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Trips and Tour Packages to Nagano JapanNestled in the Japanese Alps, Nagano is known for snow sports, temples and onsens

About Nagano

Nagano city developed around the hilltop temple of Zenko-ji, the largest wooden building in eastern Japan, and one of the countries most popular temples. Founded in the 7th century Nagano's Zenkoji Temple stores the first Buddhist statue ever to be brought into Japan when Buddhism was first introduced in the 6th century. The temple also has an underground passage where visitors can walk in complete darkness towards the ‘Key to Paradise’ legend goes that those who touch the key will be granted salvation. Within the temple complex stands the Zenkoji History Museum, showcasing a collection of intricately carved statues of different Buddhas and Bodhisattva.

The city gained fame in 1998 when it hosted the Winter Olympics, this improved the city’s transport and created new facilities for the games, some of which can still be visited today. It is also well known for its many shrines and as the home of the Togakushi Ninja School. Today the Togakushi Ninpo Museum and the Kids Ninja Village pay homage to the area’s ninja past.

Tours to Nagano

Join us as we journey to Nagano and explore the city. Explore the city from the huge wooden building and marvel at its beautiful intricate design. You can also spend your time wandering around the city taking in the traditional buildings and looking around the handmade crafts that local sellers have to offer. Nagano is also known for its soba noodles, why not stop off at a local restaurant and try them out for yourself.

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What to expect on a visit to Nagano

Visiting Nagano, offers a blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and unique experiences. Nestled in the Japanese Alps, Nagano is renowned for its stunning mountainous landscapes, making it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts year-round. In winter, it transforms into a world-class skiing and snowboarding destination, especially in areas like Hakuba Valley. Summer brings opportunities for hiking, with trails that offer breathtaking views and encounters with diverse flora and fauna. Visitors can also immerse themselves in the region's traditional onsen (hot springs), providing a relaxing retreat. The local cuisine, including dishes like soba noodles and fresh mountain vegetables, is a culinary delight. With its blend of natural splendour, rich history, and warm hospitality, Nagano promises a memorable and enriching experience.

Things to do in Nagano Japan

a bath in an onsen
An onsen

Visit an onsen

Onsens are hot spring baths that offer relaxation in beautiful settings. Nagano has the second highest number of hot spring areas in Japan so you are sure to fine the perfect style of onsen for you. In Nagano you will find a all kinds of onsens from traditional rustic style, outdoor mountain style and even ones where you dig your own onsen by the side of a river! Nagano is also famous for having onsens just for snow monkeys where you can view the monkeys relaxing in the hot springs. With over 700 day use hot spring facilities you are sure to find the perfect place to relax and heal your body and mind in Nagano. Be aware that some onsens have tattoo policies and you may be asked to cover tattoos or denied entry if you are tattooed.

Zenkoji Temple in winter
Zenkoji Temple

Visit the Zenkoji Temple

Built in the 7th century the Zenkoji Temple in Nagano is one of the most popular Buddhist temples in Japan. It is said that the temple houses the first Buddhist statue that was ever brought into Japan. The main hall is beautifully decorated and contains various Buddhist statues, there is also the pitch-black passage underneath the temple where visitors can search for the ‘Key to Paradise’ said to grant salvation to those who touch it. Visitors can also find the Zenkoji History Museum a short walk behind the main hall, the museum houses a collection of intricately carved statues of different Buddhas and Bodhisattva as well as a display of 100 Rakan, the disciples of Buddha.

People dressed as ninjas in Nagano
People dressed as ninjas

Visit the Togakure Ninpo Museum

Nagano has a rich history with ninjas and the Togakure Ninpo Museum is dedicated to this connection. The museum consists of multiple buildings, one that showcases the tools and weapons used by the Togakure Ninja as well as exhibits with photos of the ninjas. The second building is the Ninja House, this building looks ordinary on the outside but inside there are many secret doors, passages and contraptions that you can have fun discovering. There is also a shuriken (throwing star) throwing range where you can try your hand at throwing the shuriken at a target board. The third building is the Museum of Togakushi Folklore, this museum exhibits clothing, tools and furniture used by the people of Nagano in the past.

When is the best time to visit Nagano?

Each season in Nagano provides something different for visitors. Due to its alpine location winter is perfect for snow activities like skiing and snowboarding, spring brings mild weather and cherry blossoms, summer is good for hiking in the alps when the snow is melted and the mountain provides cooler weather compared to other parts of Japan, fall has mild temperatures and beautiful brown and orange foliage.

Conclusion

Nagano provides visitors an abundance of experiences that cater to a wide array of interests, making it a compelling destination for any traveler. Whether you're an adventure seeker drawn to world-class skiing and hiking in the majestic Japanese Alps, a culture enthusiast eager to explore ancient temples like Zenko-ji, or someone seeking relaxation in traditional onsens, Nagano offers something for everyone. Its seasonal beauty, from the snowy winters, cherry blossom springs, the vibrant autumn and refreshing summers, ensures that each visit is unique. Combined with its delicious local cuisine and warm hospitality, Nagano not only provides a deep connection to Japan's natural and cultural heritage but also guarantees a memorable and fulfilling journey.

Frequently asked questions

Are there any famous festivals in Nagano?

Yes, Nagano hosts several famous festivals, including the Nagano Tomyo Festival in February, where Zenko-ji Temple and the surrounding area are illuminated with beautiful lanterns. The Snow Monkey Beer Live festival in March combines craft beer with live music, set against the backdrop of snow monkeys and hot springs.

What are the must-see attractions in Nagano?

Is it possible to see snow monkeys year-round?

How can I get around Nagano once I'm there?

Japan tours: Discover the highlights of Japan

Whilst Japan is full of unforgettable highlights, these are the places that you really can't miss on your trip. From the heaving metropolis of Tokyo to the peaceful, rural tranquillity of Miyajima Island and Kyoto - steeped in ancient history. Japan is a land of beautiful contrasts just waiting to be explored.

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