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.
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.
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.