Three Spring Events at Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

April 12th, 2011 by
Category: Events, Onsens (Hot Springs)

One old tradition, one new one, and one borrowed from overseas:  ’tis springtime in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen.  Three upcoming events for your consideration:

Chishiki-Ji Temple Spring Festival

Sunday 17-April 10am-Noon, Chishiki-Ji, Kamiyamada, Chikuma City

Chishi-ji Temple with its moss-covered thatched roof

Chishi-ji Temple with its moss-covered thatched roof

A simple, local festival featuring the airing-out of the temple’s ancient scrolls.  Several monks give a solemn chant as, along with local dignitaries, they ceremonially air-out the Buddhist scrolls.  This is the one time of the year that the sacred 11-Faced Goddess image is openly displayed for public viewing.   A sishi-lion dance performance by the Kamiyamada Okagura Preservation troupe will also take place (with Yours Truly on the flute).

Chishiki-Ji Temple, on Nagano Prefectural Route 55 approximately 2km (25 min. walk) from Togura Kamiyamada Onsen.  Nearest train station is Togura Station on the Shinano Railway Line.  


6th Annual Easter Egg Festival in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen

Sunday April 24th 1:30-3:30pm at the Togura Kamiyamada Onsen fountain park along the Chikuma River

Easter's Coming!

If you would like to see 100 kids’ smiling faces, and perhaps share a bit of Western culture, come check out Togura Kamiyamada Onsen’s Easter Egg Festival.  It’s held at the fountain park in front of the onsen town on the bank of the Chikuma River.  There will be a massive, 1000-egg hunt as well as games, egg coloring, egg omelets (courtesy of the ryokan chefs), horse buggy rides, and free onsen bath passes (courtesy of the Togura Kamiyamada Ryokan Association).    

To RSVP, contact the Chikuma Int’l Exchange Assoc. tel/fax 026-274-3150,  Access:  20 minute walk from Togura Station on the Shinano Railway Line.


30th Annual Pulled by an Ox to Zenkoji Walk

Thursday May 5th, Starts 7:30am from the Togura Kamiyamada Onsen fountain park along the Chikuma River

That's me from last year's Zenkoji walk

That's me from last year's Zenkoji walk

In commemmoration of the legend about an old lady getting pulled to the esteemed Zenkoji Tempe in Nagano City, our onsen holds an annual 30km walk from Togura Kamiyamada to Zenkoji.  Many participants dress in feudal-era pilgrim outfits for the walk, complete with straw sandals.  While you can wear your sneakers instead, you do have to RSVP by April 20th to the Chikuma City Tourism Bureau.

How to Have Fun in Nagano in the Winter: Snowy Outdoor Baths; Yomase Onsen ‘Tomi no Yu’

February 3rd, 2011 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs)

On a snowy, cold winter day, people in other places in Japan may stay inside and bury themselves beneath the quilts of their kotatsu.  Here in Nagano, we embrace the snowy scenery instead and head for the hills to soak in one of the many ‘notenburo’ — onsen baths with scenic views.

Last weekend, I took our kids to Yomase Onsen’s famous ‘Tomi no Yu’ for the first time.  Located above Shibu Yudanaka Onsens at the entrance of the Kita-Shiga ski area, Tomi no Yu’s bath features an amazing view of the Zenkoji Plain with Nagano City down below, along with glimpses of the 5 Northern Nagano Peaks as well as the Northern Alps in the distance.

Bath with a view, minus the view

Bath with a view, minus the view

The day we went, it was snowing so unfortunately we couldn’t enjoy much of a view.  But the kids loved hopping out of the bath, jumping in the snow surrounding the rim, then hopping back into the onsen.  I, on the other hand, simply let the piping hot onsen waters warm my body to the core as snow flakes gently fell on my face. 

The experience inspired a little haiku:

Soaking in the bath
Face looking up to heaven
Snow flakes gently fall

Tomi no Yu doesn’t have an indoor bath, and the washing area is rather spartan, but the outdoor bath with its spectacular view makes up for it.  If you want to enjoy one of Nagano’s premier onsen baths with a view, then make sure to check out Tomi no Yu.

Entrance to Tomi no Yu

Entrance to Tomi no Yu

Located approx. 30 minutes by car from Nagano City (Nakano IC on the Joshin’etsu Expwy).  Also accessible by bus from Nakano Station on the Nagano Dentetsu Line, or in the winter by busses from Nagano Station going up to the ski resort in Kita-Shiga.  Website is here.

Nakadanasou – Japanese-style Inn in Komoro –

January 31st, 2011 by
Category: Accomodations, Cuisine, Information, Onsens (Hot Springs)
“Hatsukoi Ringo Buro” (Hatsukoi Apple Bath).  Apples are floated on hot spring water.
Outlook of “Heiseikan” accommodation building. 

“Nakadanasou” is a Japanese-style hot spring inn in Komoro city founded in 1898.  This 113-year-old traditional inn is especially renowned for its association with Shimazaki Toson (1872-1943), a prominent Japanese author and poet.   Toson loved to stay here and enjoyed its hot springs which contain healing power.  Nakadanasou even appears in Toson’s famous poem called “Chikumagawa Ryojou No Uta”.  

The main buildings of Nakadanasou are “Taishokan” (accommodation where Toson stayed and wrote the above poem), “Heiseikan” (new accommodation), and “Harikoshitei” (Japanese restaurant).  While the whole site is filled with a classic and tranquil atmosphere, its modern and convenient amenities ensure your comfortable stay at the same time.

I had lunch at the restaurant Harikoshitei.   The building of Harikoshitei, designated as important cultural property, is a large old house in the Edo period.  When I visited there, many dolls were beautifully displayed for the coming Girl’s Festival on March 3rd.   It is a Japanese custom to exhibit special dolls called “hina dolls” to celebrate the festival.  The restaurant serves Japanese country-style food using fresh local ingredients.  I had a set lunch called “Hatsukoi Gozen”.  Many small plates, such as tempura, fish and simmered vegetables, were served in a beautiful basket.  Furthermore, sashimi (raw fish), chawanmushi (steamed egg custard in a cup), soba noodles and a Japanese-style dessert were served.  I truly enjoyed the tasty and beautiful meal while looking at the pretty dolls. 

I also experienced its famous “Hatsukoi Ringo Buro”, which literally means “first love apple bath”.  The word “hatsukoi” was named after Toson’s poem in which apples appear.  From October to May, apples are floated on the hot spring water.  The sweet smell of apples really relaxed both my mind and body.  The hot spring bath is available throughout the year (from June to September with no apples), to both overnight guests and day visitors.  Please contact the inn to confirm the opening hours for day visitors.   

Finally, let me add that the inn is conveniently located for sightseeing.  Komoro station and Kaikoen Park are just 15 minutes’ walk.  Karuizawa, a popular mountain resort good for shopping, skiing and other leisure activities, is 20 minutes’ train ride.  “Asama 2000”, a ski resort at the altitude of 2,000 meters with natural powder snow, is 30 minutes’ drive by car. 

Why not experience traditional culture and cuisine in Nanadansou? 

A large guest room that has Japanese rooms and a Western room with a great garden view. 
The restaurant “Harikoshitei”, designated as important cultural property, was decorated with pretty hina dolls for the Girl’s Festival. 

In front of Nakadanasou. Landlady in traditional kimono will give you a warm welcome.



Set lunch "Hatsukoi Gozen" at "Harikoshitei" restaurant. Soba and dessert are also served.

Taishokan Nakaniwa

"Taishokan" accommodation building can be seen behind trees and flowers in the inner garden.


Name of the facility Nakadanasou
Description of business accommodation (capacity of 70 guests), restaurant, public hot spring bath  
Tel 0267-22-1511 (Japan country code: 81)
Fax 0267-22-9191 (Japan country code: 81)
Address Kojou Nakadana, Komoro, Nagano, 384-8558, Japan
Reservations and inquiries Please contact by email or use the inquiry form on website.
  • If you get off Nagano Shinkansen at “Sakudaira” station, change to JR Koumi Line and get off at “Komoro” station (last stop).
  • If you get off Nagano Shinkansen at “Karuizawa” station, change to Shinano Tetsudo (Shinano Railway) and get off at “Komoro” station.
  • Nakadanasou can be reached from Komoro station either by taxi (5 minutes) or on foot (15 minutes).
  • You can find a map on website.
Operating dates and hours
  • Nakadanasou (accommodation part) is open every day of the year. 
  • Harikoshitei (restaurant) is open daily from 11:30 to 14:00 except Wednesday. Reservation needed for dinner from 17:00 to 21:00.
Room rates and other prices
  • Minimum room rate is JPY11,000 per person per night including dinner and breakfast.  Room rates are changeable depending on the season, so please contact the inn.
  • A variety of souvenirs are available at the shop, including “nigorizake” (unrefined sake) at JPY1,680, “Harikoshi manju” (original Japanese-style buns with red bean paste filling) at JPY450, “umeshu” (plum liquor) at JPY1,100, and original wine at JPY2,800.

The Snow Monkeys!

January 20th, 2011 by
Category: Events, Experience, Information, Onsens (Hot Springs), Report, Sightseeing

You know something has reached the big time when they add a THE to the front of it; THE BEATLES, THE BODY SHOP, THE DAISO (OK, so maybe this¥100 shop is not THAT famous but anyway…) .

And (unbelievably after having been coming to Nagano for as long as I have and never once visited), the other day I finally got a chance to pay a trip to see THE Snow Monkeys!!!


After hiking up though a snowbound cedar forest, the first bit of wildlife we saw was not a monkey after all but a Kamoshika (Japanese Serow) struggling uphill through thick powder. But a steady trail of Macaque poop told us we were on the right trail and after 30 minutes or so, we arrived at the valley directly beneath the monkey park where a bridge crosses over the river to the best (and only!) Soba noodles in the area. We climbed the final flight of stairs to the ticket gate and proceeded on to the main monkey bathing area.2-start-gate

The park itself is a curious cross between a national park, safari park and disneyland – without the trimmings. Don’t expect fancy explanations or commentary; facilities are simple, but the monkeys are very, very cute and you can get right up close to take all the pictures you want. In the main bath were around 25 of the little furry fellas,  posing for the tourists’ portraits, crapping, scrapping and wallowing in the hot spring. Apparently, there are 160+ of them altogether in the troop – they spend the night in the surrounding forest and head down to the Onsen during the day. Anyway, if you’re in the Nagano area this winter they are definitely worth a trip which can be combined with a trip to one of the amazing Onsens nearby at Yudanaka or Shibu where you can get great food, check out a traditional Onsen Town and of course relax in a hot bath WITHOUT any monkeys 🙂

Like ’em or love ’em, The Snow Monkeys are a firm favourite on the Nagano Must-See list. See here for Access info.

Night & Day: First Snow for Snow Monkeys 2010-11

December 12th, 2010 by
Category: Information, Onsens (Hot Springs)

A sudden snow fall in Yamanouchi that night, meant a cold but dry night for the animals in forest, and a soundless frozen play ground for visitors to Shigakogen & Jigokudani…

The loneliness of Yudanaka Station glowing against pure white silence,
made my heart throb…



Young friends, the Falconers honed in on each other in what wasn’t much short of snow-ice ball war…after one hit in the leg…a little too close to the danger zone and enough for me..

Interesting to see the snow monkey more interesting in hot morning soup rather than a hot morning swim, dryness an issue?

Life goes on for Yamanouchi…

A sudden snow fall in Yamanouchi that night, meant a cold but dry night for the animals in forest,  and a soundless frozen play ground for visitors to Shigakogen & Jigokudani…

Young friends, the Falconers honed in on each other in what wasn’t much short of snow-ice ball war…after one hit in the leg…a little too close to the danger zone and enough for me..
Interesting to see the snow monkey more interesting in hot morning soup rather than a hot morning swim, dryness an issue?
Life goes on for Yamanouchi…
The natural beauty of a village with no name…I understand the attraction.

How to get to the Snow Monkeys this Winter

December 8th, 2010 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

As the famed “Snow Monkeys” of the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park are starting to get their namesake snow this winter, it’s time to take a look at how to actually make the trek to go see them.

Nagano Dentetsu, the main source of public transportation up to the Jigokudani snow monkeys, annonced their new winter schedule, with the changes effective 04-December 2010.

Getting to the monkey park from Nagano Station can be confusing — do you take a bus or train? And if you go by train, how do you get to the park from the end of the line, Yudanaka Station? As many of our guests here at Kamesei Ryokan make day trips to see the snow monkeys, I made a graph that matches up the trains from our local Togura Station to the busses and trains from Nagano Station.  Here’s the graph.  Just ignore the Togura parts if you’re originating from Nagano Station.  And please note that these are just sample times based around going up in the morning and coming back down in the afternoon.  There are other busses and trains at earlier and later times.

From Nagano Station
Basically there are three options to get from Nagano Station to the snow monkey park:

1. Express Bus to Kanbayashi (1300 yen)
NagaDen Bus operates 8+ busses a day during the winter from Nagano Station’s East Exit up to the ski fields at Shiga Kogen. They stop at Kanbayashi Onsen (“Kanbayashi Onsen Guchi” stop) which is in the vicinity of the Kanbayashi trailhead. From there it is a 30 minute, mostly flat ‘promenade’ through a beautiful cedar forest.

2. Train to Yudanaka (1,130~1,230 yen)
Nagano Dentetsu provides train service to Yudanaka and Shibu, a pair of classic onsen towns. Service is more frequent than the above-mentioned express busses, and you can choose between local trains (1,130 yen, approx. 1 hour 15 min.) and express trains (add’l 100 yen, as fast as 45 minutes).
NOTE: From Yudanaka Station to the monkey park, you can choose from the following:
A. Local Bus (210 yen)
Roughly matching up with the train arrivals, local busses connect Yudanaka Station to the Kanbayashi trailhead in a quick 7 minutes.
B. “Holiday Shuttle” (800 yen)
Shibu Onsen provides a “Holiday Shuttle” bus from Yudanaka Station directly to the Jigokudani Parking Lot. It is closer to the monkey park entrance than Kanbayashi (15 minutes walk vs. 30 minutes), but is a lot steeper of a walk. Reservations Recommended (tel# 0269-33-3600). The Shuttle runs on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays from December to March, with 6 runs each direction per day.

3. Chuo Taxi (from 2,722 yen per person round trip)
Chuo Taxi is offering a new, hassle-free taxi trip to the snow monkey park from Nagano Station. The cost is 17,000 yen for a regular taxi (4~5 people) or 24,500 yen for a jumbo taxi (~9 people) including transportation to Kanbayashi and back, and stand-by time so you can enjoy the monkeys for an hour. Call 026-282-7777 for reservations.

Finally, two last pieces of advice:  Make sure you have proper footwear (the trail can be slippery and slidey in the winter), and make sure to charge you

Matsushiro Day Trip

December 7th, 2010 by
Category: Cuisine, Culture Art, Experience, Information, Onsens (Hot Springs), Report, Sightseeing

   Matsushiro is one of Nagano’s hidden gems, located in the south part of Nagano city conveniently close to the Interchange. This historic castle town has a wealth of cultural and historical assets ranging from vintage samurai residences to WWII tunnels. The area is also famous for its beautiful blue folk ceramics, known as Matsushiro-yaki.

   This castle town ‘built from 100,000 stones,’ was the domain of the Sanada family, a samurai clan which ruled for 250 years from 1622 until just after the collapse of the Tokguawa Bakufu in 1868. We visited last Saturday, and lucked out with the weather but not with the rentacycles – apparently they go into hibernation from December.


   First we visited the museum where many of the Sanada family treasures are on public view, including samurai armour, swords and calligraphy. Then we visited the Samurai residence, built for his mother by the 9th generation lord. The tatami rooms and sliding doors still carry the vestiges of a bygone era and it wasn’t hard to imagine Lord Sanada taking his tea looking out over the carefully landscaped garden.

   Next we stopped off at the Bunbu Gakko, a set of original classrooms dating back to 1855 where martial arts skills as well as brains were once honed at the school. Lessons on the curriculum included Kendo and Jujutsu, as well as Chinese studies and Dutch (the official language for communicating with aliens at the time!). The halls are still used today for Kendo and Kyudo tournaments.







   Last stop before lunch was the WWII tunnels, an impressive network of about 13,100 meters of underground tunnel which was blasted out of the rock towards the end of the war by conscripted Korean laborers. The Bushido ethic of the time made it impossible for some sections of the Imperial Japanese Army to contemplate surrender, and the Underground Headquarters were part of a desperate plan to evacuate key institutions, including the imperial family, government, and military HQ, in the face of the imminent American invasion.



   Next stop was a local lunch of nagaimo, a Matsushiro specialty which turned out to be a type of yam, mashed into paste. Matsushiro is a major nagaimo growing area, as the sandy soil along the Chikuma River is perfect for growing them. Then we headed on to the day’s main attraction…a Kimono experience! The Ecole de Matsushiro Club offers lessons in a range of Japanese traditional arts such as tea ceremony, flower arrangement and traditional musical instruments and we had timed it just right for a Kimono workshop complete with Origami lesson!






Finally, it was time for the last stop of the day, at Matsushiro Onsen, a luxury hot spring resort which used natural spa waters to heat the bath. The high iron and salt content turns the water a muddy-brown colour and makes for a memorable Onsen experience.

Nothing like Fresh Bread & Fresh Snow….at 2300m!!

November 24th, 2010 by
Category: Accomodations, Cuisine, Culture Art, Experience, Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing
Day started out at Kumanoyu Hotspring by charging up toShibu-ike at 1800m which had half frozen over…
Shibu -ike
My mission was to find a snow shoe course for the coming winter…
possibly here?
Big hoof print
and it was late, there was already enough snow for snow shoeing!!
And check out the size of these hoof prints on the way!!
Animal holes
There were no human prints along the way, but a highway for our furry friends –Duckdeer, rabbits, tanukisnow-monkeys & bears
Trail still visible
after a big climb (for me atleast) of 3.5hrs up to Summit of Mt. Yokote,  it was awesome to have the welcoming party below^-^.
Shigakogen-Yokote is Japan’s highest skifield by around 500m, meaning the 2nd Longest Ski season on Earth…I should have known better and taken ski’s…
Yokote bakery
Husky welcome^-^
Husky greeting
Hot cocoa & specially made bread, the warm fire, furry friends and talk about backcountrygetting lostavalanche & rescue inside with Takaso-san made my little adventure something to remember.
yokote bakery dream bread!!
Yokote Summit Hutt Bakery would have to be my favorite place to stay in Japan.
Fire place !!!
Very spectacular picture
With Yokote views like the one above,
and below (which a guest took)…maybe you can understand?  Great place for cultural exchange, photography, amateur radioskiing & snowboarding
Not my pic , but beautiful!!
Very harsh place to live for the Takaso family,
Welcoming party
but unbeatable snow – the silkiest driest powder I’ve ever seen.
This deep on yokote today
Can you understand the feeling?
Yokote feeling

Nagano Skiing Starts Nov 18 at Kumanoyu & Riverside Hotel Guides out training.

November 23rd, 2010 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

No chance to head up hill on first day,

but today was still a great first day to my ski season at Kumanoyu Skifield!

Kumanoyu Open!!
Super snow conditions
Perfect snow cover – great sunshine.
Warm up lesson

Real nice characters who work at Shigakogen’s Riverside Hotel – makes you want to take a lesson!!
Riverside Instructors

Kamikochi/Norikura 2 Day Free Pass

September 29th, 2010 by
Category: Experience, Information, Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Report, Seasonal Topics

 The Kamikochi/Norikura 2 Day Free Pass, launched by ALPICO earlier this year, is a great way of getting around the Japan Alps National Park. Not only does it save you the hassle of researching and buying a load of one-way tickets to get you up to the mountains and back again, but also you can make considerable savings IF you use the pass to the max. So that is what we did!

p9260312On the first day, we caught a direct bus up to Kamikochi from Matsumoto; there are a couple of these every day, and it cuts down on the journey time becuase you don’t have to change at Shinshimashima. Down on the plains, Matsumoto was a warm sunny memory as we arrived at the Kamikochi Bus Terminal and the temperature plunged! Although the sun was shining by the time we arrived at Myojin, the clouds had closed in again as we returned to Kappa Bridge. It was going to be a long night, with the mercury dropping to Zero for the first time in the year – just the night to camp out in summer tents and sleeping bags!! Luckily we got a good camp fire going and spent the night sharing wine, cheese and body heat 🙂



The next day we were glad to get up and moving, catching the 8AM bus to Norikura. A couple of hours – and 2 nifty bus changes later – we arrived at the 3000m on top of the Alps. Getting off at Tatamidaira, there were panoramic views of Matsumoto on the Nagano side and Takayama on the Gifu side. No sign of the autumn leaves yet but still stunning scenery in every direction. The only area we couldn’t see too clearly was the Yari-Hodaka range to the North, as it was hidden by a persistent cloud bank, but the smoke rising from Yakedake was clearly visible.



Leaving our bags at the bus terminal we climbed up to the peak, passing some serious looking mountaineers and a couple in high heels! The Kami-sama was watching over the shrine at the top, nibbling away on a rice offering as he did so.


On the way down we hit up a great Onsen in Norikura Kogen. There was still no sign of Yari, although we did find a likely replacement. Maybe Yari will have to wait until next year…p9260368