Nagano prefecture is located at the center of main island of Japan. Most of the area are occupied with North Alps, Central Alps, and South Alps forming a line, so there are less flatland, which is one the features of Nagano prefecture. So you can enjoy watching the amazing view of Kamikochi or Azumino area where there are mountains and highlands, and Yashima swamp. The beautiful nature landscape and plants will catch your eyes.
Not only nature but also there are many historical buildings in Nagano. Matsumoto Castle is one of them. Besides that, there shrines and temples with long history such as Suwa Taisha Shrine, Zenko-ji Temple, or Togakushi Shrine, and they have seasonal events. Furthermore, Nagano has a lot of specialities, for examples, moroon sweets, seven flavored spices, and soba (buckwheat noodle). Thanks to this environment with full of attraction, Nagano is also a city of art, and there are several spots like “Hokusaikan” and “Chihiro Museum” where you can enjoy art.
Since now Hokuriku Shinkansen is connecting Tokyo and Nagano, you can visit many places in Nagano for just one day trip.
- 10th Suwa Taisha Shrine
- 9th Daio Wasabi Farm
- 8th Ichinose Meadow
- 7th Bessho Onsen
- 6th Yashima Weltlands
- 5th Hokusai Museum
- 4th Matsumoto Castle
- 3rd Zenkoji Temple
- 2nd Kappabashi
- 1st Togakushi Shrine
1. Spot ranking in Nagano area
10th. Suwa Taisha Shrine（諏訪大社）
Suwa Taisha Shrine is known as one of the oldest shrines in Japan. It represents the shrines in Nagano, and this is the grand head shrine of those 25,000 of Suwa Shrines located all over Japan.
Suwa Taisha Shrine has 2 shrines inside, one is Kami-sha, and the other is Shimo-sha. Most of the shrine buildings are designated as important properties. Since Kami-sha and Shimo-sha are located far from each other, taking about 30 minutes by car, please make sure you have enough time to visit both shrines. This is an interesting sightseeing spot as not only the object of faith but also as architecture.
They have a famous festival called “Onbashira” , which is known as one the three strange festivals of Japan. During this festival, they cut 16 big trees out of mountain, carry them to 4 of the shrines of Suho Taisha Shrine, and exchange the column of each shrines. Men from Suwa area comes and make efforts for this “hot” activity, and many people give them a shout for joy. The next Onbashira is planned to be held in 2022.
To get to Suwa Taisha Shrine: Get off at JR Suwa Station, and walk for 15 minutes. It is better to go Shimo-sha Harumiya and Shimo-sha Akimiya, then take taxi to get to Kami-sha Honmiya and Kamisha Miyamae.
9th. Daio Wasabi Farm（大王わさび農場）
Azumino is known for its beautiful rural landscape surrounded by a lot of nature. At field, wasabi (Japanese horseradish) is cultivated, and we recommend you to go on a cycling and see the scenery. If you would like to get closer to take a look at wasabi farm, there is a place called “Daio Wasabi Farm” where you can visit for free and look at the wasabi farm closer. It is an sightseeing spot with a vast wasabi farm (The farm is 150,000 square meters!). Besides you can see the amazing view of North Alps and a wasabi farm, you also can go downstream in a boat, taste wasabi foods, or try making pickled wasabi.
To get to Daio Wasabi Farm: from JR Hotaka Station, it takes 10 minutes by car. There is no admission fee required. The opening hour is from 9:00-17:20 (9:00-16:30 from Nov to Feb), 7 days a week.
8th. Ichinose Meadow（一ノ瀬園地）
Ichinose orchards is a swamp zone located in the center of Norikura Plateau in Matsumoto city. It is approximately 600,000 square meters of size, which is considered to be very big in Japan. There is a footpath arranged inside this swamp zone, and since there is a camp ground, you can enjoy exploring, camping, and cycling. Ichinose orchards is also known as a place where a lot of plateau plants grow up. There are several recommended spots: “Maime pond” is counted as one of the eight beautiful landscapes in Norikura, and many visitors are gathering around to take a photo.
To get to Ichinose orchards: from Matsumoto Station, take Kamikochi Line of Matsumoto Electric railway, and get off at Shinshimashima Station. Then, take ALPICO kotsu bus with “Norikura
kogen sightseeing center” direction, get of at the last stop. After that, change the bus to Norikura kogen Sightseeing Bus to get to the Ichinose Parking Lot. It takes about 1.5 hour in total.
7th. Bessho Onsen
Bessho Onsen in Ueda city of Nagano is located at the altitude of 570 meters, and is the oldest Onsen area in Shinshu, having 1400 years of history. Here, We recommend you to stay and have a relaxed time at a hotel equipped with their own hot spring, or try public bath called “Soto yu”. There are 3 different public baths: “Oo yu”, which has a connection with Kiso Yoshinaka, a military commander from the end of Heian period. “Ishi yu”, which used to be a hidden hot spring of Sanada Yukimura, a warrior. “Daishi yu”, which has a connection with Jikaku Daishi, a priest from Tendai Sect.
Those baths can be used by 150 yen per each. The public baths in Bessho Onsen area is open from 18:00-22:00.
Another feature of Bessho Onsen area is Innai district, which you can visit by 1 10-minutes-walk from public baths area. This area has a Tendai Sect temple called “Kitamukikannon”. Kitamukikannon has been famous as Yakuyoke Kannon (an apotropaic Goddess of Mercy) for a long time. On the way to Kitakannon from Bessho Onsen Station, there is a street with restaurants and gift shops.
To get to Bessho Onsen area: At JR Ueda Station, change the train to Bessho Line of Ueda Electric Railway, get off at “Bessho Onsen Station”, and walk for about 7-8 minutes.
6th. Yashima Wetlands（八島湿原）
Yashima Wetland is located at the altitude of more than 1500 meters, and have a history of 12,000 years. Lots of plants are growing there, and this wetland is designated as national cultural property. Flowers of plateau plants are blooming during spring to summer, and colored leaves change the landscape beautifully in autumn. Please take note that it will be difficult to visit in winter because of snow.
When you visit Yashima Wetland, we recommend you to watch the landscapes and plants while exploring around. If you would like to walk around at your own pace, it would be better to get detail information at Yashima wetland visitor center. The center is open from Apr to Nov. The have an annual festival called “Yashima Prayers for Safety Festival” in order to pray safety for visitors to Yashima Wetland. This festival is held in the middle of April every year. If you have enough time, please join the festival.
To get to Yashima Wetland: from Shimo Suwa Station, take taxi for 40 minutes.
5th. Hokusai Museum（北斎館）
Hokusai Museum is an art museum of a most famous Japanese painter in the world: Katsushika Hokusai who worked as a ukiyo-e aritist in the late Edo period. In this museum, you can see the works such as “Ryu-zu”, “Hoou-zu”, “Onami-zu”, or “Menami-zu”, which are painted in Obuse when he was at the age of over 80. This is a precious place where you can see the real works that Hokusai actually painted at that time. The opening hour is from 9:00-17:00, and closed on Dec 31th. The admission fee is 1000 yen.
To get to Hokusai Museum: At Nagano Station, change the train to Nagano Electric Railway, get off at Obuse Station, and walk for 12 minutes.
4th. Matsumoto Castle（松本城）
Matsumoto Castle in Matsumoto city is a precious castle having a castle tower, and is designated as a national treasure. This castle was called “Fukashi Castle” at first, but was changed to current name in 1582. The view of the castle from the free oveservation room in the 5th floor of Matsumoto city hall is also beautiul. Matsumoto city hall is located at the east side of Matsumoto Castle.
When you look at the castle from outside, it seems to be a five-storied castle, but it is actually a six-storied building. Since the keep has no roof, you will feel the attic closer. In addition, although the keep is built for battles, they also have a turret called Tsukimi yagura (turret for moonlight watching). This is the structure that only Matsumoto Castle has.
Matsumoto Castle is open from 8:30-17:00, and closed from Dec 29th to Jan 3rd. The admission fee is 610 yen.
To get to Matsumoto Castle: from Matsumoto Station of JR Chuo Line, and walk for 15 minutes.
3rd. Zenkoji Temple（善光寺）
Zenkoji Temple in Nagano city is known as one the old temples which was built by Empress Kougyoku in 642, Asuka period. When this temple was built, there were no specific sect like now, therefore the temple were commonly known as no-sectarian and visited by many people including Takeda Family of military commanders or commons.
The most popular place in Zenkoji Temple is the main hall. There are a lot to see there such as “Gosankyo no ma” at the front face, or “the statue of Binzuru-sonja” that heals his/her disease if he/she touch it. In addition, Zenkoji Temple has many seasonal events, but “Zenkoji Temple Obon ennichi” is especially the big one held in Aug, which they have a Bon dance festival with many people.
Zenkoji Temple is open from 5:30-16:30, but you can visit the precinct anytime. The admission fee is 500 yen for adults.
From JR Nagano Station, go to Zenkoji Temple guchi bus roundabout, take a bus from terminal 1 with Zenkoji Temple direction, get off at “Zenkoji Temple Daimon”, and walk for 5 minutes.
Kamikochi in Matsumoto city is located at west side of Nagano prefecture. This area became famous because of a book named “Mountaineering and Exploration of Japan Alps” written by Walter Weston, a British missionary and mountaineer.
In this beautiful area, we especially would like to recommend you visit Kappabashi Bridge. When you stand at the bridge, you can see the marvelous view of Mt. Yakedake or Hotaka mountain range. There are several events held in Kamikochi: “Kamikochi founder festival” in April, “Kamikochi walk rally” during May to July, or “Weston Festival” in Jun, so many people visit this place every year.
To get to Kappabashi Bridge: At Matsumoto Station, change the train to Kamikochi Line of Matsumoto Electric Railway, get off at Shinshimashima Station. It takes about 30 minutes. After you arrive at Shinshimashima Station, take a local bus, get off at “Kamikochi terminal” stop. The bus takes about 1 hour, and after you get off the bus, walk for about 5 minutes.
1st. Togakushi Shrine
Togakushi Shrine is located at Mt.Togakushi in the northwest side of Nagano city. This place was used to be used as a training place for a priest in Heian period, so a lot of priest visited here. If you go on a five-shrines visiting tour, you can see not only each shrines but also the big row trees of Japanese cedar or approaches.
They have 2 main events every year: “Kinensai” (prayer service for a good crop) in May, and “Reisai”(regular festival” during Obon festival in Aug. In addition, if you visit this shrine, it is a must-do to eat Tokagushi Soba(buckwheat noodle) which is known as “Japan’ best three soba”. The soba is made with a clear water in Togakushi, so please try one for a lunch or a light meal.
To get to Togakushi Shrine: At Nagano Station, go to a bus terminal 7 (located in front of ALPICO Kotsu Bus Nagano Station comprehensive information center), take a local bus with “Tokaushi Kogen via loop bridge” direction, and get off at “Togakushi Hokosha Mae” or “Togakushi Chusha Mae” or “Togakushi Okusha”. It takes about one hour.
2. Getting in
①How to get Nagano Station from Tokyo Station:
At Tokyo Station, take JR Shinkansen with Kanazawa or Nagano direction, and get off at JR Nagano Station. It takes about 83-110 minutes, and the fare costs 7680 – 8200 yen.
②How to get to Ueda Station from Tokyo Station:
At Tokyo Station, take JR Shinkansen with Kanazawa or Nagano direction, and get off at JR Ueda Station. It takes about 85-97 minutes, and the fare costs 6150 yen.
③How to get to Matsumoto Station from Shinjuku Station:
At Shinjuku Station, take JR super-express Azusa (with Minami Otari direction) or super-express Super Azusa (with Matsumoto direction), and get off at JR Matsumoto Station. It takes about 158-173 minutes, and the fare costs 6380 yen.
④How to get to Shimo Suwa Station from Shinjuku:
At Shinjuku Station, take JR super-express Azusa (with Minami Otari direction), and get off at JR Shimo Suwa Station. It takes 151 minutes and the fare costs 5830 yen.
⑤How to get to Karuizawa Station from Tokyo station:
From Tokyo, you can be reached to Karuizawa in 65-80 minutes by the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen. The one way journey costs about 5,500 yen and is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass, JR Tokyo Wide Pass and several other JR passes.
3. Nagano Area list
Tateshina – Venus Line
Lake Suwa, Kami-Suwa Onsen and Shimo-Suwa Onsen