Monkey business in the Japanese mountains
World-class winter sports, hot springs (occasionally monkey-filled), delicious local food and a foreigner-friendly vibe.
Nagano hosted the Winter Olympics back in 1998, and the various ski resorts bear the hallmark of international public interest. The prefecture is equipped with a diverse range of accommodation, restaurants, and other facilities catering to foreign visitors while working hard to offer a distinct Japanese winter experience.
In the summer, Nagano provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. Hiking, rafting, canyoning, and camping all come with a jaw-dropping backdrop.
Nagano is notable for its high-quality soba noodles, grown in the prefecture’s fertile highlands, and the less tasty tsukudani, a dish of boiled locusts that was an essential source of protein in the isolated hills before Seven-Eleven came along.
The prefectural capital of Nagano City is home to the venerated Zenko-ji temple. As one of the major landmarks of the region, the temple is home to the first Buddhist statue that was brought into the country. To get to the temple, it’s a quick ten-minute bus ride from Nagaden Nagano Station.
Discover Jigokudani Monkey Park
Aside from Matsumoto Castle, the city serves as the jump-off point for exploring the vast nature of the Japanese alps. Multiple hiking trails are available to cater to varying levels of difficulty. After you’ve spent your day in the great outdoors, relax in the many open-air hot springs that border the city.
If you still have some energy to spare, take a detour at the Matsumoto Museum of Art. The museum plays host to various works by Yayoi Kusama, a world-famous Japanese contemporary artist.
For more nature, Hakuba Valley serves as one of the more frequented destinations in Nagano. The valley comprises nine ski resorts with over 200 runs, the most popular being Happo-one, with a season lasting from early December right until May. Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest ski area with over 21 interconnecting resorts especially suited to beginners.
The resort attracts tourists thanks to a great choice of off-the-slope activities, including the nearby Jigokudani Monkey Park where you can spot wild monkeys bathing in the hot springs. If you’re not comfortable getting in a bath with a monkey, there are a number of picturesque onsen (hot spring) resort towns in the Yamanouchi area. Nozawa is a lesser-known ski resort where you’ll have a better chance of avoiding the crowds.
Plan your trip to Nagano with the links below!