It’s Japan’s infamous rainy season and that means that unpredictable, sudden squalls are just around every corner. You’ll get soaked, your laundry won’t dry, trains and buses may be delayed, and it can be hard to do anything outdoors on the weekends. When it’s too wet to climb mountains or have picnics, what else is there to do in Nagano?
Cafés, karaoke, and staring at the ceiling are some possible options, but there are also plenty of museums and galleries around the prefecture that feature interesting historical artifacts and beautiful paintings. Spend some of your rainy days brushing up on Japanese history and art in one of Nagano’s many museums.
1. The Hokusai Museum
Katsushika Hokusai is one of Japan’s most famous artists, known throughout the world for his woodblock print “Kanagawa-oki Nami Ura (the Great Wave off Kanagawa).” At one point during his travels he visited the town of Obuse and fell in love, eventually living there for many years. The Hokusai Museum was established in his memory, and many of his works are stored there.
Also in Obuse, Gansho-in Temple features one of Hokusai’s original paintings which can be seen on the ceiling of its main hall. Its vibrant color, size, and dynamic composition are stunning. It is called the “Happo Nirami Ho’oh-zu (the Phoenix Staring in all Directions).”
|Address:||381-0201 Nagano-ken, Kamitakai-gun Obuse-machi, Oaza Obuse 485〒381-0201 長野県上高井郡小布施町大字小布施485|
|Hours:||9:00 to 17:00 (until 18:00 during July & August)|
|Holidays:||Dec. 31st, Irregular|
|Price:||Adults/800 YenHigh School/500 YenUnder/ Free|
|Access:||From Nagano Station, take the Nagano Dentetsu train to Obuse Station. From there, a 12 min. walk|
2. The Matsumoto City Museum of Art
Matsumoto City is the birthplace of Yayoi Kusama, known internationally for her polka-dot-covered works. The Matsumoto City Museum of Art has a permanent exhibition of her work, featuring among others an outdoor sculpture of gigantic, colorful flowers. Even the buses in town are decorated in colorful polka dots!
|Address:||390-0811 Nagano-ken, Matsumoto-shi, Chuo 4-2-22〒390-0811 長野県松本市中央4-2-22|
|Hours:||9:00 to 17:00|
|Holidays:||Mondays; Dec. 29 to Jan. 02|
|Price:||Adults/410 YenStudents/200 YenMiddle School & Under/ Free|
|Access:||From Matsumoto Station, walk 12 minutes or take the East Course Town Sneaker bus|
3. Silkfact Okaya
During the beginning of the Meiji Period, the people of Okaya created the Suwa silk-reeling machine and the area prospered in silk manufacturing. There are many historical buildings related to the industry in Okaya, and the Silkfact Okaya museum stores important artifacts and machines related to it. The museum is attached to an operating silk mill, and visitors can see silk cultivation from silk worm breeding to silk spinning.
|Address:||Nagano-ken, Okaya-shi, Goda 1-48長野県岡谷市郷田1-4-8|
|Hours:||9:00 to 17:00|
|Holidays:||Wednesdays; Dec. 29 to Jan. 3|
|Price:||Adults/400 YenHigh/Middle School/200 YenElementary/100 Yen|
|Access:||From JR Okaya Station, a 20 min. walk|
4. The Sanada Treasures Museum
The Sanada clan, which was featured in the NHK Taiga Drama Sanada Maru, ruled the domain of Ueda, and later the Matsushiro area until the beginning of the 20th century. At the Sanada Treasures Museum in Matsushiro, you can see samurai armor, weapons, and articles of everyday life used by Japanese people during the Edo Period. Matsushiro is home to a number of Sanada historical sites, like the Sanada-tei residence and the Bunbu Military Academy.
|Address:||381-1231 Nagano-ken, Nagano-shi, Matsushiro-machi, Matsushiro 4-1〒381-1231 長野県長野市松代町松代4-1|
|Price:||Adult/300 YenChildren/120 Yen
Sanada-tei, Bunbu Gakko Combo Ticket:Adult/500 YenChildren/200 Yen
|Access:||From Nagano Station, take the Matsushiro bus to Matsushiro Station. A 3 min. walk.|
5. The Takahashi Mayumi Ningyokan
This museum is dedicated to the work of Takahashi Mayumi, who creates lifelike figures of Japan’s elderly countryside residents. These adorable dolls show slices of everyday life in Japan’s rural areas, from scenes of farming to socializing with neighbors.
|Address:||389-2253 Nagano-ken, Iiyama-shi, Iiyama 2941-1〒389-2253 長野県飯山市飯山2941-1|
|Hours:||9:00-17:00 (10:00-16:00 from Dec. to Mar.)|
|Price:||Adults/610 YenChildren/410 Yen|
|Access:||a 5 min. walk from JR Kita-Iiyama Station|
6. Mizuno Museum
This museum south of Nagano City is home to a large collection of traditional Japanese artworks, from ukiyo-e portraits of women in kimono to shimmering landscapes on golden screens. Another feature of the Mizuno Museum is its beautiful landscape garden which can be viewed from comfortable benches inside the museum.
|Address:||380-0928 Nagano-ken, Nagano-shi, Wakari 6-2-20〒380-0928 長野県長野市若里6-2-20|
|Hours:||9:30 to 17:30 (until 17:00 from Nov. to Mar.)|
|Holidays:||Mondays; most of Dec.|
|Price:||Adults/800 YenChildren/600 YenElementary/300 Yen|
|Access:||From Nagano Station, 10 min. by bus.Nagaden Nisseki lineNisseki, Matsuoka, Otsukaminami line|
7. Kawamoto Kihachiro Puppet Museum
Iida was long a meeting point of Japan’s east and west, and was well known for its puppetry. Nowadays, the city holds a puppetry festival every summer where local and international troops stage performances. The Kawamoto Kihachiro Puppet Museum is dedicated to one such puppeteer who was enamored with the festival and helped create the NHK Puppet Theater series of “Sankokushi (Annals of the Three Kingdoms).” The museum houses a number of animations from the show, as well as 53 of the puppets used in production. The highly detailed puppets and costumes are a sight to behold.
|Address:||395-0044 Nagano-ken, Iida-shi, Honmachi 1-Chome 2-Banchi(〒395-0044 長野県飯田市本町1丁目2番地)|
|Hours:||9:30 to 18:30|
|Holidays:||Wednesdays; End of the Year Period|
|Price:||Adults/400 YenChildren/200 Yen|
|Access:||From JR Iida Station, a 12 min. walk.|
Stay dry this rainy season while enjoying the artwork and history of Nagano. If you’re interested in reading more about Nagano’s museums and galleries, check out the links below. And if you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to include them in the comments below!