History / Culture / Tour Spots in Nagano Area

  • National Treasure Matsumoto Castle
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Matsumotoshi Marunouchi 4-1
    "Matsumoto Castle is said to feature Japan's oldest surviving five-storied six-floor pagoda. It is one of the few castles designated as a National Treasure, and maintains the image of the past. The black and white contrast of the castle rising amid the Alps in the background is beautiful, and the castle has become a symbol of Matsumoto City. In addition to the castle facilities of the Sengoku period, such as the stone drops meant to rebuff invaders, or samurai windows or the gun slits, there are exhibits such as the ""Matsumoto Castle Gunhouse"" centered around matchlock guns, and artifacts unearthed during the ninomaru palace excavation performed from 1979-1984. In the precinct, you'd do well to see the black gate with eave roof tiles marked with the family crests of historical castle lords, or the taiko gate which was restored in 1999."
  • Zenkoji Temple
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Naganoshi Naganomotoyoshichou 491-b
    "Located in Nagano City, this temple does not belong to any sect. Any sect is free to worship here, which has received veneration for having Japan's oldest Ikko Sanson Amida Nyorai as the main deity. During the Edo period, it was said that ""once in your life, visit Zenkoji Temple,"" The ""oasaji"" is performed every day during the sunrise. If you purchase a ticket for the inner sanctum, you can worship up close. The ""zenritsu honzon"" is performed once every seven years. About 15 minutes by bus from JR Nagano Station."
  • Togakushi-jinja Shrine
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Naganoshi Togakushi
    Togakushi-jinja Shrine is located at the foot of Mt. Togakushi, Nagano City and consists of five shrines each named Okusha, Chusha, Hokosha, Kuzuryusha and Hinomikosha. It is said that the temple’s origins lie in the Iwato legend of mythology, and has been worshiped by many people as a sacred place since ancient times. The avenue of 400-year-old cedar tree which cover the approach road to Okusha have a powerful lure and this area was also used as a shooting location by commercials. There are also points on the road between the shrines with steep drops, so it is recommended to wear clothes which are easy to walk in if you plan to walk around by foot.
  • Narai-juku (post town)
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Shiojirishi Narai
    Long ago, the Nakasendo was an important highway connecting Edo and Kyoto, and many travelers stopped at the post town of Narai-juku before or after crossing the Torii Pass following this route. The post town once prospered due to the many people moving along the highway, and the town was even described as “Narai Sen-ken” (1,000 buildings of Narai). Narai was quite large, and divided into three districts—uptown, midtown, and downtown, and today the townscape remains mostly unchanged from its heyday. In 1978, the post town was designated an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.
  • Suwa Taisha (Suwa Grand Shrine) Kamisha Honmiya
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Suwashi Nakasu 1
    Suwa Taisha (Suwa Grand Shrine) Kamisha Honmiya, one of the oldest shrines in the country and the head shrine of over 10,000 Suwa shrines throughout Japan, has no main building, but only a “heihaiden” and a “katahaiden,” a unique style known as the Suwa style. Many precious buildings remain, and six of them are registered as Important Cultural Properties. In olden times, people worshiped at Suwa Myojin to pray to the guardian deities of wind, water, and the harvest, as well as brave men. Nowadays, it is believed to house the deity that guards life and livelihood. It’s about five minutes from the Suwa Interchange on the Chuo Expressway.
  • Ueda Castle Park
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Uedashi Ninomaru 6263 - a
    Ueda Castle was built by Sanada Yukimura’s father, Sanada Masayuki. By repelling the Tokugawa Army twice before, the castle became known as the impregnable castle. Today it is maintained as the Ueda Castle Park and it is famous as a cherry blossom viewing spot during the spring every year at the Ueda Castle Thousand Cherry Blossom Festival.
  • Utsukushi-ga-Hara Open-Air Museum
    Leisure / Hobbies
    Nagano Pref. Uedashi Takeshikamihoniri 2085-70
    An outdoor sculpture museum located on the Utsukushigahara Highlands in Ueda City, Nagano Prefecture which displays some 350 modern art sculptures on a meadow 2,000 meters above sea level. Dotted with pieces by such famed domestic and international artists as César Baldaccini, Alexander Liberman, Izumi Ando, and Masuo Ikeda, the museum’s meadow is truly a stunning sight. The museum is also surrounded by magnificent mountains, and lovely mountain plants bloom from spring to fall. The museum is open from late April to mid-November.
  • Togakushi Shrine Okusha (Main Shrine)
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Naganoshi Togakushi Okusha
    Togakushi Shrine is the general name given to five shrines scattered around the foot of the sacred Mt. Togakushi in Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture: Okusha, Chusha, Hokosha, Kuzuryusha, and Hinomikosha. The Okusha is in a spot located around a two-kilometer walk along a 2.5-kilometer roadway from Chusha. The enshrined deity is Amanotajikarao-no-Mikoto. Passing under the Zuishinmon gate along the shrine road, one will come upon a line of Japanese cedar trees 400 years old which makes for a mystical backdrop as you proceed down the road. It is the main shrine of Togakushi Shrine, and a spot where a great many people come to pray for better fortune, fulfillment of their heart’s desires, good harvests and sports victories.
  • Karuizawa Kogen Church
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Prefecture Kitasaku-gun Karuizawa Town Hoshino
    This church full of history and located in Karuizawa Town, Kitasaku County Nagano Prefecture began in 1921 as a small wooden building, and was the origin of the Free Education of Art Salon  movement that attracted cultured people such as Hakushu Kitahara and Toson Shimazaki. The building, which is enveloped in the nature of Karuizawa, is characteristic for its pointy triangular roof. As a church that is open to all people, it holds gospel worship every Sunday and events in accordance with the season. It is also popular as a place for resort weddings.
  • Togakushi Shrine Chusha
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Naganoshi Togakushi 3506
    The enshrined deity is Ame no Yagokoro Omoikane no Mikoto, the originator of Iwato Kagura (sacred dance). Kagura is a collective term given to the theatrical dances that are dedicated to the God of the shrine at festival time. In Japanese mythology there is a story about Ama-no-Iwato (literally “The cave of the sun goddess”) where Ame no Yagokoro Omoikane no Mikoto created the chance for Amaterasu (the Sun Goddess), who was hiding in the cave, to open the door and come out. The divine virtues of this shrine are good luck, warding off evil, prosperous business, peace and prosperity in the household and academic achievement. The dragon painting on the ceiling of the main shrine was painted by Kawanabe Kyosai of the Kano School and was restored in 2003. In the grounds of the shrine is a sacred tree over 700 years old.
  • Matsushiro Castle Ruins
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Naganoshi Matsushiromachi Matsushiro 44
    These castle ruins are located in Nagano City. The castle was constructed as the base for the Takeda side during the Battles of Kawanakajima between Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin. It is a natural fortress that uses the Chikuma River as a moat. In addition, Sanada became the ruler in the Edo period (1603-1868), and it developed into the castle town of Sanada Jumangoku. Destroyed in the Meiji period (1868-1912), only the stone walls of the buildings remained, but now the gate and earthworks are maintained.
  • Takato Castle Ruins (Takato Castle Ruins Park)
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Inashi Takatomachihigashitakato
    These castle ruins are located in Higashitakato, Takato-machi, Ina City. Built on a hill surrounded by flatland, the castle was the seat of power of the Takato Clan. It would later end up in the hands of a string of success owners including Takeda, Hoshina, Torii, and Naito clans before being abandoned in 1872. It is best known for being the site of the Battle of Takato Castle between Takeda and Oda forces in 1582. Today, the castle's moat, earthen main gate, and other archeological remnants still remain. The entire area has been developed into the Takato Castle Ruins Park. Famous for its cherry blossoms, the approximately 1,500 Takato kohigan cherries which bloom in the park in the spring have been designated as a Prefectural Natural Monument.
  • Suwa Grand Shrine Shimosha Akimiya
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Suwagunshimosuwamachi 5828
    A Shinto shrine located in Shimosuwa Town, Suwa County, Nagano Prefecture. The Akimiya is one of six shrines which comprise Suwa Grand Shrine, the head shrine of some 25 thousand Suwa shrines located across the country. Worshipped for providing abundant harvests and granting bravery since ancient times, in recent times the shrine has also come to be worshipped for protecting life and livelihood. The Kagura-den hall, with an eye-catching giant rope hanging in front, and the two-storied Heihai-den (worship and offering hall) are designated Important Cultural Properties. Other shrine highlights include the Neiri no Sugi, an 800-year old Japanese cedar tree. The shrine is famous for the Ombashira Festival held every seven years, as well as the Boat Festival (Ofune Matsuri) held on August 1.
  • Hiroshi Senju Museum Karuizawa
    Leisure / Hobbies
    Nagano Pref. Kitasakugunkaruizawamachi Nagakura 815
    Located in Karuizawa Town, Kitasaku County, Nagano Prefecture, this private art museum exhibits the works it owns created by artist Hiroshi Senju, a modern Japanese painter who is active around the world. The building was designed by architect Ryue Nishizawa and has large glass windows that give it a bright and spacious atmosphere. It also has a beautiful garden with various trees and plants, and is a creative space that achieves harmony with nature. The museum holds exhibitions that introduce Senju’s works as well as special exhibitions according to different themes. There are also a bakery café and shop, and guests can relax and enjoy art and nature.
  • Suwa Taisha (Suwa Grand Shrine) Shimosha Harumiya
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Suwagunshimosuwamachi 193
    Suwa Taisha, one of the highest-ranked Ichinomiya shrines of the old Shinano Province, is said to be one of the oldest shrines in Japan and is the main shrine of the various Suwa shrines throughout the country. The granite torii gates at the entrance are said to have been built in 1659, evidence of its long history. The lower shrine holds various ceremonies, including “Senzasai” ceremonies which are said to have an influence on the Years of the Tiger and Monkey as well as biannual “Harumiya” and “Akimiya” ceremonies. It’s about 15 minutes from the Okaya Interchange on the Nagano Expressway.
  • Chihiro Art Museum Azumino
    Leisure / Hobbies
    Nagano Pref. Kitadumigunmatsukawamura Nishihara 3358-24
    This art museum located inside of the Azumino Chihiro Park in the Matsukawa Village district of Kita-Azumi County, Nagano Prefecture collects and displays works by picture book artists from around the world including Chihiro Iwasaki. In addition to displays about Chihiro’s representative works, related items, and career, the museum also introduces the history of picture books and a collection of original pictures from picture books around the world. The museum is complete with facilities sure to delight children such as a reading room where they can read their choice from approximately 3,000 picture books as well as a play area for small children. There is also a picture book café where visitors can relax while gazing out at Japan’s Northern Alps (Hida Mountains).
  • Hotaka-jinja Shrine
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Aduminoshi Hotaka 6079
    This shrine in Nagano Prefecture’s Azumino City is frequented by believers who pray to the deity of land and sea transportation and industry. It is actually comprised of three places, the Hongu main shrine located close to JR Hotaka Station, the Okumiya rear shrine in Kamikochi and a small shrine atop the summit of Mt. Okuhotaka, and is famous as the sochinju (local Shinto deity) of the Japan Alps. Within the premises of the Hongu are the main shrine in Midono-style, a kagura hall, Wakamiya shrine, and two Japanese zelkova trees which have been designated as Azamino City Designated Natural Monuments. The Ofune Matsuri or “Boat Festival” in which boat-shaped floats adorned with Hotaka ningyo dolls are collided together takes place every year on September 27, and the event is attended by many worshippers.
  • Suwa Grand Shrine Kamisha Maemiya
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Chinoshi Miyagawa 2030
    One of the shrine buildings on the grounds of Suwa Grand Shrine standing along National Route 152 in Miyagawa, Chino City. Suwa Grand Shrine is the head shrine of all Suwa Shrines in the country. The area where this shrine building is located is believed to be the location where the god worshipped by these shrines, Suwa Daimyojin, first took up residence, and as such can be considered the origin point of the Suwa faith.
  • Togakushi Folk Museum / Togakushi Ninja Museum / Ninja Trick Mansion
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Naganoshi Togakushi 3688-12
    This is a facility in the Togakushi ninja village in Togakushi, Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture, separated into three buildings: the Togakushi Folk Museum, the Togakushi Ninja Museum, and the Ninja Trick Mansion. The Togakushi Folk Museum, restored from an Edo period rice tax granary building, displays 2,000 items relating to everyday items that support local customs. The Togakushi Ninja Museum has around 500 items including ninja tools and various ninja documents by which one can learn about Togakushi ninja arts. The Ninja Trick Mansion is full of activities that even adults can enjoy like children. With a shuriken (throwing star) dojo and coffee house, it is a spot that adults and children can play around for a whole day.
  • Honjin (Tsumago Juku)
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Kisogunnagisomachi Aduma
    Restored in 1995, Honjin served as lodging for feudal lords passing through. The Shimazaki family oversaw it starting with the establishment of the post town system and acted as village leaders as well until the Meiji Period (1868-1912) when it was demolished. The final owner was Shimazaki Toson’s older brother Hirosuke. Also, their mother was born there. The Honjin you see today was restored based on pictures from the Shimazaki family collection. When you visit, you’ll see models of even earlier versions of the building, and there’s a traditional irori hearth that they light every day. You can visit the Honjin, Wakihonjin Okuya, and Nagiso (town) Museum of History with a single ticket.

Nagano Areas

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Nagano prefecture is an exciting mix of mountains, hot spring monkeys, and preserved Edo history. At the heart of the Japanese Alps, Nagano is one of the country's most popular destinations, whether in winter for its snow sports and the much-loved Jigokudani Monkey Park or in the warmer months for discovering the undulating hills on foot. For fantastic Edo architecture, head to the Kiso Valley for a 60-kilometer stretch of quaint wooden buildings that marked the Nakasendo route 200 years ago.

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