Japanese Summer Festivals and Fireworks in Nagano

July 21st, 2017 by
Category: Events, Information, Seasonal Topics

An archer in the Nyakuichi Oji Festival in Omachi City.

The vibrant, lively atmosphere of summer festivals is one of the most memorable parts of Japan. The streets are filled with the bright colors of yatai stalls, yukata robes, and paper lanterns, and the sky lights up with brilliant fireworks. Musicians play traditional flute and drum songs as performers entertain festival-goers with dances and theater.

As summer approaches its peak, Nagano gears up for exciting festivals of its own. Enjoy traditional Japanese summer festivals along with events that are unique to Nagano.

1. Japan Alps Art Festival (Omachi City)

“Shinano Omachi Tangible Landscape” by the creative team “Me.”


Utilizing traditional kominka houses and the rich nature at the base of the Japan Alps, Omachi City is hosting the first Japan Alps Art Festival with over 30 artists from around the world. Until July 30th, you can see beautiful works of art that explore the relationship between humans and nature.

“Windy” by Kuei-Chih Lee

Tickets can be purchased for 2,500 Yen and include one admission to every work as well as discounts on certain activities and restaurants. The event runs from June 4th to July 30th, 2017. You can learn more about the festival on the event’s official multilingual website, or see firsthand photographs from one of our bloggers here.


2. Iida Puppet Festival (Iida City)

Japanese and international puppet troops perform over the course of 6 days during the Iida Puppet Festival.


All of Iida City becomes host and stage of the biggest puppet festival in Japan. Bringing together puppet theater troupes from across Japan, Asia, and as far away as Europe, the fair features all forms and styles of puppetry from traditional ‘bunraku’ hand and shadow puppets to newer forms of object theater, pantomime, and ventriloquism. Audiences of all ages are fascinated, entertained, and enchanted with the puppet shows hosted at more than 100 venues throughout the city. In addition, there are a parade, workshops, and a midnight theater.

This year’s puppet festival will be held between Tuesday, August 1st and Sunday, August 6th. See our event page or their english website for more details.


3. Nagano’s Dancing Festivals (Various Locations)

A snapshot of the dance performed at Nagano’s Binzuru festival.


Around August, major cities throughout Nagano celebrate summer dance festivals. Locals join large groups of classmates, coworkers or friends, each with their own unique and colorful happi coats, and dance through the streets late into the evening. The simple melodies are contagious and friendly groups often invite you to dance along. Enjoy the lively atmosphere, snack on fried festival foods, and dance away the summer heat.

Ueda City celebrates its Wasshoi festival on Saturday, July 29th. Nagano (Binzuru), Matsumoto (Bonbon) and Iida cities (Ringon) celebrate their festivals on the same day, Saturday, August 5th.


4. Omachi Nyakuichi-Oji Festival (Omachi City)

A young boy trying traditional “yabusame” archery from horseback.


Omachi City’s Nyakuichi-Oji Shrine not only has a history of over 700 years, but its main building and pagoda are designated national important cultural properties. The shrine’s annual festival features a “yabusame” horseback archery competition. One of the top 3 such competitions in the country, Nyakuichi-Oji’s is the only one by young boys. The boys dressed in period costumes also perform a procession through the town as part of this colorful festival.

This year it will be held on July 22nd to 23rd. See more information on our event page.


5. Sakaki Festival (Mochizuki-juku in Saku City)

A long exposure photograph of flaming torchs being thrown into the river during the Sakaki Festival.


With burning pine torches in their hands, local youth run down from the mountain to the Kakuma riverbed, and together throw their torches into the river in an exciting spectacle. This festival is held on August 15th every year in Mochizuki-juku, a former post town of the Nakasendo. Through the cleansing fire, locals pray for their health and a bountiful harvest. It is said that a long time ago, the warring states general Takeda Shingen mistook the festival’s torchs for an ambush and immediately retreated with his troops.

The festival is held every year on August 15th. See more information on our events page.


6. Suwa Fireworks Festival (Suwa City)

A shot from the 2013 Suwa Experimental Fireworks festival.


Suwa’s fireworks display, held in mid-August every year, is hailed as one of the largest displays in all of Japan. Over 40,000 devices are exploded over the lake, with the sound reverberating off the surrounding mountains. The grand finale is a 2-kilometer long “niagara” of cascading sparkles. In early September, a second fireworks display is held featuring new experimental types. Suwa’s fireworks display was started shortly after World War II in the hopes of lightening people’s spirits in the aftermath of the war.

The Suwa Fireworks Festival is held every year on August 15th. The Suwa Experimental Fireworks festival is held on September 2nd. See more information on our events page.


7. Yuzawa Shrine Lantern Festival (Nozawa Onsen Village)

The performer dressed as Sarutohito no Mikoto dances while twirling a large bundle of burning hay.


During Yuzawa Shrine’s religious Lantern Festival, a parade of large poles weighted with plentiful lanterns extends through the streets of Nozawa Onsen. The Shinto deity Sarutohiko-no-Mikoto performs the purifying ritual called “Shimekiri,” where he rhythmically swings a large bundle of fire before cutting a ceremonial rope with a katana. Throughout town you can see performances of the Sarutahiko-no-Mikoto dance, the dance of the 36 great poets, and the dance of the lion. Also, from 19:30 yatai stalls fill the streets and fireworks light the sky. The next day an omikoshi float makes its rounds through the whole town.

This year, the festival will be held on September 8th and 9th.


Additional Information

Summer festivals are one of Japan’s most memorable experiences. Wear your own yukata, enjoy delicious street food and marvel at the sight of Japanese fireworks. People of all ages are out and about so you can meet locals and enjoy an authentic slice of life in Japan. If you’re interested in learning more about Nagano’s summer festivals and activities, take a look at some of the other resources below!

Links

Best Museums and Galleries in Nagano

July 12th, 2017 by
Category: Culture Art, Information, Sightseeing

Zhuge Liang puppet in the Kawamoto Kihachiro Puppet Museum

It’s Japan’s infamous rainy season and that means that unpredictable, sudden squalls are just around every corner. You’ll get soaked, your laundry won’t dry, trains and buses may be delayed, and it can be hard to do anything outdoors on the weekends. When it’s too wet to climb mountains or have picnics, what else is there to do in Nagano?

Cafés, karaoke, and staring at the ceiling are some possible options, but there are also plenty of museums and galleries around the prefecture that feature interesting historical artifacts and beautiful paintings. Spend some of your rainy days brushing up on Japanese history and art in one of Nagano’s many museums.


1. The Hokusai Museum

Entrance to the Hokusai Museum

Katsushika Hokusai is one of Japan’s most famous artists, known throughout the world for his woodblock print “Kanagawa-oki Nami Ura (the Great Wave off Kanagawa).” At one point during his travels he visited the town of Obuse and fell in love, eventually living there for many years. The Hokusai Museum was established in his memory, and many of his works are stored there.

Also in Obuse, Gansho-in Temple features one of Hokusai’s original paintings which can be seen on the ceiling of its main hall. Its vibrant color, size, and dynamic composition are stunning. It is called the “Happo Nirami Ho’oh-zu (the Phoenix Staring in all Directions).”

The Happo Nirami Ho’oh-zu on the ceiling of Gansho-in in Obuse

Details

Address: 381-0201 Nagano-ken, Kamitakai-gun Obuse-machi, Oaza Obuse 485
〒381-0201 長野県上高井郡小布施町大字小布施485
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (until 18:00 during July & August)
Holidays: Dec. 31st, Irregular
Price: Adults/800 Yen
High School/500 Yen
Under/ Free
Access: From Nagano Station, take the Nagano Dentetsu train to Obuse Station. From there, a 12 min. walk
Website: http://www.hokusai-kan.com/


2. The Matsumoto City Museum of Art

“Maboroshi no Hana” (2002) by Kusama Yayoi

Matsumoto City is the birthplace of Yayoi Kusama, known internationally for her polka-dot-covered works. The Matsumoto City Museum of Art has a permanent exhibition of her work, featuring among others an outdoor sculpture of gigantic, colorful flowers. Even the buses in town are decorated in colorful polka dots!

Details

Address: 390-0811 Nagano-ken, Matsumoto-shi, Chuo 4-2-22
〒390-0811 長野県松本市中央4-2-22
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Holidays: Mondays; Dec. 29 to Jan. 02
Price: Adults/410 Yen
Students/200 Yen
Middle School & Under/ Free
Access: From Matsumoto Station, walk 12 minutes or take the East Course Town Sneaker bus
Website: http://matsumoto-artmuse.jp/


3. Silkfact Okaya

Exterior of the Silkfact Okaya Museum

During the beginning of the Meiji Period, the people of Okaya created the Suwa silk-reeling machine and the area prospered in silk manufacturing. There are many historical buildings related to the industry in Okaya, and the Silkfact Okaya museum stores important artifacts and machines related to it. The museum is attached to an operating silk mill, and visitors can see silk cultivation from silk worm breeding to silk spinning.

At Silkfact Okaya, you can see live silk-spinning demonstrations at the adjoining Miyasaka silk factory.

Details

Address: Nagano-ken, Okaya-shi, Goda 1-48
長野県岡谷市郷田1-4-8
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Holidays: Wednesdays; Dec. 29 to Jan. 3
Price: Adults/400 Yen
High/Middle School/200 Yen
Elementary/100 Yen
Access: From JR Okaya Station, a 20 min. walk
Website: http://silkfact.jp/


4. The Sanada Treasures Museum

Exterior of the Sanada Treasures Museum.

The Sanada clan, which was featured in the NHK Taiga Drama Sanada Maru, ruled the domain of Ueda, and later the Matsushiro area until the beginning of the 20th century. At the Sanada Treasures Museum in Matsushiro, you can see samurai armor, weapons, and articles of everyday life used by Japanese people during the Edo Period. Matsushiro is home to a number of Sanada historical sites, like the Sanada-tei residence and the Bunbu Military Academy.

The armor of Sanada Nobuyuki

Details

Address: 381-1231 Nagano-ken, Nagano-shi, Matsushiro-machi, Matsushiro 4-1
〒381-1231 長野県長野市松代町松代4-1
Hours: 9:00-17:00
Holidays: Tuesdays
Price: Adult/300 Yen
Children/120 Yen

Sanada-tei, Bunbu Gakko Combo Ticket:
Adult/500 Yen
Children/200 Yen
Access: From Nagano Station, take the Matsushiro bus to Matsushiro Station. A 3 min. walk.
Website: http://www.sanadahoumotsukan.com/


5. The Takahashi Mayumi Ningyokan

The Takashi Mayumi Ningyokan

This museum is dedicated to the work of Takahashi Mayumi, who creates lifelike figures of Japan’s elderly countryside residents. These adorable dolls show slices of everyday life in Japan’s rural areas, from scenes of farming to socializing with neighbors.

Display of Takayashi Mayumi’s life-like dolls

Details

Address: 389-2253 Nagano-ken, Iiyama-shi, Iiyama 2941-1
〒389-2253 長野県飯山市飯山2941-1
Hours: 9:00-17:00 (10:00-16:00 from Dec. to Mar.)
Holidays: Wednesdays
Price: Adults/610 Yen
Children/410 Yen
Access: a 5 min. walk from JR Kita-Iiyama Station
Website: https://www.ningyoukan.net/


6. Mizuno Museum

Southeastern Exterior of the Mizuno Bijutsukan

This museum south of Nagano City is home to a large collection of traditional Japanese artworks, from ukiyo-e portraits of women in kimono to shimmering landscapes on golden screens. Another feature of the Mizuno Museum is its beautiful landscape garden which can be viewed from comfortable benches inside the museum.

“Kanzashi” (1938) by Uemura Shoen

Details

Address: 380-0928 Nagano-ken, Nagano-shi, Wakari 6-2-20
〒380-0928 長野県長野市若里6-2-20
Hours: 9:30 to 17:30 (until 17:00 from Nov. to Mar.)
Holidays: Mondays; most of Dec.
Price: Adults/800 Yen
Children/600 Yen
Elementary/300 Yen
Access: From Nagano Station, 10 min. by bus.
Nagaden Nisseki line
Nisseki, Matsuoka, Otsukaminami line
Website: http://www.mizuno-museum.jp/index.php


7. Kawamoto Kihachiro Puppet Museum

Exterior of the Kawamoto Kihachiro Puppet Museum

Iida was long a meeting point of Japan’s east and west, and was well known for its puppetry. Nowadays, the city holds a puppetry festival every summer where local and international troops stage performances. The Kawamoto Kihachiro Puppet Museum is dedicated to one such puppeteer who was enamored with the festival and helped create the NHK Puppet Theater series of “Sankokushi (Annals of the Three Kingdoms).” The museum houses a number of animations from the show, as well as 53 of the puppets used in production. The highly detailed puppets and costumes are a sight to behold.

Dolls featured in the NHK puppet drama “Sankokushi”

Details

Address: 395-0044 Nagano-ken, Iida-shi, Honmachi 1-Chome 2-Banchi
(〒395-0044 長野県飯田市本町1丁目2番地)
Hours: 9:30 to 18:30
Holidays: Wednesdays; End of the Year Period
Price: Adults/400 Yen
Children/200 Yen
Access: From JR Iida Station, a 12 min. walk.
Website: http://www.kawamoto-iida.com/index.html

Additional Information

Stay dry this rainy season while enjoying the artwork and history of Nagano. If you’re interested in reading more about Nagano’s museums and galleries, check out the links below. And if you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to include them in the comments below!

Hot Springs and Waterfalls in Matsukawa Gorge

June 29th, 2017 by
Category: Information, Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities

The Matsukawa Gorge is especially beautiful during autumn.

The Matsukawa Gorge is a secluded area behind Takayama Village in Northern Nagano, and is a great stop for a day outdoors in nature. The steep walls of the valley hide a number of hot springs and waterfalls that are fed by mountain streams and volcanic activity, and the high altitude keeps the area cool even in summer.
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Rafting with Cherry Blossoms in Spring

May 1st, 2017 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

Last week at the height of cherry blossom season, we headed down to Azumino to enjoy some early spring rafting! The combination of fast currents, snow-capped mountains, and blooming cherry trees are perfect for an exciting and scenic day on the water.
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A Beautiful Spring Day in Ueda

April 24th, 2017 by
Category: Information

Weeping cherry trees line the moat of Ueda Castle.

Mid April is peak cherry blossom season in Nagano. Hillsides, parks, and city streets are covered in beautiful pink and red flowers, and locals spend their evenings and weekends flower-viewing and enjoying food and sake. Whether you agree with the Japanese saying “hana yori dango (sweet dumplings over flowers),” or want nothing else but to stare at cherry blossoms all day, feast your eyes and stomach during a spring day in Ueda.

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A Haven for Craft Beer in the Japanese Alps

April 7th, 2017 by
Category: Cuisine, Information, Shopping

Specialty beer spotted during last year’s Onbashira Festival. (Reijin Brewery)

While beer is a relatively new beverage in Japan, it wasn’t long before locals embraced it and created the crisp, refreshing lagers that its major breweries are known for today. The Sapporo, Kirin, Asahi, and Suntory brands can be found in grocery and convenience stores around the world, and one by one, new breweries are making their international debuts.

And recently, Japan’s own craft beer scene has been booming. As of 2015, there were over 200 craft breweries operating across the country and new craft beer festivals popping up in cities, towns, and even mountain resorts! To meet customers’ ever-evolving tastes, Japan’s major breweries have begun producing seasonal ales and experimental brews as well.

A glass of Shigakogen Beer’s imperial stout.

Luckily for beer lovers in Nagano, the Snow Monkey Beer Live festival is held annually in the Shigakogen ski resort area. This year, Japanese lagers took a backseat to fruity ales, creamy stouts, and hoppy IPAs. Breweries showcased their creativity with experimental styles such as the Earl Grey beer by Johana Beer (Toyama), a Scottish ale infused with coriander by Hair of The Dog (North America), and the Apple Hop malt by Minami Shinshu Beer (Nagano). The host brewery, Shigakogen Beer (Nagano), kept upping the ante with stronger drafts, from the 10% Takashi Imperial Stout to their 13% the Far East. Many people came from faraway prefectures, Japanese and foreigners alike, to enjoy the show and try the wide variety of beers available.

And while only a few of Nagano’s breweries joined the event this year, there are over six breweries in the region, many of which have been active since the beginning of the craft beer boom.

One of Japan’s main hop-producing regions, Nagano saw its first small-scale breweries in 1996, two years after tight restrictions on beer production were relaxed. Minami Shinshu Beer (Komagane), Oh! La! Ho! Beer (Tomi City), and Yo-Ho Brewing (Karuizawa) all began operating at that time. Three years later in 1999, the sake brewery Reijin (Suwa City) began producing a line of beer called “Shinshu Roman,” and in 2004 Tamamura Honten (Yamanouchi) created “Shigakogen Beer.” Hotel Kisoji in the Kiso Valley also began brewing Kisoji beer on its premises.

A staff member at Yo-Ho Brewing carefully inspecting fresh cans.
Used with permission from Yo-Ho Brewing.

And recently, more craft breweries have been opening up around Nagano prefecture. You may not be able to find their brews in stores, but you can visit their pubs/taprooms and try delicious, locally-made beers. There’s LIBUSHI in the heart of Nozawa Onsen Village, the Hakuba Brew Pub in—you guessed it—Hakuba, and the Matsumoto Brewery on Matsumoto’s picturesque Nakamachi-dori street.

Throughout Japan, new craft breweries are opening one after another and ushering in a new era of beer culture in the country. Japanese artisans are known for their passion for their craft and a deep respect for their environment and ingredients. Here in Nagano where mineral-rich springs, pure mountain water, and zesty hops are available in abundance, it’s no wonder that so many locals have challenged themselves to make delicious beer. If you have a chance, grab one and enjoy the taste of Shinshu!

More about Nagano’s Breweries

Learn more about Nagano’s breweries and where you can taste them for yourself!


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1. Tamamura Honten Shigakogen Beer (Yamanouchi Town)

The exterior of Tamamura Honten. Museum and tasting areas are inside.

Tamamura Honten is a sake brewery at the base of Shigakogen and has been in operation since 1805. In 2004, they began brewing beer as Shigakogen Beer and are the hosts of Snow Monkey Beer Live. You can find their beers in convenience stores in Northern Nagano and most liquor stores, or can try some on tap at their brewery in Yamanouchi or at Teppa Room, their tap room in Shigakogen during winter.

A line-up of Tamamura Honten’s sake for tasting. Beer can be purchased here as well.

Tamamura Honten Shop

Address: 1163 Hirao, Yamanouchi Town, Shimotakaigun, Nagano Pref. 381-0401
Hours: 9:00 to 18:00
Holidays: New Year’s Day
Access: Take the Okushigakogen or Yokoteyama line bus from Yudanaka Station and get off at the Shibu Onsen stop (between Yudanaka and Snow Monkey Park). A five minute walk from there.

Teppa Room (Winter Location)

Address: Hotel Chalet Shiga 1F, Ichinose, Shigakogen
Hours: Mon. to Fri./ 15:00 to 23:00, Weekend/ 12:00 to 23:00
Holidays: None during winter
Access: Located on the first floor of Hotel Chalet Shiga in Shigakogen’s Ichinose area.


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2. Oh! La! Ho! (Tomi City)

OH!LA!HO Beer
Used with permission from OH!LA!HO Beer.


OH!LA!HO Brewery opened in 1996 in Tomi City. They produce a variety of pale and medium-bodied ales which have won numerous gold and silver awards in international competitions. You’ll often find their “Captain Crow” extra pale ale in stores around Nagano. You can also enjoy OH!LA!HO Beer at their pub restaurant in Tomi, conveniently located next to a hot spring spa.

Brewery Restaurant Oh! La! Ho!

Address: 3875 Kano, Tomi City, Nagano Pref. 389-0505
Hours*: Weekdays/ Lunch 11:30-14:30, Dinner: 17:30-21:00,
Weekend/ Lunch 11:30-15:30, Dinner: 17:30-21:00
(Last call is 30 minutes before closing)
Holidays: Wednesdays, December 31st and January 1st
Access: Take a taxi from Oya or Tanaka Station (10 to 13 minutes).
*Hours are subject to change during winter, please contact the restaurant in advance.


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3. Yo-Ho Brewing (Karuizawa Town)

Yo-Ho Brewing’s main four beers.
Used with permission from Yo-Ho Brewing.


Yo-Ho Brewing opened in 1996 in Karuizawa. Their motto is, “Flavor in beer, Happiness in people,” and are well known for their Yona Yona ale, which can be found widely throughout the Japan and has won many international competitions. Others include Suiyobi-no-Neko (Wednesday’s Cat), Tokyo Black, and Indo-no-Aooni (Indian Blue Demon).

They have opened several restaurants in Tokyo where you can try these beers and more, so you have no excuse not to visit on a trip to Japan! They now have five locations in the greater Tokyo area. See their website for details.


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4. Kisoji Beer (Nagiso Town)

Kisoji Beer
Used with permission from the Kisoji Hotel.

In the heart of the Kiso Valley, Hotel Kisoji offers pleasant accommodations, cuisine, hot springs and freshly-brewed beer. With Kiso’s renowned spring water and 100% wheat malt, hotel staff brew a range of craft beers that can be enjoyed on-site (as a hotel guest) or bought online.

Hotel Kisoji

Address: 2278 Azuma, Nagiso Town, Kisogun, Nagano Pref. 399-5302
Access: Free shuttle bus from Nagiso Station.


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5. Reijin (Suwa City)

Exterior of the Reijin Brewery in Kami Suwa.

Reijin first opened in 1789 and is one of Suwa’s five major sake breweries. Recently, these masters of Japan’s traditional sake-making craft have turned their skills to beer brewing as well. The pure well water they use to make sake is blended with mineral-rich onsen water of Suwa to bring out the best flavor in their beers.

Reijin’s Rindo beer, brewed in the old-fashioned style common in Dusseldorf.

Suwa’s five sake breweries line the road beside Kamisuwa Station (more information here) and make for a perfect pub crawl. Each one offers a unique flavor of sake, and at Reijin you can try their beer own tap as well.

Reijin Brewery

Address: 2-9-21 Suwa, Suwa City, Nagano Pref.
Hours: Weekdays/ 8:30-18:00, Saturdays/ 9:00-18:00, Other/ 9:00-16:00
Holidays: January 1st
Access: 11 minute walk from Kami Suwa Station.


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6. Minami Shinshu Beer (Komagane City)

Minami Shinshu Beer’s Christmas Ale.

Minami Shinshu beer opened in 1996 and is considered Nagano’s first craft brewery. With pure mountain water, wheat and hops, they brew four regular beers and a variety of seasonal ones. Their Apple Hop malt features Nagano-grown apples and is quite popular.

If you’re visiting Senjojiki Cirque, stop by the Minami Shinshu Beer Ajiwai Kobo[6]. Enjoy lunch or dinner with Minami Shinshu Beer direct from their brewery!
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Minami Shinshu Beer Ajiwai Kobo Restaurant

Address: 759-447 Akaho, Komagane City, Nagano Pref. 399-4117
Hours: Lunch/ 11:30 to 15:30, Dinner/ 17:00 to 21:00
Holidays: Closed for dinner on Mondays
Access: From Komagane Station, take the Komagatake Ropeway bus to the Suganodai bus center. The restaurant is across the street.


Thanks for reading! Cheers!

Hakuba Happo One Ski Resort and the 2017 IVSI Congress

March 29th, 2017 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Report

Ski instructors from around the world train together during IVSI.

While the slopes are relatively quiet during late March, the Hakuba area welcomed delegations of ski instructors from around the world during the 2017 IVSI Congress (International Federation of Snowsport Instructors) for a week of skiing workshops, demonstrations, and lectures. Held every four years, this was the 13th congress and the second one to be held in Japan (Shigakogen in 1989).

My coworker and I visited Hakuba Happo One on the last day of the congress. The weather was perfect as instructors competed in slalom and showed their respective countries’ ski demonstrations. Some highlights included Hakuba’s mascot, Victoire Cheval Blanc Murao III, racing on skis; several Austrian team members donning ski equipment from the early 1900s; and skiers flying through the air on parachutes. Everyone cheered exuberantly for the demonstrators as they made their way down the course.

The same equipment was used when skiing was first introduced to Japan around 1912!

One of many great demonstrations during the farewell ceremony.

After the closing ceremony finished, some headed straight to nearby lodges to begin their après-ski evenings while others hurried back up the hill for a few more runs. I headed to the top of the mountain to enjoy the scenery of the Hakuba Sanzan: Mt. Shirouma, Mt. Shakushi, and Mt. Yari. From the top of the ski resort, the snow-capped mountains felt incredibly close.

View from the top of Hakuba Happo One.

As I skied down the mountain, the Hakuba valley opened up before me. On skier’s right were Hakuba Goryu and Hakuba 47, cutting swaths through the woods at the base of Mt. Goryu. On the left were the Hakuba Sanzan Mountains and Iwatake Ski Resort. There was another great spot for photos and relaxing: Usagidaira terrace, equipped with comfortable sofas, a fire pit, and plenty of beer. The cafeteria next door had great views as well.

The Corona Bar in the Usagidaira terrace.

Sanzokuyaki fried chicken at the Usagidaira Terrace restaurant.

Overall, I was impressed by the speed of the lifts and how easy it was to reach the top of the mountain no matter where I happened to be. I managed to do several top-to-bottom runs in no time at all! I mainly followed the Reisen slalom course and some of the forest trails that branched from it, but there were also numerous mogul courses, steep advanced courses and some tree runs as well. Another course that I didn’t get to try was Happo Banks, a playground of smooth banked edges for freestyle skiers and snowboarders to enjoy.

Wide open runs near the top of Hakuba Happo One.

Even so, the clear weather and beautiful views were satisfying enough, and I could easily see why the IVSI chose Hakuba, and Hakuba Happo One, as their destination for the 2017 IVSI Congress. I hope they enjoyed their last day on the slopes as much as I enjoyed mine!

Soba-Making Lessons in Nagano

March 10th, 2017 by
Category: Cuisine, Experience, Information

Make your own delicious soba in Nagano!

Soba noodles can be eaten throughout Japan but they are especially famous in Nagano. With abundant buckwheat and fresh water from the mountains, Nagano’s artisans make simple yet incredibly aromatic soba. After a plate or two or three, you find yourself hooked on this deceptively delicious dish.

And while it’s not necessarily true that the soba you make yourself is more delicious—let’s be honest, our crudely cut soba noodles pale in comparison to a soba master’s—the experience is a whole lot of fun and makes for a great memory. There are a number of places throughout the prefecture where you can try making soba for yourself and learn to appreciate soba made by the professionals.
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Sunny Saturday on the Nakasendo Trail

February 9th, 2017 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Sightseeing

Last weekend, a few of us traveled from the Northern area of Nagano into the Kiso Valley to walk part of the Nakasendo trail. It was one of five major roads used during the Edo era and connected the former capital of Kyoto to the new capital of Edo (now Tokyo). While it may take weeks to travel the whole thing, we just walked between two post towns: Magome and Tsumago.

Saturday was a beautiful day so I’d like to share some of the photographs we took along the way!
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“Madapow” at Madarao Kogen and Tangram

January 27th, 2017 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Report, Seasonal Topics

The Northern Nagano valley opens up behind the Madarao Kogen hotel.

The Madarao and Tangram ski resorts sit between Iiyama City and Shinano-machi in Northern Nagano prefecture on opposite faces of Mt. Madarao. They are interconnected and you can ride both resorts in the same day with the 5,000 yen “Mountain Pass.” They resorts are medium-sized with well-rounded courses that suit all levels of skiers and snowboarders. Smooth pistes, moguls, and terrain parks are all available, but these resorts’ specialties are trees and powder, often referred to locally as “Madapow.”
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