Little-known Great Spots in Kiso Valley Samurai Trail

May 7th, 2017 by
Category: Outdoor Activities, Sightseeing

Nowadays, walking the old Nakasendo Road at Tsumago, Magome, and Narai is popular among foreign visitors, but they are crowded, especially in the early May ‘Golden Week’ holidays in Japan.

I visited the Uenodan area of the post town of Kiso-Fukushima (not Fukushima Prefecture) and Kozenji Temple near there to find some of the little-known great spots in the Kiso area. They are accessible by train (20 and 10 min walk from Kiso-Fukushima Station).

Uenodan is one of post towns in the Nakasendo Road. It is smaller than Tsumago and Narai, but very historical and cozy.

Some old buildings are used for restaurants and shops. I enjoyed soba noodles at Kurumaya, 300-year history soba restaurant.

 

Then, I went to Kozenji Temple to see a Japanese rock garden (zen garden).

It is called the widest zen garden in the east Asia and I was impressed by how it uses Kiso’s beautiful nature as ‘borrowed backdrop scenery’.

It is said that this garden represents mountains in a sea of clouds or in the cosmos, but I felt it represents the inner world of humanity.

Other Japanese gardens in the temple and approaches to the rock garden are also very beautiful.

I also visited Atera Gorge, which is famous for clear, emerald green water and its Kiso hinoki cypress forest. There is a groomed walking trail (access: one hour and twenty min walk from Nojiri train station), which I also recommend you visit.

Fall Foliage Collaborates with Yayoi Kusama’s Artwork on Matsumoto Museum of Art

November 17th, 2016 by
Category: Culture Art, Seasonal Topics

Now fall foliage is at the final stage in downtown Nagano.

This morning, at the entrance of Matsumoto City Museum of Art, I was surprised to see beautiful red colored trees collaborating with Matumoto-born Yayoi Kusama’s artwork on the building. Nature’s red and yellow colors are competing with artificial red and yellows.

The artwork was created before fall foliage starts. Is it just coincidence, or calculated art by Yayoi Kusama? Genius!

You can enjoy the Kusama world in the permanent exhibition inside the building.

Experience Apple Picking and Farmer House Life with Pick-Up Service Starts in Matsumoto

October 30th, 2016 by
Category: Cuisine, Experience


Autumn is the season for beautiful colored foliage, mushrooms in the forests in Nagano Prefecture, and, of course, you can’t forget the harvesting of yummy FRUITS! This is one of Nagano’s specialty!

This year, a young farming couple (with a baby) who moved from Tokyo to Matsumoto started an apple picking experience on Oct 11. If you make a reservation the same morning, they can even arrange to a pick-up just west of Matsumoto Castle.

Mr. Kawabe was a computer engineer working for an electric maker in Tokyo. He heard his wife’s grandpa is farming an apple orchard in Nagano, but thinking retirement and felling apple trees gradually. He felt pity and when the young couple have their baby, they had a fear of Tokyo life after the 3.11 earthquake. After dithering, the husband decided to throw away his career and restart as a farmer from the beginning.

They live in a traditional farm house near Alps Park, so the experience is not only of picking fresh apples in their orchard, but also sitting in their tatami room, having Japanese tea and various autumn food, and touring around their Japanese-style house if you want.

The fee of ¥3000 includes all-you-can-eat picked apples and carry-out of two.

You can book the service from the reservation form on their English website. Tour times are two hours in length, from 13:30 to 15:30 daily. They are closed on Sundays. Reservations are required by noon of the day (preferably by the previous day). The season continues until November 21 (was 30, but apples will be finished earlier than expected).
See the following flyer for the details.

For information about other orchards (without pick-up service) and more info about fruits including grapes, see my previous article.

New Kimono & Ninja Cosplay/Rental Shop near Matsumoto Castle

July 18th, 2016 by
Category: Culture Art, Experience

A local beautician opened a fantastic shop of kimono (traditional Japanese clothes) and a ninja costume wearing & rental service on July 5th.

It is located close to the street toward the entrance of the Matsumoto Castle and you don’t need a reservation in advance if you are not from a large group.
So, why don’t you look into the shop? If you find your favorite costume from various kinds of them, use the wearing & rental service, walk to the castle (just 5 min) and take perfect photos with the castle in the background with your camera or cell phone.

The rental fees start at 3,500 yen (for 2 hours).

Ninja costume (ninja actually existed in Matsumoto in the 19th century)

And, if you wear a kimono around town, you can advantage of special discounts offered at times during the summer.

One is of these is the “Nakamachi Street Yukata Festival.” During July 1 and 18, visitors wearing kimono or yukata can get special service in 29 restaurants, cafes, izakaya (Japanese pubs) and bars.

Another is free admission to the Matsumoto Castle for visitors wearing kimono between August 6 and 16.

See this page for the details.

A professional dresses you in your favorite kimono or ninja wear in about only 15 mins.

Then you can choose an obi (band), zori (sandals), and a bag.

11 Free Wi-fi Spots are Available Now in Matsumoto – See our New Wi-fi Spot List Page

May 16th, 2016 by
Category: Information

This March, Matsumoto City installed free Wi-fi at 11 major sightseeing spots.
Please look for the following symbol mark to find the wi-fi spots.

See our List Page of Wi-fi Spots in Nagano Prefecture, which we newly made in our renewed website, for the location of the spots, SSID, and the condition of use.

Smartphone Screen of the New Map Page on Matsumoto’s Website

We have optimized the screen of this Go! Nagano website for smart phones.
Matsumoto’s website also did it and you can look for the wi-fi spots, your destination, restaurants, shops and hotels in this new Google map.

Use your smartphones for wonderful travel in Nagano!

Cherries and Sumo Wrestlers Coming Back to Matsumoto and Saku Early April

March 26th, 2016 by
Category: Events, Seasonal Topics

Last year's cherries with the Matsumoto Castle (April 9th)


According to the latest ‘Cherry Blooming Forecast’, cherries in major spots (except for highlands) in Nagano Prefecture would begin blooming March 28th (Iida, Tenryu Gorge in Southern Nagano) till April 14th (Omachi, etc in Northern Nagano) and full-bloom around 4th to 19th.

At the popular spot, Matsumoto Castle, they might start blooming on April 3rd according to the forecast. An event ‘Nighttime Cherry Blossom Viewing’ will be held from three days after cherries begin blooming and continue 8 days (so possibly around April 6th till 13th)
The special illumination for the cherries will start from the same day and will continue two days longer (10 days).

On April 7th, maybe a little before full-blooming of cherries, ‘Sumo road-show’ will be held again in Matsumoto and on April 19th it will be held in Saku City. The last year’s road-shows in Matsumoto and Nagano City were heated because of a new hero ‘Mitake-umi’ from Kiso in Nagano Prefecture. You might see some sumo wrestlers viewing cherries somewhere in Matsumoto after the show if you are very lucky.
See here about the time, venue and ticket of the show in Matsumoto.

New Hakuba – Matsumoto Express Bus Launch!

January 4th, 2016 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

This winter, Hakuba from/to Matsumoto direct express bus service has newly operated.

The bus connects Happo/Goryu/Sanosaka ski resorts to Matsumoto by 1,500 or 1,800 yen (depending the day). It departs Matsumoto 7:00 and departs Hakuba 16:00 (two hours ride).

So, after enjoying ski/snowboard in world-renowned ski resort Hakuba, why don’t you ride the bus and eat supper, drink at bar/izakaya, stay in Matsumoto, and see another world-renowned spot, Matsumoto Castle?

Check out this website.

Now Hakuba has a “supper refugees” problem of a shortage of restaurants because a great many foreign skiers stay there. Stay in Matsumoto and go to Hakuba by bus might be one nice choice.

For the same reason, “Night shuttle bus Genki-go” for skiers to go to restaurants in Hakuba has started to cover Omachi and Otari, neighboring towns of Hakuba, since this year.

In Matsumoto, there are winter-limited shuttle buses between downtown Matsumoto and Mt. Norikura/Nomugi Pass ski resorts. You need reservation and the websites (Mt. Norikura / Nomugi Pass) are in Japanese, but they’re FREE! They depart Matsumoto 7:50/8:15 and depart Norikura/Nomugi 15:40/16:00 (only 1:40/1:15 ride).

Enjoy skiing/snowboading/snowshoeing/sleigh in the Japan Alps!

Sumo Road-shows in Matsumoto & Nagano with Nagano-born New Hero

October 12th, 2015 by
Category: Events

Sumo road-shows will be held in Matsumoto this Wednesday 14th and in Nagano on Friday 16th, October.

A photo of the last road-show 2007 in Matsumoto

8 years has passed since the last sumo road-show in Matsumoto (and 3 years since the last one in Nagano). Refer to a blog article “Gentle Giants of Sumo” published at that time.
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Fruit Harvest and Picking Season

October 5th, 2015 by
Category: Cuisine, Experience


In Nagano, Autumn is a season for beautiful colored leaves, mushrooms in forests, and yummy FRUITS!

Nagano prefecture is the second largest production district of apples and grapes in Japan (the first is Aomori in Tohoku for apples and Yamanashi, the neighboring prefecture, for grapes). So sometimes we refer to our prefecture as “Fruit Kingdom”.

Among those, the fuji apple is popular even outside Japan and I heard one apple is sold for $10 for rich consumers in some of Southeast Asian countries (you can buy it for less than $1 in Nagano).

You can buy and eat various kinds of apples and grapes in farmers’ markets.

And, if you pick apples in orchards and eat them immediately, you would be surprised that the taste of fresh apples is different from the usual ones you eat.
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