Nagano is the capital city of Nagano Prefecture and is the largest city in the central Chūbu region of Japan.
It is seen as the core city and is a popular tourist destination. It is an absolutely beautiful location and one that we would definitely recommend visiting.
If you have already planned a trip to Nagano, you will want to ensure that you are making the most of your trip. While you may already have some ideas in mind, you must experience the city to its fullest. It is filled with a rich culture that should be experienced by visitors, and there is so much local cuisine to try too.
In this article, we have compiled a list of the best things for you to do and the best places we think that you should visit on your trip to Nagano. We mean it when we say that these beautiful locations and areas of interest should not be missed!
Visit The Zenkoji Temple
The place that should be at the top of your list to visit is Zenkoji. Zenkoji is a famous temple that you may already be familiar with. It was created in the 7th century and is rich with history. It is a very important temple for Buddhists and is a place of pilgrimage.
The temple is set upon beautiful grounds and there are many sights to take in during your visit. There is a Buddha statue, and Zenkoji also features a hidden buddha. This is only shown to the public every six years.
If this is important to you and something you would like to see, it is worth timing your visit so that it coincides with this. The next glimpse of the statue will be in 2022. It was originally planned for 2021 but has been delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus.
Outside the temple, there are several different shops you can take a look at and you can also walk through the Niomon Gate and the Sanmon Gate. You can look inside the temple too, for a small fee.
Visit The Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum
This is a beautiful art museum that is worth visiting, especially if you appreciate the arts. It is a famous museum that was opened in 1966. It features paintings by Fujishima Takeji and Nakamura Fusetsu.
There is a range of different painting styles featured throughout the galleries, and there are a few nihon-ga paintings featured, as well as a handful of different European art pieces. A lot of the art focuses on the scenery in the local area, and there is a small fee to enter.
The Togakushi Shrine is situated at the bottom of Mount Togakushi. There are five shrines in total and it is around one hour drive away from the center of Nagano.
The shrines link to Buddhism and celebrate the sacred peak of Mount Togakushi. It will take a good few hours to visit every shrine. The walk is through the beautiful forests, and the scenery is breathtaking.
Jigokudani Monkey Park
The wild snow monkeys that can be found at Jigokundani park are famous across the world. They are known for bathing in the hot springs that can be found at this park.
The monkeys are Japanese Macaques and this is the perfect place to visit if you would like to see these monkeys in their natural habitat.
Sanada Treasure Museum
If you are interested in finding out more about Japanese history, the Sanada Treasure museum is worth paying a visit.
The museum is all about the Sanada family, and it features a variety of different Treasures from the Edo period. The grounds of the museum are beautiful and peaceful too. There is a small fee to visit the museum.
Togakure Ninpo Museum
The Togakure Ninpo Museum is a fun and interesting museum to visit, especially if you are interested in learning more about the Nagano warrior.
After he returned from the war in the 12th Century, he set up his own school to teach others the skills and ways of the Iga ninjas. When you visit the museum, you can see many different photos of ninjas and the weapons they used.
There are a few different buildings to visit within the museum, one of which is the Ninja House which has contraptions and secret doors. It is interesting to walk around.
The Museum of Togakushi Folklore has many different artifacts to look at and there is also a throwing range, where you can test your own shuriken skills. There is a small fee to visit.
Chibikko Ninja Village
If you are planning to visit the Togakure Ninpo Museum and you are traveling with children, the Chibikko Ninja Village is certainly worth visiting at some point during your trip. The Ninja Village is based at Mount Togakushi, and it is a small Ninja-themed theme park for children.
It is great fun and features many different obstacles and mazes to complete. While it is created for children, there is much for adults and parents to do too.
This is a great day trip that will keep the children happy and entertained. There is a fee to enter the village and there are some additional charges for the attractions inside the village.
Matsumoto Castle is beautiful and is famous in Japan. It is certainly worth visiting, to see its black exterior, interesting structure, and breathtaking landscape. It is surrounded by beautiful scenery and a moat. It was built from 1592 to 1614.
During the Spring it is surrounded by many cherry blossoms, and it was originally called Fukashi Castle. You can enter inside the castle tower and the castle is illuminated at night. Being one of the five oldest castles in Japan it is rich in history and worth visiting.
Onsen means hot spring in Japanese, and Nagano is known for its natural hot springs. The Uruoikan is the only natural hot spring in Nagano city and is situated near the Snow Monkey Resort. There is also a hotel and restaurant near if you want to extend this trip.
There are five different baths in total that you can bathe in, and it is a great place to visit if you are looking for a day of relaxation.
Try the Local Cuisine
When you are visiting a new city, it is so important to try the local cuisine. There are a few different cuisines that you should try when you visit Nagano.
Oyaki is made from fermented buckwheat dough and makes for a delicious snack. They are a type of dumpling that is usually stuffed and filled with various ingredients.
It can be both sweet or savory and can be filled with things such as fruit, vegetables, and meat. They can be found all across the city, often on small food stalls.
While soba noodles are common throughout Japan, the Shinshu variety is very popular and made in the local area.
They are known for being some of the best soba noodles and they create a fantastic meal. They can be served both hot and cold, and they have a rich flavor overall.
Amazake is a drink that is widely consumed in this region. It is traditional and is mainly non-alcoholic.
It is sweet and delicious and is made from fermented rice. We would recommend trying this.
Nagano Prefecture Original Sake
Sake is a famous and popular Japanese alcoholic drink. While Sake can be purchased across all of Japan, Nagano is home to many Sake breweries.
If you are visiting Nagano, we would highly recommend that you taste the local sake. You can even opt to visit one of the local breweries and have a tour around them too.
While this may not be for everyone, if you want a real taste of Nagano cuisine, you may want to try Basashi. It is raw horse meat.
Horse meat is consumed in Nagano city and is seen as a delicacy. While this may not be something you have consumed before, it is worth trying to experience fully the delicacies of the local area.
We hope that you have found this article useful and insightful. As you can see there are so many different places to visit in Nagano. This is a Japanese city that is rich with history and culture and you should try to experience this as much as possible.
While it may not be the first place you would think to visit when traveling to Japan, it is certainly one you should spend some time in as there is so much to do and see.
Many of the places that we have included in this article are easy to travel to and visit. If you want to experience the culture in full, these are some fantastic places to visit. While some of these may have already been of interest to you, if they were not already, we would certainly recommend thinking about visiting them.