Shinano Railway Banzai Pass Available for the 2018-19 Winter Season

December 18th, 2018

The Shinano Railway Banzai Two-Day pass offers great savings for anyone interested in spending time in the eastern Nagano area. The pass covers the Shinano Railway line between Karuizawa and Yashiro Stations, as well as the Kita-Shinano line between Nagano and Myoko-Kogen Stations.

In addition to unlimited rides along the Shinano and Kita-Shinano railways, you can also get special discounts at local restaurants, hotels, and museums. For more information, see the official Banzai Pass website.

The pass will be available for purchase between December 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019.

Shinano Railway Two-Day Pass Details

Period of Sale
December 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019
Usage Period
December 1, 2018 to April 1, 2019
Adults: 2,000 yen; Children: 1,000 yen (5 y.o. or under: free)
Where to Purchase
Any manned Shinano Railway Station (excluding Shinonoi and Myoko-Kogen stations)

Take an Express Bus from Centrair International Airport to Hakuba this Winter!

December 6th, 2018

Click on the image to see the full PDF flyer.

Traveling between Chubu Centrair International Airport and Hakuba this winter? Take an express bus for hassle-free and comfortable travel!

The Hakuba Express Bus from Nagoya picks you up at Chubu Centrair International Airport and delivers you to one of Hakuba’s many ski resorts. They have two bus options: their red-eye option departs the airport at 23:00 and arrives in Hakuba at 6:00 next morning, while their daytime option departs at 16:00, arriving 21:40 on the same day. At the end of your trip, enjoy a stress-free ride all the way back to the airport.

The bus begins operation from December 21st and continues operating until March 31st, 2019. See the service calendar for details on each line.

Centrair—Hakuba Express Bus

Dates of Operation
December 21, 2018 to March 31, 2019
4,500 to 6,000 yen per person
Reserve the Hakuba Express Bus on Centrair’s Hakuba Express Bus page

Hakuba Mountain Harbor Opens Just in Time for Autumn Sightseeing

October 5th, 2018

The entrance to Hakuba Mountain Harbor

The terrace hangs over the forest below at up to 12 meters above the ground

Enjoy incredible mountain scenery at Hakuba Iwatake’s newly opened Hakuba Mountain Harbor. Floating above the forest below, the 320m2 terrace directly faces Hakuba’s Sanzan mountains: Mts. Shirouma, Shakushi, and Hakuba Yari.

The Mountain Harbor terrace officially opens tomorrow, Saturday, October 6th, and will operate during both green and winter seasons. It will remain open for autumn until November 11th, 2018, and reopen for winter season around the end of the year.

The City Bakery offers a sumptuous selection of pastries and beverages

The City Bakery, a New York City institution, is opening a location at the terrace, so you can enjoy fresh pastries (like their pretzel croissant), sandwiches, and coffee while taking in the view.

In the next few weeks, snow will crown the mountain tops and autumn foliage will spread towards the valley floor. At their peak, you can see Hakuba’s famous three-tiered autumn scenery: white snow, red leaves, and green forest below.

Hakuba Mountain Harbor Details

Opening Period (autumn): October 6th to November 11th
Hours (seasonal): 9:00 to 16:00
Price: Roundtrip gondola tickets are 1,800 yen
Access: From Hakuba Station, take the Tsugaike bus line to Iwatake Ski Resort. Ride the Noah Gongola to the top of Iwatake Ski Resort and take a short walk to the terrace.

See More Photos

The backdrop of the Hakuba Sanzan mountains makes for great selfies

The Mountain Harbor terrace seen from beech tree woods

Indoor and outdoor seating are available on the terrace as well as plenty of standing space below

A Day-Trip Bus Tour to Obuse, Togakushi, and Zenkoji Temple

October 4th, 2018

The Shinanoji Meguri Tour bus, operated by JR East, now connects Obuse, Togakushi, and Zenkoji, giving visitors an opportunity to see some of the area’s best sights all in one day. For 3,500 yen (or 1,750 yen for children), you can visit these sights hassle-free while enjoying onboard Wi-Fi and English commentary for each sightseeing spot.

See our accompanying blog post for an in-depth look at the tour’s contents and for recommendations on how to best enjoy them.


The bus operates mainly on weekends and holidays between July and November. You can see the full schedule on the bus tour’s official webpage here.

Nagano Station
(Hotel Metropolitan)
Obuse Togakushi Okusha Shrine Zenkoji Temple* Nagano Station*
(Hotel Metropolitan)
10:00 10:40 to 12:50 14:00 to 15:40 16:30 16:40

*Participants can choose to alight at either Zenkoji Temple or Nagano Station

Shinanoji Meguri Tour benefits

  • Onboard Wi-Fi
  • Sake brewery tour at Matsubaya Honten with free sake tasting (only in Japanese)
  • English language commentary about Obuse, Togakushi, and Zenkoji Temple


Adults/ 3,500 yen, Children/ 1,750 yen


Reservations can be made online at Japan Expressway Bus Net or in person at the front desk of Hotel Metropolitan Nagano (attached to Nagano Station). As long as seats are available, you can also purchase tickets from the hotel’s front desk on the same day.

Mt. Ontake Hiking Trail Partially Reopened

September 26th, 2018

A section of trail leading to Mt. Ontake’s highest peak, Kengamine (3,607m), has been reopened as of today, Tuesday, September 26th, 2018. The peak will remain accessible until October 8th, 2018, when it will close for the season.

The peak can now be accessed from the majority of trails on Mt. Ontake, including the Kaida, Kurosawa, Hiwada, Kurumijima, and Kosaka trails. The peak is NOT accessible from the Otaki trail/Tanohara trailhead. See the map below for details.

The route is expected to be open in early July for the 2019 hiking season.

Click on the map for a larger image

On September 27th, 2014 Mt. Ontake erupted, killing 58 mountain climbers near the volcanic crater. Following the disaster, the Volcanic Alert Level was raised from 1 to 2 and an area within a one kilometer radius of the crater was closed off to the public.

Rice Harvest Experience with local farmers!

September 14th, 2018

Harvest experience- Asakura-san’s version

The summer vegetable season behind, Chino is already entering the rice harvest season.
The area high elevation and the big difference in temperature between night and day call for an early autumn every year. And this year is no different; the rice plants turned a nice yellow all the way to the base and the rice paddies stretching at the foot of the mountains look like a golden carpet.

The farmers are getting ready for harvest… how about joining them?
We are having 3 events to experience traditional rice harvest!

September 30th (Sun)  9:30 ~13:00 with Asakura-san ( Kitayama area)
October 3rd (Wed)       10:00~16:00 with Hiruma-san (Kitayama area)
October 9th (Tue)        10:00~14:20 with Tojo-san (Izumino area)

Every farmer has a different harvest technique! Some of the things you will experience are harvesting the rice, hanging it to dry (hazekake), threshing (taking of the husk) etc. You will also make onigiri and eat them together with the farmers in the field with the mountains as background. If you want to know more about rice farming, get to know the local farmers or just have a unique experience, we’re waiting for you!

For reservation, contact Chino Tabi Concierge at

Prices and other details on each event :

1.September 30th (Sun) 9:30 ~13:00  (Asakura-san)


Price:2500 yen (+tax)/ adults
1000 yen (+tax)/ children under 13
*you will also receive 1 kg of the farmer’s biological rice
No. of participants:1~8 pp
Meeting point:9:00 at Chino Station
※more details will be sent after the reservation
What to bring:Clothes that you don’t mind getting dirt on (make sure your arms and neck are covered),  rubber boots, gloves, hat, towel, raincoat, water.*If you need to borrow any of the item above, please tell the staff at the moment of reservation.

Schedule:  9:30 Start – self-introduction → 9:50 Harvest → 11:00 Break →11:10 Hazekake (hang the rice to dry)→12:00 Onigiri making/ lunch→ 13:00 Finish

Panorama Lunch

2. October 3rd (Wed) 10:00 ~16:00 (Hiruma-san)


Price:4500 yen (+tax)/ adults
3500 yen (+tax)/ children under 13
*you will also receive 1 kg of the farmer’s biological rice
No. of participants:4~10 pp
Meeting point:9:30 at Chino Station
※more details will be sent after the reservation
What to bring:Clothes that you don’t mind getting dirt on (make sure your arms and neck are covered), rubber boots, gloves, hat, towel, raincoat, water. *If you need to borrow any of the item above, please tell the staff at the moment of reservation.

Schedule:    10:00 Start – self-introduction → 10:35 Onigiri making → 11:00 Harvest→ 12:00 Lunch →13:00 Hazekake →14:30 Break → 14:50 Hazekake → 16:00 Finish


3. October 9th (Tue) 10:00 ~16:00 (Tojo-san)


Price:3000 yen (+tax)
2700 yen (+tax) when participating in groups of 2 or more   *an extra 1000 yen for those without a sickle (you can bring it home at the end)
No. of participants:1~4 pp
Meeting point:9:30 at Chino Station
※more details will be sent after the reservation
What to bring:Clothes that you don’t mind getting dirt on (make sure your  arms and neck are covered), rubber boots, gloves, hat, towel, raincoat, water, sickle. *If you need to borrow any of the item above, please tell the staff at the moment of reservation.

Schedule: 10:10 Start – self-introduction → 10:40 Onigiri making → 11:00 Harvest→ 12:00 Lunch →13:00 Threshing→14:00 Break → 14:20 Rice drying → 16:00 Finish


Guided Walking Tour in Kamikochi this Thursday

September 10th, 2018

Kamikochi, surrounded by the 3,000 meter peaks of the Japanese Alps, is one of Nagano’s best places to see mountain scenery and nature. Autumn is especially beautiful and the trees in the mountains are already beginning to bear warm orange colors of the season.

What better way to explore Kamikochi’s rich nature than with the help of a local guide? This Thursday, September 13th, a local guide will be hosting an English-language tour from the Kamikochi Visitor Center to Myojin Pond. Learn more about Kamikochi’s abundant flora and fauna with the help of a certified English-speaking guide.


Date and Time: Thursday, September 13, 2018; 13:00 to 14:30 (Register by 12:50)
Starting Place: Kamikochi Visitor Center
Ending Place: Myojin Pond
Price*: 500 yen
*Transportation to/from Kamikochi must be paid separately

See the original flyer here.

Apple-Picking, Apple Pie and Cider at the Iizuna Apple Avenue Festa 2018

September 3rd, 2018

The Town of Iizuna in Northern Nagano spreads across the highland plains north of Nagano City. This region produces a large variety of apples and is celebrating autumn with a festival dedicated to the fruit. A one-day festival will be held on the 30th of September, and during the apple harvest season, restaurants around the town will be offering special apple-based dishes. See below for details:

Iizuna Apple Avenue Festa 2018

Date: Sunday, September 30, 2018
Time: 10:00 to 15:00
Place: Iizuna Apple Museum

To celebrate the beginning of harvest season, Iizuna is hosting an apple festival with live cooking demonstrations, farmer’s market, and apple-picking*. Learn how to cook delectable apple-based desserts with Ms. Stacey Ward, a specialist in confectionaries from the U.K., or buy some treats and fresh apples from the market set up on the museum’s grounds.

The festival will be held at the Iizuna Apple Museum. It is a 32-minute walk or 5-minute taxi ride to the museum from Mure Station, or a 36-minute drive from Nagano Station.

*For apple-picking, make a reservation in advance with the Iizuna Apple Museum (Tel: 026-253-1071). Time is from 10:00 to 11:20. Price is 2,500 yen.

Iizuna British Apple Fair 2018

Dates: Saturday, September 15 to Sunday, October 14, 2018
Time: varies by restaurant
Place: restaurants, cafes and shops in Iizuna

During September and October, restaurants throughout Iizuna will offer special dishes featuring British apple varieties like Bramley and Maypole. You can see several participating restaurants below:

  • St. Cousair Winery

    Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (Winter: 10:00 to 15:00)
    Access: 7 minutes by taxi from Mure Station, or 38 minutes by car from Nagano Station. See in Google Maps
    At the St. Cousair Winery, you can enjoy delicious apple ciders and apple pie made with apples from nearby orchards.

    • Iizuna Bramley Cider (1,944 yen/ 750ml)
    • Iizuna Maypole Cider (1,296 yen/ 375ml)
    • Apple Pie w/ Gelato (648 yen)
  • Winery Restaurant St. Cousair

    Lunch: 11:30 to 15:00(L.O.)
    Café: 14:00 to 16:00(L.O.)
    Access: 7 minutes by taxi from Mure Station, or 38 minutes by car from Nagano Station. See in Google Maps
    Enjoy local Nagano pork and a selection of aromatic vegetables simmered in St. Cousair’s own Bramley apple cider.

    • Cider-simmered Pork and Vegetables (2,916 yen)
  • Haricot Rouge

    Hours: 12:00 to 20:00 (L.O.)
    Holidays: Tuesdays
    Access: 15 minutes by taxi from Mure Station, or 32 minutes by car from Nagano Station. See in Google Maps
    This cute cottage near Lake Reisenji serves stylish meals and desserts. During the apple fair, it will prepare a dish of roast pork in a tart, apple-based sauce.

    • Roast Pork in Apple Sauce (1,580 yen)

For more information on fruit-picking around Nagano Prefecture, see our special autumn feature with information on sightseeing spots and orchards around Nagano.

Samurai Stage Combat Monitor Tour in Matsumoto City

July 30th, 2018

After visiting Matsumoto Castle, unleash your inner samurai with a one- to two-hour lesson in swordsmanship and stage combat!

Samurai and Ninja Studio Kenyu will teach you to swing your katana with style like an Edo Era samurai. Take plenty of pictures and videos of your samurai skills back home with you. The reenactors are also knowledgeable in the dress and customs of the time, leaving you with a better sense of the history and culture of the samurai.

Monitor tours are being held at the studio on Saturdays between August 11th and September 1st, 2018. Anyone over the age of 15 is able to participate, as long as you write about your experience on social media and are willing to appear in promotional video/photography for the studio. Participation for the monitor tour is 1,000 yen per person (a 4,000 yen discount!). Limited to four participants per day.

Contact for reservations. Also see the event’s Facebook page.


Dates: Saturdays between August 11th and September 1st (Aug. 11, 18, 25, Sep. 1)
Time: 10:00 to 12:00
Price: 1,000 Yen
Location: Samurai and Ninja Studio Kenyu (2F 3-5-13 Ote, Matsumoto)
Access: a 2-minute walk from Matsumoto Castle

Norikura Kogen’s Walls of Snow Open for Visitors

June 1st, 2018

Located outside of Matsumoto near Kamikochi, Norikura Kogen is a highland paradise that sprawls along the mountainside of Mt. Kengamie (3,026m). Norikura itself ranges from around 1,200 to 2,600 meters in altitude, hosting a range of alpine flora and fauna. During spring, the remaining snow along the Echo line road forms large snow walls that can reach heights of over 10 meters.

Norikura Kogen’s Haruyama bus began running yesterday, Thursday, May 31st, taking visitors from Norikura’s tourism center up to the top of the snow walls at the Daisekkei bus stop. It will continue to run through June 30th. This year, the walls stand about 7 meters high.

To reach Norikura Kogen, take the Kamikochi line train from Matsumoto to Shinshimashima Station. Then, take the Norikura line bus to the Norikura tourism center. The Haruyama bus leaves from there.

Alpico Kotsu offers a two- or three-day pass around that Japanese Alps that covers travel to between Matsumoto, Kamikochi, Norikura, and Shirahone Onsen for 6,000 yen (plus 1,000 yen for three days). Without the pass, roundtrip travel between Matsumoto and the Norikura snow walls costs 5,800 yen.

Mt. Kengamine as seen from the Norikura Kogen Kanko Center. The Haruyama bus leaves from the bus stop to the left.

Officials record the height of this year’s snow walls at about 7 meters.