Activities & Tours

Matsumoto Castle
Snow monkeys are near Nagano
The snow monkeys are a quintessential Nagano winter activity
Zenko-ji Temple
The Zenkoji temple area
The gate to the Zenkoji Temple
Zenkoji temple area
Zenkoji Temple Nagano
Matsumoto Castle
Get accosted in the castle gardens
Matsumoto Castle
The museum inside the castle
Matsumoto Castle
Town of Matsumoto
Shibu Onsen
Public bath in Shibu Onsen
Zenkoji Temple area
Snow monkeys are located near Shiga Kogen
Nagano shopping for souvenirs
Tourist shopping near Zenkoji

Activities & Tours

Myoko guided day tours

Nagano Hotels Near Station

Hotel Abest Nagano Ekimae ($-$$)
Hotel New Nagano ($)
Hotel Sunroute Nagano ($$)
Hotel Sunroute Higashiguchi ($$)
Nagano Plaza Hotel ($$)

Other Hotels

Smile Hotel Nagano ($-$$)
Toyoko Inn Nagano ($)

Hotel Listings

Nagano Hotels

Nagano Ski Resorts

West of Nagano
Hakuba Valley

East of Nagano
Shiga Kogen

Northeast of Nagano
Kijimadaira
Nozawa Onsen
Madarao Kogen
Ryuoo Ski Park
Tangram
Togari Onsen

North of Nagano
Myoko Kogen

Northwest of Nagano
Togakushi
Your first stop should be the information centre at the Nagano train station. Here you’ll find lots of information about Nagano things to do. Some of the staff speak English and can assist with any additional queries about Nagano activities.

Snow Monkeys Japan

A visit to the Japanese snow monkeys at the Jigokudani Monkey Park is a popular tourist activity whilst in the Nagano area. The monkey park has numerous monkeys that frolic about in hot springs to keep warm during the snowy winter. See the snow monkeys Japan page for more information.

Shibu Onsen

Whilst in the snow monkey area you might want to stop in at the little village of Shibu Onsen. This is a very traditional Japanese village with a narrow main street that is lined with old ryokans and onsen bath houses. Whatever you might conjure up as being traditional Japanese architecture, you’ll find it in Shibu. With any luck you might be able to sneak a little happy snap of some people wandering up the street dressed in their yukatas and wooden geta thongs on the way to the public onsen – very Japanese!

Nagano Zenkoji Temple

Nagano is a typical Monzen-machi, which is a town that developed from the front of the gate of a temple or shrine. For Nagano it’s the Zenko-ji Temple, a 7th century Buddhist temple that’s located about 1 mile north of the Nagano train station. The temple contains a very old Buddha statue, but don’t get too excited about seeing it, because its powers are so strong that it has to be kept hidden away! The main temple has a huge hinoki thatched roof and it looks very “Japanese”, so you’re likely to want to have the camera ready.

As to be expected, you have to take off your shoes in the temple, so wear really warm socks or you’ll get frostbite. You can also take a short tour under the temple in the kaidan ordination, which apparently provides some spiritual value (if you touch the key your entry into paradise is guaranteed), but the real fascination is walking around a small tunnel in the pitch black.

The area surrounding the main temple is really cute and has various smaller temples, and also depicts traditional Japanese architecture and décor. The street leading down from the Niomon gate to central Nagano City is a stone paved street that is bustling with tourists and has a series of shops selling souvenirs, street food and ice cream.

To get there from the train station, there are cheap minibuses that circle the outskirts of the temple grounds (Zenkoji Line Binzuru-go).

Or you can purchase a Zenkoji Temple Matsushiro one day pass. This provides unlimited travel on the buses for Zenkoji Temple, Matsushiro and Kawanakajima.

Matsumoto Castle

The nearby town of Matsumoto features the Matsumoto Castle, a five storey black and white donjon that looks rather striking against the snow.

The origin of the Matsumoto Castle goes back to the Fukashi Castle which was built at the beginning of the Eisho Era in the civil war era. You can explore the quirky interiors of the castle to get a feel of how the inhabitants defended themselves, and get a photo with a samurai or ninja out in the castle gardens. Or you can tease the abundance of carp in the castle moat into thinking you might feed them!

Matsumoto also has little shrines and temples to explore.

The town of Matsumoto is about a 50 minute train trip from Nagano. Express trains to Matsumoto from Nagano depart about every hour. It can be a bit confusing when buying train tickets because you have to buy a ticket, an express ticket, and if you want a reserved seat, a ticket for that too. The people at the Nagano tourist office will be able to assist if necessary. Once at Matsumoto train station, you can walk to the castle. It takes about 15 minutes or there are city tourist buses to the castle, but these only go on weekdays (go figure!).

Matsushiro

Matsushiro is located in the southern part of the city of Nagano. The former castle town has various historic assets associated with the samurai Sanada family and Zozan Sakuma, including temples, shrines, samurai residences, amazing gardens, and the remnants of the Matsushiro Kaizu castle.

Shopping

For some shameless touristy shopping, you can head to the Zenkoji Temple area. Other parts of Nagano have some decent shopping opportunities, but you might not need to venture any further than the train station that has a shopping mall. The train station also has a market place with lots of snack food to sample, a sake shop and bar (with more sampling!), and the obligatory confectionary gifts.
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