Country culture and color between the Alps
The Ina Valley in southern Nagano stretches between the Southern and Central Alps. Ina is off the beaten path and home to small villages, interesting events, and a splendid natural environment.
- The awesome natural wonder of Senjojiki
- Boating down the Tenryu Gorge
- Trying some off-beat traditional fare
How to Get There
Ina City makes an excellent base for exploring the area. It is easily reachable from Tokyo via rail.
From Shinjuku, take the JR Limited Express Azusa to Okaya, about two hours and 30 minutes away. Change there to the local Iida Line. You'll reach Inashi Station in about 45 minutes. As is often the case in the Japanese countryside, a rental car will serve you well.
Outdoor adventures abound
There are endless hiking opportunities in the nearby Central and Southern Alps and their foothills. Most famously, from Komagane, the Komagatake Ropeway whisks you to 2,600 meters in elevation and into a world of gorgeous alpine scenery at the Senjojiki Cirque .
Try boating the rugged Tenryu Gorge in Iida in the valley's southern reaches. The tours are run by a conical-capped skipper and mate in happi festival jackets, who paddle the traditional wooden boats along. The rides run year-round and are a fantastic way to enjoy the scenery at the foot of the Southern Alps.
Beautiful flowers abound
Takato Castle Park in the Ina City area offers fantastic Central Alps views all year but comes into its own in spring. Visit to experience Takato's renowned cherry blossom festival, one of the most famous viewing events in the nation.
Overlooking the city of Ina, Kasuga Park on the former grounds of Kasuga Castle is famous for its 200 cherry trees and 20,000 azaleas.
Seek out the valley's cultural events
Enjoy fascinating events and unique festivals throughout the year. Iida's August puppet festival is the largest in the land and features performers from across Japan and abroad. Oshika Village holds a free kabuki festival twice a year in autumn and spring.
For a Shinto slant, seek out December's Shimotsuki Festival at shrines around Iida. The atmosphere is otherworldly with fires, masked ogres and demons, and the eerie chanting of the priests.
Taste something out of the ordinary
The Ina Valley has plenty of tasty local food. Try the popular romen, a combination of the ubiquitous ramen and Japanese fried noodles. Sauce Katsudon is also an Ina favorite, consisting of a large bowl of rice topped with a deep-fried pork cutlet.