#1. Ski Resorts
Nagano is famous for the high quality ski resorts, including Nozawa Onsen, Yabuhara Heights and Shiga Kogen Heights. Good facilities at each ski resort ensures that you will have an exciting ski experience; for example, Shiga Kogen Heights Ski Resort has as many as 66 ski lifts, gondolas, and rope-ways. Snowshoeing and snow hiking are other popular ways to enjoy winter sports in Nagano.
The town of Kyu-Karuizawa has a pleasant atmosphere with great restaurants and cafes as well as forested residential districts made up of holiday villas. Kyu-Karuizawa offers a wide range of shops as well, such as the Prince Shopping Plaza and the Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza. Visitors can also enjoy many leisure activities, such as bowling, golf and cycling around town.
#3. Shiraito Falls
Shiraito Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan. The graceful expanse waterfalls are located to the north of Karuizawa. The falls are only three meters tall, but they are spread over a width of 70 meters. Ground water spills out from over the top, it looks like hundreds of little white strings are coming down, that’s how the waterfall got its name.
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Address: Nagakura, Karuizawa City, Kitasaku District, Nagano Prefecture
Access: 5 minute walk from Shiraito no Taki bus stop
#4. Shin-etsu Trail
The Shin-etsu Trail is one of the best activities for nature lovers in Nagano. It runs 80 kilometers along the border between Nagano and Niigata Prefectures, following the path of the Sekida Mountain ridge. The forests are best known for the beech trees. Tall and well-shaped beech trees form a corridor of green along the path. Spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit the Shin-etsu trail.
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Address: Iiyama City, Nagano Prefecture
Access: 25 minutes by bus from Iiyama Station
Website: Shin-etsu Trail Club
#5. Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle is one of the oldest castles in Japan. The contrasting black and white exterior boldly stands out against the magnificent backdrop of the Japanese Alps. Built with many unique architectural elements, Matsumoto Castle also features a moon viewing pavilion.
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Address: 4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture
Access: 15 minute walk from Matsumoto Station
Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
610 yen (Adult)
300 yen (Child)
Website: Matsumoto Castle
#6. Lake Nojiri and Lake Suwa
Lake Nojiri and Lake Suwa boast about the high clarity water. The lakes are special to many Japanese and foreigners since they are ideal for summer vacation. You can enjoy water sports, boat rides, hiking and fishing.
#7. Shinshu Soba Noodles
Photo Credit: Jun OHWADA@flickr
Nagano is famous for the high quality soba noodles. The Nagano highlands are suited for growing buckwheat which is then ground and mixed with fresh, clean water from Nagano’s many mountains, and it tastes so good. Togakushi and Kaita are two of the more famous growing areas.
#8. Hike Around Shiga Kogen
Shiga Kogen is one of the most popular areas in Nagano to go hiking during the summer. Shiga Kogen offers a variety of hiking and trekking trails, from simple nature walks to technical mountain climbing. The area is also surrounded by beautiful lakes and ponds.
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Address: Shiga Kogen, Yamanouchi Town, Nagano prefecture
Photo Credit: Bong Grit@flickr
Tsumago-juku, deep in the Kiso Mountains, is the 42nd of 69 post towns along the feudal Tokyo to Kyoto Nakasendo Road. During the post-war period, the townspeople started to restore the buildings to the way they looked in the Edo period. Their efforts paid off. Today, walking down the streets of Tsumago-juku will make you feel like you have returned to the Edo period.
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Address: Nagiso, Kiso District, Nagano Prefecture
Access: 7 minutes by bus from Nagiso Station
Photo Credit: rankei.com
Onsen, or natural hot springs are one of the most popular pastimes across Japan. The springs in Nagano are famous for having very high quality water. Shirahone Onsen and Maguse onsen have been rated as some of the top onsen locations to enjoy the snowy scenery.
#11. Fruit Picking
Fruit picking is one of the most popular activities in Nagano. Winter through spring is strawberry picking season. The berries are grown hydroponically in green houses, where you can pay an entrance fee to enjoy all-you-can-eat strawberries. Apricot picking is available in some areas in June, and blueberry picking in early summer. Autumn is apple picking season. Winter, spring, summer and fall, fruit picking can be enjoyed all year round.
#12. Jigokudani Monkey Park
Jigokudani is the home of the world-famous “snow monkeys”. It is situated in the valley of the Yokoyu River, downstream from Shiga Heights and just upriver from Shibu-Yudanaka Onsens. Two hundred or so Japanese monkeys, known as “snow monkeys”, have become famous for their winter visits to hot springs.
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Jigokudani Monkey Park
Address: 6845 Hirao, Yamanouchi Town, Nagano
Access: 7 minute bus ride from Yudanaka Station
8:30 AM to 5:00 PM (April to October)
9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (November to March)
Fee: 500 yen
Website: Jigokudani Monkey Park
#13. Zenkoji Temple
Zenkoji Temple has been revered for over 1,400 years as Japan’s primary center of Buddhist faith. Zenkoji Temple houses the first Buddhist statue to come to Japan which attracted pilgrims from all denominations. Zenkoji Temple is the largest temple in all of eastern Japan and is a testament to the faith of its followers.
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Address:491 Motoyoshicho, Nagano City, Nagano
Access: 10 minute bus ride from Nagano Station
Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Fees: 500 yen
Website: Zenkoji Temple
#14. Horse Meat Sashimi “Basashi”
Photo Credit: Norio NAKAYAMA@flickr
Most westerners may not think of horses as food, but in Nagano, horse meat is a popular item on the menu at many restaurants. If you’re already well-adjusted to the experience of eating other varieties of sashimi, why not give basashi a try.
#15. Chibikko Ninja Village
Photo Credit: ninjamura.com
Ninja were covert agents or mercenaries during the 15th and 16th century in Japan. The ninja trick house is a replicate house equipped with tricks that were used to defend the ninja clan’s chief. You can try some ninja practice session that include throwing knifes and Japanese bamboo sword fighting at the Kids’ Ninja Village. This ninja village is designed for children in mind so its perfect for families.
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Chibikko Ninja Village
Address: 3193 Togakure, Nagano City, Nagano
Access: 15 minute walk from Togakushi-Chusha bus stop
Dates: Late April to Late November
*Closed on Thursdays
Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Fee: 450 yen
Website: Chibikko Ninja Village