The Sake Breweries of the Higashi Nakasendo

January 22nd, 2016 by
Category: Cuisine, Culture Art, Sightseeing
A white farmhouse stands alone in the midground surrounded by yellowed farmlands. Low-lying clouds crown Mt. Asama and the sky above is blue.

Blue skies and Mt. Asama are constant companions on the Higashi Nakasendo.

After cutting through the forest valley of Kiso, circling lake Suwa and passing through the towns of Nagawa and Wada, the Nakasendo continues into Eastern Nagano. The land here is open and the skies are always clear. In the distance beyond miles of farmland and rice paddies, travelers can look upon snow-capped Mt. Asama, one of Nagano’s two active volcanoes.

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Nagano’s Latest Gourmet Dish: Gibier

January 8th, 2016 by
Category: Cuisine, Events, Information, Seasonal Topics
Leafy greens, mushrooms and veniso fill a small hotpot, ready to be cooked.

Deer meat prepared in a traditional Japanese style: Tsumire Nabe.

Gibier (Jibi-eh!) is the French word for animals that are hunted for their meat. Also called game, these include animals such as deer, wild boar, pheasants and bears. Nagano’s mountainous regions are home to many of these animals, and have a long history of wild game hunting, particularly in Akiyamago and Oshika-mura (literally: big deer village).

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Late Autumn Harvest in Nagano

November 27th, 2015 by
Category: Cuisine, Experience, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics
A hearty seven mushroom stew.

Delicious stew with freshly picked mushrooms.

 

Winter is almost upon us. The temperatures have dropped and the tops of the mountains are turning white with frost and early snow. But autumn hasn’t ended just yet, and there are still delicious foods to harvest before the snow swallows it all up. On Wednesday, I joined some travelers from Singapore to go mushroom and apple-picking. We spent the day in Nozawa Onsen and Yamanouchi enjoying the last, but not least, of autumn’s bounty.

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The Nakasendo: Narai-juku, Suwa and beyond

October 30th, 2015 by
Category: Cuisine, Events, Information, Sightseeing

Princess Kazunomiya in the post-town of Narai.

From Kyoto, the Nakasendo passes through the Kiso valley and continues into the Eastern area of Nagano prefecture. There are 15 more post-towns along the way up to Karuizawa, many of which have preserved parts of their history. Recently, there has been resurgence in interest in these less-traveled areas, particularly in regards to one of its travelers.

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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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Golden Week — Nagano Style

May 3rd, 2015 by
Category: Cuisine, Events, Experience, Information, Onsens (Hot Springs), Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

Happy Golden Week, everyone.

Or is it?  With practically everyone and her brother having the week off, it seems wherever you go there will be crowds, crowds, and still more crowds.

Here in Nagano, the major attractions such as Matsumoto Castle, the Utsukushigahara ridge drive, the resort town of Karuizawa etc. also tend to be jam-packed during peak holidays.  And the many major events taking place in Nagano during Golden Week, such as the hot air balloon festival in Saku, the rape blossom festival in Iiyama and, especially, the once-every-seven-years Gokaicho at Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City, will likely draw hordes of visitors.

Don’t despair — the prefecture has plenty of off-the-beaten-path places and simple, local events to enjoy in a quiet, Nagano-like fashion.
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See & Try Miso (soybean paste), Nagano’s Specialty, in Traditonal Miso Brewery

September 15th, 2014 by
Category: Cuisine, Experience

Large (taller than human height) wooden barrels to ferment miso

Old buildings along the approach

I visited Ishii Miso Brewery in Matsumoto. It was founded in 1868 (the end of the Edo era) and is still producing miso by a unique traditional natural method.

Miso, soybean paste, is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine. We have miso soup every day and sometimes use it for other dishes. Miso is fermented food so it is very healthy.

Ishii's shop and restaurant

Nagano Prefecture is the top producer of miso (46%) in Japan. There are many miso breweries in Nagano and some of them have their own shop.
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Unique Wasabi Farm in Summer

August 18th, 2014 by
Category: Cuisine, Sightseeing


I visited the Daio Wasabi Farm in Hotaka, Azumino on August 15th.

It is Japan’s largest genuine wasabi (sometimes called as “Japanese horseradish”) farm and also a popular “sightseeing” spot located between Matsumoto and Hakuba. One reason it is popular among Japanese and also foreigners is that you can stroll around the farm like a park without an admission fee.


The best season to visit there is spring because you can see cute wasabi flowers and there is no covering to protect the wasabi against strong sunlight (see this spring photo).

But in summer, the watery stream with the green of trees and grasses is beautiful and cool. The water is a natural spring, so it is extremely clear. You can take a boat trip to peek at the water and fish through the boat’s transparent bottom.


Wasabi can be grown only in clear and cool water so it matches with the Hotaka area, abundant in natural springs.

Not only the picturesque fields and streams, but also the Wasabi Farm’s unique wasabi culinary delights are popular. Visitors can try wasabi ice-cream (the most popular), wasabi tempura, wasabi soba noodles, wasabi beer, wasabi wine, and so on. This time, I tried wasabi croquette and wasabi juice.

I think the Daio Wasabi Farm is a must-visit place if you visit the Nagano area and like nature and unique agricultural and food culture.

For lovers of river fish cuisine: Tsukeba

June 23rd, 2013 by
Category: Cuisine, Information, Seasonal Topics

Do you like eating river fish? I mean really, really like it? And does the idea of eating river fish in a simple shack along side the river from where the fish came sound appealing? Then perhaps you should try eating at a “Tsukeba”.

Salt-rubbed grilled river fish 'haya' at Shomura Tsukeba fish shack

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