Photo By: stan chow
Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nagano
Population
2,214,409

Obuse Town

Never too many art galleries, or chestnuts, in this quaint town in Nagano!

Since the Edo Period, Obuse Town in Nagano Prefecture has been an important art and cultural hub. The town is easily accessible by local Nagano trains and is totally a viable day trip from nearby cities.

Galleries are scattered all over the rustic town, making it the perfect place for art lovers. Among them all, the Hokusai Museum is probably most famous. Katsushika Hokusai was the artist who painted the famous woodblock piece The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Hokusai spent the later years of his life in Obuse with his patron and student, Takai Kozan, who also has his own art museum (Takai Kozan Memorial Museum) in Obuse. These galleries are located in the quieter corners of the town and have beautiful gardens attached to them.

Obuse itself is an artistic town not only because of its many galleries, but also for the brown-and-white wood architecture that is seen throughout town. Tiled roofs still remain in most shops and residential houses. However, temples in Obuse, undoubtedly, are the most symbolic icons for Edo Period architecture. Ganshoin and Gensho-ji Temples are top picks by both locals and foreign visitors.

Photo by: Petrusbarbygere Art by the famous Hokusai on the ceiling at the Ganshoin Temple.

A few commercial streets make up the main part of Obuse. Sake warehouses and shops selling chestnut confectionary and local produce like apples and shiitake mushrooms fill these streets with liveliness. The shop owners enjoy talking to visitors, so don’t feel shy to take a food sample from their shops, and they’ll show off their English skills to you. Sometimes, a purchase may even come with bonus gifts from the shop owner.

A trip to Obuse is not complete until you try at least one of the chestnut products there. Chestnut trees have been grown in the area for at least 600 years. Nowadays, you can find restaurants with long lines of people waiting for chestnut rice and cute dessert cafes known for their chestnut cakes and ice cream. It’s also worth noting that the pretty sidewalks you stroll along are made from the wood from old chestnut trees.

Photo by: Tawashi2006 Chestnut wood block pavement at Obuse.

A couple hours are probably enough to walk the entirety of the town. Though, if you’d like to explore and see some traditional houses in a quiet mountain-wrapped neighborhood, take a few more hours and go for a stroll away from the major attractions.

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Things To Know

Car option?

Parking lots are paid and limited, so taking the local train is probably the easiest way.

How To Get There

Address

Japan, 〒381-0201 Nagano-ken, Kamitakai-gun, Obuse-machi, Obuse, 1497-2, 小布施駅

By train

Nagano station is about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Tokyo station by shinkansen (bullet train). From Nagano, take a 30-minute ride on a local Dentetsu-Nagano line to Obuse station. 

By bus

You can walk to most places within the town, but a tourist bus also operates from April to November. It stops at most attractions in Obuse, and costs ¥300 for a day-pass.

Where To Stay

Guest House Kura
  • Honkanmachi 39 Suzaka-Shi, Nagano 382-0086
  • 9.2/10
  • 5.0 km
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Hotel Route-Inn Nakano
  • Yoshida Tateishiki 99-1 Nakano-Shi, Nagano 383-0015
  • 7.8/10
  • 7.1 km
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Ryokan Warabino
  • Okuyamada 1320 Kamitakai-Gun Takayama-Mura, Nagano 382-0813
  • 8.9/10
  • 8.0 km
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Guest House Honami-Kaido
  • Togari587-1 Shimotakai-Gun Yamanochi-Machi, Nagano 381-0404
  • 8.8/10
  • 9.0 km
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