Nagano is located about 3 hours away from Tokyo and it is the fourth biggest prefecture in Japan.
It is rich in nature. Nine of the twelve highest mountains in Japan are in Nagano.
In 1998, Winter Olympics was held in this area.
Since then, Nagano has been a world-class winter sport destination.
Nagano is beautiful in other seasons as well: you can see beautiful flowers and Sakura in spring, enjoy hiking in the summer, and admire autumn leaves in fall.
Built in the 7th century and it is one of the most famous temples in Japan.
The first Buddhist statue that was brought to Japan is stored here.
The original statue is hidden but a replica is shown to the public every six years.
Because the influence of the Buddhism was huge, Nagano grew up around this temple.
There is Gokaidan meguri, or a pitch dark tunnel under the main hall of the temple.
It is a place where there is no light and you walk through in it to find the hidden “Key to paradise”(Hidden lock of a door).
You can experience how it is to be a Buddhist by going through the tunnel: try to reach the enlightenment just focusing on it.
Like finding the lay of light inside of the darkness.
There is also the Zenkoji History Museum where you can see hundreds of religious art works such as Buddhist statues and writings.
Price: 500yen per a person to enter the main hall.
Built about 2,000 years ago, Togakushi shrine is located in the northwest of the center of Nagano.
This shrine consists of five shrines dedicated to different gods.
The Hoko-Sea is to the goddess who protects maternity, sewing, and academic life.
The Hino-miko-sha is to the god of fire and performing arts.
The Chu-Sha is to the god of wisdom.
The Oku-sha is to the god of fortune and harvest.
The Kuzuryu-Sha is to the god of rain and good relationships.
Going to Oku-Sha and then to Kuzuryu-Sha is a popular walking course.
It is about 2 kilometer hike ,and along the way, you can enjoy watching beautiful cedar trees that are over 400 years old.
It is one of the oldest Japanese castles in Matsumoto city, the place located in the center of Nagano prefecture.
Among 12 castles existing from Edo period in Japan, only Matsumoto castle and Himeji castle are five floors (since there is a hidden floor, precisely speaking they have 6 floors though!).
You can enjoy the view of the impressive landscape of this great, black and white castle with the Northern Alps behind.
Inside of it, there are displays of weapons and armors from Sengoku period (Warring States Period. 15th to 16th century).
In the moats just below the castle, koi carps and swans circle.
Time: 8:30 to 17:00
(8:00 to 18:00 during Golden week holiday and Summer season and 10:00 to 15:30 from Jan 1st to 3rd)
※Closed on Dec 29th to 31st
Price:610yen per a person to enter.
It is a large ski resort that has 51 lifts and gondolas.
The elevation range from 1,300 to 2,300meters above the sea level and it is the largest place for skiing.
It has different kinds of terrain for any types of skiers and snowboarders.
There are some hot springs and hotels in the area as well.
Snow monkey park
Also called Jigokutani Monkey Park.
This park was made in 1964 to protect wild monkeys that faced threats because of the development of ski resorts.
Around 160 monkeys are living in the area.
Winter is the most popular time, but the park is open throughout the year and you can see monkeys everyday.
There’s a pool around which the monkeys gather where you can observe the wild monkeys bathing in Onsen.
It is prohibited to touch or feed the monkeys, so please follow the rules when you enter the park.
Snow monkey park
Time: 8:30 to 17:00 (From April to Oct)
9:00 to 16:00 (From Nov to Mar)
Price: 800yen per a person to enter
It is a mountain resort just below the active volcano, Mt Asama.
Karuizawa is famous as a summer resort as it offers pleasant escape from the heat of summer.
It is a great place to enjoy outdoor activities like golfing, skiing, cycling, hiking, etc.
So a lot of wealthy people buy a second home in the area.
John Lennon stayed there with his family and Bill Gates rents holiday villas in Karuizawa.
It is a narrow basin at 1,500 meters above sea level where you can enjoy great hiking!
The area has amazing nature and is part of a national park in which private cars are not allowed to enter.
Since it is surrounded by tall mountains, the temperature stays cool even in the summer (it rarely goes over 25 ℃).
There are breathtaking lakes along the hiking course.
The one I recommend that you go is Myoin Pond.
It is a solemn pond in a virgin forest.
You can never get bored watching photogenic view of it!
Open from May until mid Nov every year
Azumino is Located on the northern end of the Matsumoto and just below Hakuba, the place that had a lot of ski events during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games.
There’s the largest wasabi farm in Japan called Daio Wasabi Farm with Water Mills.
The quality of wasabi there is the highest in Japan and you will be amazed to taste it!
You can not only try pasted wasabi, but also wasabi ice cream in Azumino (Surprisingly, it’s sweet and not spicy at all).
I used to go to Azumino every year when I was an elementary school student for joining the training camp of a soccer team.
I had so much wasabi ice cream with my teammates.
Apples, grapes, pears, peaches, and buckwheat noodles are also made in the area and they are all great!
It is located in the southeastern part of Nagano and 94% of its area is occupied by forest.
It was a place where Yoshinaka Kiso, a warlord lived.
Nakasendo, the road that connects Tokyo, Nagano, and Nagoya, runs in Kiso, so it is called Kiso-ji (Kiso road).
The landscape of the past Edo era are preserved in Tsumago-juku and Narai-juku.
Just walking Kiso-ji, you will get the feeling of Samurai period.
Lacquer-ware, containers, and combs are popular products of Kiso.
There are also large lakes like Lake Suwa and Kizaki in Nagano, and a lot more great places for hiking.
If you are checking everything, you will need a few days of stay here but it really worth visiting the area!
Take JR Hokuriku Shinkansen bound for Nagano
(Time:About 2 hours Price: 8,000 yen for oneway)
Take Chuo Main Line Wideview Shinano bound for Nagano
(Time:About 3 hours Price: 6,810 yen for oneway)
Where do people do winter/summer sports in your country?
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See you next time!