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.
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).