The Michi no Eki road stop is located right off the 117 highway, about halfway between Iiyama station and Nozawa Onsen. It’s really only practical to get to if you are cycling or driving. But if you are passing through, you should really check it out. Michi no Eki are kind of a new part of Japanese culture. They are a rest stop (24 hour free toilets, whoo!) and provide tourist information, but they are really so much more. All of the local culture and specialties are on display, and many things are available for purchase. So if you are limited for time, you don’t really need to go digging around a whole city to see what the place is like, just stop by the local Michi no Eki and you will have a really good idea.
This Michi no Eki is also like a farmer’s market. Lots of fresh local produce and products are on sale and CHEAP! There is also a very reasonably priced restaurant and café. Soft-serve ice cream is a big deal in Japan and everywhere tries to make unique flavors. Iiyama really knocked it out of the park with their Snow Carrot Ice Cream. The city gets so much snow in winter that carrots are buried up to 3 meters deep. Under these conditions, the carrots produce a lot more sugar than usual. These sweet carrots are then made into ice cream. It is light orange in color and quite sweet, but in an almost fruity way. It is definitely worth a try!
The Michi no Eki has other local specialities too like oyaki (Nagano’s dumpling) and sasa-zushi (vegetarian sushi on a bamboo leaf).