Host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano is an outdoor sports mecca particularly famous for skiing and snowboarding. Often called the "roof of Japan," it boasts the highest mountain ranges in the country. Enclaves of rural culture continue much as they have for centuries, with the villages of Tsumago and Narai appearing as if they were plucked straight from a samurai film. Raucous festivals and the stately black walls of Matsumoto Castle also survive intact, as do rustic onsen villages with their relaxing mountain ambiance. Karuizawa has a casual cosmopolitan atmosphere, with plenty of quirky pensions.
The Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo is the easiest way to access northern Nagano. Central Nagano, including Matsumoto, is a direct train ride from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo or Nagoya Station. Highway buses run from many other cities around the country.
From Tokyo Station, the Hokuriku Shinkansen runs to Nagano City, with stops at Karuizawa and Ueda along the way. The central Nagano hub of Matsumoto is the gateway to the Northern Alps. Approaching from Nagoya on the Shinano Limited Express will take you through the Kiso Valley, making for easy stops in Tsumago or Narai. Matsumoto is a straight shot on the JR Azusa from Shinjuku, bringing you through Suwa, where you can change trains to access the southern Ina area via local lines. Highway buses also run to many Nagano cities and popular outdoor destinations from urban centers across Honshu. If you have a specific travel goal in mind, say skiing in Hakuba, some direct airport bus services from the airport can be convenient.
A cousin of horseradish but far less common, wasabi is the spicy Japanese alternative to hot mustard. Its rare to fin...
Shinshu Pongee Silk
Shinshu tsumugi is made from a combination of raw, wild dupion and floss silk. Natural plant dyes and a subtle sheen ...
Buckwheat has been consumed in Japan for over 2000 years. Early records of it being eaten in noodle form put sobas bi...
Shinshu is Japans second largest apple producer, growing firm and sweet fruit with a mild tartness. Be sure to sample...
A buckwheat dough dumpling stuffed full of vegetables, fruit or sweet beans and then roasted on an iron pan and steam...
Much like Niigata to the north, Nagano has built a reputation for brewing highly drinkable sake that can be delicate,...
Pickled mustard leaf that is often eaten with a little soy sauce and sometimes chili, Nozawana-zuke is particularly f...
Matsumoto Thread Balls
Once popular as children’s toys, these bright and cheerful handmade temari balls from Matsumoto are now collected and...
Party beneath the cherry blossoms against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Partake in lively blossom-viewing events at Matsumoto and Ueda castles or have a tipple at the Nomiaruki sake brewery crawl in Suwa.
As the green season deepens, enjoy hiking, mountain biking and kayaking in the great outdoors. Take in fireworks on Lake Suwa or feel the beat of the Okaya Taiko festival.
Autumn colors engulf the mountains and castle grounds as the leaves turn. Stroll the Kiso Valley Nakasendo trail, cycle around Lake Suwa or hike in the Kamikochi area.
Skiers and snowboarders descend on Nagano from around Japan and across the globe. After hitting the powder-rich slopes, get warm with onsen soaks and flasks of hot local sake.