eyes peeled for a milk vending machine too.

17. Shop and stroll through Harunire Terrace in Karuizawa.

18. Feel like splurging? Check out the Karuizawa Prince Outlet Shopping Plaza . In the summer, the mall’s green open space welcomes food trucks that serve a wide variety of fares.

Must-visit Museums

19. Even if you’re familiar with Hiroshi Senju ‘s work, his eponymous museum is worth a visit for its architecture and garden alone. The Japanese painter is best known for his nature-inspired works, especially his dreamy depictions of waterfalls.

20. For more contemporary art, be sure to add the Sezon Museum of Modern Art to your itinerary, also in Karuizawa. 

21. The Nagano Prefectural Art Museum is best known for its calligraphy exhibitions, often featuring Japanese artists from the early 20th century. 

22. Immerse yourself in all things Winter Olympics at the Nagano Olympic Museum .

23. Perhaps most recognizable by its Yayoi Kusama facade, the Matsumoto City Museum of Art is a great one-stop shop for all things art if you’ve only got room for one museum on your trip. 

nagano ken tourist spot

Zenkoji Temple in Nagano Prefecture

Shrines and Temples

24. Located not too far from central Nagano, Zenkoji Temple is a Buddhist temple founded in 642. It’s also one of the few temples in the prefecture that allow shukubo , or temple stays, for those who want to completely immerse themselves in this spiritual environment. 

25. Those who are not afraid of heights should visit Shakusonji Temple , built on the side of a steep cliff on Mount Asama.

26. A more modest place but beautiful nonetheless is Suwa Shrine .

nagano ken tourist spot

Shiraito Waterfall in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture

Nature and Scenery

Nature views.

27. Somewhat deep into the forests of Karuizawa is Shiraito , a gorgeous waterfall that’s 3 meters high and 70 meters wide. Some of the works exhibited at the Hiroshi Senju Museum were inspired by Shiraito. 

28. Another spot for forest bathing is the Karuizawa Lake Garden , where you can see a variety of colorful flowers blooming in the spring and summer.

29. Lake Suwa is one of Nagano’s most well-known sights in the winter and summer. Fun fact: Katsushika Hokusai featured Lake Suwa in his “Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji” series.

30. Many associate Nagano with mountains, but the prefecture has a few plains too. Head to Utsukushigahara for breathtaking views of flat lands, among which live a few herds of friendly cattle.

31. If you’re visiting in the spring, make some time for peach and apricot blossom viewing.

Recommended Hikes

32. Kamikochi is a favorite among hikers for good reason. Located in the Chubu Sangaku National Park, the area has beautiful ponds, wildlife and a few trails catered to novice and advanced hikers.

33. Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park is another great hiking destination and alternative to Kamikochi.

34. Situated at 2,060 meters above sea level, Happo Pond is a beautiful, secluded spot where, on a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji in the distance.

35. Achi is frequently quoted as the best spot for stargazing in Japan . Located in the Southern Alps, this stop is a must if you want a crystal-clear view of the night sky.

nagano ken tourist spot

Photo by Lisa Knight

Superb Ski Resorts

36. Go down the same ski slopes as the 1998 Olympians did at Japan’s largest ski resort, Shiga Kogen .

37. Nozawa Onsen , in addition to having great baths, is also a great place for skiing and other winter sports, as well as summer activities.

38. Founded in the early 20th century, Myoko Kogen is Japan’s first international winter resort and is said to be one of the oldest in the world. It’s technically in Niigata, but borders Nagano Prefecture.

39. If you’re arriving via Matsumoto, the most accessible ski resort is Norikura Kogen . The road that leads to Norikura Kogen is the longest in Japan.

nagano ken tourist spot

Narai, a stop along the Nakasendo Trail, Nagano Prefecture

Miscellaneous

40. Nagano has some historical onsen villages. Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen are both well worth the detour if you’re keen to relax after a long day of exploring.

41. Part of the Nakasendo Trail stretches through Nagano. It would be a mistake to miss out on checking a few stops along the famous road when in the prefecture.

42. Check out one of Concrete ‘s nightlife events in Hakuba.

43. If you’re planning a road trip, drive along the Venus Line for stunning Nagano landscapes.

44. Forage around Lake Nojiri, which is said to have approximately 6,000 varieties of mushrooms nearby.

45. Catch fireworks in Suwa . This Nagano city is known for having shows every night between the end of July and early September.

46. For families traveling with children, the Togakushi Ninja Museum is well worth a visit. 

All-star Accommodations

47. One of the newer resorts in Karuizawa, Hotel Indigo Karuizawa is a luxury accommodation with an interior design inspired by Nagano’s nature and culture.

48. Another hotel that’s great for special occasions is The Hiramatsu Karuizawa Miyota . Surround yourself with nature and relax, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

49. Located in Kamiminochi, Lamp is a boutique resort that is famous for its saunas and its communal spirit.

50. Book a stay at Matsumoto Jujo , a hotel with an adjacent café, bar, restaurant and more. The accommodation is run from a fully renovated inn that first opened in 1686.

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15 Best Things to Do in Nagano, Japan

Nagano is a prefecture in central Japan that is a paradise for nature lovers. With easy access from Tokyo via the Hokuriku Shinkansen, foreigners and Japanese locals alike flock to Nagano’s lush mountain ranges and legendary skiing powder. 

I lived in Nagano for a year and managed to visit every prefecture in Japan. Nagano has remained one of my favorite of the 47 prefectures. 

The natural beauty is unmatched here. This land is full of tradition and culture. Every season here harbors a special activity like skiing or cherry blossom viewing. In this special prefecture, you will also find historic castles and temples that will command your attention. 

If you plan to visit Japan, you need to make sure to stop in Nagano. To help plan your trip to Nagano, here are the 15 best things to do in Nagano that will make for an unforgettable trip. 

Table of Contents

Ski in Hakuba 

Ski in Hakuba 

The world-famous Hakuba village sits at the Northern Japanese Alps’s edge. Hakuba hosted some events of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Over 20 years later, it still attracts skiers and snowboarders from across the world. If you visit Hakuba, you will probably hear more English spoken than Japanese. 

Beginners and professionals alike love Hakuba. Gentle runs and steep slopes are spread across the village’s 10 resorts. Hakuba 47 Winter Sports Park is one of my favorite resorts in Hakuba. It is a fantastic ski area with slopes for all levels.  

Photography Wild Monkey at Snow Monkey Park 

Wild Monkey at Snow Monkey Park 

Want to watch lively monkeys splash around in bubbling hot spring water? Then, you will want to visit Snow Monkey Park. You can take a bus from Nagano Station to Snow Monkey Park or take a local train from Nagano Station to Yudanaka Station. Then, from Yudanaka Station, take a quick bus ride up to the park. 

Whether you get there by train or bus, you will walk a short path to reach a man-made hot spring. At this hot spring, you won’t find people bathing. Instead, you will find monkeys enjoying the relaxing waters. 

These monkeys used to be a nuisance to local farmers. Constantly, they were stealing produce and getting into the trash. To solve the monkey problem, conservationists began feeding the monkeys at the hot springs. Now, the hot springs attract tourists every day who are eager to watch wild monkeys enjoy a dip in warm water. 

Spot a Japanese Serow

Japanese Serow

In Joshin’etsukogen National Park, one of Nagano’s four National parks, you can hike Mt. Azumaya. This mountain is one of Japan’s 100 most famous mountains, so obviously the views are amazing. However, you might be even more excited if you manage to spot the once-endangered Japanese Serow. This mountain goat is a beloved symbol of Nagano.  

Serows are considered a “special natural treasure,” and once you learn about their history, you will understand why they have such a high title. The Serow was once severely threatened, but thanks to conservation efforts, the Serow are plentiful around mountains in Japan.

Visit Shiga Kogen

Shiga Kogen

Nagano is home to some of Japan’s most idyllic scenery. The Shiga Kogen Highlands is a convenient place to experience the prefecture’s beauty without difficult trekking. This area is famous for being Japan’s largest combined ski area and hosting some of the Nagano 1998 Olympic events.

Shiga Kogen has many ponds and short walking courses, but Lake Onuma is my favorite destination in the highlands. You can stroll around the lake and admire a large torri gate that sits on the lake’s shore.

Take the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Taking the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is one of the most exciting journeys you can take in Nagano. Tateyama is one of the most sacred mountains in Japan, and you do not have to hike much to reach it. Instead, you can travel an iconic mountain sightseeing route across the stunning Northern Alps from Tateyama, Toyama, to Omachi, Nagano. However, not one bus or train takes you to Tateyama. You will need to transfer across trains, buses, cable cars, and ropeways if you plan to reach Tateyama. 

The best part of the 5-hour mountain route is arguably reaching Murodo, the highest point along the course. Here is where many hikers start their trek up to Tateyama. If you do not want to ascend the steep ridge to Tateyama, there are beautiful ponds in Murodo. You can stroll along flat trails around these tranquil pools of water. 

Another highlight of taking the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is walking across the Kurobe Dam, the tallest dam in the country. This is one of the stops before hitting Murodo. At the dam, make sure to walk down a series of stairs to visit a monument that honors the 170 lives lost during the dam’s construction.

Admire Cherry Blossoms at Garyu Park

Cherry Blossoms at Garyu Park

Garyu Park ranks as one of Japan’s 100 best places to see cherry blossoms. If you are in Nagano during spring, it is an unforgettable place to see the budding flowers. This park is far from the tourist trail in a city called Suzaka. This is a charming city that sees few tourists. The locals here are so kind and eager to communicate with visitors. 

Admire Hokusai’s Work in Obuse 

Hokusai’s Work in Obuse

Obuse is another quiet city in Nagano. It is known for its delicious chestnuts and being the home of Hokusai, one of Japan’s most celebrated painters. You can visit the Hokusai Museum to learn more about the beloved creative. Then, make your way to the Ganshoin Temple, where you will be amazed by a giant phoenix on the ceiling that was painted by Hokusai. 

Take the Togakushi Five-Shrine Pilgrimage

Togakushi Five-Shrine Pilgrimage

Togakushi is a highland behind Nagano City, known for its folklore and beauty. There are direct buses from Nagano Station that lead to Togakushi. In no time, you can be in the space where gods are said to dwell.

There are many different ways to enjoy Togakushi. However, the most popular way is to get off the bus at the Togakushi Chusha stop. From here, you can begin a hike to 5 different shrines. It is about a 5-mile round-trip hike. Whenever I hike, I like to download a trail map to stay on track. However, don’t worry; it is a fairly easy trail to follow.

The highlight of the pilgrimage is reaching the Zuishinmon Gate. It is one of the most sacred spots in all of Nagano. Once you pass through the gate, you stroll past towering rows of cedar trees. After a few minutes, you will reach the fourth shrine, Kuzuryusha. If you have energy left, keep going! You will climb a few stairs from here to reach the final and most important shrine, Okusha. Join a queue of worshipers and pray for good luck by offering a coin.

After paying your respects at the shrine, you only have to hike 1 more mile to reach the closest bus stop, the Togakushi Chusha Bus Stop. If you are feeling hungry, you can stop by a noodle shop near the bus stop. This noodle shop serves a traditional Japanese dish, soba (buckwheat noodles). Nagano, specifically Togakushi, is famous for its excellent, fresh soba. If you do not need a full meal, try soba ice cream! This unique ice cream flavor is refreshing and surprisingly tasty. 

Hike Near One of Japan’s Most Active Volcanoes

Asama

Mt. Asama borders Nagano and Gumna, another prefecture in Japan. Nearly every day, you can see smoke rising from this active volcano. Asama is so famous that a Shinkansen (bullet train) line is named after it. 

Although you cannot directly hike to the top of Asama, that would be highly dangerous. You can hike the outer rim of Asama that forned from previous eruptions. Hiking near Asama is unforgettable because it doesn’t feel like Japan. Rather, it feels like a different planet. You will have a great view of Asama’s action from the top of the outer rim. You might even spot Mt. Fuji far off in the distance. If you peer down the rim, you will see a lush forest full of wild deer. 

You can find information online about Mt. Asama, but most of it is out-of-date. Mt. Asama is an active volcano, so it is important to be extra prepared to hike in this sensitive area. You can read my guide to hiking Mt. Asama to learn more about how to access the outer rim safely. Hiking to see Mt. Asama is a life-changing experience and one of my favorite hikes I have ever done—I have visited over 40 National Parks. 

Shop in Karuizawa 

Karuizawa 

Karuizawa is one of the most charming cities in Nagano. Tokyo elite flock to Karuizawa during summer to escape the heat and enjoy gorgeous scenery. Behind the bustling tourist hub sits waterfalls and mountain overlooks.

Although Karuizawa is rich in natural wonder, it is also perfect for a day of shopping. Hit Kyu Karuizawa, a long stretch of specialty stores, but beware, your wallet will be much lighter after enjoying the cafes and craft stores in this picturesque district.

If you want to do more high-end designer brand shopping, head to the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza. This modern complex of shopping outlets and restaurants is one of my favorite places to shop in Japan. 

Visit the Kagami Ike Pond During the Fall

Kagami Ike Pond

Although the most famous attraction in Togakushi is its Five-Shrine Pilgrimage, Togakushi is full of other mystical sites. If you plan to visit Nagano during autumn, you must head to the Kagami Ike Pond. The fall leaves that surround the pond are extremely vivid here.

This is not your average pond. “Kagami Ike” means mirror pond. On a clear day, you will see the jagged Togakushi mountains behind the pond. This mountain range will also reflect onto the pond and create an unforgettable image.

Worship at Zenkoji Temple 

Zenkoji Temple 

After a 15-minute walk from Nagano Station, you can find yourself at one of the most famous Buddhist temples in the entire country. The temple’s origins date back to 642 AD when Yoshimitsu Honda enshrined a Buddhist Image at the site. Ever since then, people have been worshipping at this large temple complex.

Because of Zenkoji, Nagano expanded and gained relevancy and importance. If you plan to visit the popular temple, you can visit the mall hall and admire beautiful Buddhist statues. You can also learn more about the temple’s history at the Zenjoki History Museum that stands hit the mall hall. 

Tour Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle

A little over an hour away from Nagano City is Matsumoto, another large city in Nagano. Matsumoto’s most famous attraction is its castle. It is one of the most complete of Japan’s original castles. It is also famous because of its black color and expansive moat. 

For 700 yen, you can tour the inside of the castle. You can admire artifacts and the castle’s authentic wooden interior. At the top of the castle, you can peer out the observatory deck for mountain and city views. 

Even if you do not want to pay 700 yen to tour the castle, you will enjoy walking the castle grounds and taking photos in front of the castle complex. 

Snowshoe in Kamikochi 

Kamikochi 

In the summer and fall, Kamikochi is the number 1 spot to visit in the Chubu Sangaku National Park, more commonly known as the home of the Northern Japan Alps. Since Kamikochi is one of the most beautiful places in the entire country, this spot gets rather busy. 

It is not always the ideal setting for a peaceful retreat. Luckily, the cold weather and snow deter most tourists in the winter. It is more calm and perfect for snowshoeing. Although Kamikochi is officially closed in the winter, there are no facilities open or buses that shuttle tourists. You can enjoy this pristine landscape by walking or renting snowshoes. 

To see a heavenly view of the Japanese Alps from the Taisho Pond in Kamikochi, you will have to walk over a mile through the Kama Tunnel. Then, walk another mile across the snowy riverbank to reach the iconic view of Kamikochi.

Although it is a difficult endeavor, it is worth every step. Experiencing Kamikochi without hoards of tourists is extremely peaceful. You will really fall in love with Nagano. 

Challenge Yourself to Reach Mt. Takamatsu

Mt. Takamatsu

Nagano is full of hiking trails. It is one of the most mountainous prefectures in all of Japan. If you are looking for a challenge, you should try to summit Mt. Takamatsu, the highest point in Nagano City and the tallest mountain in the Togakushi Mountains. 

The route takes close to 10 hours to complete and is said to be one of the longest trails among the 100 famous mountains in Japan. 

While trekking through the wild Togakushi Mountains, you will gain over 4,000 feet of elevation to reach Mt. Takamatsu. If you are lucky, you will be greeted with views of the Northern Japanese Alps and Mt. Myoko, another famous mountain. 

If you end up having bad luck and find yourself in a sea of clouds at the top, you will still feel victorious. Conquering this mountain is a great feeling. After your hike, you can tent camp in Togakushi for 3,000 yen. It is one of the largest campgrounds in the country and has plenty of amenities like a camp store and shower.

Hi, I’m Noah, and I love solo traveling. I have visited 50 National Parks and hiked over 500 miles alone. I write budget solo travel itineraries on my blog, Noah Takes the World . Follow me on Instagram and learn how to solo travel with pride.

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Best Places to Visit in Nagano

Japanese alps autumn

Nagano prefecture is located north west of Tokyo, in the centre of Chubu region. The large prefecture is well known for its beautiful nature that includes mountains, forests and highlands. In 1998, the Winter Olympics were organised in Nagano, boosting the areas’ popularity amongst snow activity lovers. Nowadays it is a popular destination for snow activities and hot springs in winter time, but also for hiking in summer time. Nagano city can be reached from Tokyo in under 2 hours per Shinkansen. If you love nature and outdoor activities, this will be one of your favourite areas. Let’s discover some of the highlights!

Best places to visit in the other prefectures of Chubu region.

*If you already live in Japan, you can travel cheap with the Go To Travel Campaign ▷ How to Travel Cheap with the Go To Travel Campaign

Nagano City

Snow monkey park, matsumoto castle, yudanaka and shibu onsen area.

Shiga Kogen

Nozawa Onsen

Kiso valley

Daio wasabi farm azumino, hotels around snow monkey park.

Forrest Nagano

Nagano City is the prefectural capital, well known as the host of the Winter Olympics in 1998. It is the most developed city in Nagano and has many interesting places closely located to visit. Zenkoji Temple , one of the most important and popular temples of Japan, is one of the most famous places in Nagano. Togakushi Shrine is another great place to visit too. The Togakushi shrine consists of three shrines, connected by beautiful hiking trails that are surrounded by nature. The area is also famous for the Kids Ninja Village, a ninja school that is also popular amongst adults! Lastly, a trip to Nagano City could also never be complete without trying some of the local specialities; soba noodles. Make sure you enjoy this signature dish for lunch or dinner, or both!

Have you ever seen a monkey taking a bath? In Japan, you can see the famous snow monkeys relaxing in an onsen in winter season! In north Nagano, up in the mountains about 50 minutes from Nagano city, the Japanese Macaques survive the tough winters by grouping around natural hot springs. It is an very fun thing to observe, and many people see a visit to the snow monkeys as one of the highlights of their trip to Japan! 

Snowmonkeys Nagano

The Snow Monkey Park is the place where the monkeys bathe in the hot springs during the winter season. The mountainous area is the natural habitat of the Macaques. During the cold winters, the monkeys stay alive by seeking shelter in the onsen, where the wild animals can be spotted at close distance without fences. The Snow Monkey Park is also called Jigokudani Yaen-park and is located in the valley of the Yokoyo river .

Zenkoji Temple

Zenkoji Temple is a famous Buddhist temple located in Nagano city, the prefectural capital of Nagano. The temple was built in the 7th century and is visited by about 6 million people annually. The temple is home to Japan’s oldest Buddhist statue brought into Japan when Buddhism was first introduced in the 6th century. The statue is hidden though, every six years a replica of the statue is displayed for a few weeks, attracting many people from all over Japan. The main hall, which was reconstructed in 1707, is said to be one of the oldest wooden cultural structure in the east of Japan!

Zenkoji temple

On either side of the streets leading to the main entrance, you have the opportunity to have another traditional, local experience: staying overnight at Buddhist temple lodgings called shukubo . Shukubo are still very popular both for visiting pilgrims as well as tourist. You can have a traditional experience staying at the Shukubo regardless of your religion!

nagano ken tourist spot

Matsumoto Castle is one of the most famous historical sites in Nagano and one of the 12 original castles in Japan . The nearby town a smaller sized city with a traditional atmosphere with several fantastic food options. The history dates back to the 16 th century making it the oldest surviving castle tower in the nation. The five-story main tower is thought to be built during the Azuchi Momoyama to the Edo era, and is designated as National Treasure along with other four castles such as Himeji Castle in Hyogo and Inuyama Castle in Aichi. The black and white exterior creates a stunning view with the natural surroundings and the Northern Japan Alps in the background! The black walls also earned the castle’s nickname: Karasujo (Crow Castle).

matsumoto castle

Matsumoto castle 8.30am – 5pm  ¥700 (adults) When you enter the castle grounds, look for the free guided tours, local volunteers often offer frequent tours in English.

Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen area Ryokan

Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen area lies approximately 10 minutes away from the Snow Monkey Park by car, alternatively you can take the train to Yudanaka station. After your visit to the snow monkeys, follow their example and relax in one of the onsen of Shibu Onsen. In total there are nine different onsen and it is said that a visit to all nine onsen will bring good fortune! There are some traditional ryokans in Shibu Onsen, so you can stay overnight as well.

Snow resorts in Nagano

When you visit Nagano to see snow monkeys, you will probably plan your visit in the winter season, when there is snow. Which brings us to the next place to visit: The mountains of Nagano also known as the Japanese Alps. The mountainous area offers great possibilities for winter sports. With 9 of the 12 tallest mountains in Japan, the region of Nagano offers winter sport options for everyone. Skiing in Japan has become a very popular activity, because of its great quantity of high quality of snow.

Next to Hokkaido, Hakuba is very popular ski resort in Japan considered as the best ski resort in the mainland. Hakuba comprises several smaller ski resorts in the area, offering various courses with spectacular scenery of Japan Alps and fine powder snow.

Hakuba Tourism

Shiga Kogen

About 25 minutes from the Snow Monkey Park you will find the famous ski resort Shiga Kogen. Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest ski resort, made out of 18 smallers resorts, that has some of the best and most reliable powder in Japan. This is because of the topography and elevation of the resort in combination with the cold temperatures. These circumstances give very dry powder snow that stays on the ground for longer and in better condition than most others resorts.

Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen is a hot spring and ski resort village near Nagano. The nostalgic town is famous for its many different types of onsen, in total 13, which have been maintained by the local community since the Edo Period and are freely open to the public. The ski area comprises about 50km of ski slopes, making it a great weekend trip from Tokyo. The village is especially popular amongst international travellers because of its snow quality, its traditional cute centre and because English speaking travellers are well catered for.

Lake Suwa is the largest lake in Nagano area which boasts a number of tourist attractions around. The lake itself is beautiful and worth a visit, but we highly recommend you explore other enjoyable spots nearby depending on your interests. If you prefer to go somewhere associated with history, Suwa Taisha or Suwa Grand Shrine could be a perfect option for you! It is a main shrine of the more than 10,000 Suwa shrines located in Japan. The grand shrine mainly consists of four complexes that can be found around the lake. Each of them maintains a sacred atmosphere, and offers a valuable experience for visitors. 

Lake Suwa nagano

Another spot is Tateishi Park that offers a panoramic view of the lake and the city of Matsumoto! As the scenery looks similar to a scene from the famous movie Kimi no Nawa (English title Your name), it became a popular place among movie fans as a real-life anime location for the movie!

Kiso valley

Kiso Valley is known as a historic preservation area that is great for a weekend trip from Tokyo . In the Edo period (1603 – 1868), the Nakasendo road was one of the two roads connecting Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto . Because of restrictions by the shogunate, people usually travelled this road by foot, causing villages where travellers could eat and rest, to pop up every few kilometers. Some towns along the Nakasendo (“path through mountains’), such as Magomejuku & Tsumagojuku , were preserved to look as they did during the Edo Period (1603-1868) .

Juku refers to places that served as post towns (also known as post stations) offering accommodations and other service for travellers. Most buildings are currently used as inns or restaurants to welcome tourists from all over the world as well. The trail between the two towns is about 6 km in length and takes 2 hrs to complete. Alternatively, when you start in Magome and end in Tsumago you can walk a further 90 minutes to Nagiso. Buses also make the journey between Magome, Tsumago and Nagiso and back.

wasabi farm nagano

Wasabi is known as a condiment that is often used in Japanese traditional cuisines such as sushi or sashimi. We usually use the stem part which is carefully grated into a paste. The spicy flavour directly stings your nose, and sometimes brings even tears! It may sound strange at first, but once you get used to it, you can’t enjoy Japanese food without it! Azumino city is a famous producer of wasabi in Nagano, and Daio Wasabi Farm produce one of the most tasteful wasabi in Japan! They use clear water from the Northern Alps to grow Wasabi and sell a variety of wasabi-flavoured products such as wasabi soft serve ice cream! There are other enjoyable activities around the farm such as rafting in a peaceful river and spiritual spots. 

These are recommended hotels located in the area around Snow Monkey Park. While it is possible to do a day trip from Tokyo, we recommend you stay at least one night to discover the area. If you stay at Shibu Onsen area, make sure to check these accommodations! These traditional Japanese ryokan all offer free pick-up and/or transportation to the Snow Monkey Park and several onsen, both indoor and outdoor.

  • Hotel Omodaka
  • Aburaya Tousen

Japan’s pride are not just the urban areas like Tokyo and Kyoto, that are popular among tourists. Nagano gives you an opportunity to immerse yourself into the nature and history of Japan which are hardly to be found in developed areas full of skyscrapers and busy people. A visit to the Snow Monkey Park and seeing the Japanese Macaques relax in the onsen is considered by many a must do, or even a highlight of their trip to Japan. We recommend you make most out of your visit to Nagano prefecture and stay overnight and visit the highlights mentioned in this article. Combine the outdoor activities with a relaxing moment at the onsen, followed by a traditional local soba noodles meal!

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Happy travelling!

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Girl Eat World

A girl's adventure in food and travel around the world, 5-days nagano itinerary: what to do in nagano prefecture in japan.

This past October, I went on my twice-yearly pilgrimage to Tokyo . I was determined to see something new this time. My husband suggested to do a road trip out Nagano, so I did a quick research and realized it’s the perfect choice for my criteria! I wanted to visit a place outside Tokyo and I also wanted to be in nature, which I can’t really find back home in Singapore. Nagano ticks both of those boxes perfectly.

Kumabo Pond in Karuizawa

How to get around Nagano prefecture

Self Driving – Nagano prefecture is a large area to explore. If you have an international driver’s license and are comfortable with driving in a foreign country, this is the most convenient and flexible option since you won’t have to be dependent on public transport. You can book a car rental from Tokyo here, which you can pick up from the airport or the city:

  • Car Rental Pick up from Narita Airport
  • Car Rental Pick up from Haneda Airport
  • Car Rental Pick up in Tokyo

By Train – If you can’t / don’t want to drive, then getting a JR Pass is still a great option. You can use the unlimited JR Pass , or if you’re only planning to visit Nagano then you can opt for the cheaper 5-day JR East Nagano pass , which will cover most of the itineraries below. Keep in mind JR Pass MUST be bought from outside of Japan, so get this before your trip!

The price of Unlimited JR Pass has increased by 70% since 1 Oct 2023 . Even though you’ll see many recommendations for buying a JR Pass to save some costs, it could be outdated. Since the price hike, it has become harder to justify the cost of the JR Pass, however regional passes like the JR West Kansai Pass might still be worth it. I am working on updating my blog post to reflect this change.

Tips for Roadtripping in Nagano Prefecture

Nagano prefecture is a mountainous area . If you are self-driving, make sure you know how to drive in the mountains. And, if you’re visiting in the winter, please be prepared to drive in icy conditions.

It’s worth noting most restaurants seem to close rather early here (8-8:30 pm) so make sure you’re well-fed by then unless you don’t mind eating at an Izakaya or meals from the Konbini (convenience store), which is really not that bad.

What to eat in Nagano Prefecture

1. soba noodles.

Due to the mountainous terrain of Nagano prefecture, it is difficult to successfully grow rice. Instead, soba (buckwheat) became the main produce of Nagano.

The most popular form of buckwheat is, of course, Soba noodles! I’m sure most of us are already familiar with this noodle – but in Nagano, you definitely can’t miss it. It’s served in almost every traditional restaurant. You can have Soba noodles in a hot soup or served cold with a broth on the side, and with various toppings.

Hot Soba in Nagano

2. Oyaki (Savory or Sweet Dumpling)

Oyaki is a Japanese savory dumpling, traditionally stuffed with roasted local vegetables. Oyaki is super popular and widely available in Nagano. Like Soba noodles, It’s a great representation of the prefecture – Oyaki skin is made from buckwheat flour. I tried one near Matsumoto Castle which had leek, mushrooms, and potatoes. Apples and other fruits are also commonly used to make the sweet version!

Oyaki in Matsumoto, Nagano

My 5-day Nagano Prefecture Itinerary

Here is my five-day itinerary when I went to Nagano. I think it’s a great itinerary as it combines both city exploration and nature! You can easily stretch this to more days too if you have more time than I did. I’ll include other places worthy of visiting that I didn’t get to go to.

Day 1: Karuizawa

Day 2: matsumoto.

  • Day 3: Kamikochi (Japanese Alps)
  • Day 4: Omachi – Lake Kisaki and Kurobe Dam
  • Day 5: Kusatsu Onsen town
  • What else can you see in Nagano?

And now without further ado, here’s what you can expect from each stop in my Nagano Itinerary:

Our first stop is a small town called Karuizawa. Although small, Karuizawa is hardly unknown to Japanese people. And especially to people from Tokyo, Karuizawa is known as an idyllic mountain town and an escape from the summer heat.

Harunire Terrace in Nagano

So what makes Karuizawa a worthy stop? Well, Karuizawa is the perfect mountain town that has everything: nature, hiking, good food, and shopping. I’ve written a separate blog post on Karuizawa which will tell you all about this town.

Tip! Find out more about what to do, where to stay, and what to eat in Karuizawa: Read my blog post on Karuizawa here

Where to eat in Karuizawa

  • Cheesecake from Izumiya Saku at Harunire Terrace
  • Sonmin-Shokudo at Hoshino Onsen
  • Kumobatei next to Kumoba Pond
  • SASA Japanese Cuisine – famous as the curry shop of one of the Terrace House participant
  • Hamy’s

Where to stay in Karuizawa

  • Karuizawa Pension Sato is where we stayed in Karuizawa. It’s a super cute 2-story house, located deep inside the foresty streets of Karuizawa, where you can pick rooms with either shared bathroom or private bathroom ensuite. Their price is the most affordable I could find in Karuizawa.
  • Hotel Wellies – a cute british style cabin hotel located in the resort area of Karuizawa
  • APA Hotel Karuizawa Ekimae – If convenience is what you’re after, this hotel is only 2 mins walk from the station with easy access to Karuizawa tourist spots.

From Karuizawa, we drove approximately 2 hours to Matsumoto. Honestly, the only reason why we made a stop here is because it is the closest point to Kamikochi, which is next on our itinerary.

1. Matsumoto Castle & Matsumoto City Museum

Matsumoto Castle is difficult to avoid when you are in Matsumoto. It’s definitely a must-do. Unlike the rest of the castles in Japan, Matsumoto Castle is unique due to its black exterior, which has earned its nickname “Crow Castle”. It is said the cost of the maintenance for this castle is high due to the material and man hours needed to keep up the black paint exterior.

Matsumoto Castle

At the castle, you can opt to go inside and explore all 5 floors which I totally recommend. The castle gets more and more narrow as you reach the top and the stairs get steeper, but you get a nice view at the top where you can really see how this area is surrounded by mountains.

Next to the entrance to the castle is the city museum, which you can explore after the castle.

2. Matsumoto City Museum of Art

Matsumoto City Museum of Art is a must-stop if you’re a fan of the works of Yayoi Kusama, arguably one of Japan’s most famous contemporary artists who was born and raised in Matsumoto. Heck, even if you have no idea who Yayoi Kusama is, I still think the permanent exhibition is worth a visit! It only costs 400 yen to enter and you can go through it in less than an hour. Keep in mind the museum is closed on Mondays.

Matsumoto City Museum of Art

In this museum, you can see permanent collection of her works. While you won’t see the famous “Infinity Mirrored Rooms” (which has gone viral thanks to Instagram and commanded hours of queue at The Broad in Los Angeles ) you’ll get to see many of her early works and an insight into her quirky mind.

3. Former Kaichi School

Kaichi School was one of the first schools in Japan. If you are interested in seeing how schooling was done, I suggest visiting this place. However, if you are out of time you can give it a miss.

4. Nawate Dori

Nawate Dori is a shopping strip where the style of the shops is preserved to look like how it would back when Matsumoto was a castle town. You can find souvenir shops, vintage goods shops, and most importantly, please stop by Furusato for a delicious treat of Taiyaki!

Nawate Dori

5. Asama Onsen

What is Nagano without a daily visit to the onsen? Okay, fine, maybe it’s not normal to go to Onsen every day, but we made a point to try an Onsen in each of the places we stopped by. Asama Onsen is out of the way from the city, so you don’t have to stop by here if you’ve done / planning to do onsen elsewhere (Kusatsu might have been the better choice).

Anyway, compared to Hoshino Onsen from Karuizawa, Asama Onsen is much more simple. Their price is very simple too – more than half of Hoshino at 600 yen per adult. Inside, you can find one cold pool, one hot pool, and one outdoor pool. I suggest trying the hot/cold bathing method – first, take a shower and then dip yourself into the hot pool. Once you feel that your body temperature is high enough, go to the cold pool and dip yourself. Then go back to the hot pool. It sounds crazy, but I’ve been told this builds immunity!

Where and where to eat in Matsumoto

  • Miyota Soba
  • Matsumoto Fried Chicken at Matsumoto Karaage Center
  • Furusato Taiyaki at Nawate-dori

Where to stay in Matsumoto

L-BASE at Matsumoto

  • We stayed at L-BASE Fuchian Mura , and got one of their mountain lodge/holiday home. It’s a super small yet cozy wooden lodge with a bed located on the second floor. I posted this on Instagram and got so many requests to reveal the location, so here you go! L-BASE isn’t located in the city itself though, so it might be a bit inconvenient if you aren’t driving – but it’s still within walking distance to one of the train stations.
  • Premier Hotel Cabin Matsumoto – If you need to stay close to the train station, this hotel is a great choice. It’s close to the Matsumoto castle and city center.
  • Dormy Inn Matsumoto – Also a great option for staying near the city center.

Day 3: Kamikochi

Kamikochi is part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park, also known as the Northern Japanese Alps . It has also been referred to as the “Japanese Yosemite Valley”, due to the similarity of the terrains found in Kamikochi.

I gotta admit – this entire itinerary was built around our plan to hike in Kamikochi! I saw one photo of Kappabashi (below) and I was sold.

As there is a lot to say about this place, I’ve written a separate guide on hiking in Kamikochi . This includes what to expect and places to stay, as well as day trip options if you’re not in the mood to hike.

Kamikochi Kappabashi

Keep in mind though, Kamikochi is only open from  April 15 – November 15 . You need to check their official website at  kamikochi.org  for exact dates, as it may change on a yearly basis. The park closes down for winter and you cannot visit, so it’s best to skip if you’re here during the winter months.

Day 4: Omachi – Lake Kisaki & Kurobe Dam

I designated this day as our rest day after the insane 10 hours hike / walk we did in Kamikochi , but we still ended up walking around plenty!

1. Lake Kisaki & Kizakiko Camping Ground

If you did the same hike as we did and stayed in Kamikochi, then you have the option to go straight to Lake Kisaki once you’ve left Kamikochi. It’s about 2 hours drive from Kamikochi.

Lake Kisaki

Lake Kisaki is a fairly small lake – walking the perimeter of this lake takes about an hour, and it’s mostly lined by holiday houses and farms. There isn’t much to do here, but relax. That’s the main reason why we came here! To stay at one of the lake side lodge and rest after our Kamikochi trek.

Lake Kisaki Camping Ground

If you feel like going to an onsen, there’s (of course) one nearby the camping ground called Yupuru. This one is the most basic out of all the onsen I’ve visited so far, with only one indoor pool and a washing area. It costs 700 yen per adult to enter.

2. Kurobe Dam

Kurobe Dam is one of the marvel of Japanese engineering, built in the post-WWII era to resolve drought and power shortage in the area. It is the tallest dam in Japan at 186m high, completed in 1963 after an arduous 7 years of construction which claimed the lives of 171 workers.

Kurobe Dam

Kurobe Dam station is only about 30 minutes drive from Lake Kisaki. From the station, you need to take one of their electric buses through Kanden Tunnel to continue your way up to the dam itself. You get to pass through the famed “fracture zone” which made the construction of this dam so difficult. The temperature in this tunnel is very cold regarding the outside temperature – it always remains around 10C.

Crossing Kurobe Dam

If you happen to be here on a beautiful day, a visit to the dam is totally worth it. It’s also part of the Japanese Alpine hiking route (the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route to be exact), so you might see hikers in their gear and bear bells walking across the dam!

What and where to eat

  • Kurobe Dam Curry – This dish is technically just a Japanese curry dish, which is already delicious on its own, what makes the dish an Omachi specialty is the way it’s served. The Japanese white rice is moulded to the shape of Kurobe Dam, and the sauce is green (from Spinach) to represent the color of the water in Kurobe dam. Two pieces of nuggets are also served to represent the boats that you can take during certain months in Kurobe Dam. You can have this dish at the Kurobe Dam restaurant or at Yupuru onsen restaurant near Lake Kisaki.

Where to stay

  • Kizakiko Camping Ground – We booked a lake-side bungalow at this camping ground. It was not cheap by any means (8000 yen a night!), especially for how simple the bungalow is, but the location couldn’t be better. It’s literally by the lakeside! The only issue is that booking needs to be done in Japanese.
  • Hotel Yume-no-yu – A ryokan with a private bathroom and its own onsen in the vicinity.
  • Nanakuraso – This ryokan is located conveniently in Omachi town.

Day 5: Kusatsu

Kusatsu is such a charming little town. The entire vibe of the city reminds me of Spirited Away, and it’s made extra whimsical on cold nights since the natural hot spring would occasionally stir up steam into the air. Many visitors would dress up in a Yukata (Japanese summer wear) and Geta (wooden slipper) while going to an onsen.

Read more: If you’re visiting Kusatsu, take the time to read my Kusatsu travel guide

Yubatake at Kusatsu

Where to stay in Kusatsu

  • Ryokan Tamura – If staying near the town center is your priority, then this Ryokan fits the bill. It’s a cute Japanese-style inn located minutes from the town center.
  • Hananigen – Similar to Tamura, Hananigen is also a ryokan located within minutes of Kusatsu town center.
  • Kusatsu Onsen Eidaya – Slightly cheaper ryokan as the location is a bit further away from the town center, but still within walking distance!

What else you can see in Nagano Prefecture

If you have more time in Nagano and wondering what else to do, here are some recommendations you can check out.

  • Jigokudani Monkey Park – You’ve probably seen photos of Japanese Macaque (monkeys) taking a bath in an onsen.
  • Mount Kusatsu-Shirane – I really wanted to check out this mountain, but unfortunately, it was closed during the time I visited as it is an active volcano and there were a lot of activities observed around the mountain.
  • Nagano City – Nagano City is the capital of Nagano prefecture. Most famous for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics, you can still see the remnants of Olympics architecture around town.
  • Hakuba – Most famous as a ski resort, Hakuba is best visited during winter.

So that’s all my itinerary for Nagano prefecture! After leaving Kusatsu, we drove straight back to Tokyo.

A little trivia: I was actually there right on the day before Typhoon Hagibis was set to hit the center of Tokyo. It was rated as the biggest Typhoon of the year, and we could already see the weather being affected by the incoming typhoon – it started to rain, whereas the previous days were clear sunny days. It was also my first time hunkering down for a typhoon. Thankfully for us, the typhoon did not cause too much damage in Tokyo itself. However, we heard Nagano prefecture was flooded and we were lucky to have gotten out just in time.

As usual, feel free to leave comments if you have any questions! I will always reply 🙂

  • November 1, 2023

Great info and beautiful photos. Details will come in handy. Planning a trip with family next fall. Thanks a lot!

  • May 30, 2023

Wonderful tips! I used a lot of them on my one week Nagano trip. Thank you for posting and your incredible work.

  • November 13, 2022

Hi … is parking easy on your trip ? Are the charges expensive ? Does the lodging provide free parking ?

  • November 15, 2022

Hey Alvin, parking was pretty easy when we went. Some lodging provides parking, it depends where you book. Usually if its city center they probably don’t have parking. Parking cost was ok, less expensive than Tokyo.

  • May 7, 2022

Nagano is one of my favourite areas for travel in Japan. I recently explored Kumamoto as well. Maybe you already know it? anyway, thanks for reading my comment.

  • January 6, 2020

Its seems like perfect place where we can enjoy and see natural beauty of nature. I love Japanese Food and I will try to visit their with my best ones.

  • December 11, 2019

Love following your blog. It is most informative with useful and relevant detail. Also sharing a common interest of travel, food ,culture and dive experiences. Have you looked into Shikoku island, Japan or had been there already! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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  • Things to Do
  • Tourist Spots & Attractions

Karuizawa Sightseeing: 25 Must-Visit Tourist Spots in Nagano’s Leafy Resort Town

nagano ken tourist spot

Just around an hour by bullet train from Tokyo, Karuizawa is a popular resort town at the foot of the active volcano Mt. Asama in Nagano Prefecture. Karuizawa has lots of sightseeing, with its mountains and forests holding waterfalls, hiking trails, lakes, ski slopes, and more. Plus, with a plethora of museums, historical churches, and retro hotels, there’s just as much cultural appeal too, along with a swathe of shopping areas packed with sought-after brands. In this article, we’ll introduce our picks for the best things to do in Karuizawa for the ultimate Karuizawa sightseeing itinerary!

Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

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1. Kumoba Pond [Roppontsuji]

To start things off, take a stroll on the promenade around Kumoba Pond (Kumoba-ike). It will take you around 20 minutes. As you may have already guessed, this small lake reaches its peak beauty in fall, when the red and yellow leaves double up with their reflection on the water surface. This gorgeous view will make the perfect cover for your Karuizawa travel photobook! 

2. Shiraito Falls [Kose]

Due to the resemblance with a sequence of thin white threads dangling from the rocks, there are several waterfalls named "Shiraito" ("white thread" in Japanese) throughout Japan. Although, very few of them are as welcomingly large, beautifully arched, and easy to access as these ones in Karuizawa! Stretching out for 70m and gushing out of 3m-tall bare rocks, these waterfalls offer a different view each time of the year, so whenever you visit Karuizawa, save some time to see them! 

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Explore Japan in the most convenient and economical way with a Japan Rail Pass! It is valid for the majority of railways and local buses operated by JR. 

3. Regina Resort Kyukaruizawa [Kyu-Karuizawa]

You will naturally want to stay in a top-notch hotel when surrounded by the stunning nature scenery of Karuizawa. One recommended spot to spend the night is Regina Resort Kyukaruizawa, which is located in a tranquil vacation resort area that is quite popular among Japanese locals and allows visitors to spend a blissful time admiring the natural beauty of Karuizawa that changes with the seasons.

It’s in a prime location as it is just 10 minutes on foot from Kumoba Pond, a famous Karuizawa sightseeing spot prized for its stunning scenery of a pond surrounded by trees, as well as within walking distance of Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza, a shopping street that retains the nostalgic look of the past and is packed with eateries making use of local ingredients, souvenir shops, knickknack shops, and fashion boutiques.

The hotel is surrounded by an environment that lets you enjoy to the fullest the temperate climate and serene nature of Karuizawa, and the guest rooms are calming spaces imbued with the scent of wood. Furthermore, there are many 40 – 85 sq.m. rooms outfitted with stylish furniture, including a bed, sofa, and desk, which will let you relax in the room as if you are at home. 

A special limited-time accommodation plan will be available only on the following dates! This is a popular hotel, so try to book as soon as you can. Jan. 26 (Sun) – Feb. 7 (Fri), 2020 (13 days) Feb. 24 (Mon) – 28 (Fri), 2020 (5 days)

If you'd rather compare and contrast multiple hotel options before deciding on the right one, check out our longer list of Karuizawa hotel recommendations here:

Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

4. Former Usuitouge View Point [Toge-machi]

Grab your camera and go take a panoramic shot from Former Usuitouge View Point (Kyu Usui-toge Miharashidai), located at the border between Nagano and Gunma. Whether you take the bus or climb up there, for sunrise or sunset, the view of all those mountaintops, among which Mt. Asama and the Yatsugatake volcanic group, will leave you absolutely breathless!

5. Sengataki Fall [Nagakura]

Ever heard of "shinrin-yoku"? Recently trending on the web, this expression literally translates to "bathing in the forest", meant as a form of nature therapy. If you feel like trying that, head to Sengataki Fall (Sengataki), whose 20m make it the tallest drop waterfall in Karuizawa. Enjoy a light hike in the valley surrounded by water streams and vibrant ferns, through which blows a pleasant fresh wind.

6. Karuizawa Lake Garden [Nagakura]

Surrounded by a freshwater lake, this is a huge natural garden comprising 8 different areas and a whole lot of beautiful flowers and plants! In particular, head there in June to admire its many roses in full bloom, but know that the garden has so many species that it's beautiful and unique every other time of the year! 

Among the various bridges, footpaths and facilities, make sure you stop by the Brasserie Nakagawa for a lunch break (reservation strongly recommended), or at one of the shops to buy some flower-related goods and souvenirs, or even some seedlings. 

7. Karuizawa Yacho no Mori [Nagakura]

If you're after a place for wildlife encounters and bird-watching not far from Tokyo , Yacho no Mori (literally "wild birds' forest") is strongly recommended. There you can take a 2.5km hike through mountain streams, swamps, larches and acorns, with birds chirping as your background music. 

If you want to fully experience the forest and its fauna, everyone recommends booking a guided tour, especially for safety reasons. In fact, among the wild animals you may bump into, many visitors reported feeling the presence or even actually coming across moon bears (white-chested black bears native to Asia)! Exciting as it may sound, you may want to carry a bell to keep them at a distance. Birdwatching hot tip: grab binoculars and go in winter, when the bare trees will allow you to spot the birds more easily!

8. Uchimura Kanzo Memorial Stone Church [Hoshino]

A jaw-dropping architectural wonder nestled in Karuizawa's vibrant nature. Composed by an alternate sequence of stone and glass arches of increasing size, through which the sunlight creates a solemn atmosphere, this uniquely designed structure will go down in history as a rare example of organic architecture, a building style that prioritizes balance with the surrounding nature. It's the perfect venue for weddings and other ceremonies, although the church has no religious symbols like crosses or altars. Kanzo Uchimura was a Japanese Christian philosopher and this place was dedicated to him by American architect Kendrick Kellogg.

9. Karuizawa Kogen Church [Nagakura]

Another marvellous church in Karuizawa surrounded by nature. Here, your Christian ceremony can be made even more unique and evocative thanks to a phenomenon known as "komorebi", which refers to when the sunlight filters through the trees creating a warm and soothing atmosphere. 

Ceremonies are also enriched by live performances of organ and harp! According to the season, you'll find interesting events all year long, like a koyo (autumn leaves) light-up in fall, or the Candles Night on Christmas. 

10. St. Paul's Catholic Church [Karuizawa]

This small wooden church in the old town was established in 1935 by a British priest and belongs to the Catholic Diocese of Yokohama. Designed by the architect Antonin Raymond, it has the typical triangular roof of chapels and churches of the Alps. Take a peek inside and you'll be amazed at the peaceful and warm atmosphere given by the wood interiors! If you're lucky enough, you may even witness a beautiful wedding.

11. Karuizawa Shaw Memorial Church [Karuizawa]

Keeping with the church theme, another one you shouldn't miss is the Shaw Memorial, which is an Anglican Church of the Diocese of Chubu. It sits in a tranquil grove of verdant trees you can get to through the lively Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza-Dori (Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza Street). The church was established in 1895 by Alexander Croft Shaw, a minister of the Anglican Church of Canada, and other than a statue of him, the premises also include his residence. The cozy wooden interiors and the crypt's stained-glass portraying sceneries of Karuizawa are just lovely!   

If you find this series of Western-style churches in Japan fascinating and are looking for more, another possible destination is Nagasaki. Check out our intro article here:

12. Kumano Kotai Shrine [Toge-machi]

Should all those churches make you forget you're in an Asian country, get back in the Japanese mood by visiting this unique shrine. Located at 1,200m above sea level, on top of the Usui Pass, and embedded in Karuizawa's lush nature, what makes Kumano Kotai Shrine (Kumano Kotai Jinja) unusual, is that its premises are half Nagano and half Gunma Prefecture. Therefore, there are 2 priests with their own separate offices. There are also separate matsuri (festivals) for each prefecture. Combine your tour with a walk to the aforementioned Former Usuitouge View Point!   

13. The Former Mikasa Hotel [Karuizawa]

Buildings like these are not something you see every day in Japan! That's why this lovely wooden structure, which used to be a hotel, was designated Important Cultural Property. Despite its pure western architectural style, it was entirely designed and built by Japanese hands in the late Meiji Era (1868 - 1912).

Both the outside and the interiors have the elegant traits of hotels of that period, with a lot of details thought to best suit the westerners' taste, as it was meant to house mainly foreign guests. Also ideal on a rainy day, the hotel can even be visited with a convenient ticket that combines with other attractions in Karuizawa.

14. Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza [Karuizawa]

Time for some shopping! This huge outlet area offers a large variety of brands that could keep you busy a whole day, or even 2. In fact, this is so much more than just a shopping center! First of all, the facilities are all new and fancy, scattered around a large area with a nice green lawn and a lake. Other than an extensive food court, with restaurants and cafes of all kinds, there's also a spa and other services exclusively for pets! Plus, it's super easy to access by train or bus! 

15. Harunire Terrace [Hoshino]

One of the main attractions of Hoshino area is a wooden deck built in the middle of a forest of over 100 Japanese elms ("harunire") growing wild by the stream. Get some fresh air by strolling around 15 modern-style facilities, including a gallery, stylish restaurants, and shops! 

During the cold season, it gets even more magical with the Christmas decorations and the large skating rink created by the frozen pond nearby. Stay after sunset and you may get to admire a stunning illumination of the terrace as well! Any season you go, note that it gets crowded in the weekend and the parking lots are limited, but it's definitely worth a shot!

16. Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza Street [Karuizawa]

The old town of Karuizawa is best represented by this lovely shopping area known as Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza Street. A lineup of historical shops and delicious restaurants makes the perfect destination for an afternoon stroll, as well as some souvenir shopping! Visited by millions of tourists every year, this is a key spot if you're interested in Karuizawa's past, both in terms of lifestyle and architecture.

17. Church Street Karuizawa [Karuizawa]

Despite its somewhat misleading name, Church Street is simply another shopping arcade. It owes its name to the fact that it leads to St. Paul, the most important church in Karuizawa, so it's recommended for a coffee or shopping break on your way to/from the church. It's a nice way to experience the contrast between the sacred and the non-sacred sides of Karuizawa. The 2-storied arcade hosts around 20 different stores selling food, fashion and miscellaneous goods.  

18. Hiroshi Senju Museum Karuizawa [Nagakura]

Another great idea if the weather doesn't cooperate: museums! In case you're not familiar with him, Hiroshi Senju is a world-famous Japanese artist, and he designed this museum himself in collaboration with the architect Ryue Nishizawa as a representation of the harmony between art and nature in Karuizawa.

The bright and white-themed building runs along beautiful gardens with its sinuous glass walls creating a soul-soothing footpath, along which you can admire the greenery on one side and Senju's artworks on another. Do sit on the wavy sofas and take your time to contemplate the beauty. Inside you can also find a bakery/cafe and a shop!

19. Sezon Museum of Modern Art [Nagakura]

"Museums are for the human society what stick insects are for the ecosystem." This is how Sezon Museum of Modern Art chose to introduce itself, to point out how art contributes to develop a peaceful society, just like stick insects help the trees grow new leaves by eating the old ones.

Living in symbiosis with the surrounding nature, the museum hosts a wide collection of paintings ranging from major artists of the early 20th century, such as Paul Klee, Kandinsky and Pollock, to the newest creations of Japanese contemporary artists.

20. Karuizawa Picturebook Museum [Nagakura]

Complete your artistic tour with a visit to Karuizawa Picturebook Museum and dive into the world of Japanese illustration! The area is divided into multiple facilities, like the first exhibition hall in the above picture, scattered around a lovely 15,000 sqm English-style garden, which is sometimes chosen by newlyweds as their photo shooting set!

This is the second exhibition hall - isn't it adorable? Your visit will truly feel like a relaxing stroll in a fairytale, enchanting both children and grown-ups. There's also a library with plenty of picture books on sale and a cafe where you can stretch your legs and eat a sandwich. 

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Plan ahead by booking your shinkansen, airport train, and express train tickets online in English. Have the tickets sent to you by mail or collect them at the station once you're in Japan.

21. Picchio Wildlife Research Center [Hoshino]

If you're a wildlife aficionado, this place will keep you occupied for days! Located in the furthermost area of Hoshino, Picchio is a research center dedicated to the local fauna that organizes related tours and events for people of all ages. Take on a fantastic adventure in the woods to observe flying squirrels, wild goats, and a large variety of local birds and insects.

The tours available change on a seasonal basis and can be both during the day and at night. You'll be provided binoculars for your nature watching tours, and flashlights if you go on a nocturnal tour. Just make sure to wear long sleeves and pants to prevent insect bites, and don't worry if it gets chilly: you can rent winter wear for free! 

22. Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort [Karuizawa]

Being a mountain town, Karuizawa couldn't miss a ski area, so with a little bit of artificial snow they created a winter sports paradise! Smooth, safe and particularly recommended for beginners and children, the ski slope is not the only attraction of this area. There is also a scenic lift to get on the summit that will offer you a stunning view of the surroundings. Moreover, you can have a fun ride on an amazing zipline!

23. Karuizawa Taliesin [Nagakura]

This picture exudes peace and tranquility from head to toe, doesn't it? Welcome to Karuizawa Taliesin, an area around Shiozawa Lake (Shiozawa-ko) with plenty of facilities and attractions for all kinds of activities. This is Suikyuso, the villa where a famed Japanese novelist used to spend the summer.

Let the greenery soothe your soul while you stroll around art museums, villas full of history, lovely gardens, and delicious eateries. The above photo shows the Peynet Museum, where you can admire a collection of original works from a French illustrator. If you're tired of walking, hop on the cycle monorail or a swan boat to enjoy the view from a different (and even more romantic) perspective!

24. Tombo no Yu [Hoshino]

Every reputable tourist destination in Japan has its own version of onsen (hot springs). Tombo no Yu is a natural onsen facility whose abundant hot waters, supplied directly from the source, are highly beneficial for the skin. Designed with a Japanese minimalistic style, this bathhouse actually has colorful dragonflies (tombo, in Japanese) floating around the area. Don't miss the beautiful open-air bath (rotenburo) nestled among granite rocks and trees, to relax and recover from a day out trekking or sightseeing.  

If you prefer a convenient hot springs-and-hotel experience, check out our list of 20 Japanese-style inns with hot springs in Karuizawa:

25. Karuizawa Sengataki Onsen [Nagakura]

Named after the above-mentioned Senga Falls, this is another valid option for onsen goers. If you find Tombo no Yu too crowded, you can drop by this day spa and pamper yourself with its soothing waters, instead. In fact, comprising 2 open-air baths, a large indoor bath, a Finnish sauna, and a cold bath, the space is relatively wide, allowing you to bathe and move around in complete relaxation, surrounded by flaming momiji in autumn or white fluffy snow in winter.  

Karuizawa is a fantastic destination recommended for all types of tourists: families with kids, couples on a relaxing vacation, friends in search of adventure, and even history and art lovers. Use this article as a reference next time you get in the mood for a trip and you'll make the best of it!

By the way, if you've visited Karuizawa before and you're looking for a new way to experience the town, why not try a different method of transportation to get around? Here are some articles that go into more detail on other possible transportation methods, including what places you can visit using them:

Discover the Best of Karuizawa via Rental Bicycles

A Guide to Touring the Best Spots in Karuizawa by Bus

Chubu Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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Paola

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nagano ken tourist spot

The Official Travel Guide of Matsumoto, Nagano Visit Matsumoto

  • Sightseeing
  • Fun in the Snow
  • Other Activities
  • Accommodation
  • Hot Springs

nagano ken tourist spot

Matsumoto Castle: More than 430 years old, its main tower is the oldest in Japan

nagano ken tourist spot

Kamikochi: Enjoy the Japan Alps and a lovely river in Japan’s premiere mountain resort area

nagano ken tourist spot

City Museum of Art: Has a permanent display on Matsumoto native Yayoi Kusama

nagano ken tourist spot

Japan Ukiyo-e Museum: the largest ukiyo-e collection in Japan

nagano ken tourist spot

Norikura Highlands: Take the highest bus route in Japan to the heavens

nagano ken tourist spot

Spring Excursion: Walk around the many springs in central Matsumoto

Kamikochi in the Japan Alps

Plan your trip.

Shokupan from a famous Bread shop in Matsumoto

Shokupan from a famous Bread shop in Matsumoto

Okinawa Soba in Matsumoto

Okinawa Soba in Matsumoto

Three spots for Hanami in Matsumoto

Three spots for Hanami in Matsumoto

Enjoy Showa Retro and

Enjoy Showa Retro and “hakoniwa” at Kamenoya

Tenshi no Warabimochi

Tenshi no Warabimochi

Matsumoto in the rain - ASMR video and three suggestions for your rainy day

Matsumoto in the rain – ASMR video and three suggestions for your rainy day

Bacca Brewing, a microbrewery in Matsumoto

Bacca Brewing, a microbrewery in Matsumoto

What does Matsumoto look like on a snowy day?

What does Matsumoto look like on a snowy day?

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nagano ken tourist spot

Where is Matsumoto City?

nagano ken tourist spot

Matsumoto City is located in the middle of Nagano Prefecture where the 1998 Winter Olympics were hosted. It sits at the foot of the Japanese Alps, nestled between the mountains in the heart of Japan.

Matsumoto is easily accessible by road, air, and rail. We'll go over the suggested routes below. Please note that alternative routes may also be available, and of course, all fares and info below are subject to change.

nagano ken tourist spot

ぎゅっと松本3つの物語

Visit matsumoto.

This website was created by local expats who live in Matsumoto. We have fallen in love with this charming city and believe anyone who visits will too. Make Matsumoto your destination and use this site to help you explore!

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40 Things to Do Around Nagano & Where to Stay

Lying in the centre of Honshu, Japan’s largest island, Nagano is the country’s fourth largest prefecture. Completely landlocked, Nagano is known for its mountains, natural landscapes, liveability, abundant farmlands, wildlife and of course, many ski resorts. Nagano City is largest city in Nagano Prefecture and the most convenient point from where to explore the many destinations on offer in Central Japan. On this page you will find the following information:

— Where is Nagano City?

— 40 Best Things to Do Around Nagano

— Where to Stay In Nagano?

— How to Get to Nagano City

— Tours and Charters to the Monkey Park

As the proud host of the 1998 Winter Olympics and home to the now world-famous Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano has a strong association with winter. It’s for good reason! Home to around eighty ski resorts and boasting the majority of Japan’s tallest mountains, Nagano is indeed a land of heavy snow and deep cold each winter – a combination that attracts skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. Yet there’s just as much to do outside of winter! As the snow melts in spring, a fertile and lush landscape is revealed offering some of Japan’s best hiking and mountaineering, along with other outdoor pursuits and plenty of great food.

We are proud to call Nagano our home and hope this page entices you to visit. As a registered travel agent and Nagano’s No.1-rated tour and charter operator , we offer both group and private tours, ski and travel packages, accommodation, private charters and more! For further details, scroll to the bottom of the page. Let’s start with the obvious question:

WHERE IS NAGANO CITY?

Located around 245KM to the north-west of Tokyo, Nagano City is the largest city in Nagano Prefecture and the primary transport hub for visitors heading to the region’s most popular destinations including the many ski resorts of Nagano, the Jigokudani Monkey Park, the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, multiple national parks and many other fantastic attractions. Nagano Station is a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Kanazawa – 80 to 110-minutes from the capital depending on which service you choose – along with the Limited Express ‘Shinano’ service running to Matsumoto, the Kiso Valley and Nakasendo, and Nagoya; while the Nagano Dentetsu Line runs to Yamanouchi, home of Nagano’s famous Snow Monkeys. Highway and local bus services also run from the station to many regional destinations including Togakushi, the monkey park and the ski resorts of the Hakuba Valley and Shiga Kogen – Japan’s largest resort – making Nagano City the primary transport hub for northern Nagano Prefecture. While Nagano may be the largest city in the region, it is small compared to the expansive metropolises of Japan with a population of around 370,000. One of Japan’s most liveable cities, Nagano is most famous for the near-1400 year old Zenko-ji Temple – a registered National Treasure and one of the most important Buddhist complexes in Japan – along with the Shinto shrines of Togakushi and samurai town of Matsushiro, that lie within the city boundary.

40 BEST THINGS TO DO AROUND NAGANO

Best Places to Stay in Nagano

Nagano City is the largest city in Nagano Prefecture and the primary transp…

Host of the 1998 Winter Olympics , Nagano is known best for its long winter and world-class snow. Boasting the most ski resorts of any region of Japan, there is no doubt that when it comes to skiing and snowboarding, Nagano is one the best destinations in Asia. However the mountains are just as big outside of winter and offer just as many reasons to visit in spring, summer and autumn. When visiting the region, chances are you’ll do so via Nagano City so let’s start there with our suggestion of the best things to do while in Nagano:

1 / ZENKO-JI TEMPLE – NAGANO’S SPIRITUAL HEART / all year round

Founded in 642, Zenko-ji is one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in Japan . Less than 20-minutes walk from Nagano Station, follow the city’s historic thoroughfare – the ‘Omotesando’ or ‘Pilgrim’s Way’ all the way to the temple. Arriving at Zenko-ji, visitors discover one of the most welcoming temples in Japan. Housing the oldest known Buddhist statue in Japan, the main temple is a registered National Treasure and the spiritual heart of the region. A morning ceremony takes place every day of the year, with visitors of all faiths and backgrounds welcome, with the temple also hosting several major festivals each year. Within and around the temple complex, guests can stay overnight at one of many traditional ‘shukubo’ (temple lodgings) , offering the most memorable and rewarding way in which to experience Zenko-ji.

However, the history and culture around Zenko-ji temple is not necessarily readily apparent. To make the most of your visit and ensure that you do not miss out on any of tidbits of knowledge and fascinating facts about the Temple, the best option is to take a guided tour with a knowledgeable guide. See below for more information about our tour of the region.

2 / BUDDHIST EXPERIENCES AT ZENKO-JI / all year round

Known as one of Japan’s most open and welcoming temples, Zenko-ji offers visitors of any faith and background the opportunity to try several key Buddhist practices All led by resident monks, ‘goma’ prayer (fire ceremony) , ‘shakyo’ (calligraphy) and ‘zazen’ (seated meditation) experiences are available upon request. Experiences take different lengths of time and can be booked on most days, as long as you provide adequate notice. Visitors wanting to extend their knowledge of the temple might also like to consider booking a tour with us – see below for details.

3 / THE FOREST SHRINES OF TOGAKUSHI / all year round

Japan’s native religion of Shintoism has its roots in nature worship and a belief that notable natural features are imbued with divinity. This belief is on grand display in Togakushi , where the five shrines making up the Shinto complex are spread through the forest with trails leading from one to the next. Of the five, the ‘Okusha’ (Upper Shrine) is the best known due to the avenue of giant cedars leading to it. Many of the huge trees are between 400 to 800 years old and considered inhabited by ‘kami’ or ‘the divine’, meaning that they have as much importance as the shrine itself.

Approaching the Okusha from Nagano, you will pass the largest of the five shrines – the ‘Chusha’ (Middle Shrine). Accessible via walking trails or directly via car or local bus, the shrine is dedicated to wisdom and famous for several enormous cedars that estimated to be around 800 years old. Surrounding the middle shrine, several ‘soba’ restaurants and bamboo craft shops are within easy walking distance.

Togakushi can be quite time consuming to reach if you do not have a rental car. Instead, why not leave it up to the pros and take part in our guided tour of the area which includes accommodation?

4 / RELEASE YOUR INNER NINJA / April to November

For more than 800 years, Togakushi has had a strong association with Japan’s fabled ninjas. Established in the 12 th century, the Togakure school of ninja was founded in the mountains of Togakushi and though practicing ninja maybe few and far between these days – believe it or not there are still some – the mountains and forests of Togakushi now play host to a ninja museum and kids village. Located directly across from the cedar avenue leading to the Okusha, the Togakure Ninpo Museum showcases the local Togakure school of ninja including exhibits of tools and weapons used. Visitors can try their hand at essential ninja skills such as throwing ‘shuriken’ (ninja stars) while the highlight of the museum lies in wait at the Ninja House. Rigged with secret doors, passages and traps to confuse those who enter, the aim is simple – get yourself back out of the house! The house is a true maze, equally fun for adults as it is children

The ‘Chibiko Ninja Mura’ (Kids Ninja Village) is located within 15 minutes walk of the Chusha (Middle Shrine) and designed for children with obstacle courses and everything they need for ninja training. Activities including blow darts and shuriken are available at an extra charge. Children can also dress-up in ninja outfits for the duration of their visit. Two ninja mansions include trapdoors and contraptions, to confuse and delightful the kids as they attempt to escape.

5 / MYOKO-TOGAKUSHI RENZAN NATIONAL PARK / all year round

Located around 1200 metres above sea level, Togkaushi is nestled within the larger Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park. The park is densely-packed mountainous area of forests, waterways, ski resorts and important mix natural and cultural sites. Among its multiple peaks Mount Hiuchi is the tallest at 2,462 metres above sea level while the park takes its names from the peaks of Mount Myoko and Mount Togakushi.

Extending into Niigata and the ski resorts surrounding Mount Myoko, the national park is a destination to itself that can be enjoyed throughout the year.

6 / MATSUSHIRO: NAGANO’S SAMURAI TOWN / all year round

15 Things to Do in Matsushiro & Where to Stay

Located 12KM to the south of central Nagano City, Matsushiro is a small tow…

Located 12km to the south of central Nagano City, Matsushiro is a small enclave known for its samurai heritage and as the former stronghold of the Sanada clan. Originally from Ueda, the Sanada clan relocated to Matsushiro during the 17 th  century. Today, the town’s samurai heritage lives on many excellent Edo Period attractions including Matsushiro Castle Park, the former Sanada Residence and Bunbu Military Academy, other samurai residences, temples, shrines and museums.

7 / MATSUSHIRO: ZOZAN WAR TUNNELS / all year round

Less apparent than Matsushiro’s celebrated samurai heritage, the town is also home to an open secret beneath its feet. Excavated in the final months of WWII, the  Zozan Imperial Wartime Tunnels  were the intended headquarters of the Japanese military and government during the expected invasion by the Allied Forces. An extensive network of tunnels and subterranean bunkers were around 75% completed when the war came to an end and were as a result, never used. Formally referred to as ‘Matsushiro Daihonei’ or the ‘Matsushiro Underground Imperial Headquarters’, a 500 metre tunnel remains open to the public.

8 / JIGOKUDANI MONKEY PARK / all year round

Located in the Yamanouchi area of Nagano, the  Jigokudani Monkey Park  is one of the region’s most popular destinations. Most famous for their hot spring-loving antics of winter, the monkeys actually come to the park all year round. Each season provides its own unique reasons to visit the park; from the curious sight of the monkeys enjoying life in the snow through winter, to the cherry blossoms and baby monkeys of spring, hot and lush surroundings of summer and the beauty of the leaves in autumn.

Want to turn your visit to the monkeys into a real experience? Why not join one of our tours to the park! Operating through the year all tours are led by locally-based guides and include entry to the park, all transport costs, lunch and other activities.

9 / EXPLORE YAMANOUCHI – HOME OF THE SNOW MONKEYS / all year round

25 Things To Do Around The Jigokudani Monkey Park & Where To Stay

Within easy reach of Nagano Station, the monkey park is one of the region’s…

Home to the Jigokudani Monkey Park and ski resorts of Shiga Kogen and Kita-Shiga Kogen, Yamanouchi is at its most popular in winter yet offers just as many reasons to visit through spring, summer and autumn. Blessed with abundant farmlands, pristine nature, numerous hot springs and heavy snow in winter, Yamanouchi has a strong association with healing, refuge and renewal and Yamanouchi is divided into three areas – Yudanaka & Shibu Onsen, Shiga Kogen and Kita-Shiga Kogen. Staying a one of Yamanouchi’s many guesthouses is an ideal way to enjoy Japan’s renowned traditional service – including traditional ‘kaiseki’ (multi-course) dining that showcases the abundant produce of the region. For further information, see our ‘Discover Yamanouchi – Home of the Snow Monkeys’ page .

10 / SHIGA KOGEN: JAPAN’S LARGEST SKI RESORT / late-November to May

Located a short distance from the Jigokdani Monkey Park,  Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest and highest ski resort . The resort is comprised of 18 ski areas – some large, some small – spread over more than 600 hectares of terrain and offering more than 80km of ski runs. Spread between five mountain peaks, Shiga offers visitors an unparalleled expanse of interconnected terrain with free shuttle buses running around the resort to the few areas that are not connected. Shiga Kogen’s higher altitude means it receives snow earlier than nearby resorts and keeps it for longer, blessing the resort with the longest season and best spring skiing in Nagano.

Nearby but not connected to Shiga Kogen, the four ski resorts making-up Kita-Shiga Kogen live in the shadow of their much larger neighbour, but also win lots of fans including locals. Of the four resorts,  Ryuoo Ski Park  has the most to offer with some excellent powder up top and long runs all the way back down.

11 / OTHER WINTER ACTIVITES IN SHIGA KOGEN / December to March

Outside of skiing and snowboarding, Shiga Kogen offers a range of family-friendly facilities for visitors. If you are visiting the resort with children or don’t have much experience and looking for a fun and easy activity, Maruike Snow Activity Park – located in the Maruike ski fields – is a great option for you! The activity area is fenced-off and provides you with a various gear including sledges, snow-tubes, snowscoots and snowdrives and lots of snow to make a snowman or have a snowball fight. Further into the resort, the  Yakebitaiyama Family Snow Park  is located directly outside of Prince Hotel West, offering a similar range of activities for kids, families, or anyone wanting to release their inner-child!

12 / HAKUBA VALLEY: NAGANO’S MOST INTERNATIONAL RESORTS / December to late-March

Located between 60 to 90-minutes drive from Nagano Station,  the ski resorts making-up the Hakuba Valley  are considered some of the best in Japan. In total, ten resorts make the area collectively referred to as ‘Hakuba Valley’, offering skiers and snowboarders a vast amount of terrain and spectacular alpine views. Having hosted several events during the 1998 Winter Olympics,  Hakuba Happo One Snow Resort  is the best known and largest of the lot. Within walking distance of the Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal, Happo One has a fantastic range of terrain including epic backcountry.

Nearby  Hakuba Goryu Snow Resort  and  Hakuba 47 Winter Sports Park  are connected and can be enjoyed on a single all-mountain pass. Rivalling Happo One in size and boasting Hakuba’s longest season, these resorts always popular with international visitors. These are only three of the many fantastic resorts of Hakuba!

13 / NOZAWA ONSEN, MADARAO, & BEYOND! / December to April

Around 70-minutes drive from Nagano Station or only 20-minutes from Iiyama Station,  Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort  is one of Nagano’s most popular resorts – offering skiers and boarders around 300 hectares of train between 565 and 1650 metres. Also known for its great powder and setup for snowboarders, Nozawa is a lively resort serviced by a large village full of accommodation, restaurants and bars and ‘onsen’ (hot springs), Nozawa’s reputation is as much based on what happens off the mountain as what happens on it. Across the valley from Nozawa Onsen, Madarao Mountain Resort has quickly found popularity due to its heavy snowfall, great powder and super enjoyable tree runs.

Only 30-minutes drive over the backside of Madarao, the resorts of Myoko Kogen  are quickly coming to the attention of international visitors who have discovered its epic powder. Actually located in Niigata rather than Nagano and nearby the coast, Myoko receives a massive amount of snow each year. The resorts making-up the area collectively known as ‘Myoko Kogen’ are less developed than resorts such as Nozawa Onsen and have pretty liberal policies when it comes to backcountry, making Myoko the up-and-coming destination for international powderhounds.

14 / EXPERIENCE THE BEST OF NAGANO ON A GUIDED TOUR / all year round

Operating all year round, we are Nagano’s No.1 tour provider . Throughout the year we offer a range of group tours, many of which combine a visit to the monkeys with some of Nagano’s best experiences and destinations. Our longest running and most popular tour – 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – combines a visit to Nagano’s near-1400 year old temple, followed by a guided ‘sake’ tasting experience and lunch, and early afternoon visit to the monkeys.

For visitors in spring, enjoy a visit to the monkeys with an afternoon wandering beneath Nagano’s beautiful cherry blossoms on our 1-Day Snow Monkey & Cherry Blossoms in Nagano Tour .

Visitors in winter can enjoy the best of Shiga Kogen in combination with a visit the monkey park on our 1-Day Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun in Shiga Kogen Tour , operating from December to March each year. Of course, not all of our tours head to the monkeys with other options including the stunning alpine valley of Kamikochi or fabled Snow Walls of the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route. All tours are led by locally-based, English-speaking guides and include all transport and entry costs. See our ‘Tours’ main page for a complete listing of our tours throughout the year.

15 / ENJOY SOME OF JAPAN’S BEST HOT SPRINGS / all year round

Home to countless natural hot springs, enjoying an ‘onsen’ while in Nagano really is a must-do activity! In the cold months of winter and cooler months of autumn, dipping into a thermal bath feels fantastic whereas in the warmer months of spring and summer, the initial heat of onsen leads your body to cool itself – a truly pleasurable feeling. Spread throughout the region, the historic onsen towns of Nagano – including nearby  Yudanaka Onsen and Shibu Onsen , Nozawa Onsen,  – have numerous ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses) with their own in-house onsen. Our  ‘Onsen In & Around Nagano’ page  introduces everything you need to know about using an onsen, the benefits and where to find them.

16 / STAY & UNWIND AT A ‘RYOKAN’ / all year round

When visiting Japan or for those who live here and in need of a relaxing getaway, we encourage everyone to spend at least one night at a traditional guesthouse. Known as ‘ryokan’ in Japanese, guesthouses pride themselves on their comfort, hot springs and seasonal ‘kaiseki’ (multi-course) meal service. The type and range of guesthouses is huge in scope, from family-run and homely inns to luxurious hotels with high prices. Staying at a ryokan is all about escaping the troubles of daily life and indulging in the refinement of traditional Japanese service. Most ryokan will offer the option of dinner and breakfast, with traditional ‘kaiseki’ meal service making use of local and seasonal ingredients to create unique and changing menus.

Of course, many guesthouses also pride themselves on their in-house ‘onsen’ and the unique properties of their water. Enjoying a hot spring in the comfort and quiet of a ryokan is without question one of the most quintessential Japanese experience and a must-do while here. With so many to choose from, why not start with the hot springs of Kanbayashi Onsen, Yudanaka Onsen and historic Shibu Onsen in ‘Yamanouchi – Home of the Snow Monkeys’ .

17 / CHERRY BLOSSOMS & BABY MONKEYS OF SPRING / April

Blooming every spring, the cherry blossoms of Nagano and Central Japan transform the atmosphere and character of the region and banish all thoughts of winter. Known as ‘sakura’ in Japan, the blossoms are viewed as symbolic of the fleeting beauty and fragility of life itself and Japanese look forward to ‘hanami’ (flower-viewing) each spring. Our ‘Cherry Blossoms’ page  introduces everything you need to know about the importance of the flowers and where to find them in Nagano.

Around the same time, the expecting mothers of the Jigokudani Monkey Park  will begin to give birth to the years adorable babies. Witnessing these awkward bundles of fur, with their long limbs and glassy eyes, begin their first stumbling exploration of the world is a true highlight of spring.

Typically  born from mid-April until mid-June , the baby monkeys grow in confidence quickly, and by summer and scurrying around the park trying to keep up with their brothers, sisters, and cousins.

18 / HISTORIC OBUSE & HOKUSAI / all year round

Only a short train-ride from Nagano Station, Obuse is a small but historic town known for its chestnut confectionary shops, sake and miso breweries and – perhaps most famously as home of the Obuse Hokusai Museum . Having spent some of his final years painting in Obuse, the museum is dedicated to the life and work of Japan’s most famous artist, Katsushika Hokusai, and offers an engaging and informative experience. Combined with a visit to the nearby Takai Kozan Memorial Museum – at which you can enter and take in the atmosphere of Hokusai’s actual studio – along with Ganshoin Temple – the ceiling of which is adorned with Hokusai’s last great masterpiece – a visit to Obuse offers a unique glimpse into the life and work of Japan’s greatest artist.

19 / MATSUMOTO CASTLE / all year round

25 Things to Do Around Matsumoto & Where to Stay

Located in the shadow the North Japan Alps, Matsumoto is a small historic c…

Standing around 30 meters tall, the black and white façade of Matsumoto Castle is an impressive sight . A registered National Treasure, the 5-tower, 6-storey structure is the pride of this pleasant city. Fondly referred to as the ‘Karasu-jo’ or ‘Crows Castle’ due to its distinctive splayed black tiles that evoke imagery of a bird taking flight, Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan’s best preserved castles – and one of only two 6-storey castles in the country

20 / THE UPLIFTING ART OF KUSAMA YAYOI / all year round

Most famous for its iconic castle, Matsumoto is also quickly developing a reputation as one of Japan’s most liveable cities. Hometown to the country’s most famous contemporary artist, Kusama Yayoi, Matsumoto has a thriving arts scene along with plenty of great restaurants, bars, cafes and nightlife. The  Matsumoto City Museum of Art  is best known for its permanent exhibition of artwork by Matsumoto-native Kusama Yayoi. The museum also features an exhibit of works by local artists and visiting exhibitions of other Japanese and international artists. But for international visitors, it is Kusama’s collection which is likely to hold the greatest interest. Although classically trained, Kusama’s defining style is heavily-influenced by avant-garde, pop and conceptual art movements– of which, she is now a celebrated and pioneering artist. While you might not know her name, there’s a good chance you will recognize her artwork which is bright, playful and bold and uplifting. For more information as to what’s on offer, see our ’25 Things To Do Around Matsumoto & Where To Stay’ page .

21 / ENJOY A RURAL RETREAT IN AZUMINO / all year round

20 Things To Do In Azumino & Where To Stay

Located within three hours of Tokyo, Azumino offers visitors a chance …

Located just outside of Matsumoto, Azumino is a tranquil rural enclave in the shadow of the North Alps. Home to scenic farmlands producing some of Nagano’s best fruit and vegetables, exploring Azumino through summer and autumn is a great way to enjoy the harvest including fruit-picking at one of the many local farms. Azumino’s  Daio Wasabi Farm  is one of Japan’s largest produces of wasabi and in itself, a beautiful destination well-worth visiting. Wasabi requires large amounts of clear water to grow and the streams and pools that flow across the farm create a picturesque and idyllic setting in which to wander. The surrounding region is home to numerous art galleries, museums, local cafes, and restaurants and the hot spring village of Hotaka Onsen-kyo.

22 / EXPERIENCE THE TATEYAMA-KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE / April to November

Heralded as one of Japan’s best experiences, traversing the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route  takes approximately 6 hours including time to stop and enjoy all of its stunning sights. Open from mid-April to mid-November, the Alpine Route is most famous for its immense snow walls which, at their peak, ascend 20 meters above the road below.

The snow walls are at their best from the opening day in April until mid-June , after which outstanding hiking is available through summer and autumn, climaxing with stunning autumn colours in October until the route closes again in November. Visitors can start from the Nagano-side via Ogizawa Station (or the Toyama-side via Tateyama Station) and choose to finish on the other side or return to their point of origin.

A series of mountain transports including trolley buses, cable cars, a ropeway, and coaches carry visitors to and from Ogizawa Station and Murodo Station – which at 2540 meters is the highest station in Japan.

23 / EXPLORE KAMIKOCHI / April to November

Traversing the country’s highest mountain range, the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is part of the expansive Chubu Sangaku National Park. Lying to the south within the same national park, Kamikochi is a pristine and beautiful alpine valley  open to the public from mid-April until mid-November each year. The valley follows the Azusa River while some of Japan’s tallest mountain peaks rise to over 3000 meters above. Considered the jewel of the Chubu Sangaku National Park, visiting Kamikochi is one of Nagano’s most memorable experiences – a truly special place of natural and spiritual importance.

While Kamikochi can be difficult to reach from Nagano by public transport, it is very easy on our guided tour of the area! With pickup and dropoff at both Nagano and Matsumoto, you can easily ride right into the Kamikochi area on our certified vehicles – into areas where only licensed tour vehicles are allowed.

24 / ADVENTURE TRAVEL IN CENTRAL JAPAN / all year round

Home to the majority of Japan’s tallest mountains, Central Japan offers the best adventure travel in the country. From the deep snow and amazing skiing and boarding of winter, to alpine hiking from late-spring to autumn, visitors to Nagano and Central Japan can enjoy expansive and pristine landscapes that can be explored on-foot, on the water or in the air. Hakuba is one of the best adventure travel destination in Japan while the nearby Joshinetsu Kogen National Park – see below – offer some fantastic nature, wildlife and adventure experiences, and all within easy reach of Nagano Station. For more information, see our ‘Japan Adventure Travel’ page .

25 / JOSHINETSU KOGEN NATIONAL PARK / all year round

Around 70-minutes from Nagano Station, Joshinetsu Kogen National Park is the fourth largest national park in Japan. An expansive landscape that boasts multiple ski areas – including Shiga Kogen Ski Resort – within its boundary, fantastic hiking trails, a wealth of alpine flora and fauna, and on its western border, the Jigokudani Monkey Park. A While the park can be enjoyed all year round, mid-November to April sees heavy snow blanket the area as the ski resorts enjoy Nagano’s longest seasons. If you want to hike or explore by car, best to do so from June to early November when the snow will mostly have melted.

30 Things to Do Around Shiga Kogen & Where to Stay

Located to the east of Nagano City and nearby the Jigokudani Monkey Park, S…

In recent years, Shiga Kogen has become popular with trail-runners and now hosts a couple of popular events each year. The  Shiga Kogen Mountain Trail Run  is one of two such events taking place each summer with races including a 40km, 14.8km and 1-3km kids course in July. Complementing this event, the  Shiga Kogen Extreme Trail Run is held in October and takes things that little bit further with 54km, 32km and 8km races, along with shorter 1-3km kids event. These are serious alpine races attracting both professional and semi-professional athletes. Running across mixed terrain and unsealed tracks, participants need to be of very high fitness.

26 / SUMMER ROPEWAYS & GONDOLAS OF HAKUBA / May to November

Most famous for its fantastic ski resorts, the mountains of Hakuba are just as big in green season and offer lots of reasons to visit. Busy ferrying skiers and snowboarders up the ski resorts in winter, several of Hakuba’s gondolas continue to operate from late-spring to autumn (with brief periods closed either side of winter) opening-up fantastic hiking trails, summer flower fields and panoramic alpine views. Operating from Hakuba Goryu Snow Resort,  Hakuba Goryu Alpine Botanical Garden  is accessible using the main gondola. Taking 10 minutes to climb to around 1500 metres above sea level, visitors can enjoy the alpine garden of more than 300 varieties of plants, leisurely walking trails and the ‘ALPS 360’ restaurant.

The ‘Noah’ gondola at Hakuba Iwatake operates from early-June to mid-November and transports visitors to the  Hakuba Mountain Harbor  (pictured above) including City Bakery and walking trails. Known for its outstanding view of the North Alps and stunning autumn leaves, the Mountain Harbor has quickly established itself as one of Hakuba’s most popular all-year-round destinations.

Happo Pond  can be accessed using the ‘Adam’ gondola at Hakuba Happo One. Located around 2000 metres above sea level, the pond is around 90-minutes walk from the upper gondola station and blessed with one of Hakuba’s most iconic vistas. Trails lead onto the pond further into the mountains – more serious undertakings that require appropriate experience, preparation and gear – however, for anyone of reasonable fitness, Happo Pond is a beautiful and rewarding destination.

Accessible using the Tsuigake ‘Eve’ Gondola followed by the shorter ropeway, the  Tsugaike Nature Park  sits at around 1900 metres above sea level and offers a series of leisurely yet beautiful alpine trails. Courses ranging from 1km to 5.5km / 1 to 4 hours walk provide access over 100 hectares of alpine landscape, known for its beauty, variety of mountain plants and flowers, and panoramic views of the North Alps rising another 1000 metres above.

27 / KISO-ONTAKE MOUNTAIN RANGE & KISO VALLEY / all year round

25 Things To Do Around The Kiso Valley / Nakasendo & Where To Stay

Most famous for the historic Nakasendo and its beautifully preserved ‘shuku…

The Kiso Ontake Mountain Range is one of several dramatic and beautiful alpine areas covering Central Japan. Dominated by the imposing volcanic peak of Mount Ontake – Japan’s second highest volcano behind Fuji – the region is known for its pristine nature, lush landscapes and stunningly-coloured water of its rivers and gorges. Blessed with rare natural beauty the Kiso Ontake Mountain Range includes the stunning Kiso Valley and the most famous section of the Nakasendo, including the beautiful postal towns of Narai, Magome and Tsumago, which can still be walked today. Still somewhat undiscovered by international visitors, exploring Kiso Ontake and the Kiso Valley takes you deep into the heart of Central Japan.

28 / WALK THE HISTORIC NAKASENDO / best: spring and autumn

The  Nakasendo Trail traces a historic trade route  that once connected Tokyo – then called Edo – and Kyoto during the Edo Period (1603-1868). Though much of the route is now gone, several sections can still be walked including the picturesque ‘Kisoji’, the section of road that runs through the Kiso Valley. Serviced by many ‘juku’ or post towns, Kisoji is known for the historic preservation of Narai-juku, Magome-juku and Tsumago-juku. These picturesque little towns are cared for by local residents who strive to maintain their traditional aesthetic and ways of life, and are lined with traditional guesthouses, restaurants and craft stores. Walking the Nakasendo is best enjoyed in spring and autumn.

29 / VISIT KARUIZAWA / all year round

30 Things to Do Around Karuizawa & Where to Stay

Only 70-minutes from Tokyo using the Hokuriku Shinkansen, Karuizawa is one …

Once also a post town on the Nakasendo, Karuizawa is a popular mountain resort town located around 1000 metres above sea level. Blessed with a cool climate in summer and snow in winter, Karuizawa is a popular year-round destination for Japanese and an increasingly popular for international visitors. The expansive Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza – boasting more than 200 stores and restaurants – is immediately accessible from Karuizawa Station while in winter, Karuizawa Prince Hotel Snow Resort is popular with Tokyoites and families. Within walking distance of the station, the old area of Ginza Street is home to many excellent stores, galleries and restaurants while nearby attractions including Hoshino Terrace and Shiraito Falls are always popular.

30 / AUTUMN LEAVES OF NAGANO / late-September to November

As a place of mountains and abundant forests, Nagano is one of the best places to enjoy the beautiful autumn leaves of Japan. Known as ‘koyo’ in Japanese, the stunning colours of the autumn leaves are cherished and valued, much like the cherry blossoms of spring. The exact timing of the leaves varies from year-to-year and depending on the altitude and location of each area. From late-September onward, the landscape will start to turn and soon be awash with colour – a mosaic of red, gold, amber and brown – as the autumn leaves fill the forests, valleys and mountains through October and November. Needless to say, the higher altitude of Nagano provides the perfect conditions for some of Japan’s most stunning autumn leaves. For information about ‘koyo’ season and the best places to find the leaves, see our ‘Autumn Leaves in Nagano’ page .

31 / THE TASTE OF NAGANO: SOBA, MISO, APPLES & MORE! / all year round

Nagano is one of Japan’s true food bowls. Situated at the heart of the main island of Honshu, Nagano is a region of dramatic mountains and bountiful farmlands. Blessed with abundant pure water and fertile soil, the region produces some of Japan’s best fruit, vegetables, meat and rice. Nagano produces some of Japan’s best ‘soba’ (buckwheat noodles), ‘miso’ (fermented soybean paste), rice, and most famously, apples and grapes. From the mountains, many types of ‘gibie’ (wild meat) are procured including deer, boar, rabbit and even bear, while ‘basashi’ (horse) is a traditional delicacy. For more information about the tastes and treats on offer, see our ‘The Famous Food of Nagano’ page and ‘Enjoy the Fruit of Nagano’ page .

Looking for a great place to eat or enjoy a drink in Nagano City? We recommend Monzen Terrace Enya , located under 2-minutes walk from Zenko-ji Temple and around 20-minutes walk to Nagano Station. Serving a mixed menu of both Japanese and Western cuisine, Enya is known for delicious menu, wide variety of drinks, friendly service and English-speaking staff. Enya also offers both indoor and outdoor dining making it the ideal restaurant to enjoy coffee, beer or local ‘sake’ after a day exploring the city.

32 / THE TASTE OF NAGANO: SAKE, BEER, WINE & MORE! / all year round

While in Nagano, visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding something to drink. Most famously, Nagano is home to the second largest number of ‘sake’ breweries in Japan. The tradition of sake production in Nagano stretches back countless years and is as fundamental to the identity of the region as the mountains, snow and monkeys. In recent years, Nagano has also seen a boom in craft beer with many excellent breweries and a burgeoning cider and wine industry starting to attract global attention. For further information about diving into the warm world of ‘sake’ while in Nagano, see our ‘Enjoy Sake in Nagano’ page .

33 / AUTUMN FESTIVALS OF NAGANO / September to November

Known as ‘matsuri’, festivals play an important role in bringing communities together to celebrate all types of weird and wonderful things. Taking place at the end of September, the  ‘Azumino O-Fune Matsuri’ or ‘Ship Festival’  celebrates the founding to the Azumino region with a climatic ship fight, propelled by local residents.

In October, the historic town of Matsushiro – part of Nagano City – plays host to its autumn  ‘Sanada Clan Jumangoku Festival’  – a spectacular celebration of the town’s samurai heritage.

In November, Nagano City hosts the stunning and huge  ‘Ebisu-ko Fireworks Festival’ . Attracting an estimated crowd of around 400,000 people, more than 15,000 fireworks explode in the crisp autumn sky in thanks for a good harvest and heralding the winter to come – and one of our most popular tours of the year.

34 / WINTER FESTIVALS OF NAGANO / December to March

Visitors to Nagano can enjoy some great festivals each winter, starting with the  ‘Zenko-ji Omotesando Illumination’  in Nagano City. Held each December, the illumination sees the city’s famous temple come to light and life, awash with colour as it and the ‘Omotesando’ (avenue leading to temple) are lit-up in the cold winter night.

The  ‘Nozawa Onsen Dosonjin Matsuri’ , or commonly referred to as the ‘Nozawa Fire Festival’, is one of Japan’s three great fire festivals. The festival is held annually on January 15 but preparation starts in October and involves hundreds of villagers, who build a huge wooden shrine which is then – on the night of the festival – simultaneously attacked and defended by men of the village. Always popular and raucous, the festival ends with the shrine being set ablaze – a remarkable sight and unforgettable night! Please note that a reservation at a hotel in the area may be required for attendance.

In the first week of February, the  ‘Tomyo Lantern Festival’  again sees Nagano City’s historic temple come to light, as light installations and projects offer thanks to the Buddha – an important act in Buddhism – while also commemorating Nagano’s role as host to the 1998 Winter Olympics. Finally, for three days in the middle of March,  ‘Snow Monkey Beer Live’  kick-offs in Shiga Kogen Ski Resort. As Japan’s largest and highest ski resort, Shiga is blessed with Nagano’s longest season and just many other resorts – including many in Hakuba – are winding-down for the season, Snow Monkey Beer Live heralds the start of Shiga’s spring-skiing season.

35 / SPRING FESTIVALS OF NAGANO / April to June

Spring is always a big event in Japan, with Japanese traveling the country to see the best cherry blossoms. One of the best cherry blossom spots is the Takato Castle Park, a park which lays on the ruins of Takato Castle. Instead of a castle keep, the park now has numerous ‘sakura’ trees which all bloom bright in beginning to mid-April and host one of Japan’s most famous spring festivals – the Takato Castle Park Cherry Blossom Festival .

Wander among the 1,500 cherry blossom trees and enjoy the festive atmosphere; you’ll see people lounging on picnic blankets looking at the blossoms above them, vendors selling everything from ‘yakitori’ to ice cream, and amazing views over the surrounding alpine mountains.

The Matsushiro Spring Cherry Blossom Festival takes place on the second Saturday of April, within the grounds of Matsushiro Castle Park. Typically blooming in the first week of April, the festival is planned to coincide with the expected peak bloom – referred to as ‘mankai’ in Japanese – with events and performances celebrating the samurai heritage of Matsushiro.

36 / SUMMER FESTIVALS OF NAGANO / July to August

In August, Nagano City’s  ‘Binzuru Dance Festival’  sees troupes of dancers take over the streets, totalling around 200 groups and thousands of onlookers. In the heat of summer, the festival attracts a big crowd and great atmosphere. Matsumoto’s ‘Bon Bon’ Dance Festival  also takes place in early-August, just one of the many festivals in  a busy calendar of events in the famous castle town . Located just outside of Matsumoto, the  ‘Azumino Fireworks Festival’  takes place on August 14 th  each year. This decidedly local festival attracts a big crowd to see the warm summer night burst into light with around 12,000 fireworks exploding in the sky above.

The  ‘Zenko-ji Summer Ennichi Festival’  takes place at the Nagano’s historic Zenko-ji Temple in mid-August. This event draws visitors from far and wide – a spectacular display of the continued importance of the temple to the people of Nagano.

The third weekend of August sees  Shiga Kogen’s three-day ‘Daija Festival’  take place in the beautiful surroundings of Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. For more information, see our ‘Events’ page for a complete listing of Nagano’s upcoming festivals.

37 / HEAD SOUTH: SOUTHERN NAGANO, MOUNT FUJI & TOKYO / all year round

30 Things To Do Around Mount Fuji & Where To Stay

Standing 3776 metres in height, Fuji is Japan’s tallest and most iconic mou…

As one of Japan’s largest prefectures, there’s plenty to explore as you head south and into the Southern Alps, starting with the Kiso-Ontake – see above for details – and onto Mount Fuji. Standing 3776 metres in height, Fuji is Japan’s tallest and most iconic mountain . An active volcano, Fuji has long been revered, feared, and held in awe by the Japanese people. It holds huge spiritual and cultural importance for Japan and rising high above the surrounding plateau is a constant presence in the daily life of the country.

Offering great views of the mountain and some of Japan’s best hot springs, guesthouses and museums, Hakone is another hugely popular destination. For further information, see our ’15 Things To Do Around Hakone & Where To Stay’ page . From either Hakone or Fuji, Tokyo is within easy reach. As Japan’s expansive capital, Tokyo offers something for everyone – from world-class dining to tiny eateries, brand stores to the super cool, traditional arts and crafts to the most obscure subcultures.

Where to Stay in Tokyo? Best Neighbourhoods & Accommodation Areas

To say that Tokyo is a big city is something of an understatement and does …

For first-time visitors – and even seasoned veterans of travel to Japan – planning your visit to Tokyo can be somewhat confusing given its size. Our ‘Tokyo’ main page includes our recommendations of the best areas to stay, the best museums, cherry blossoms spots and more in the capital along with information about nearby destinations including Yokohama, Kamakura and more.

38 / HEAD WEST: TAKAYAMA, NAGOYA & THE KII PENINSULA / all year round

For visitors heading to destinations including Matsumoto and Kamikochi, it’s an easy onward journey to  the historic old town of Takayama . Famous for the excellent preservation of its Edo Period (1603-1868) historic centre, Takayama draws large crowds. Equally famous for its food scene  including Hida beef and Takayama ramen, Takayama attracts visitors as much for its food as it does for its historic streetscapes.

Easily accessible by bus from Takayama by bus, the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama  were inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1995. Actually consisting of three villages, they are known for this distinctive ‘gassho-style’ thatch-roofed houses set in a beautiful alpine setting of rice fields and high mountains above. World Heritage-listing has ensured that the villages are hugely popular with both domestic and international tourists but don’t let that put you off.

On our popular tour of the area, you can easily see both Takayama and Shirakawa-go in a single day. Even better, you can choose to be dropped off at Kanazawa to facilitate further adventures in Central Japan. This is the easiest way to travel across this area while sightseeing for those who do not have their own car.

From Nagano, Matsumoto and the Kiso Valley it’s an equally easy journey to the south-west and onto Nagoya. One of Japan’s great metropolises and an industrial powerhouse, Nagoya is a modern and industrious city with a rich history and great food scene, making it an ideal stop as you move west toward Kyoto and Osaka. The city’s industrial, youthful and energetic atmosphere blends with a fascinating history as seen in Nagoya’s famous castle, Atsuta Shrine, Toyota Commemorative Museum, the Central Japan Railways Museum, Tokugawa Art Museum and more.

25 Things to Do Around Nagoya & Where to Stay

Nagoya is one of Japan’s great metropolises and one of the country’s financ…

From Nagoya, the Kii Peninsula is easily accessible using public transport. Blessed with three of Japan’s most important religious destinations – the Ise Grand Shrine complex, the pilgrimage trails of the Kumano Kodo and the temple mountain of Koyasan – the Kii Peninsula can lay claim to be Japan’s most sacred and engaging areas.

39 / HEAD NORTH: TOYAMA, KANAZAWA & FUKUI / all year round

Visitors heading to the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route or using the Hokuriku Shinkansen line onward from Nagano, can head onto Toyama. Nestled between Toyama Bay and the North Alp, Toyama is known throughout Japan for its fantastic seafood . One of the great pleasures of visiting the city is trying its famous seafood, best experienced at the seafood markets on the coast. But if you don’t have time to explore and are just passing through, it’s worth noting that there are excellent seafood restaurants inside Toyama Station or in the nearby precinct, which also includes Toyama Castle Park and Toyama Glass Art Museum.

A short onward train-ride from Toyama, Kanazawa is a well-established, popular destination for international visitors. Kanazawa is a relatively small city with an attractive mix of historic areas, modern museums and great food. Part of the ancient Kaga Province, the name Kanazawa literally translates as ‘marsh of gold’. Under the rule of the Maeda clan during the Edo Period (1603-1868), Kanazawa developed into one of Japan’s most important cities, accumulating great wealth and attracting artisans through a series of policies designed to consolidate the power, and services the needs, of the samurai class. Today, Kanazawa remains a city of historic districts, fantastic museums and great food.

Kanazawa is a very walkable city. However, it may be rather difficult to organize and properly plan out your route without some help – that’s where we come in! With our tours in the area, you will be able to absorb the best of Kanazawa’s famous culture and sightseeing spots along with commentary from your knowledgeable guide.

Moving on from Kanazawa, Fukui is often overlooked by international visitors but should not be. Home to two of Central Japan’s best destinations – Daihonzan Eihei-ji Temple and the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum – Fukui is well-worth including on any itinerary. For more information, see our ’10 Things To Do In Fukui & Where To Stay’ page .

40 / HEAD EAST: KUSATSU ONSEN, YUZAWA & NIIGATA / all year round

Visitors heading west have just as much to choose from starting with Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma Prefecture. One of Japan’s most famous hot spring towns, Kusatsu can be reached using public buses from Karuizawa or – in green season – is accessible by car using the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Route. One of many fantastic hot spring towns in Gunma, the region has loads to entice you. For further suggestions, see our ’25 Things To Do Around Kusatsu Onsen & Where To Stay’ page .

15 Things to Do Around Yuzawa & Where to Stay

A convenient stop on the Joetsu Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Niiga…

Finally, bordering Nagano to the north-west and of similar character, Niigata is a large prefecture known for its mountains and heavy snow . Fondly referred to as ‘yukiguni’ or ‘snow country’, Yuzawa and the surrounding area is subject to exceptionally heavy snowfall and many excellent ski resorts. Best known as a winter destination, summer events including Fuji Rock Festival – Japan’s largest music festival – and the increasingly popular Echigo-Tsumari Art Field mean that Yuzawa and Niigata are quickly becoming all-year-round destinations.

WHERE TO STAY IN NAGANO?

Our ‘Best Places to Stay in Nagano’ page includes lots of information about where you’ll find the best accommodation in Nagano City and wider Nagano Prefecture. As the largest city in Nagano Prefecture, Nagano City offers the most accommodation options and is the most convenient place to stay thanks to Nagano Station, which is serviced by multiple train lines and bus services running to the region’s best destinations. There are also a couple of other options nearby for travellers wanting to enjoy a traditional guesthouse while visiting places including Togakushi, the monkey park and Shiga Kogen. Let’s start with the most convenint option:

NAGANO CITY AREA

Nagano City boasts lots of accommodation options, most of which are centred around Nagano Station – a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Kanazawa – 80 to 110-minutes from the capital depending on which service you use. Other train lines, tours, local buses and taxis all operate from the station making the area around it, the most convenient place to stay when exploring the region. Prices for accommodation are typically good with many hotels offering Western-style rooms and amenities, in-house restaurants and English-speaking staff. Around 15 to 20-minutes walk from the station, the area around Zenko-ji Temple has smaller guesthouses including many ‘shukubo’ (temple lodgings) in the surrounding streets. For accommodation listings, see our ‘Nagano City Area’ hotel page . When staying in Nagano City, we recommend:

HOTEL KOKUSAI 21

Located between Nagano Station and Zenko-ji Temple, Hotel Kokusai 21 is the city’s most established international hotel. Known for its blend of modern amenities and attentive Japanese service, Kokusai 21 offers guests spacious Western-style rooms with private bathrooms, multiple in-house restaurants including daily breakfast service and English-speaking 24-hour reception. Within easy walking distance of the station and the city’s most popular attractions and dining areas, Kokusai 21 offers unmatched comfort, convenience and professional service in the heart of Nagano.

HOTEL NAGANO NEW NeXT

Only 2 minutes walk from Nagano Station, Hotel New Nagano NeXT offers travellers affordable yet modern, comfortable and convenient accommodation. Four room types – single, double, twin and superior twin – each feature comfortable Western-style bedding, private bathrooms including toilet, shower and bath along with TV and Roomcast with ability to access streaming services and lots of touches more typical of a hotel well above its price range, rounded-out by a delicious buffet breakfast service that guest can enjoy in their rooms.

TOGAKUSHI AREA

Located around 40 to 50-minutes drive from Nagano Station, Togakushi is home to some of Japan’s most important Shinto shrines and a number of ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses) including several ‘shukubo’ (temple lodgings). As such, staying in Togakushi offers guests the chance to enjoy a uniquely Japanese accommodation experience. Most guesthouses offer both dinner and breakfast service, traditional rooms with on-floor ‘futon’ bedding with some also have in-house hot springs. Most guesthouses are concentrated around the ‘Hokosha’ (Lower Shrine) and the lower area of Togakushi village with a second concentration nearby the ‘Chusha’ (Middle Shrine). Togakushi Ski Resort is located another 5-minutes drive past the village and offers several small ski lodges and family-run guesthouses. For accommodation listings, see our ‘Togakushi Area’ hotel page .

YUDANAKA & SHIBU ONSEN AREA

Around 45-minutes by train from Nagano Station, the historic hot spring towns of Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen boast many guesthouses and small hotels, most of which have their own in-house ‘onsen’ (hot springs). Of the two towns, Shibu Onsen is the most picturesque, retaining much of its historic character in the preservation of its small laneways, traditional public and nine public hot springs. Yudanaka is less pretty but very convenient, with most accommodation within walking distance of Yudanaka Station. Staying in this area is a good option for guests wanting to be outside the city centre, enjoy the comforts and cuisine of a traditional Japan inn, and visit nearby destinations including the Jigokudani Monkey Park, Shiga Kogen Ski Resort and Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. For accommodation listings, see our ‘Yudanaka Onsen Area’ hotel page .

SNOW MONKEY PARK / KANBAYASHI ONSEN AREA

Under 5-minutes drive from Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen – and around 50-minutes from Nagano Station – Kanbayashi Onsen is best-known for the Jigokudani Monkey Park, which is located at the top of the small village and within walking distance of all hotel and guesthouses. Sharing the same source of natural thermal water as the monkey park, all accommodation in the area have their own hot springs and service traditional ‘kaiseki’ (multi-course) menus highlighting the seasonal produce of the area. For accommodation listings, see our ‘Kanbayashi Onsen Area’ hotel page . When staying in Kanbayashi Onsen, we recommend:

HOTARUTEI VILLAS

Offering two luxurious, modern villas with multiple rooms and attached private outdoor onsen baths, Hotarutei Villas is located only a short walk from the entrance to the Snow Monkey Park Trailhead. With easy access to Nagano Station or Shiga Kogen by Express Bus, this is the perfect place to stage your ultimate retreat in the mountains of Japan. The attached restaurant, housed in a 170 year old farmhouse, serves delicious and traditional Japanese cuisine prepared with local ingredients.

HOTEL SENJUKAKU

Hotel Senjukaku is one of the best hotel’s in the region within easy walk of the Jigokudani Monkey Park and around 25-minutes drive to Shiga Kogen. A favourite hotel with members of the Japanese Royal Family, this elegant hotel is known for its exceptional service, traditional comforts, indulgent ‘onsen’ (hot springs)and outstanding ‘kaiseki’ (multi-course) meal service. Guests can choose between Japanese rooms with on-floor ‘futon’ bedding or mixed rooms featuring traditional Japanese design and Western-style bedding. Several rooms also include their own hot spring bath with all guests having access to the hotel’s large indoor, outdoor and private ‘onsen’.

HOW TO GET TO NAGANO CITY

As a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Kanazawa, Nagano is easy to reach from the capital and beyond with other express train lines connecting Nagano City to Matsumoto, the Kiso Valley and Nagoya. Our ‘How To Get To Nagano City’ page has everything you need to know about how to get here.

TOURS AND CHARTERS TO THE MONKEY PARK

As Nagano’s No.1 tour operator, we are proud to offer multiple tours that combine a visit to the Snow Monkey Park with other fun local activities. No matter the season, we can help you make the most of your time in Nagano. Whether with your family or friends, or on your own, we are sure to have something that suits your needs!

Our most popular offering is our “ 1-Day Tour: Snow Monkey Park, Zenkoji Temple and Sake in Nagano “. Guests on this delightful excursion will first be treated to Sake Tasting and a guided tour of the historic Zenkoji Temple in Nagano, including lunch at a nearby restaurant.

With the first half of the tour complete, you will then depart for the Monkey Park on our private tour vehicle. Once you have arrived your guide will lead the way up to the place the Monkeys call home, before you once again board the bus and return to your starting destination.

For those guests coming in the Winter, we also offer the “ 1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun in Shiga Kogen “, combining exciting snow activities such as sledding and riding snow scoots with a visit to the Monkey Park. Lunch is also included, making for the perfect day trip for anyone looking to experience what winter in Nagano is all about!

Another unforgettable tour is our “ 1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Cherry Blossoms in Nagano “. Including two of Japan’s most amazing natural spectacles, the blooming of the Cherry Blossoms and the hot-spring loving monkeys of Jigokudani, this offering is the easiest way to enjoy a relaxed spring day in Nagano.

Private Tour

For those who want a more customized experience, we also offer private tours of the Snow Monkey Park and nearby attractions such as Zenkoji Temple. For more information, please click the link above or send us an inquiry describing your ideal itinerary.

CHARTER A VEHICLE TO THE SNOW MONKEY PARK !

For those interested in private charter services, we would be pleased to provide a vehicle and propose an itinerary to suite your needs! Please see our charter page and send us your trip details so we can can start planning your journey together.

Nagano City & Togakushi

Visit Nagano City: Everything You Need To Know

15 Things To Do In Togakushi & Where To Stay

30 Best Events, Festivals & Seasonal Activities in Nagano

20 Best Places To See Autumn Leaves In & Around Nagano

Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park

How to Get to Nagano

How To Get To Togakushi

How To Get To Matsushiro

1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake in Nagano

1-Day Tour from Nagano and Matsumoto: Kamikochi & Matsumoto Castle

[Spring Only] 1-Day Tour from Nagano: Snow Walls of Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route

1-Day Tour from Nagano and Matsumoto: Step into the Past on the Nakasendo

[START FROM NAGANO CITY] Private Snow Monkey Tour

[START FROM HAKUBA] Private Snow Monkey Tour

2-Day Snow Monkey Tour: Nagano To Takayama via Matsumoto

2-Day Snow Monkeys & Nagano Cultural Tour inc. Luxury Villa Stay

(Green Season) 4-Day Tour from Nagano to Kanazawa: The Ultimate Central Japan Tour

1-Day Tour from Nagano and Matsumoto: Experience Matsumoto Castle and Narai-juku

1-Day Togakushi Legends Tour: Hands-on Soba Noodles, Ninja Village, and Hidden Shrines

1-Day Samurai Food & Life Tour: Oyaki, Samurai Residences, and Katana Practice

(Special Event) Nagano's Hidden Samurai Town & Tomyo Lantern Festival Tour

[START FROM NOZAWA/MADARAO] Private Snow Monkey Tour

[START FROM MYOKO] Private Snow Monkey Tour

[START FROM SHIGA KOGEN] Private Snow Monkey Tour

[START FROM KARUIZAWA] Private Snow Monkey Tour

[START FROM NAGANO/MATSUMOTO] Private Kamikochi Tour

Zenkoji Experience Tour inc. Overnight 'Shukubo' (Temple Lodging) Stay

2-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys, Samurai Experience & Zenko-ji 'Shukubo' Stay

[Spring Only] 1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Cherry Blossoms in Nagano

2-Day Snow Monkeys & Nagano Cultural Tour inc. Luxury Onsen Hotel

2-Day Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun Winter Tour inc. Luxury Onsen Hotel

[NOV 23 ONLY] 1-Day Tour: Ebisu-ko Fireworks Festival & Snow Monkeys

1-Day Historic Obuse & Hokusai: Japan's 'Mad Man of Art' Tour

1-Day Tour From Hakuba & Nagano: Nozawa Fire Festival & Snow Monkeys

1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun In Shiga Kogen

[Summer/Autumn only] Tateyama-Kurobe Tour: Walking on the 'Roof of Japan'

1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Zenko-ji Winter Illumination

(Special Event) Nagano's Hidden Samurai Town & Zenko-ji Winter Illumination Tour

1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Zenko-ji Tomyo Lantern Festival

1-Day Tour: Snow Monkeys & Snowmobiling in Shiga Kogen

[Special Event] 1-Day Tour: Cherry Blossoms of Takato Castle Park

Snow Monkey Resorts Tour Desk

Zenko-ji Temple

Stay at a Traditional 'Shukubo' in Zenko-ji Temple

Discover Matsushiro - Nagano City's Samurai Town

Cherry Blossoms In Nagano

The Famous Food of Nagano

Enjoy Sake in Nagano

Autumn Leaves In Nagano

Nagano Cultural Experiences

Discover the Spirit of the 1998 Olympics

Nagano Prefectural Art Museum

Shop at Nakamise Street

Yoshinoya Sake Brewery

Rosary Blessing & Morning Service At Zenko-ji Temple

‘Zazen’(Seated) Meditation

‘Goma’ Prayer (Fire Ceremony)

'Shodo' (Calligraphy) Experience in Nagano City

‘Shakyo’(Brush) Meditation

'Origami' Experience in Nagano City

'Mizuhiki' (Paper Cord) Making Experience in Nagano City

Traditional Tea Ceremony in Nagano City

'Washi' (Japanese Paper) Making Experience in Nagano City

Fine-Dining 'Tempura' Course at Shunka

Fine-Dining 'Kaiseki' Course at Shunka

Matsushiro Castle Park

The Sanada Family Residence

Matsushiro Bunbu Literary & Military Arts School

Samurai & Traditional Experiences in Matsushiro

Former Higuchi Residence

Zozan Shrine

Yamadera Jyozan Residence

Sanada Treasures Museum

Zozan Imperial Wartime Tunnels

Chokoku-ji Temple

Obakushu Zozan Emyozenji Temple

Takeyama Zuigo Inari Shrine

Togakushi 'Okusha' (Upper Shrine)

Hiking & Walking Trails of Togakushi

Kagami-ike (Lake Kagami)

Togakushi Ninja & Folk Museum inc. Ninja House

Kids' Ninja Village

Togakure Ninja Training in Togakushi

Stay at a Traditional 'Shukubo' in Togakushi

Snowshoe in Togakushi

E-Bike in Togakushi

Olympic Stadium / Minami Nagano Sports Park

M-Mave Olympic Memorial Arena & Olympic Museum

Big Hat Arena

White Ring Arena

Aqua Wing Arena

Movie Theater (Grand Cinema)

Midori Department Store

Tokyu Department Store

C-ONE Department Store

Karaoke: JoySound

Kaleidoscope Workshop

Bracelet Making

Tonbo-Dama Bead Crafting

Yuzen & Kusaki-Zome Dyeing Workshop

Meet Maids At Maid Cafe & Bar REI

Play With Cats At Cat Cafe NARU

Hotel Kokusai 21

Hotel New Nagano NeXT

Nagano City Area

Togakushi Area

Jizokan Matsuya Ryokan

Ryokan Chuokan Shimizuya

Tokyu Rei Hotel

Hotel Abest Naganoeki-mae

Hotel Nagano Avenue

Chisun Grand Hotel Nagano

Hotel Metropolitan Nagano

RESTAURANTS

MONZEN TERRACE ENYA

KOKUSAI 21: TEPPANYAKI SAKURA

KOKUSAI 21: ITALIAN RESTAURANT DONODONO

KOKUSAI 21: CHINESE RESTAURANT KARIN

KOKUSAI 21: COFFEE LOUNGE BAYBERRY

Patio Daimon

Oyaki Ogawanosho

Soba Cuisine Tsumugi

Japanese Cuisine Yorifuji Ayu

Japanese Cuisine Yamabuki

Cafe + Town Guide Engawa

Ramen Kirinji

Cafe & Bar Happa

Western Cuisine Moritaro

DAIMARU SOBA

Oldies Bar My Life

GONDO'S MENYA BUSON

BISTRO & BAR NAGI

Morino Coffee Shop Kumori Tokidoki Hare

Ristorante de Campanella

Food Delivery in Nagano

BEERHALL TOPI

TENTEN RAMEN

SATSUMAIMO (SWEET POTATO) SWEETS STORE

KUICHI IMAMURA SOBA

HAKATA TONKOTSU RAMEN

SUZUKIEN CHATEN

MENYA BUSON

RISTORANTE LA CAMPANELLA

CHO BALI BALI

ARTERIA BAKERY

SHINSHU NAGAYA SAKABA

THE FUJIYA GOHONJIN

OGAWA NO SHO

JAMES NAGANO BEER MARKET

ORIENTAL KITCHEN SANDALWOOD

BURGER SPRINGS

MOMIJI CHAYA

The Treat Dressing

Kantenpapa Shop

Gallery / Shop Geshi

Ebisu-ko Fireworks Festival

Zenko-ji Omotesando Illumination

Nagano Setsubun Festival

Nagano Tomyo Lantern Festival

Zenko-ji 'Gokaicho' Festival

Takato Castle Park Cherry Blossom Festival

Nagano Binzuru Dance Festival

Togakushi 'Dondo-Yaki' Festival

The Beeso - Togakushi Drinking Festival

Matsushiro Spring Cherry Blossom Festival

Nagano Marathon

The Nagano Flower Festival

Nagano Gion Festival

Wakaho Fure-Ai Odori Festival

Toyono Yoishoko Festival

Binzuru-Ichi Market

Iizuna Fire Festival

Zenko-ji Temple Summer Ennichi

Rokaku-Lake Fireworks and Lantern Float Festival

Nagano Daidogei Street Performance Festival

Kawanakajima Battlefield Fireworks Festival

Matsushiro Autumn Sanada Clan Jumangoku Festival

Democrato Artists, Anime, and Western-style Paintings: Diversity at Nagano Prefectural Art Museum’s remaining 2023 Exhibition Schedule.

“Katsushika Hokusai and the Three Shinanos” Exhibit Honors the Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art at Nagano Prefectural Art Museum

Discover the Winter Wonderland of Japan: A Journey Through the Snow Walls of Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Work With Us! Part-time Guiding Position with Snow Monkey Resorts

TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice ‘Best of the Best 2022’ Award: Our 1-Day Snow Monkey, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour Named One of Japan’s Top 10 Travel Experiences!

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Where to Stay in Nagano

There are countless resort areas, hot spring towns and cities to choose from for an overnight stay in Nagano. Here are our top six overnight destinations.

Updated: 2023-11-09

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Nagano is one of Japan’s largest prefectures, so choosing a place to stay can be a difficult task. There are many cities and towns with attractive hotels, beautiful scenery and local attractions, and each has their own charm.

We’d like to introduce some of Nagano’s most popular places to stay, from lively cities and resorts to hot spring areas and atmospheric post-towns.

Matsumoto City

Nagano city.

The Hakuba Valley

The Kiso Valley

Yamanouchi—home of the snow monkeys.

nagano ken tourist spot

Matsumoto is Nagano’s second largest city and has a university, a thriving art scene and plenty of trendy cafes and restaurants. Visitors know Matsumoto best for its distinguished landmark, Matsumoto Castle , one of the oldest extant castles in Japan. However, there’s lots more to see in Matsumoto, including Alps Koen with panoramic vistas of the Northern Alps, Nawate Dori shopping street, and the Matsumoto City Museum of Art, which features a permanent exhibition of the work of Yayoi Kusama.

nagano ken tourist spot

Its central location makes it well-suited as a travel hub. Kamikochi , one of Japan’s most popular national parks, is just an hour-and-a-half away by train and bus. The picturesque town of Narai, one of the post-towns of the Nakasendo, is just 45 minutes by train. Buses also connect the city to Takayama in neighboring Gifu Prefecture—another highly popular tourist destination.

Matsumoto also has events throughout the year and is a must-see tourist city with easy access from Tokyo, Nagoya, or Nagano City.

Learn More / Related Links

Three-Day Trip in Matsumoto

nagano ken tourist spot

Nagano City is the largest city and capital of Nagano Prefecture. Zenkoji Temple is its distinguished landmark, one of the oldest temples and largest wooden buildings in Japan. Nagano City’s other attractions include Monzen Daimoncho shopping street, Shukubo pilgrim’s accommodations surrounding Zenkoji Temple, and the Nagano Olympic Museum.

Most of northern Nagano is easily within reach from here. Togakushi Shrine and Mt. Togakushi are just an hour away by bus, offering delicious buckwheat soba noodles and hiking and snowshoeing courses in a natural, spiritual setting. The snow monkeys of Jigokudani, the hot spring town of Nozawa Onsen, the countryside of Iiyama, the tranquil town of Obuse, and even the Hakuba Valley can all be reached in under an hour by train and/or bus.

nagano ken tourist spot

Located on the Hokuriku Shinkansen, Nagano Station provides direct access to Tokyo, Kanazawa, and Nagoya.

48 Hours in Nagano City

nagano ken tourist spot

Just an hour away from Tokyo by bullet train, highland Karuizawa is Nagano’s high-class vacation town with summer homes, elegant hotels, fine dining, a ski resort, and multiple golf courses. Compared to the rest of Nagano, Karuizawa has a decidedly European feel.

nagano ken tourist spot

Cool in the summer, Karuizawa is an excellent getaway from the heat. Enjoy the shade of its forests as you cycle through lanes of villas, visit refreshing natural oases like Kumoba Pond and Shiraito Falls, or explore the various hiking courses around Mt. Asama and Usui Pass.

Another draw is the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza. It sits directly behind Karuizawa Station and has over 220 shops, including international brands that can be difficult to find in other parts of the prefecture. The open mall plan features large green lawns and ponds—an exquisite combination of the comforts of the city and the freedom of the outdoors.

All About Karuizawa Follow John Lennon’s Footsteps in Karuizawa

nagano ken tourist spot

With ten world-class ski resorts, the Hakuba Valley is primarily known as a winter destination. Indeed, Hakuba in winter offers plenty of activities such as skiing, hot springs, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and nightlife. However, it is also beautiful in the green season, with easy gondola access to hikes in the Northern Alps for all ability levels and numerous cycling and mountain biking trails .

nagano ken tourist spot

Other activities include scenic drives, ropes courses, camping, and water sports. Many resorts also have scenic terraces and cafes at the top of the mountain, such as Hakuba Mountain Harbor. The starting point of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route , known for its 10 to 20-meter-high snow walls, is just over an hour away by train and bus.

During winter, most of Hakuba is accessible by public transportation, thanks to its local shuttle service. In summer, major resorts and mountain trailheads are still accessible by bus, but it helps to have a car to get around town.

Hakuba has direct access to Matsumoto and Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.

nagano ken tourist spot

The Kiso Valley in Southern Nagano is home to the historic Nakasendo Road. Many of the 11 post towns of the Kiso Valley are preserved near their original states, and visitors can stay in traditional Japanese ryokans with hot springs. Magome, Tsumago, and Narai are the best preserved, each town with its unique charm. The Kiso Valley is an excellent option for extended walks, to experience rural Japan, or to catch a glimpse of life in the Edo Period.

nagano ken tourist spot

This region can be very quiet compared to cities like Nagano or Matsumoto. While there isn’t much nightlife, it’s hard to find an atmosphere like this anywhere else. For those who want to visit a pub or two during their trip, stay in the area’s largest town of Kiso Fukushima.

The Kiso Valley has direct train access to Nagoya, Matsumoto or Nagano Station.

Walking the Nakasendo Kiso Fukushima: Your Base Camp in the Kiso Valley Seven Ways to Enjoy the Kiso Valley this Summer

nagano ken tourist spot

The town of Yamanouchi is known by many as the home of the snow monkeys of Jigokudani. Featured extensively in nature and travel programs, they are a world-famous tourist attraction. But that’s not all there is to see or do here. Yamanouchi has enough hot springs for everyone and plenty of natural scenery and outdoor activities to go around. The town’s hot springs villages of Shibu, Yudanaka, and Kanbayashi offer authentic ryokan stays and relaxing hot spring baths. Guests can also walk around the village in traditional yukata bath robes and enjoy an authentic hot spring town atmosphere.

nagano ken tourist spot

Above town is Shiga Kogen, an expansive highland area and UNESCO biosphere reserve. In winter, it is a world-class skiing destination, and during summer, a haven for hiking and mountain climbing. Just north of Shiga Kogen is the Ryuo Sora Terrace, a 1,770-meter-high terrace with amazing views of the northern Nagano valley.

Depending on your plans and priorities, you can choose to stay up in the mountains of Shiga Kogen or stay in the hot spring inns in one of Yamanouchi’s onsen areas. They are relatively close to one another, just about 20 minutes by bus or car, so you can still find time to enjoy both regardless of where you spend the night.

From Nagano Station, take the Nagano Dentetsu Line train or bus to access Yamanouchi and the Snow Monkeys.

How to Enjoy Yamanouchi in Winter The Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park Nature and Hiking Trails in Shiga Kogen

Nagano Prefecture offers fantastic tourist attractions. In addition to the popular tourist spots, unlimited exploration is waiting just off the beaten path. Beautiful sights, activities, and authentic cultural experiences abound for avid outdoors people and regular tourists alike. Visit some of these overnight destinations on your next Nagano holiday.

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Three-Day Trip in Matsumoto

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Nagano Kayaking 長野 カヤック体験

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Lake Aoki, Taira, Omachi-shi, Nagano-ken

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Appreciate the splendor of Nagano while kayaking her prefectural lakes

How to get there.

To reach Lake Ontake and Lake Shizenko:

The closest train station to Lake Shizenko is Kiso Fukushima. From Tokyo, take the JR Limited Express Azusa from Shinjuku Station. Transfer at Shiojiri for the JR Limited Express Shinano to Kiso Fukushima Station. From there, take the Ontake Kotsu Bus to Otaki Village.

From Kiso Fukushima, take the Ontake Kotsu bus to Otaki's village center (40 minutes). The tourist center is right across from the bus stop.

To reach Lake Nojiri:

To reach Lake Aoki:

The closest station to Lake Aoki is Shinano-Kizaki Station.

Quick Facts

All kayaking tours need to be booked in advance

The kayaking season usually runs from April through October, but check individual providers for details

Lake Nojiri

An ancient glacial lake less than four hours from Tokyo and about 20 kilometers north of the city of Nagano, Lake Nojiri is buttressed by a number of mountains. The area boasts an international resort feel, due in part to the lake's development in the 1920s by a Canadian missionary. The Shinetsu Shizenkyo Activity Center runs half-day and full-day kayaking tours of the lake.

Lake Aoki and the Sai River

The firm also provides one and two-day kayaking tours on the nearby Sai River, which flows from the Northern Alps. The Sai River features gentle class one and two rapids suitable for beginners.

Lake Ontake and Lake Shizenko

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Lake Shizenko is one of Nagano's most remote, and unique, kayaking experiences. The lake was created by a 1984 earthquake when a massive landslide from Mt Ontake dammed a part of the Otaki River.

The surrounding forest was submerged, and the remains of the trees still rise from the lake like ghosts. The result is a stunning work of nature. Halfway through the tour, you leave the main part of the lake and paddle through a towering section of canyon.

The eco-tourism award winning Nagoromiba runs the kayaking tours on Lake Shizenko.

The latest information may differ, so please check the official website

* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.

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To fend off tourists, a town in Japan is building a big screen blocking the view of Mount Fuji

The town of Fujikawaguchiko has had enough of tourists. Known for a number of scenic photo spots that offer a near-perfect shot of Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji, the town on Tuesday began to construct a large black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block the view of the mountain. The reason: misbehaving foreign tourists. (AP Video: Ayaka McGill).

Visitors take a photo in front of a convenient store at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi prefecture, Japan, with a backdrop of Mr. Fuji on April 28, 2024. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan's trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday, April 30, 2024 began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)

Visitors take a photo in front of a convenient store at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi prefecture, Japan, with a backdrop of Mr. Fuji on April 28, 2024. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan’s trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday, April 30, 2024 began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)

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Workers set up a barricade near the Lawson convenience store, background, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan’s trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tourists take pictures in front of the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan’s trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tourists take a photo of the Lawson convenience store with Mt. Fuji in the background on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan’s trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Workers set up a barricade near the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan’s trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tourists are packed at a train and bus station Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan’s trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tourists gather in front of the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan’s trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tourists hang out outside the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan’s trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A security guard redirects a tourist outside of the construction site of a barricade near the Lawson convenience store Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan’s trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A tourist takes a selfie at the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background, on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan’s trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A notice for tourists across the use road from the Lawson convenience store, where a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mount Fuji in the background Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Workers set up a barricade near the Lawson convenience store Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tourists take pictures in front of the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mount Fuji in the background on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Workers set up a barricade near the Lawson convenience store, where the popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mount Fuji in the background Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

FILE- Visitors take pictures of Mount Fuji from Shibuya Sky observation deck Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

FILE- Mount Fuji is viewed clearly through the cool winter air Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

FUJIKAWAGUCHIKO, Japan (AP) — The town of Fujikawaguchiko has had enough of tourists.

Known for a number of scenic photo spots that offer a near-perfect shot of Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji, the town on Tuesday began constructing a large black screen on a stretch of a sidewalk to block the view of the mountain. The reason: misbehaving foreign tourists.

“Kawaguchiko is a town built on tourism, and I welcome many visitors, and the town welcomes them too, but there are many things about their manners that are worrying,” said Michie Motomochi, owner of a cafe serving Japanese sweets “ohagi,” near the soon-to-be-blocked photo spot.

Motomochi mentioned littering, crossing the road with busy traffic, ignoring traffic lights, trespassing into private properties. She isn’t unhappy though — 80% of her customers are foreign visitors whose numbers have surged after a pandemic hiatus that kept Japan closed for about two years.

Workers set up a barricade near the Lawson convenience store, where the popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mount Fuji in the background Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Workers set up a barricade near the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mount Fuji Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Visitors take a photo in front of a convenient store at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi prefecture, Japan, with a backdrop of Mr. Fuji on April 28, 2024. (Kyodo News via AP)

Her neighborhood suddenly became a popular spot about two years ago, apparently after a photo taken in a particular angle showing Mount Fuji in the background, as if sitting atop a local convenience store, became a social media sensation known as “Mt. Fuji Lawson,” town officials say.

FILE - President Joe Biden arrives on Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, April 30, 2024.. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The mostly foreign tourists have since crowded the small area, triggering a wave of concerns and complaints from residents about visitors blocking the narrow sidewalk, taking photos on the busy road or walking into neighbors’ properties, officials said.

In Europe, concerns over tourists overcrowding historic cities led Venice last week to launch a pilot program to charge day-trippers a 5-euro ($5.35) entry fee. Authorities hope it will discourage visitors from arriving on peak days and make the city more livable for its dwindling residents.

Fujikawaguchiko has tried other methods: signs urging visitors not to run into the road and to use the designated crosswalk in English, Chinese, Thai and Korean, and even hiring a security guard as crowd control. None worked.

A notice for tourists across the use road from the Lawson convenience store, where a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mount Fuji in the background Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

The black mesh net, when completed in mid-May, will be 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) high and 20 meters (65.6 feet) long, and will almost completely block the view of Mount Fuji, officials said.

Dozens of tourists gathered Tuesday taking photos even though Mount Fuji was not in sight due to cloudy weather.

Anthony Hok, from France, thought the screen was an overreaction. “Too big solution for subject not as big, even if tourists are making trouble. Doesn’t look right to me,” he said. The 26-year-old suggested setting up road barriers for safety instead of blocking views for pictures.

But Helen Pull, a 34-year-old visitor from the U.K., was sympathetic to the local concern. While traveling in Japan in the past few weeks, she has seen tourism “really ramped up here in Japan from what we’ve seen.”

“I can see why people who live and work here might want to do something about that,” she said, noting many were taking pictures even when the mountain was not in the view. “That’s the power of the social media.”

Tourists take pictures in front of the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan's trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tourists take pictures in front of the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A tourist takes a selfie at the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background, on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan's trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A tourist takes a selfie at the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background, on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Foreign visitors have flocked to Japan since the pandemic border restrictions were lifted, in part due to the weaker yen.

Last year, Japan had more than 25 million visitors, and the number this year is expected to surpass nearly 32 million, a record from 2019, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. And the government wants more tourists.

While the booming tourism has helped the industry, it has triggered complaints from residents in popular tourist destinations, such as Kyoto and Kamakura. In Kyoto, a famous geisha district recently decided to close some private-property alleys.

Locals are uncertain about what to do.

Motomochi said she cannot imagine how the black screen can help control the flow of people on the narrow pedestrian walk and the road next to it.

Yoshihiko Ogawa, who runs a more than half-century-old rice shop in the Fujikawaguchiko area, said the overcrowding worsened in the past few months, with tourists gathering from around 4-5 a.m. and talking loudly. He sometimes struggles to get his car in and out of garage.

“We’ve never thought we’d face a situation like this,” Ogawa said, adding he is unsure what the solution might be. “I suppose we all just need to get use to it.”

FILE- Mount Fuji is viewed clearly through the cool winter air Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

Mount Fuji is viewed clearly through the cool winter air Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

Tourists hang out outside the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan's trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tourists hang out outside the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tourists take a photo of the Lawson convenience store with Mt. Fuji in the background on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. The town of Fujikawaguchiko, known for a number of popular photo spots for Japan's trademark of Mt. Fuji, on Tuesday began to set up a huge black screen on a stretch of sidewalk to block view of the mountain in a neighborhood hit by a latest case of overtourism in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Tourists take a photo of the Lawson convenience store with Mt. Fuji in the background on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

FILE- Visitors take pictures of Mount Fuji from Shibuya Sky observation deck Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Visitors take pictures of Mount Fuji from Shibuya Sky observation deck Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.

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  1. Nagano, Japon

    nagano ken tourist spot

  2. Best Places to Visit In Nagano Prefecture

    nagano ken tourist spot

  3. Ruta Alpina de Tateyama Kurobe (Nagano)

    nagano ken tourist spot

  4. Top 12 Things to Do in Nagano, Japan

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  5. What to Do in Nagano Japan: A 5 Day Nagano Itinerary

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  6. Nagano Prefecture

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COMMENTS

  1. 15 of the Best Places to Visit in Nagano

    Here are our recommendations for 15 of Nagano's best sightseeing spots. 1. Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park. Adorable "snow monkeys" in the hot spring at Jigokudani. In the Jigokudani Valley above the hot spring town of Yamanouchi, you'll find steaming geothermal vents and a troupe of onsen-loving Japanese macaques.

  2. Nagano Guide: Things to do in Nagano

    The mountainous prefecture of Nagano Prefecture (長野県, Nagano-ken) is the perfect summer resort to avoid the heat, with the town of Karuizawa being one of the most popular summer getaway spots in Japan.. Take advantage of the relatively cool weather to explore the famous Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan's oldest shrines in Suwa Taisha, and Zenko-ji, a major pilgrimage site.

  3. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Nagano

    Higashiyama Kaii Gallery is temporarily closed for renovation from May 31th 2017. Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum is also closed for reconstruction from October 1st 2017. 4. Lake Kagami. Kagami Ike meaning mirror pond is man made but is beautiful and peaceful. Really quiet with tranquility. There's a nice...

  4. Sightseeing in Nagano: 10 Top Tourist Spots and Natural Attractions

    The Togakushi hiking trail is about 5 km (3 mi) long and takes about 3 hours to walk between the 3 levels where the shrines are: Hokosha and Hinomikosha (lower shrines), Chusha (middle shrine), Kuzuryusha and Okusha (upper shrines). Okusha is the main shrine. Togakushi is about a 30-minute drive northeast of Nagano.

  5. 15 Best Things to Do in Nagano (Japan)

    Here are the 15 best things to do in Nagano …. 1. Visit Zenkoji. Source: Manuel Ascanio / shutterstock. Zenkoji, Nagano. Zenkoji is a temple that was built in the 7th century and this is also one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in Japan for the Buddhist community. There is a hibutsu here which is known as a hidden Buddha and this is show ...

  6. 10 Best Places to Visit in Nagano Prefecture

    Nagano is Japan's 4th largest prefecture, and is known for its expansive mountain-covered wilderness, making it a mecca for winter sports. It is home to several Japanese national parks, full of wonders like the famous "snow monkeys" and the idyllic scenery of Kamikochi. Dotted by ancient castles, townscapes, hot springs, temples, and more, Nagano is also a strikingly well-preserved slice ...

  7. 20 Best Things to Do in Nagano

    4. Rafting: The best of Nagano's waterways. Rafting down the Tenryu river on a hot summer day ensures blissful relief and feisty rapids! Discover the treasures of Omachi, and heat up in hot springs when the cold begins to bite! Tenryū River Rafting Experience with Hot Spring Tickets. Iida, Nagano. 10,450 yen.

  8. Nagano Travel Guide

    Nagano City (長野) is the capital of Nagano Prefecture.It evolved as a temple town around Zenkoji, one of Japan's most popular temples.In 1998, the city hosted the Winter Olympic Games, and some former olympic facilities can still be viewed around town.. In the forested mountains northwest of the city center lies the Togakushi area which attracts tourists with its popular shrines and as the ...

  9. The only read you'll need! Nagano Prefecture: a Guide to the Best of

    29 Must-Visit Tourist Spots in Nagano: Rich History and Nature Escapes. Nagano is the mountainous escape that's enclosed by the 3 ranges of the Japan Alps. The area is hugged by rolling peaks, and remarkable natural backdrops as far as the eye can see.

  10. 13 Places to Visit in Nagano, Matsumoto & Karuizawa

    Nawate Shopping Street (Frog Street) is a great place to buy cheap souvenirs and try some Japanese snacks. It's located 5 minutes on foot away from Matsumoto Castle. 3. Yohashira Shrine. Yohashira Shrine in Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan. Location: 3 Chome-3-20 Ote, Matsumoto. Save on Google Maps.

  11. The Best 50 Things To Do in Nagano Prefecture, Tried and Tested

    2. Nagano is first and foremost known for its slopes. Whether you're a novice or pro skier, Hakuba remains one of the top destinations to experience Japan's world-class snow. 3. If your schedule allows, definitely make time to check out the Iiyama Snow Festival in the deep Japanese Alps, held annually in February. 4.

  12. 15 Best Things to Do in Nagano, Japan

    Admire Cherry Blossoms at Garyu Park. Garyu Park ranks as one of Japan's 100 best places to see cherry blossoms. If you are in Nagano during spring, it is an unforgettable place to see the budding flowers. This park is far from the tourist trail in a city called Suzaka. This is a charming city that sees few tourists.

  13. Best Places to Visit In Nagano Prefecture

    Nagano prefecture is located north west of Tokyo, in the centre of Chubu region. The large prefecture is well known for its beautiful nature that includes mountains, forests and highlands. ... Lake Suwa is the largest lake in Nagano area which boasts a number of tourist attractions around. The lake itself is beautiful and worth a visit, but we ...

  14. Nagano City & Around

    Tourist Information Center; FAQ; Travel Brochures. Restaurant Search. ... Stay in the city or take a short journey out of the center for world-class ski resorts, snow monkeys and other attractions that include a ninja park and a densely forested shrine. Don't Miss. ... Nagano is the prefecture's largest city with a population of about 375,000.

  15. 5-Days Nagano Itinerary: What to do in Nagano Prefecture in Japan

    What to eat in Nagano Prefecture. 1. Soba Noodles. Due to the mountainous terrain of Nagano prefecture, it is difficult to successfully grow rice. Instead, soba (buckwheat) became the main produce of Nagano. The most popular form of buckwheat is, of course, Soba noodles!

  16. Top 22 Things To Do In Nagano, Japan

    9. Get up close with wild monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park. Source: タケモト スグル. Located in the forest of Jigokudani Valley, Jigokudani Monkey Park features Japanese Macaques, also known as Snow Monkey, and is an ideal place to visit in winter.

  17. Karuizawa Sightseeing: 25 Must-Visit Tourist Spots in Nagano's Leafy

    Just around an hour by bullet train from Tokyo, Karuizawa is a popular resort town at the foot of the active volcano Mt. Asama in Nagano Prefecture. Karuizawa has lots of sightseeing, with its mountains and forests holding waterfalls, hiking trails, lakes, ski slopes, and more. Plus, with a plethora of museums, historical churches, and retro hotels, there's just as much cultural appeal too ...

  18. Visit Matsumoto

    Three spots for Hanami in Matsumoto. Nature / Seasonal Topics / Sightseeing. 3. Apr 15, 2024. Enjoy Showa Retro and "hakoniwa" at Kamenoya. ... Matsumoto City is located in the middle of Nagano Prefecture where the 1998 Winter Olympics were hosted. It sits at the foot of the Japanese Alps, nestled between the mountains in the heart of Japan

  19. 40 Things to Do Around Nagano & Where to Stay

    Located around 245KM to the north-west of Tokyo, Nagano City is the largest city in Nagano Prefecture and the primary transport hub for visitors heading to the region's most popular destinations including the many ski resorts of Nagano, the Jigokudani Monkey Park, the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, multiple national parks and many other fantastic attractions.

  20. Go! NAGANO Official Travel Guide of Nagano, Japan

    Nagano Prefecture offers fantastic tourist attractions. In addition to the popular tourist spots, unlimited exploration is waiting just off the beaten path. Beautiful sights, activities, and authentic cultural experiences abound for avid outdoors people and regular tourists alike. Visit some of these overnight destinations on your next Nagano ...

  21. Ina

    Ina City makes an excellent base for exploring the area. It is easily reachable from Tokyo via rail. From Shinjuku, take the JR Limited Express Azusa to Okaya, about two hours and 30 minutes away. Change there to the local Iida Line. You'll reach Inashi Station in about 60 minutes. As is often the case in the Japanese countryside, a rental car ...

  22. Nagano Kayaking

    Tours are run through the Otaki Tourist Center. Lake Shizenko is one of Nagano's most remote, and unique, kayaking experiences. The lake was created by a 1984 earthquake when a massive landslide from Mt Ontake dammed a part of the Otaki River. The surrounding forest was submerged, and the remains of the trees still rise from the lake like ghosts.

  23. Town in Japan builds screen to block Mount Fuji

    A tourist takes a selfie at the Lawson convenience store, a popular photo spot framing a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji in the background, on cloudy evening of Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi Prefecture, central Japan.