• Unique Visit:  2 Days in Iiyama

    written by Robert Iiyama is the ultimate gateway to outdoor adventure in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture, and with a newly built Shinkansen line and station in the area, it is now easily accessible from Tokyo in just over an hour and a half. For the adventurous types who like getting as far from the big city as they can, Iiyama has a lot to offer, including hiking, cycling, kayaking, clean mountain streams, and beautiful fields of nanohana (rapeseed) flowers.  Details by Robert, a long-term resident of the prefecture. (Iiyama City, population 20,989 [Oct 2016]) Day 1 10:00 Arrival / Iiyama Station 飯山駅 /  [1] in the map below At just over 90 minutes from Tokyo, Iiyama Station is your arrival point and is central located in Iiyama City. This word “city” is misleading, as the whole place feels more …

    March 30, 2017

  • Unique Visit:  2 Days in Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

    written by Tyler Togura-Kamiyamada is an onsen town located 30km south of Zenkoji Temple and Nagano City.  The hot spring wells date back to 1893, and the resort town flourished with post-pilgrimage visitors.   Today, the town’s 30 inns and 7 bath houses rejuvenate guests with skin-beautifying mineral waters high in sulfur content.  The multitude of eateries and specialty shops as well as shooting parlors, onsen foot baths and karaoke bars are fun to explore wearing a yukata robe and wooden geta sandals.  With the Chikuma River meandering through the center, and surrounded by many mountains, the onsen town is a picturesque place to relax. Tyler, resident since 2005, tells the story. (Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen, in Chikuma City, population 61,300 [April 2014].) Day 1 11:00 Arrival / Togura Station 戸倉駅 [1] in the map below Togura Station is the gateway to Onsen Town …

    March 26, 2017

  • Unique Visit:  2 Days in Mystical Togakushi

    written by Robert Togakushi is an ancient village located in a mountain highland north of downtown Nagano City. Long an independent village, it, along with a handful of other villages in the area, was merged into Nagano City in 2005. Togakushi is best known for its five Shinto shrines, heavily visited by worshippers and tourists alike, for the breathtakingly beautiful pond Kagami-ike, for the famous Ninja Village, and for its delicious soba noodles found at a number of local restaurants. Traveling to Togakushi is a journey back to a Japan of the past, to a place with a relaxed lifestyle surrounded by the beauty of Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park. Though within the Nagano City limits, Togakushi is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and is just a short bus ride from Nagano Station.  Long-time resident …

    March 22, 2017

  • Unique Visit:  2 Days in Obuse and Suzaka

    written by Robert Obuse is a charming historical town located just outside Nagano City. It is well-known as the final home of the famous ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai, and for its production of chestnuts. This traditional town has undergone a number of historical preservation initiatives in recent years in order to give visitors the feeling of visiting “old Japan” while still providing the conveniences of modern life. Next door is the city of Suzaka, location of a popular park featuring a charming sakura-lined lake and a museum based out of an old merchant’s home.  Long-time resident Robert explains. (Obuse Town, pop. 10,698; Suzaka City, pop. 50,388 [Oct. 2016]) Day 1 10:00 Arrival / Obuse Station [1] in the map below   Obuse Station is the gateway for all destinations in the Obuse area. The station, while small, is conveniently located …

    March 22, 2017

  • Unique Visit:  2 Days in Samurai Town Matsushiro

    written by Tyler Nagano City’s Matsushiro (松代, Matsushiro) neighborhood is an old samurai town.  From the early 1600’s, the town was the center of the Matsushiro Domain (松代藩, ‘Matsushiro han‘), with 10 generations of the Sanada clan ruling from 1622 until the Meiji Restoration.  From the Warring States Period to the opening of the Japan during the era of Admiral Perry’s Black Ships and on further to World War II, Matsushiro gives visitors insights into Japan’s history through its active role in that greater story.  And from ceramics to onsens, and schooling to farming, the town continues to contribute to Japan’s cultural heritage. Tyler, a resident of Nagano Prefecture since 2005, gives his tips on seeing Japan, past and present, through the window that is Matsushiro. (Nagano City, Matsushiro District, population 17,616 [Mar. 2017]) Day 1 10:30  Arrival / Matsushiro Station …

    March 22, 2017

  • Unique Visit:  2 Days in Temple Town Nagano City

    written by Tyler Nagano City is a temple town.  At its heart is the venerable Zenkoji Temple which has been drawing pilgrims for 1500 years.  Come discover  what the attraction is, as Tyler, a resident of Nagano Prefecture since 2005, reveals the ‘tamashi’ (soul) of this fascinating city. (Nagano City, population 380,000 [Jan. 2017], capital of Nagano Prefecture.) Day 1 10:00 Arrival / Nagano Station [1] in the map below A convenient 90 min. from Tokyo or 60 min. from Kanazawa via the Hokuriku Shinkansen, Nagano Station will likely be your gateway to Nagano City.  (Alternative access options include the JR Ltd. Express “Shinano” from Nagoya as well as  highway buses from Shinjuku, Niigata, etc.)  The station was renovated in 2015 when the bullet train was extended to Kanazawa, and features warm wooden accents reflecting the Nagano City’s natural environment. While …

    March 3, 2017