History / Culture / Tour Spots in Nagano Area

  • National Treasure Matsumoto Castle
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    4.5
    3635 Reviews
    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."

    In contrast to Himeji castle, Matsumoto castle is black, and is often called the Black Crow because of its colour. Good photos are taken from near the red bridge. It is also lit up at...

  • Zenkoji Temple
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    4.5
    1970 Reviews
    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."

    This temple is absolutely beautiful and our favourite so far having visited many of the shrines and temples in Tokyo. There are much less tourists here which gives you the opportunity to savour and...

  • Suwa Taisha (Suwa Grand Shrine) Kamisha Honmiya
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    4.5
    462 Reviews
    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.

    Parts of the Suwa Taisha shrine complex date back to the 7th century and possibly earlier. The shrines honour the gods of agriculture, hunting, and fertility. There are many differing legends, myths...

  • Narai-juku (post town)
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    4.5
    354 Reviews
    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.

    It was great to get to Narai-juku early in the morning before all the shops opened & the arrival of bus loads of tourists. We parked our vehicle for 500 yen @ the train station. Convenient & clean...

  • Togakushi Shrine Chusha
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    4.0
    271 Reviews
    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.

    The old wooden torii gate here is impressive, and like other spots in Togakushi there are some very nice imposing cryptomeria (Japanese cedar) trees, including a three-trunked holy tree behind the...

  • Manbei Hotel
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    4.0
    372 Reviews
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Kitasaku-gun Karuizawamachi Karuizawa 925

    We went to this hotel for afternoon, and it was wonderful. Biking around the hotel was very relaxing and picturesque. The hotel has a lot of history, and John Lennon used to stay here. We ordered a...

  • National Treasure-designated Former Kaichi School
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    4.0
    349 Reviews
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Matsumoto-shi Kaichi 2-4-12
    This elementary school opened in 1873 as the Dai-ni Daigaku-ku Dai-ichiban Shogaku Kaichi Gakko. The current structure was built in 1876, and approximately 70% of the construction expenses were funded by donations from the townspeople. It is a representative structure of Giyofu Kenchiku (imitation of Western-style architecture) and inside are displays of materials that give the visitor an impression of what it looked like back then.

    The Former Kaichi School was founded in 1873, Construction was completed in 1876 and it served as a functional school for 90-years until 1963. Having been designated an important cultural asset in...

  • Yohashira-jinja Shrine
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    4.0
    324 Reviews
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Matsumotoshi Ote 3-3-20
    This shrine located in the Ote district of Nagano Prefecture’s Matsumoto City mainly enshrines four deities: Ame-no-Minakanushi-no-Kami, Takamimusubi-no-Kami, Kamimusubi-no-Kami, and Amaterasu Omikami. It attracts fervent believers as the deity who connects wishes and makes all requests come true and is also popular as a “power spot” (a location thought to be flowing with mystical energy). Among the locals it is affectionately called Shinto-san. The Shinto Festival is a procession that is held every year from October 1st–3rd, and is a representative festival of Matsumoto bustling with yatai food stalls, exhibitions of butai-hoei floats and an offering of fireworks.

    Yohashira is a lovely and peaceful spot and an active shrine. The grounds are small-ish but there are plantings and a few buildings. You can sit or wander. Local residents will come to make offerings...

  • Matsushiro Castle Ruins
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    4.0
    182 Reviews
    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.

    There are two types of Japanese castles. One is called Yamajiro and these are constructed on a mountain and the other is built in a fields. This one is the latter. The place is surrounded by the...

  • Hokusai-kan
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    4.0
    225 Reviews
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Kamitakaigunobusemachi Obuse 485
    This museum was built to commemorate famed artist Katsushika Hokusai, who stayed in Obuse several times from the age of 83 and left several works behind there. The museum displays hanging scrolls and hand-painted pictures by Hokusai as well as videos which present the history of the artist. The main exhibition room contains two festival floats whose ceilings were painted with Hokusai's Surging Waves and Dragon and Chinese Phoenix. A 12-minute walk from Obuse Station.

    I happily found out about the Hokusai-kan museum from my hotel proprietor and I was able to make a stop off in Obuse on my way back to Nagano. Hokusai-kan is situated in a great part of the town and...

  • Chihiro Art Museum Azumino
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    4.5
    182 Reviews
    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).

    The grounds here are lovely, in a perfect park setting, completely wonderful for children to play and explore with their families. Chihiro loved children, as evident in her art and exemplified in...

  • Suwa Takashima Castle
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    3.5
    204 Reviews
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Suwashi Takashima 1-20-1
    "A park and castle site situated along Prefectural Route 50 in Takashima, Suwa City. Takashima Castle was built 400 years ago by Hineno Takayoshi, a vassal of the Toyotomi clan. An impregnable castle surrounded by Lake Suwa, the sight of the stronghold floating on the lake's water has resulted in it gaining the nickname, ""the Floating Castle of Suwa."" The castle tower was restored in 1970 and is used as a museum which presents materials on the history of Suwa Domain and Takashima Castle. The surrounding park is a renowned cherry blossom viewing destination in spring."

    This castle is located in a walking distance from the station Kamisuwa. It is surrounded by a moat and has a park with a pond and flower garden. Unfortunately, the castle had been rebuilt relatively...

  • Hiroshi Senju Museum Karuizawa
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    4.5
    168 Reviews
    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.

    A unique approach to defining a building, well worth the visit. Unfortunately the art, while well-executed, is not cohesive and sometimes derivative. I tried to imagine the experience of the building...

  • Suwa Grand Shrine Shimosha Akimiya
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    4.0
    143 Reviews
    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.

    諏訪大社 下社 秋に訪問しました。4つの宮のうちの一つです。春宮までは徒歩で移動することは可能です。上社までは市も違いますので車での移動が必要になります。春宮よりは大きいので人が多くいました。社の中は静かな雰囲気の中に格式があるように感じました。

  • Kozenji Temple
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    4.5
    156 Reviews
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Komaganeshi Akaho 29
    Kozenji Temple contains ten halls and is widely revered as the dwelling place of many deities of the South Shinshu region. It was established in 860 by Honjo Shonin and was mainly built to worship Acala, the God of Fire. The temple is undergoing renovations and maintenance until 2020, so some pathways have been changed. Make sure to confirm in advance. It’s about 10 minutes by car from the Komagane Interchange on the Chuo Expressway.

    We came to see the weeping sakura but were impressed by this temple. Very tranquil temple with a well-laid out garden backed up to the natural mountain forest. The sakura are of many, many varieties...

  • Anrakuji Temple
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    4.5
    176 Reviews
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Uedashi Besshonsen 2361
    This Soto school Buddhist temple is located in Bessho Onsen in Ueda City. The oldest temple in Nagano Prefecture, it is also famous for its octagonal three-storied pagoda, a National Treasure. The pagoda is said to have been built in the Kamakura period and is the only original octagonal pagoda still standing in Japan. An entrance fee is required to view the pagoda interior. A 14-minute walk from Bessho-Onsen Station.

    Anrakuji, with its impressive wooden octagonal pagoda built in the Chinese Sung architectural style during the Kamakura Period (1192-1333). The pagoda is the only example of its kind left in Japan...

  • Suwa Taisha (Suwa Grand Shrine) Shimosha Harumiya
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    4.0
    107 Reviews
    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.

    諏訪大社 下社 春宮に訪問しました。4つの宮のうちの一つです。秋宮までは徒歩で移動することは可能です。上社までは市も違いますので車での移動が必要になります。社の中は静かな雰囲気の中に格式があるように感じました。

  • Ganshoin
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    4.0
    137 Reviews
    Travel / Tourism
    Nagano Pref. Kamitakaigunobusemachi Karida 604
    The Buddha is the principal object of worship here at this Soto sect temple in Obuse Town, Kamitakai County, Nagano Prefecture. Ogino Bingo no Kami Jorin, Lord of Karida Castle, laid the foundation stone in 1472, and the Zen priest Futaku Genkei founded the temple. On the ceiling of the main hall you can see the 21 tatami mat sized painting “The Great Ho-O”, painted by Katsuhika Hokusai. As well as this impressive painting there are many other places of interest such as the mausoleum of Fukushima Masanori, a Japanese daimyo of the late Sengoku period, and the pond with inscription where Kobayashi Issa composed his well-known haiku “Thin little frog, Don’t give in, Issa is here”.

    Beautiful Sakura with temple in the background. The taxi ride is about 5-10 min or 30 walk from Obuse train station.

  • Suwa Grand Shrine Kamisha Maemiya
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    4.0
    94 Reviews
    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.

    御柱で有名な諏訪大社上社には、本宮の他にこの前宮がある。地元では「まえみや」といわず「めぇ-みや」と訛る。小さいが、長い階段を上った先に、品のいい小さな社が鎮座する。上社に行くなら、こっちもぜひ参って。

  • Matsumoto City Museum of Art
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    3.5
    122 Reviews
    Leisure / Hobbies
    Nagano Pref. Matsumotoshi Marunouchi 4-1
    This is a municipal museum on the grounds of Matsumoto Castle in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, exhibiting items related to the history and folk customs of the area. It introduces the history of the castle and the castle town from their origin to the modern day. There are also materials which convey information and allow visitors to learn about local lifestyles and customs including raised cloth pictures, star festival dolls, travelers’ guardian deity and an aging ceremony. One important highlight is the Edo period waterworks discovered during an archaeological dig.

    The Matsumoto City Museum covers three floors of a building adjacent to the castle grounds. It is different from many city museums in that it includes some early history of the city and area. It is...

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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