Happy Splendid New Year from Nagano!

January 2nd, 2017 by
Category: Information

As they say in Japanese, “Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!” (Happy New Year!)

How did you spend your New Years Day?  Here in Nagano, it is common to climb a mountain in the morning to see the first sunrise of the year.  At our onsen town, Togura-Kamiyamada, the fortress at the top of the hill behind our town, Arato-Jo, hot tea was provided as we huddled together to watch the sun rise over the Chikuma River valley.

1st Sunrise of 2017, as seen from Arato-jo Castle (Picture courtesy of Andy Lynch)

This hilltop fortress is a recreation of the Warring States Era castle that was originally situated here.  These types of fortresses were different from the typical Japanese castles mostly seen in Japan today in that they were designed so as not to be visible from down below.  In other words, they were strictly for defensive purposes only.  Arato-jo gives you a unique chance to see and appreciate the hardships of Sengoku-jidai (the Warring States Era).

Another view of the sunrise from Arato-jo Castle (picture courtesy Kazumasa Kodaira)

Arato-Jo Castle

Seharian di Kota Naraijuku (Indonesian)

December 11th, 2016 by
Category: Information

Seharian di Kota Naraijuku
Hari ini saya bersama beberapa teman mengunjungi Kota Naraijuku.
Naraijuku adalah sebuah kota di pusat jalan Nakasendo tua, jalan di zaman Edo yang menghubungkan Kyoto dengan Tokyo. Salah satu kota paling makmur, terdapat bangunan-bangunan kayu sepanjang 1 km, “Narai dari ribuan rumah” adalah julukannya. Dua dari rumah tua dibuka untuk publik, dan yang lain telah menjadi restoran, penginapan, dan toko souvenir (banyak diantaranya merupakan kerajinan tangan kayu yang terkenal).
Bagi pecinta arsitektur kayu zaman Edo, Naraijuku akan membuat anda seakan-akan kembali ke zaman dahulu.
Kebetulan hari ini hujan seharian, kami bisa menikmati suasana hujan di Kota Naraijuku ini yang sangat khas, seperti masuk kedalam jaman edo yang tenang dengan suara tetesan hujan. Banyak orang Jepang suka mengunjungi Kota Naraijuku pada hari hujan untuk menikmati suasana ini.

Restoran kuno Tokuriya
Kami mengunjungi restoran kuno Tokuriya untuk mencicipi makanan khas kota ini `Goheimochi`. Goheimochi dibuat dari nasi, di panggang dan di oles berbagai jenis saus, dari saus yang terbuat dari miso, kecap dan sebagainya.
Konon, dulu restoran ini adalah rumah penginapan dan tidak sedikit penulis-penulis ternama jaman Edo kuno dulu yang menginap di sini

Chosenji merupakan salah satu kuil tertua di daerah Kota Naraijuku ini.
Awalnya di bangun pada jaman perang dulu, dan beberapa kali terbakar. Dan terakhir di bangun kembali pada awal Edo.
Di langit-langit kuil ini terdapat gambar Naga besar dan megah.
Konon, Naga ini bernama `Naga nangis` karena setiap kali pengunjung bertepuk tangan di bawah gambar naga ini, mata naga ini akan bergerak dan mengeluarkan suara.

Di Kuil ini anda bisa mencoba bermeditasi, bagi yang berminat jangan lupa kirim email ke sini ya untuk reservasi.
Selain bermeditasi, anda juga bisa mencoba melukis gambar Buddha. Melukis gambar Buddha ini bisa melatih kesabaran dan menenangkan diri, merupakan satu jenis meditasi juga lo. Bagi yang berminat jangan lupa kirim email ke sini ya untuk reservasi.

Bagi yang tidak punya banyak waktu dan tidak terbiasa memakai kuas, lebih baik pilih gambar yang mudah ya, biar bisa selesai dalam waktu dan di bawa balik ke Indonesia sebagai oleh-oleh.

MOTOYAMA-SHIKKITEN adalah toko kerajinan Japanese lacquer ware yang sangat terkenal di daerah Narai-juku ini.
Di sini kita bisa membuat souvenir sendiri atau beli berbagai macam produk Japanese lacquer ware dari sumpit-sumpit dengan hiyasan menarik, mangkuk, gelas wine, piring, sendok, garpu dan sebagainya sebagai oleh oleh.
Bagi yang tertarik membuat souvenir sendiri, jangan lupa reservasi di link ini ya. Sebaiknya di reservasi paling lambat 2 minggu sebelumnya ya.

Akses ke Naraijuku
Apabila anda datang dengan train(JR pass), Anda bisa datang ke stasiun Narai dari Tokyo, Nagoya dan Nagano. Stasiun Narai hanya beberapa menit jalan dari Narai-juku.

Dari Tokyo, Naik “Super Azusa( Limited Express) JR Chuo Line ke stasiun Shiojiri. Dari stasiun Shiojiri, Narai adalah stasiun ke 5 di Jr Chuohonsen Line. Lama perjalanan sekitar 2 jam dan 45 menit.
Dari stasiun Nagoya anda bisa naik “Wide View Shinano” (Limited Express) ke stasiun Kisofukushima di JR Chuo Line. Lama perjalanan sekitar 1 jam 25menit. Ganti kereta di stasiun Kisofukushima untuk menuju stasiun Narai. Ini adalah kereta lokal memakan waktu sekitar 30 menit.
Dari stasiun Nagano, anda perlu ganti kereta di stasiun Matsumoto atau stasiun Shiojiri.


5 Great Winter Festivals in Nagano

December 9th, 2016 by
Category: Events, Information, Seasonal Topics

Enjoy fire festivals, illuminations and more in this winter wonderland.

Winter is here. Snow is falling steadily up in the mountains and people around Nagano are bringing out their kotatsu tables, kerosene heaters and nabe pots. Once again, it’s that time of year for skiing, hot springs and great winter festivals. Why stay inside when you could warm up in front of a magnificent fire festival or in the company of Japan’s many spirits?

Make some wonderful memories this winter with some of the festivals below!
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Experiencing the Japanese Countryside in Chikuma

November 30th, 2016 by
Category: Accomodations, Culture Art, Experience, Information, Outdoor Activities

Tyler shows our group some Showa era graffiti on a local earthern wall.

On a beautiful fall day, I joined a group of foreigners on a cycling tour of Togura Kamiyamada Onsen south of Chikuma City. The area was once home to several mountain castles and a post town so there is a wealth of history in the area. Our guide, local ryokan owner and area expert Tyler, took us along beautiful mountain roads and pointed out interesting relics and features along the way.

From small stone dosojin carvings used to ward off bandits to legacies of the region’s districts and landscape features, Tyler pointed out interesting aspects of history that we would have never noticed on our own. As a lover of traditional Japanese architecture himself, he told us about the significance of different design features, from thatched roofs to decorative tile crowns on various buildings. And occasionally there were some heart-warming discoveries as well, like the preserved lovers’ carvings on old, earthern walls.

The temple gate of Chishiki-ji is made entirely without metal fastenings. Fasten-ating!

Tyler recounts the history of Chishiki-ji temple in Chikuma.

Along the route there were expansive views of the Chikuma valley and surrounding mountains. While past their peak, the autumn leaves still burned vividly and brightly around us and cattails swung in the breeze. As we passed farmers tending their fields they greeted us warmly and occasionally we stopped to chit chat. Groups of school children shouted “Hello!” as we cycled on. It was a much closer inspection of the countryside than I’ve had in most of my time here.

We tasted one of these delicious sun fuji apples from Crown Orchard along the way.

Lovely views from the Crown apple orchard.

After 2 hours touring around the area we were starting to get cold, so headed back to Tyler’s inn, Kamesei Ryokan, to take a dip in the hot springs.

An Evening Geisha Performance

Togura Kamiyamada Onsen is also home to practicing Geisha performers. They usually work at larger banquets, but Tyler sometimes arranges them to visit for 30-minute performances in his own ryokan. Unlike seeing geisha in Kyoto, here it is an interactive experience, playing games and learning dances from them! They danced and sang several songs. One of them, called “Kawanakajima,” was about the great battle between Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen that happened here. As they danced, their bright fans slashed through the air like swords.

The geisha perform the song and dance “Kawanakajima.”

We learned a coal miner’s dance, and while our hostesses explained it very well in English, the timing and coordination are not as easy as you might expect. After a few revolutions around the table, they kindly told us how good we all were at it (despite actually being quite uncoordinated and clumsy). Finally, we played a simple drinking game against the geisha. As it turns out, they are very, very good at this game and none of us stood a chance against them. They would then hand the loser a glass of beer, and we all cheered in rhythm as they drank it down.

But actually, Tyler himself is a seasoned veteran of the game. Here he upsets the champion in a practice round.

I make my drinking game debut with another guest (and won!)

Additional Information

Cycling through the countryside is one of the best ways to see it up close and personal. Having a local guide to point out interesting features and history makes it even better. For an unforgettable experience of rural Japan, consider visiting Togura Kamiyamada Onsen.

From Nagano Station, take the Shinano line train to Togura station (about 25 minutes). From there, buses run regularly to Kamiyamada Onsen, or you can walk there yourself in 25 minutes.
(Click here to browse the timetable in Japanese. It’s unnecessarily complicated so I apologize in advance.)

Related Links:

Autumn Colors in Nagano’s Golden Season

October 24th, 2016 by
Category: Information, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

Beatiful autumn colors from Togakushi over the weekend.

While some of the mountaintops are already experiencing a spell of winter, Nagano’s valleys are finally enjoying the sights of autumn. Red, yellow and golden hues are descending from the highlands and a cool wind is blowing through the valleys.
Read the rest of this entry »

Seharian di Sakudaira (Indonesian)

September 28th, 2016 by
Category: Information

Motaiainoshuku merupakan salah satu pusat penginapan(post town) di jalur Nakasendo yang sangat terkenal pada jaman Edo dulu.
Pusat penginapan ini masih berwajah seperti jaman Edo dulu dengan bangunan dan perumahan kuno yang masih sangat terawat.Mengunjungi pusat penginapan ini bagaikan masuk kedalam jaman Edo dulu yang juga terkenal sebagai jaman Samurai.

Di sini juga terdapat Kuil kuno aliran Suwa yang di dirikan tahun 1818.
Di dalam kuil ini dihiasi ukiran-ukiran yang sangat indah dan menarik. Konon, kuil ini dibangun oleh peukir terkenal pada jaman Edo dahulu.

Bagi pecinta Japanese Sake, jangan lupa mengunjungi Takeshige Honke Brewing Corp, salah satu tempat pembuatan sake Jepang tertua di daerah ini. Dan juga merupakan salah satu bangunan Bersejarah di Jepang. Disini anda bisa bebas mencoba berbagai macam Japanese sake local, tapi hati-hati lo, harus tetap sober untuk menikmati perjalanan selanjutnya di kota Saku kuno ini.

Nah, kunjungan ke Sakudaira tidak lengkap apabila kita tidak mencicipi makanan lezat local seperti Sosu-Katsu ini. Sosu-Katsu adalah gorengan pork dengan tepung khas jepang dan di siram saus khusus daerah ini.

Bagi pecinta sejarah Edo Jepang, dan tertarik untuk tau lebih lanjut, jangan lupa mengunjungi Museum Sejarah di Mochizukijuku. Disini anda bisa melihat berbagai macam peninggalan kuno jaman Edo, dan berbagai macam alat musik kuno Jepang.
Apabila anda cukup beruntung, bisa menikmati musik terompet kuno Jepang ini secara langsung.

Kota Saku sangat terkenal dengan Prun. Mungkin tidak banyak orang Indonesia yang pernah mencoba buah ini, karena buah ini jarang bisa di temui di Indonesia. Prun sering di makan sebagai dried fruits. Tetapi di kota Saku ini, anda bisa mencoba buah aslinya yang sangat manis. Musim buah Prun disini adalah dari Juli sampai pertengahan Oktober. Pada musim ini anda bisa memetik Prun langsung dari pohonnya dan makan sepuasnya.

The Night View Train to Obasute

September 28th, 2016 by
Category: Events, Information, Report, Sightseeing

The front of the Night View Obasute train.

Perched several hundred meters above Chikuma City is Obasute Station which boasts beautiful scenery of the Nagano valley. The Shinano line passes through this area on its way between Nagano and Matsumoto cities, and is considered one of Japan’s three best train line views.

Read the rest of this entry »

Beating the Summer Heat in Shigakogen

August 26th, 2016 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

One of Shigakogen’s many jewels in summer.

In another attempt to beat the summer heat, I headed up to Shigakogen with a group of friends to enjoy the highland weather and the area’s unspoilt nature. There are a total of 19 trails around Shigakogen that climb its many peaks, wander its marshlands and cut through its forests. In addition to its beautiful ponds and mountains, the views of the Nagano Plain below are stunning.

We drove up Shigakogen separately and met in the Kuma-no-yu area by the Sanzen Ski lifts. There is plenty of parking next to the ski lift and by the hotels across the street. A bus stop is also nearby, so those without a car can use the Shigakogen line bus from Nagano or Yudanaka station to get here.

One of Shiga’s many marshes.

Our course for the day was the Ikemeguri Trail (#6 on Shigakogen’s list here) which passes through Shiga’s marshlands and ponds before reaching Onuma-ike. The whole course takes about four hours total. You can either walk straight through the course and ride a bus back from the ending point, or double back from Onumaike to Kuma-no-yu. If you do the latter you can enjoy a dip in the local Kuma-no-yu hot springs[1] .

The weather was great and Shigakogen was a pleasant 27°C. A few clouds hung high in the sky and a gentle breeze blew over the fields below. The trail was shaded by birch and pine forests and interposed with sections of man-made boardwalks across delicate marshes.

The beautiful waters of Onuma Pond.

About 2 hours into our hike, we came to a clearing above the striking, cerulean-blue waters of Onuma-ike. As we descended towards the shore the water changed colors, becoming more vibrant and green one moment, calm and clear the next. When we finally reached the shore we walked out towards the bright torii gate in front of the pond’s Shinto shrine. The contrast of the lacquered wood and water made for a great photo op.

Gnarly forests.

The rest of the trail continued through shaded woods, lasting about another hour and a half. When we resurfaced on the main road we took a friend’s car back to our starting point. As a reward for our outdoorsiness we planned to take a dip in the hot spring there but it was inundated with high schoolers on vacation. Instead, we headed down the mountain and got gelato at one of my favorite places in Nakano City[2], then parted ways to our separate air-conditioned apartments.

Additional Information

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to visit Shigakogen yourself but don’t have your own vehicle, check our Shigakogen line bus timetable.

Shigakogen Trails list

See this page for a list of all of Shigakogen’s hiking trails (Japanese only).

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Kuma-no-yu Hotel

This hotel at the base of the Kumanoyu ski resort is known for its jade-colored hot springs. The water contains a variety of minerals and a relatively neutral pH. A great place to soak after a long day on the slopes or in the mountains.

Entrance Fee: 1000 yen for Adults
Hours: 12:30 to 15:30 (Weekdays), 12:30 to 15:00 (Weekends)
Website: http://www.kumanoyu.co.jp/hotel/english/

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Fiore Gelato Shop

This small shop in front of the Tsuruya in Nakano City is conveniently located on the main road towards Shigakogen. They have a rotating selection of flavors including local specialties Nagano Purple (Grape) and Shinshu Ringo (Apple).

Holidays: Closed on Wednesdays
Hours: 10:00 to 18:00
Location: See Google Maps

Kota Chino (Indonesian)

July 20th, 2016 by
Category: Information

Kurumayama Kogen
Minggu lalu saya bersama beberapa teman mengunjungi Kota Chino di bagian tengah provinsi Nagano.
Kota Chino terletak di tengah Nagano dan tidak sedikit wisatawan yang mengunjungi Tokyo, Alpen route, Mt. Fuji yang menginap di sini, dikarenakan kota Chino sangat strategis dan terletak di antara rute Tokyo – Alpine route dan Mt.Fuji – Alpine route.

Pertama kami mengunjungi Kurumayama Kogen,
merupakan puncak tertinggi dari Kirigamine Kogen. Disini anda bisa melihat 360 derajat pemandangan gunung-gunung tertinggi dan ternama di Jepang. Seperti, gunung suci dan tertinggi di Jepang Mt. Fuji, Gunung-gunung Alpen Utara Jepang, Alpen Tengah Jepang, Alpen Selatan Jepang, gunung Yatsugatake, Norikura dake , gunung Myoko dan sebagainya.
Disamping anda bisa melihat seluruh gunung-gunung ternama ini, anda bisa merasakan betapa dekatnya gunung-gunung tersebut dan menikmati keindahan langit yang luas dan tidak terbatas. Ditambah tiupan angin bersih yang sejuk.

Bagi anda yang tidak suka trekking atau panjat gunung, tidak usah khawatir karena di sini terdapat chairlift untuk menuju puncak gunung. Dari anak kecil sampai dewasa, semua orang bisa menikmati pemandangan yang menakjubkan ini dengan mudah.

Venus Line
Venus Line merupakan rute driving paling terkenal di provisi Nagano.
Di Venus Line ini anda bisa menikmati pemandangan gunung-gunung, dataran tinggi yang sangat luas, langit yang sangat tinggi dan tak terbatas. Bagi anda yang sumpek dengan kemacetan di Indonesia, jangan lewatkan kesempatan menikmati pemandangan indah di Venus Line ini dengan bus umum atau taksi dari stasiun Chino.
Berikutnya kita mengunjungi Danau Suwa.
Danau Suwa terletak di ketinggian 759m, mempunyai lingkaran sekitar15,9km, luas permukaan 13.3km kubik dan merupakan danau terbesar di provinsi Nagano.
Setelah menikmati jogging disekitar danau ini, anda bisa bersantai dengan onsen kaki dan pemandangan danau yang menakjubkan.
Setiap musim panas di danau Suwa ini diadakan acara kembang api, merupakan salah satu acara kembang api terbesar di Jepang. Sekitar 40,000 kempang api akan dinyalakan di acara tersebut.
Dari akhir Juli sampai akhir Agustus , akan diadakan acara kembang api setiap malam di Danau ini. Tampilan kembang api berlangsung selama 15 menit . Bersantai di samping danau dan menikmati bunga hidup berwarna di langit di atas danau Suwa .
Katakurakan Hot Spring
Dibangun di Showa awal dengan konsep Roman kuno. berumur 80 tahunan, terdapat bak mandi dengan kedalaman 1.1m, lebih dari 100 orang bisa masuk kedalam pemandian air panas ini dalam waktu yang sama.
Bagi pecinta pemandian air panas, jangan lupa mengunjungi Katakurakan.