[Nagano Prefecture Mail Magazine] Nagano’s Winter Charms!

January 30th, 2018

Nagano Prefectural Tourism Official Mail Magazine

January 30th, 2018
Published by Nagano Prefecture Tourism Department Tourism Promotions Division
International Tourism Promotions Office

We send this mail magazine to those who have exchanged business cards with members of our office.

Hello everyone,

We would like to thank you for taking the time to read the autumn edition of Nagano Prefecture’s official mail magazine. This time, we’ll be looking at the wonders of winter.

The winters of Nagano are known for their biting cold, but beneath that chilly exterior is magical scenery and rejuvenating warmth. Carpets of snow cover the landscape and bright blue skies shine overhead. Frosty trees and frozen ponds sparkle in the sunlight. White clouds of steam rise from hot spring baths. Illuminations glow brightly in the crisp, evening air. The tranquil winter months offer magical sights and a cozy warmth that you can only appreciate after feeling the cold.

Let this mail magazine be your guide to the joys of Nagano during winter.

Table of Contents

A Journey of Fire and Ice in Nagano

A sky so clear and crisp that you’ll forget the cold, and below it, brilliant, snowy mountains—the winters of Nagano are painted in a palette of blues and whites as far as the eye can see.


Donning snowshoes and trekking around winter woods and mountains is one way to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Walk above meters of snow without any worry of sinking and see the world from a slightly taller perspective. You may be lucky enough to run into some of Nagano’s winter wildlife, like the Japanese Serow (called kamoshika). Unlike skiing or snowboarding, there’s no sliding around so just about anyone can enjoy snowshoeing safely.

Snowshoe rentals and guide services are increasingly appearing in snowy areas around Nagano. Take a guided tour to learn more about the winter environment and track footprints left by local wildlife.

Nagano’s Frozen Scenery

The chilling winds and long nights alter the landscape, creating breathtaking spectacles that can only be seen in winter. Fast-flowing waterfalls are frozen in time, trees become snow-covered monsters, and icy lakes gleam with reflections of distant mountains. The quiet and stillness of winter’s frozen scenery is mystifying.

  • Narai-juku Ice Candle Festival
    An annual festival held during Setsubun. Over 1,500 ice candles are placed around the post town and light it in their warm glow. The romantic Edo period architecture takes on a new aspect when seen by flickering candlelight. Free sake and tonjiru soup are served to visitors.
    More Information: Website
    Contact: Narakawa Area Tourist Information Center
    Phone: 0264-34-3160
    Access: Take the JR Chuo Honsen line to Narai Station, then walk 5 minutes to the post town.
  • Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort’s White Frost
    At the top of Nozawa Onsen’s Mt. Kenashi, trees are buffeted by strong winds and are covered in thick coats of frost. The trees sway in the daytime breezes and sparkle in the sunlight. They are truly a beautiful winter sight.
    More Information: Website
    Contact: Nozawa Onsen Tourism Association
    Phone: 0269-85-3155
    Access: Take the JR Iiyama line to Togari Nozawa Onsen Station, then take a 15-min. bus ride to the resort.
  • Kamakura no Sato
    As the snow piles up in Shinanodaira in northern Iiyama, adorably round igloos begin to appear. Every year in February, the area celebrates the Kamakura Festival with fireworks, snow sculptures, and a variety of other events.
    More Information: Website
    Phone: 0269-62-2225
    Access: Take the JR Iiyama line to Togari Nozawa Onsen Station, then take a 10-minute taxi.
  • Oshidori-kakushi no Taki
    Two natural beauties can be found at the entrance to Okutateshina Onsenkyo, once a private hot spring of the warlord Takeda Shingen. These are the picturesque Mishaka Pond and the Oshidori-kakushi no Taki Falls. The water freezes into myriad columns of gleaming blueish-white.
    More Information: Website
    Phone: 0266-72-2637
    Access: Take the JR Chuo Honsen line to Chino Station, then a 40-minute bus ride and 2-minute walk.
  • Nobeyama Kogen Ice Candle Festival
    At the Nobeyama Kogen Ice Candle Festival, 2,000 candles are spread across a wintry landscape to create a fantastic spectacle. At the event, there is an ice candle contest as well as performances by local school groups, and pork tonjiru and sweet red-bean soups are served to guests. For the finale, a fireworks display—which looks amazing in the clear winter air.
    More Information: Website
    Date and Time: 16:30 to 21:00, February 10, 2018
    Location: Nagano Prefecture Minamimaki Village “Vegetaball With” Community Center
    Contact: Minamimaki Village Chamber of Commerce (Phone: 0267-96-2134)
    Access: Take the JR Koumi line to Nobeyama Station, then a 25-minute walk.

Nagano’s Warmth

All of Nagano’s wildlife needs to stay warm during the winter, but none other has caught on to hot springs like the snow monkeys. On cold, snowy days, the monkeys leisurely bath in the steamy waters of the Jigokudani valley—the only place in the world where wild monkeys can be observed bathing in hot spring baths.

Local people warm their bodies and souls with winter festivals, handed down by their ancestors over hundreds of years. They light up the darkness with candles, express their reverence to the gods with dance, and shoo away bad luck and evil spirits with flaming torches. Their fervent motion and fiery displays fascinate and bring warmth to onlookers.

  • Jigokudani Yaen Koen
    The home of the Japanese macaques affectionately known as “Snow Monkeys.” During winter, their heads become covered with snow as they relax in the area’s natural hot spring.
    More Information: Jigokudani Access Page
  • Tateshina Onsen’s Hot Spring Baths
    Surrounded by the bountiful nature of the Tateshina highlands, this light green, mineral-rich spring is known as one of Takeda Shingen’s secret baths.

  • Shirahone Onsen’s Outdoor Bath
    Shirahone’s hot springs are widely known for their milky blue color and healing properties. It is said that if you bathe in the springs for three days, you won’t catch a cold for a whole year.
    More Information: Website (Japanese, English)
  • Stay at a Traditional Inn with an Irori Hearth
    Irori hearths are a nostalgic part of countryside homes in Japan. A small stove sits recessed below the tatami floor, and cast-iron cooking utensils hang from the ceiling above it. The hearths offer warmth in otherwise drafty houses and represent a much simpler time. Stay at an inn that captures this feeling of yesteryear and drift back in time.
    More Information: Facility Website (Japanese), Shimosuwa Onsen Homepage
    Access: From JR Shimosuwa Station, a 12 minute walk.

Nagano’s Hearty Meals

Enjoy hearty meals that warm you from inside out. While eating a hot meal in the comfort of a cozy restaurant or inn, you can appreciate the warmth of the people who made it and the abundance of the region that provided it. Experience wonderful local foods like:

  • Oyaki
    A flour bun filled with vegetables or sweet red beans. Depending on the area, oyaki may be char-grilled, steamed, or fried. Try oyaki wherever you go in Nagano and taste the unique textures and flavor that each region has to offer!
    More Information: Nagano City Tourism Website
  • Anbo (Sakaemura)
    Similar to oyaki flour buns but made with rice flour instead. The buns are filled with ingredients like sweet red beans or stewed daikon radish. Yomogi Anbo, where boiled mugwort leaves are mixed into the dough, are also delicious!
    More Information: Sakaemura Akiyamago Tourism Association
  • Onsen Tamago
    Onsen tamago are standard fare at most hot spring towns. Eggs are boiled in natural hot springs and are imparted with unique flavors based on mineral content. At some hot spring towns, like Nozawa Onsen, you can even boil the eggs yourself!
    More Information: Nozawa Onsen Tourism Association
  • Apple Pork Buns (Iiyama City)
    A steamed bun filled with Iiyama’s specialties: delicious apples and Shinshu Miyuki pork. You can enjoy this unique creation in Iiyama’s Togari Onsen.
    More Information: Togari Onsen Ski Resort, Shinshu-Iiyama Tourism Bureau
  • Oshibori Udon
    Nothing warms you up quite like Oshibori Udon. Hot udon noodles are served with a spicy side of nezumi daikon dipping sauce. A side of miso paste, green onion and katsuobushi flakes are included so you can adjust the flavor to your liking. The balance of heat and sweetness makes this a complex and flavorful dish.
    More Information: Nezumi Daikon Promotion Convention, Sakaki Tourism Association
  • Bukkomi (Nakajo, Nagano City)
    A miso soup filled with vegetables and fried tofu is topped off with thick, flat noodles. A staple winter meal of the region.
    More Information: Website
  • Sanzoku-yaki (Matsumoto and Shiojiri cities)
    Chicken thigh marinated in a garlic soy sauce is dredged in potato starch and then fried. The result is a light, crispy texture packed with flavor.
    More Information: Website
  • Tōji Soba (Matsumoto City)
    A specialty of the Nagawa area. Soba is dipped into a large pot of leeks, mushrooms, mountain vegetables and meat cooked in broth. It was originally served to guests to warm them up during cold days.
    More Information: Website
  • Winter Unagi (Okaya City)
    Eel is char-grilled over cools until its crackling on the outside with a fluffy texture on the inside. While eel is normally eaten in the summer, Okaya is known for its winter eel. Enjoy the rich, flavorful sauce that Okaya’s restaurants are known for.
    More Information: Unagi-no-Machi Okaya Association
  • Wild Game (Ōshika and Neba villages)
    In winter, one of mountainous Nagano’s gifts is its wild game. In areas like Ōshika and Neba, deer has been hunted for its meat since ancient times. Due to its low fat and high iron content, wild game is a healthy alternative to other meats.
    More Information: Ōshika Village Tourism Association
  • Sakana-yaki and Goheimochi (Anan and Achi towns)
    The warm fire of an irori hearth brings out the richness of food. The hot coals and ash create a fragrant aroma in char-grilled fish and rice cakes.
    More Information: Minami Shinshu Net, Hirugami Onsen

Today’s Tweet

Tsukemono are an indispensable part of the winter season in Nagano. These pickles are preserved in vinegar and spices during late autumn and serve as an important source of nutrition during winter. They are a nostalgic flavor of the Japanese countryside.

Nagano’s pickle recipes have been passed down from parent to child for generations, whether it be northern Nagano’s nozawana, Kiso’s red turnips, or Matsumoto’s inekokuna greens. Their simple, nostalgic flavor warms my heart (and I especially love nozawana!).

Please take the opportunity to try Nagano’s pickles while you’re here!

In the next edition of Nagano’s mail magazine, we’ll be delivering the charms of spring (March to May). Stay tuned!

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We regularly update our social media pages with seasonal information and beautiful pictures. Please take a look and give us a like! Feel free to share your own experiences of Nagano with the hashtag #gonagano.



Nagano Prefecture Mail Magazine (Published Quaterly)
Editing: Nagano Prefecture Tourism Department
Tourism Promotions Division International Tourism Office
Tel: 026-235-7252 Fax: 026-235-7257
E-mail: go-nagano@pref.nagano.lg.jp
URL: http://www.go-nagano.net/

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