Japanese alps: Nagano prefecture
Updated: Oct 21
Our first taste of the Japanese alps was in Nagano. It’s a bit more than 1h from Tokyo with the Shinkansen and you’re already in a total different landscape with many tall mountains, some of them decorated by a touch of snow and many of them already touched by the bliss of autumn. If you love yellow and red leaves, visiting Nagano prefecture during mid October is great!
You can see landscapes such as these ones that we have summarized in a video on our Youtube channel. Since the colors of the autumn are so nice and many Japanese love that as well, the TV was recording a documentary and they actually interviewed us shortly in Japanese. You can see the interview in this post.
What to see in Nagano
Nagano has a beautiful temple (Zenko-ji), similar to Senso-ji in Tokyo but with a more traditional look and definitely much less crowded. If you visit there early in the morning or around 16h in the afternoon you will be almost alone. We visited it during the day and were lucky enough to experience the traditional ceremonies inside the temples.
After visiting the temple you can go for a walk in Nagano city, which has one main street with many different shops and many Soba restaurants.
A part from that you can actually walk around the park close to the temple. We did that and we stumbled upon a free Zoo, which is really cool if you’re travelling with children or you just love animals. Moreover, the Zoo had some activities going on such as training some sea lions from California or feeding the snow monkeys, which are typical from the Japanese alps.
It was quite a nice day, especially having found that place by chance. You can also see pengiuns, pelicans and some pheasants.
Surroundings of Nagano
Nagano’s surroundings are famous for the snow monkey forest and the national park of Togakushi. The snow monkey forest has a high season during winter and can be seen in summer but in autumn they are mostly busy mating (and they don’t like to be seen so much while doing… you know). There’s a live cam where you can check whether the monkeys are bathing in the natural Onsens or not.
An amazing alternative to the snow monkey forest is actually the national park, which is really worth it, especially in autumn. You will be able to see the famous maple trees and sequoias
as well as a beautiful pond,
beautiful mountains and a shrine.
This is 1 hour away from Nagano city and you can reach it with a bus for 3000 Yen.
What to eat in Nagano
Soba (one of the three main types of Japanese noodles that is usually served cold), horse sashimi, Oyaki (some kind of dumplings with many fillings, most of them vegetarian) and sake are the four typical delicacies from Nagano.
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