Hotels, ryokans, youth hostels, lodges and cottages, or a tent in a campground. Nagano has accomodations for every type of traveler and any size budget. There is also a minshuku. It’s the Japanese version of a bed and breakfast in the home of family who will provide you with a no-frills room and meals if you wish. If the accommodations themselves are less important to you than the cultural insights gained from staying with a Japanese family, then a minshuku might be the place for you.
The other day I visited a minshuku in Takato-machi run by Isoda, Yoshiyuki-san and his wife, Mika-san. For 6,500 yen you can stay in their home and have breakfast and dinner. Feel free to visit with them and get to know them or interact with their two young children. If you’re a vegetarian or have any food allergies, Mika-san loves to cook and will listen to your preferences. Yoshiyoshi‘s website (Japanese only) is here.
Kitahara, Ayako-san also runs a minshuku in Ina city. Lodging without meals is 4,000 yen per night. Meals are extra or you can cook for yourself in a separate kitchen. Ayako-san is a jack-of-all trades and weaves and dyes her own yarns, makes wooden accessories, and plants her own garden. Her husband has a full time job in the city but helps Ayako-san around their property on his days off. They just finished building this one-room wooden cottage behind their house and would like to offer it to guests. They have purposely left it without electricity and running water for those willing, daring and brave enough to try out the”rough” conditions. Besides growing all the vegetables that she uses in the meals she serves her guests, Ayako-san also has blueberries, raspberries, and chestnut trees on her property. She says her land is too big for her to do all the work by herself, so in exchange for a couple of days of work on her property, she can let you stay in one of her rooms. That just goes to show how flexible and willing to negotiate that she can be. If you’re back-packing in southern Nagano or are cycling in the area, you might want to check out Fudangi.
Be aware, though. Unless you have a car, these two minshukus are not easily accessed by public transportation. On check-in/check-out day, the Isoda’s will provide transportation to and from Takato train station and Kitahara-san will do the same from Ina station. After that you are mostly on your own to explore the surrounding area on foot and enjoy the sights, sounds, and try your hand at weaving, chopping wood, picking blueberries or whatever is in season. Be prepared for slow life – plain and simple.