Nagano City is the capital of the Nagano Prefecture and is well-known as the home of Zenkoji, one of Japan’s most popular temples. Its location in central Japan makes the city a convenient base for a number of side trips, including taking a dip with the famous hot spring monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park.
The scenic beauty of the surrounding mountains provides the perfect backdrop to any snow based activities, hence it becoming the home for the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. Some former Olympic facilities are still dotted around the city, which are now used as sporting or concert venues. The unique architecture of the facilities is what intrigues locals and tourists alike, and the small museum located inside M-Wave displays one-of-a kind memorabilia from the games, such as the Olympic torch.
The city is also rich in culture, boasting a number of sights, sounds, and tastes of old Japan. Togakushi Shrine is situated in the mountains just northwest of the city. The shrine depicts the mythological story of the Sun Goddess, with the surrounding forest providing a Zen atmosphere, which only serves to heighten the experience. The city centre itself provides visitors with cultural sights - a walk around Nagano will give visitors an ever shifting mosaic of wonder; modern department stores intermingle with charming older structures, giving a glimpse into the historic life of traditional Japan. Modest shops and restaurants line Nakamise Street which boasts a selection of Japanese crafts and snacks. The street is paved with exactly 7,777 stones and leads towards the famed Zenkoji Temple.
The temple has been around for almost 1,400 years and is revered across Japan for its beauty, but it’s not just a pretty face. Apart from the two main halls, the temple holds a museum, scripture hall, an archery training hall, and a monument to Prince Shotoku. The first ever Buddhist statue to be brought to Japan is housed at the temple, it was brought over when Buddhism was introduced in the sixth century. The original statue is hidden; however, a copy is shown to the public every six years. There is also a walk through the pitch-black corridors of the temple, which is rumoured to help you find your path to happiness.
Nagano City is also known for its rich history of samurai as well as ninja. The Togakure Ninpo Museum (Togakushi Folk Museum & Ninja House) is located in the forest, about an hour bus ride away from the city centre. The museum consists of a number of exhibits, including a ninja house, kitted with many secret doors, passages and weapons inside. For a small fee, visitors can even throw a shuriken at target boards. Located nearby to the museum is the Kids Ninja Village, a small amusement park featuring many obstacle courses and jungle gyms for visitors to undergo some ninja training.
The Hokuriku Shinkansen connects Tokyo and Nagano City. The trip takes just under two hours and costs roughly 8,000 yen. The cost is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass and JR East Nagano Niigata Area Pass. Multiple bus companies operate between Tokyo and Nagano Station, taking about three and a half hours, costing about 2,000 to 4,000 yen, depending on the company taken.
- Togakushi Folk Museum / Togakushi Ninja Museum / Ninja Trick Mansion
- Nagano Pref. Naganoshi Togakushi 3688-12
- 9:00-17:00(Last entry16:30)
Nagano City Overview
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR