Nozawa is located at the very northern tip of Nagano Prefecture in the mountains bordering Niigata Prefecture. Nozawa Onsen is a cute mountain town with fantastic onsen (natural hot spa's) and ski/snowboard fields. I went to Nozawa in December 2001 and was very impressed with the ski fields there. Living in Nagano I have become a snowboarding enthusiast and would have to say that Nozawa is one of the prettiest places I have been to so far.
The snowboarding areas are vast and there are many runs of varying difficulty. The easiest slope is a long course which is great! Don't you hate it when you are just getting into the rhythm of things and you are at the end!!
I came by car from Nagano City. Take the Joshin-Etsu Expressway from Nagano to Iiyama and drive another 15 minutes or so. The road is well signposted.
Lift passes for a day cost 4,500 Yen.
If you like monkeys AT ALL, you must visit the Jigokudani Monkey Park in your trip to Japan. This is a sanctuary for the Japanese Snow Monkey, and the place you can watch them play and soak in the natural hot springs. It's in the middle of nowhere, really, a jaunt from the nearest major city and 45 minute hike from the nearest road, but seeing these wild monkeys soak in the hot springs is really a great experience. If you want to make a day of it, stay at the nearby Korukan Ryokan, which is literally a stone's throw from the Monkey Park. The staff there is wonderful (seriously, I fell while I was there and broke my foot and they got me and my husband to the local hospital literally over the river and through the woods) They have several natural hot spring baths, a wonderful dinner service, and monkeys frolicking outside of your room. This was the greatest adventure we had in Japan. Highly recommend it to anyone with an affintity for Monkeys or just the outdoors away from the hustle-n-bustle of Tokyo.
I have already mentioned the great Fireworks display held at Lake Suwa in summer. This place is a gorgeous place to visit at any time though. It is the largest lake in Nagano and offers views to Mt Fuji on a clear day. You should take a train to KamiSuwa (local from Matsumoto).
This picture was taken by a friend of a friend in April 2003.
This pic is one of my favourites. This monkey reminds me of a Japanese Oji-San (Old man).
Please look under General Tips for Information on how to get to the monkey park and also my Monkey Park Travelogue for pictures!
Matsushiro is a castle town about 30 minutes from the center of Nagano. It is reached by Nagaden Train, bus or taxi from town. There are many interesting museums, temples, shrines and cultural treasures to be seen here. Don't forget to stop over at the Matsushiro Spa Ph.026-2782596 on your way home!
Don't forget to take a look at the Matsushiro Travelogue for more pictures and information on what to see and do here.
Karuizawa has been a popular stop for travellers on the Nakasendo Highway since the Edo Period. There are over 250 hotels and inns in this small town that caters to summer tourists escaping the Tokyo heat and avid skiiers in the winter season.
Where is it?
Karuizawa is located over 3,000 feet high in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. The temperatures in Karuizawa are some of the mildest experienced in Honshu. The average high is about 25 degrees C and the low is -10 degrees C in winter. The town is surrounded in cool trees that have marked cycling routes.
For more pictures please see my Karuizawa travelogue!
Many of the tourists flocking to Karuizawa in summer come here to shop! There is a street called Kyu-Karuizawa (pictured) that has many shops at discount prices. Recently at the southern exit of Karuizawa Station a large outlet shopping mall that houses all sorts of fashion retail outlet stores (eg. Adidas, Nike etc.)
How to get there?
Karuizawa can be reached by Shinkansen from Tokyo or Nagano. I chose to take the local train from Nagano on the Shinano Line (2 hours travel time).
Suzaka is a city very close to Nagano City. It is famous for its agriculture (apples, peaches etc.). The cherry blossoms are quite beautiful in Gadyu Park. Last summer we went to an awesome swimming pool complex. There was a large pool, a diving pool, two slides and a pool that moved like a river! If you haven't experienced a Japanese public swimming pool then I recommend you do. The funniest thing was the scheduled rest times when you all HAD to get out of the pool and rest! haha.
Togakushi is a mountain area near Nagano City. There are skifields nearby in winter. In summer thereare beautiful wood areas for hiking and camping. Togakushi is also an area famous for Soba Noodles (Buckwheat Noodles), a Nagano specialty.
This picture is of the torii at the entrance to the Togakushi Shrine path. It is a 20 minute walk to the shrine and sturdy shoes are necessary.
Please see my Togakushi Travelogue for more pictures and information.
Nagano is a large prefecture and is very agriculturally based. Among products such as buckwheat, pumpkins, apples and cabbages you will find
many rice fields in Nagano. The terraced ones are probably the ones most people have in mind when they think of rice. Most rice fields, however, are actually on flat land. Here are some terraced fields on the way to Iizuna Kogen, Nagano.
Obuse is a very old town located near Suzaka City in Nagano Prefecture. It is easily reached by train (Nagano Dentetsu Line), or by car (via Suzaka City), taking about 30 minutes/1 hour.
Obuse is known for it's chestnuts and sake but probably most renowned as the home of Hokusai the famous Japanese painter. The Hokusai Museum is a must see! I bought a copy of my favourite painting entitled 'A Dragon flying over Fuji' which I have put here for you to see.
Kamikochi is a beautiful place nestled in the Northern Alps of Japan. It is closed during winter because of snow but opens in the spring around the end of April. I went the first week in May 2002 on a lovely spring day. It was raining in the morning but got quite warm as the day progressed. We walked around a pathway along the river until we reached a pond. We had Soba noodles for lunch here and then walked back again to the bus station.
How to get here:
From Nagano you should reserve a bus ticket (2500 Yen each way) at any travel agency. The bus leaves at 7.30 or 9.00 am from the East Exit of Nagano Station. From Matsumoto you should take the train to the end of the Kamikochi Line and from there take a bus about an hour to the Kamikochi Bus Terminal.
This picture was taken from the train station at Obasute. It is on the Chuo line between Nagano and Matsumoto and offers beautiful views towards the mountains and Nagano City.