Hands-on Japanese Culture Experience Event in Matsumoto (Sep. 6 & 23)

August 29th, 2017 by
Category: Events, Experience


Visit the Nakamachi in downtown Matsumoto on September 6 or 23 for a fun Japanese culture experience for the whole family! This event features several hands-on Japanese arts and crafts activities such as Japanese calligraphy, traditional tea ceremony, and origami; as well as other interactive activities like sake tasting, kimono rental, and rickshaw rides. Most activities are free and you will receive a free souvenir for participating. As a bonus, several of the shops around Nakamachi will also be offering different cultural activities or games. See below for an overview of the event program and where you can get the official details, event flyer, or see the event on Facebook!

Event Details

Place: Kurassic-kan in Nakamachi, Matsumoto
Date & Time: Sep. 6 and Sep. 23, 10 am – 4 pm (times for activities at the shops differ. Check the event flyer or webpage)
Event webpage: http://nakamachi-street.com/en/experiencedays/
Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1607791399271217/
* Local high school students, local guides, and volunteers will also be present to help with translation and interpretation.

Get the official PDF flyer here which includes a map and all activity details:

Click to download the full event flyer (PDF)

List of main activities at the Kurassic-kan:

  • Origami folding
  • Japanese calligraphy
  • Japanese Tea Ceremony (traditional way of making matcha green tea)
  • Japanese folding fan decorating
  • Play with old-fashioned and traditional Japanese toys
  • Sake tasting with Nakamachi’s original-brand sake
  • Kimono (yukata) and ninja costume rental (paid activity)
  • Rickshaw rides around Nakamachi (paid activity, discount with kimono rental)
  • Ninja blowgun activity (paid activity, free with ninja costume rental)

List of shops offering activities around Nakamachi:

  • Geiyukan: Try plaing the shamisen, a traditional Japanese music instrument.
  • Kuriya: Make fresh wasabi from real wasabi root.
  • Senri: Japanese wine, sake, amazake, and juice tasting
  • Yamahei: Introduction of some Japanese local foods
  • Yaguchi: Try wearing geta, a traditional form of Japanese footwear.
  • Ihara: Chopsticks and beans game
  • Itoya: Play the konpira fune-fune game, a traditional game played at geisha banquets, and other activities.
  • Okinado Kura Branch: Try playing the Japanese taiko drum. Also, exhibit of traditional tools used for making Japanese confections/sweets
  • Temariya: Free Japanese tea

48 Hours in Nagano City

August 18th, 2017 by
Category: Cuisine, Culture Art, Information, Sightseeing

In 1998, Nagano City hosted the Winter Olympic Games and introduced the world to the Japanese Alps, the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, and glorious Japanese powder (or, “japow”). But that isn’t all that the area has to offer. With beautiful Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in the heart of Japan’s mountains, Nagano City is a hub of spiritual sites and natural splendor.

Take a model 2-day trip around Nagano City and enjoy another side of Japan!

National Treasure Zenkoji

The main hall of Zenkoji Temple


After arriving in Nagano, walk (or ride the colorful Gururingo bus) from the station to Zenkoji, following the wooden lanterns along Chuo-dori street. Eventually you’ll reach Motozen-machi with its cobbled streets and beautiful temple lodges. After passing through the Niomon and Sannomon gates, you’ll see Zenkoji—one of the largest wooden temples in Japan with over 1400 years of history.
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Canyoning in Hakuba

August 8th, 2017 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities
Sliding down a canyon in Hakuba

About to drop into some seriously refreshing fun

There’s no better way to cool off during summer than taking a nice, long dip. Swimming, kayaking, rafting, and SUP are all popular ways to enjoy the water, but recently, canyoning has come into its own as a thrilling and refreshing summertime activity.

What is canyoning, you ask? Think of it as a series of natural water slides, zip-lines, and cannonball jumps. It’s a water park for adults, but with crystal clear streams, verdant forests and exciting vertical drops.

The Evergreen Outdoor Center in Hakuba offers several canyoning tours, so my friends and I signed up for a day of adventure.

A Full Day of Canyoning in Hakuba

Cannonball dive into the river

About to make a splash!

We arrived at Evergreen’s base center, Roots Café, just before 9 a.m. to sign in for our tour. From there, we met our guides for the day, Mitsu and Luke. They passed out our gear and showed us how to put on our wetsuits. It was my first time wearing one and oh boy was it snug. Next, we jumped into a pair of vans and headed up a winding gravel road towards our starting point.

Start of the canyoning tour

Walking through a shallow bed of rocks before reaching the first waterfall

The river was a 15 minute hike from where we were dropped off, giving us a chance to warm up and sweat a bit before jumping into the water. Aside from a few climbing pitons and ropes there were no other signs of civilization. We waded into the river and opened up our wetsuits to let in “refreshingly” cold water. Mitsu and Luke then taught us a few important hand signals for our adventure, and off we went!

The first zip-line along the canyon

There were a number of cliffs and waterfalls to descend that day, and depending on the height, we slid, jumped or zip-lined down them. The flow of water had carved out many impressive and comfortable slides in this valley, and there were a number of deep pools that were perfect for cannonballing into (or doing backflips if you were Luke).

Floating lazily in the water

Taking a break in one of the many clear pools along the ravine.

Despite the 36°C weather in the city, our shady canyon felt like paradise. We leisurely floated in clear pools of water while waiting for everyone to finish, and enjoyed splashing about and taking showers under the falls. All in all, it was a perfect mix of excitement and relaxation for hot summer’s day in Nagano.

Additional Information

The Evergreen Outdoor Center in Hakuba offers canyoning tours from May through October. You can learn more about them on their English website.

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Leisurely, Luxurious Train Ride: Rokumon

August 3rd, 2017 by
Category: Cuisine, Experience, Sightseeing

From Nagano City to Karuizawa, the resort town on the eastern edge of the prefecture, it is a blazingly fast 30 minutes by Shinkansen bullet train.

Red carpet treatment to board Rokumon at Karuizawa Station

Or, as a luxurious alternative, you could take Shinano Railway’s special Rokumon train and enjoy a leisurely 2 hour 20 minute ride through Nagano’s scenic countryside.

Classy interior

For those that care to indulge, you can partake in a gourmet meal along the way:  French featuring cheese from Tomi City’s esteemed Atelier de Fromage, on the run from Karuizawa to Nagano, or kaiseki-style Japanese from Obuse’s famous restaurant Suzuhana on the return.

I had the opportunity to ride from Karuizawa to Nagano.  The warm wood interior furnishings of the train and the friendly smiles of the attendants combined with the carefully prepared dishes featuring an abundance of local ingredients would have made the trip a perfect 10 for me.

Friendly Staff

However, what made riding Rokumon extra special was the enthusiastic hospitality we received along the way, from local preschoolers to the Station Master at Ueda.

Rokumon — the perfect unhurried way to enjoy Nagano’s countryside.