Togakushi is located inside the Joshinetsu National Park, around a 45 minute drive from Nagano or Myoko, longer from Hakuba. The area is volcanic – pretty much at the foot of two volcanoes, Togakushi and Iizuna.
Considered to be a “power spot” or place of positive energy, enjoy the time and drink your fill. Unless you’re snowshoeing, chances are that Togakushi will be busy. The place has been well visited over the years, and as well as all the sobaya there are a number of traditional omiyage shops selling souvenirs, locally made goods and so on.
The shrine, especially the upper shrine, is well worth the walk. If you have kids then definitely, if you don’t then probably you will want to make a trip to Ninja-mura, the “Kids Ninja Village” (not open in Winter unfortunately – mentioned here in case you make it back another time of year). The ski area is smaller than most of the Hakuba resorts, Nozawa etc., but the views are great and it is a lot less crowded. A ski in the morning, followed by a snowshoe at the shrine in the afternoon is a good way to do it. Food-wise, soba is a big dish on the menu here, great with tempura (battered deep fried vegetables, prawns and so on) on the side. The drive is scenic no matter which way you travel from but the road has some really sharp corners and dodgy sections so be careful – especially in Winter.
Located in the forested mountains northwest of Nagano’s city center, Togakushi Shrine (戸隠神社, Togakushi Jinja) actually refers to several shrines in Togakushi: a lower, a middle and an upper shrine. The shrines are all a couple of kilometres from each other so make sure you are prepared to walk a lot if you intend to go the whole way. For the less adventuresome, families with kids, or anyone in Winter, stopping at the omiyage shops, getting some soba or local snacks, then driving up to the upper shine car park and starting the walk from there is a great pilgrimage – especially if you’re doing it with snowshoes / cross-country skis or the likes! Start by midday and take some snacks and drinks if you want to reach the last shrine at the foot of the mountains, or just enjoy the peaceful walk through the ancient forest and only go as far as you can.
Togakushi Ninja Village
Togakushi was traditionally known as Togakure, considered by some to be the birthplace of Togakure Ryu Ninpo, a school of ninjitsu founded 800 years ago.
Togakushi Ninja Village (Togakushi Ninja Yashiki or Chibikko Ninja Mura) is not a real ninja village, or a place to study ninjitsu. It is more of a ninja themed attraction, great for kids, with cheap entry (around 500 yen for adults and 200 yen for children. Open 9-5 from late April – late November.
Togakushi Ski Resort
Though not huge, the resort is respectable – 1800m at the top, 550m vertical drop, and the longest run is 3km. The resort, like most places in Nagano, gets plenty of snow, the views are good, and it is generally not crowded. A nice place away from the mainstream resorts. The website is all in Japanese, but you can see a resort map and get an idea of what is on offer.
What to Eat in Togakushi
Soba (buckwheat noodles) is a big dish on the menu here, great with tempura on the side. There are so many soba shops in Togakushi it’s pretty hard to recommend one over the other. Japan Travel rates Uzuraya #1 and it is also #1 of all restaurants in Nagano on Tripadvisor, though the wait can be long, especially on weekends. To be honest, unless you are a real soba aficionado you probably won’t know the difference, so choosing a place you like the look of is the best option. You can also do a soba making workshop at the Togakushi Soba Museum – check out this article from the Japan Times for more information. Soba doesn’t do it for a lot of westerners, but this is the place to try it.
How to Get to Togakushi
Exit Nagano station via the Zenkoji exit, then take a Kawanakajima bus bound for Togakushi Camp-jo or Togakushi Chusha-miyamae from the Kawanakajima bus station opposite Nagano station (Stop 7). Get off at Hokosha-miyamae if wanting to see all three of the Togaksuhi Shrines or Chusha-miyamae if wanting to start at the middle shrine. The scenic bus trip up takes approximately 45-50 minutes through a coil of switchbacks, hairpin bends and mountain passes. Cost is ¥1350 one way and return ¥2400.
If you are coming by car from Tokyo, take either the Chuo or the Joshin-etsu expressways to the Nagano exit. Follow the signs to central Nagano, then to Zenkoji temple and finally to Togakushi. It should take between 30 and 45 minutes by car from central Nagano depending on traffic and weather conditions. From Nagoya or Osaka, take the Chuo expressway to the Nagano exit and follow the same directions.
- Japan Guide – Togakushi Shrine
- Myoko Nagano – Togakushi Village, Togakushi Shrine
- Wikipedia – Togakushi, Nagano