Nagano Prefecture is located inland in the center of Honshu, covered in mountains and heavily forested. Home to multiple ski resorts, clear rivers and lakes, a vast array of hiking and mountain bike trails along with incredible alpine tramping, truly historic shrines and temples, and a bounty of local food. Click here for all posts relating to Nagano.
Nagano Prefecture Highlights
The Snow Monkey Onsen – Jigokudani. A must-do for anyone on a trip to Nagano Prefecture. Open year-round, though in the warmer months the monkeys only venture into the hot pools to pick up food the staff throw in there. By July babies are out and about exploring, or suckling and cuddling with their mums. It is a bit of a walk from the station if you are bussing it – think about a taxi there to get the uphill out of the way at least.
Matsumoto Castle is one of only 4 castles in Japan deemed “National Treasures”. The place is a tribute to the 16th Century skill in engineering and construction, with a massive moat system throughout the town part of the history. Well restored and maintained parts of the full original structure are remaining. It is a nice walk from the station up to the castle area. Be warned though – the steps are steep!
Zenkoji Temple is one of the last few remaining pilgrimage sites in Japan. A non-sectarian temple, it welcomes all genders, races and religions. Built in the 7th century and established in 1897, the temple enshrines a hibitsu, a secret Buddha, rumored to be the first ever Buddhist sculpture brought to Japan. In the pitch-black tunnel of the underground passage, all people are equal. Zenkoji is a place of enlightenment, peace and power.
Togakushi is the birthplace of ninja, and home to Togakushi Shrine, the journey to which can lead you on a number of beautiful walks near the base of Mt. Togakushi. There are also a number of attractions such as the Ninja Village (great for kids), the soba museum where you can try your hand at soba making, and a pretty decent ski resort with great views and no crowds – a fantastic day trip.
The Shinshusnow Nagano Prefecture Winter Top Ten
We’d like to say the Nagano Prefecture Winter Top Ten list is constantly updating, but in reality it’s hard to knock any of these gems too far. But due to the amount of things to do in Nagano Prefecture, it won’t be long until we have a top 20 – if you have something you think should be included let us know. Here it is, in no particular order:
- Skiing in Hakuba
- Skiing in Myoko Kogen
- Skiing in Nozawa Onsen
- Skiing in Shiga Kogen
- Praying at Zenkoji Temple
- A trip to see the Jigokudani Snow Monkeys
- Climbing Matsumoto Castle
- Snowshoeing to Togaskushi Shrine
- Powder and pizza at Cortina
- Soaking in onsens
This isn’t a place that is easy to leave. It stays with you; you don’t have any choice but to return. Obviously the first 4 options themselves can keep you busy for weeks at least, lifetimes for many. Visit the pages themselves for more details. If you are trying to plan your trip, check out some recommended itineraries. If you will be heading to Tokyo we have some information on Tokyo hotels and things to do in Tokyo city and around the greater area.
- Tripadvisor: Things to do in Nagano
- Lonely Planet: Things to do in Nagano
- Go! Nagano: Nagano Prefecture Official Tourism Guide
- Lonely Planet: “Introducing Nagano Prefecture”