Cross Country Skiing at Nabekura Highlands

January 20th, 2014 by
Category: Experience, Outdoor Activities, Report, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

Spending an afternoon cross-country skiing in Nabekura Highlands is the perfect respite. Fields of white powder snow welcome you as you follow the trail which is surrounded by mountains. Unlike the fast-pace of downhill skiing, cross country provides a chance to slow-down and experience the nature first-hand. In your light-weight skis and boots you can glide peacefully down the path.

Details:
Nabekura Highlands, Mori-no-Ie 0269-29-2888
Address: 1571-15 Teruoka, Iiyama-shi, Nagano-ken 389-2601
Access: 40 minutes from the IC Toyota-Iiyama on the Joshin-etsu Expressway
Cross Country rental available: 2,500 Yen per day (2,000 yen half-day)
Snowshoe rental is also available. Guides can be arranged for an additional fee.

Azumino Fishing Center あずみ野フィッシングセンター

November 12th, 2013 by
Category: Experience, Outdoor Activities

Looking for a place to fish? While Nagano is land-locked; you can enjoy fishing at the Azumino Fishing Center year round. Choose from bait fishing and take the fish you caught home and they will even gut the fish for a small extra fee. Or, try your hand at lure or fly-fishing (catch and release). See the website for prices.

This spring-fed fishing center provides majestic views of the Northern Alps and is located near the Daiou Wasabi Farm.

Open:
7:00am-5:30pm (4/1-9/30)
7:00am-5:00pm (10/1-3/31)

Telephone: 026-82-3372
Website: http://www8.ocn.ne.jp/~azuminof/

Access:
Car: 5min from the Azumino IC.
Address: 3581-1 Hotaka, Azumino-shi, Nagano-ken 399-8303

Twin baby Red Pandas at the Nagano Chausuyama Zoo!

September 27th, 2013 by
Category: Events, Experience, Information, Outdoor Activities, Report, Sightseeing

On September 18th, 2 new baby red pandas(lesser pandas) were revealed to the public  at the Nagano Chausuyama Zoo. The twins were born June 21st, 2013. At first, the babies can only be seen between 10am and 10:30am and 3pm and 3:30pm as they are getting used to their new environment. Gradually, as they adapt, they will spend more time with the public. There are 19 red pandas at the zoo. Come and check out these “living stuffed animals” that are too cute to be real.

You can even submit names for the pandas at the Chausuyama Zoo Fall Festival on October 19th (Sat) and 20th (Sun) from 9:30am until 4:30pm. Click here

The Nagano Chausuyama Zoo with 64 species of creatures including tigers, lions, wombats and giraffes was established in 1983. Located on the top of verdant Mt. Chausu, the views of the Nagano cityscape are beautiful and nearby there is the Dinosaur Park, Botanical Garden and a mallet-golf course. More info

Hours of operation:

March 1st until end of November 9:30am until 4:30pm

December 1st until end of February 10:00am until 4:00pm

Entrance: 500 Yen for adults, 100 yen for children elementary and junior high school students

Access:

Car: 15 minute drive from JR Shinonoi Station

Train: Closest station is JR Shinonoi

Bus: “Zoo-guru bus” runs on weekends from April until the end of October.

http://chausuyama.com/news/258

 

 

 

The Shin-etsu Trail 信越トレイル

August 19th, 2013 by
Category: Experience, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

The Shin-etsu Trail 信越トレイル

Nestled along the Sekida Ridge (about 1,000m above sea level) on the border of Nagano and Niigata Prefectures, the 80km Shin-etsu trail served as an important link from the coast into the interior areas. The rich beech forests give away to beautiful mountain vistas on this lush trail. The trail is open from roughly mid-April until mid-November.

This route helped transport salt and sea products from Niigata to Nagano. And, mustard seed oil and Uchiyama paper from Nagano to Niigata. During the Warring States period, the famous warlord Uesugi Kenshin reportedly led tens of thousands of men to fight the Battle of Kawanakajima around the mid 1500`s. The trail is divided into 6 sections and can be easily accessed by any of the 5 visitors’ centers. Camping is available along the trail.

Access: For the southern part of the trail via Madarao Kogen:

20 minutes drive from IC Toyota/Iiyama

or 20 minute taxi ride from JR Iiyama Station on the Iiyama Line

Link: Shin-etsu Trail Club

http://www.s-trail.net/english/trail.html#01

Guided tours are available: TEL: 0269-69-2888     office@s-trail.net

30th Hijiri-Sanzengoku Festival 大岡 第30回ひじり三千石まつり

July 17th, 2013 by
Category: Events, Experience, Outdoor Activities

Ever wanted to catch a fish by hand? Come out to Oooka during O-bon and try  catching iwana (mountain trout) by hand, watch a taiko performance and support the local economy by purchasing locally made specialty products. This picturesque hamlet is a scenic drive from Nagano City and provides great views of the Northern Alps on a clear day. Escape the humidity in the city and head out to the mountains!

Date: August 14, 2013 (Wednesday) 9:30am until 2pm (cancelled only if there is heavy rain)

Place: Nagano city, Oooka Hijiri-shinsui Kouen (長野市大岡ひじり親水公園)

Access:

By Taxi: 30 minute taxi from Shinonoi Station

By Car: 20km (30min) drive from Omi I.C. (麻績)

Fruit Picking Season 2013 in Chikuma City is Here!

June 28th, 2013 by
Category: Experience, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

Ever wanted to  taste a tart apricot picked right off the tree?  Curious about how much minute care goes into growing an apple in Japan?  Want to see grapes as they are growing on the vine instead of at a supermarket counter?  Then Chikuma City is the place for you with a plethora of fruit orchards. Practically year-round there is some type of fruit picking that can be enjoyed:

Apricots and Cherries from late June to early July
Grapes from early September to early October
Apples from late September to December
Greenhouse Strawberries from December to early June

The fruit picking season for 2013 is now under way, with sweet, juicy cherries and fresh, tart apricots ready for you to come and pick.

Kamiyamada Cherry Picking 2013
Watashima-san (Kamiyamada’s Yasaka district)
Tel (026)276-1834 (Sorry — Japanese language only.)
Cherry Picking Start: Sunday 23-June
Cherry Picking End: Thursday 04-July
Price: 1500 yen for 30-minutes all-you-can-eat (while picking)
Quantities are limited, but feel free to contact me c/o Kamesei Ryokan tel# 026-275-1032 for help in making arrangements. 

Watashima-san's cherries (taken when I visited in 2012)

Mori and Sarashina Apricot Picking 2013

Here in Chikuma City, the Mori district is known as Japan’s #1 ‘apricot village’. The blossoms in early April are so famous that this year even the emperor and empress came to see them. Mori is a 20-minute drive from the main resort area, onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada. A short 15-minute walk away from the onsen, along the Chikuma River, are the apricot orchards of the Sarashina district. And Kyohoen Apricot Orchards are one of the most modern growers, trying to develop better varieties and using cutting-edge techniques to maximize yield.

This past April our area had some devastating low temperatures that are effecting the apricot trees’ production. But the folks at Kyohoen believe strongly in giving guests  the opportunity to enter the apricot field and pick fruit themselves. This year’s apricot picking schedule is as follows:

Kyohoen Orchard near Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen
Office: 1092-2 Wakamiya, Chikuma City, Nagano
Tel: (026)276-6018 Kaneko-san (limited English)
Apricot Picking Start: Around 24-June (Monday)
Apricot Picking End: Around 05-July (Friday)
Price: 1000 yen per Kilogram (Showa variety)

Our son Kenny eating as he picks at Kyohoen's apricot field this year.

New Ninja Dojo in Nagano City — Mesmerizing fun for kids and adults!

June 23rd, 2013 by
Category: Experience

An NPO trying to find uses for empty houses and buildings around Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City hooked up with another NPO teaching ninjutsu to kids. The result is the Monzen Ninja Dojo.

Miyashita-ninja in front of Monzen Ninja Dojo by Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City

Officially open for business, the owner Miyashita-ninja gave me a tour of the dojo recently. The tour included crawling through holes in the walls and floor, jumping off the 2nd floor roof, and throwing shuriken darts — not your typical everyday experiences!
I am looking forward to taking our kids there for some father-son bonding through ninja training!

Ninja Training Lessons by Miyashita-san, a master of the Togakuredo school of Ninjutsu, are available to the public. He offers 3 lessons per week, on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday mornings from 9:30 to 10:30am. Price is 2000 yen per person.

How to go up to the 2nd floor ninja-style

Lesson content varies according to the interests and abilities of the participants. Want to learn how to walk stealthily like a ninja? Or are you interested in learning some basic self-defense manuevers? How about throwing shurikens? Or climbing up walls to reach the roof of the building — and then jumping down from the 2nd story? The Monzen Ninja Dojo is the place for you!

Anyone can participate in the lessons — from kids to adults, and even kids WITH adults

For information and/or reservations, call or e-mail Miyashita-san at 090-3558-0179, 200111hayaki@ezweb.ne.jp.  (English OK)

Lake Nojiri(ko) in the Summer

June 18th, 2013 by
Category: Experience, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

While Nagano is one of the few prefectures in Japan that lack ocean access, Lake Nojiri (or Nojiri-ko) in Shinano-machi offers respite from the hot and humid summer days.

Although it is the 2nd largest lake in the prefecture after Lake Suwa, this glacial lake has the most volume of water. Nojiriko gained popularity as the Christian missionaries vacationing in Karuizawa were looking for a new place to escape the heat from the Japanese summer. Fossil remains of the Neumann elephant have been found as well.

 Summer marine sports are abundant here: pleasure cruises, paddle boats (shaped like ducks) and row-bows are just some of the options for summer fun. It is a popular spot for fishing too. A swimming area is accessible by boat.

 Access:

Car: IC Shinano-machi Exit off of the Joshin-etsu Expressway.

Or Route 18: to Shinano-machi to Nojiriko bypass to Nojiriko

 Train: JR Kurohime Station on the Shin-etsu Line. Approx. 10 minute taxi  ride.

Heavenly Trekking and Wildflowers in Hakuba

July 4th, 2012 by
Category: Experience, Outdoor Activities, Sightseeing

I was recently treated to a trekking tour of Hakuba Village’s Mt. Happoone.  First I stopped at one of the Happoone Onsen bathhouses in Hakuba Village’s Happoone district. One gondola and two ski lift rides later, I was at 1830-meter Happo-Ike Sanso (Happo Pond Mountain Hut).

Trekking to the peaks on Happoone Ridge


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Apricot Blossoms in April, Apricot Fruit in June

June 15th, 2012 by
Category: Cuisine, Events, Experience, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Shopping, Sightseeing

The city Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen belongs to, Chikuma-shi, is famous for apricots. The Mori “Anzu no Sato” (Apricot Blossom) district is Japan’s largest grower of apricots. In addition to Mori, the Sarashina district adjacent to our onsen town has a couple of apricot orchards that are getting bigger year by year.

In April, our area is blessed with the soft-white pink color of the apricot blossoms. Then in June, we get to pick the actual apricot fruit. This year’s apricot fruit-related events are as follows:

Come to Chikuma City in late June and early July for Japan's best apricots

*Sarashina Apricot Fair in Togura Station
June 17th (Sunday) and June 18th (Monday), 2012.
09:30~13:00 in front of Togura Station on the Shinano Railway Line.
Local orchardist Kyohoen will be selling their early variety sweet apricots 500 yen for 1kg. Limit 100 units. Last year, they sold out in a little over an hour, so get there early if you want some.
Other local produce and goods will be for sale, as well as specialty bento lunch box sets. The Yuagari dance troupe will perform, also.
Note: The Kyohoen Apricot Orchard in Sarashina transitions to tart ‘Heiwa’ variety from June 27th and sweeter ‘Harcot’ from July 1st. If you would like to try picking apricots yourself (plucking one and eating it right off the tree is an experience that can’t be beat), feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to make arrangements.  The orchard is across the Chikuma River from Togura Station.

*Mori ‘Apricot Village’ Apricot Picking 6/24-7/15
From 800 yen for all-you-can eat apricots + 1kg to take home.

*Mori ‘Apricot Village’ Apricot Jamming 6/27-7/15
9am-4pm. 1600 yen

Access via bus from Yashiro Station on the Shinano Railway.  For info, contact the Chikuma City Tourism Assoc., Tel +81(0)26-276-2241.