November 22nd, 2018
Nagano’s Winter Activities and Events

Winter is one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. Snow coats the mountains, forests, and valleys in sparkling white. Frosty air brings clear blue skies. Waterfalls and lakes freeze in time. The heavy snows of the Japanese Alps make Nagano a winter wonderland.

Enjoy a myriad of winter activities in Nagano’s ski resorts, glades, and mountains. Over 80 ski resorts can be found around the prefecture, many of which were featured during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. In addition to their world-class courses and majestic scenery, they offer winter activities like snowmobiling, tubing, and more.

And after a long day in the cold, there’s nothing better than sitting by a crackling fire or soaking in a steamy hot spring bath. Don’t forget some spectacular winter festivals that keep us warm during the long nights, whether through copious amounts of sake, raging bonfires, or both!

See our recommendations below for enjoying Nagano’s winter to the fullest!

Table of Contents

Nagano’s Ski Resorts
Winter Festivals
Snow Activities and More

Ski Resorts

Nagano’s mountains are home to fabulous ski resorts with a wide variety of courses, plentiful powder, and beautiful views. Nagano’s ski season begins in mid-December and continues through April, with some resorts remaining open during Golden Week (the first week of May).

Most skiers and snowboarders flock to the Hakuba Valley, Shiga Kogen, or Nozawa Onsen, Nagano’s most famous ski areas. You can see a list of Nagano’s ski resorts and their current statuses here.

The Hakuba Valley


At the base of the Northern Japanese Alps, the Hakuba Valley features incredible mountain views and Olympic skiing. Hakuba is very popular among international guests, in part thanks to its wealth of restaurants and bars which give to a lively nightlife.

Our Recommendations

  • Hakuba Happo-one is Hakuba’s largest resort with over 1km of vertical drop and a longest run of 8km. It’s especially popular for mogul skiers, but it has something for everyone regardless of level.
  • Tsugaike Kogen Snow Resort is a perfect place to begin your skiing or snowboarding career or to enjoy time together with the family. Its wide-open beginner’s course at the base of the mountain gives you plenty of room to learn.
  • Hakuba Cortina Snow Resort: nothing beats it when it comes to powder. The resort is bowl-shaped, meaning you won’t accidentally leave the resort, and the tree area in the middle is deemed a self-responsibility area–you’re free to go in, at your own risk, of course.
  • Hakuba Iwatake Snow Field has arguably the most beautiful scenery of all of Hakuba’s resorts, especially with the addition of Hakuba Mountain Harbor earlier this year.

Shiga and Kita Shiga Kogen


The pristine highlands of Shiga Kogen encompass the 1,300 to 2,300-meter-high plateau above the town of Yamanouchi. With 40 lifts across 19 ski areas, Shiga Kogen is the largest skiing destination in Japan. To the north of Yamanouchi is Kita Shiga Kogen, a collection of ski resorts on the slopes of the northern Shiga and Kosha mountains.

Our Recommendations

  • Shiga Kogen’s serene natural scenery and variety of courses will bring the explorer in you to life. You can spend days trying to cover every course around the mountain! For the best views, visit the Yokoteyama Ski Area and take the lift to the top of the mountain, stopping for a bite to eat at the summit’s crumpet café. For long runs, head to Oku Shiga or Yakebitai. Ichinose is a good spot for beginners and also has plenty of restaurants nearby for lunch.
  • Ryuo Ski Park is a well-rounded resort with something for everyone. It is well-known for its SORA terrace at the top of its gondola lift, and has a variety of snow activities aside from skiing and snowboarding, like tubing and snow buggy rides.

Nozawa Onsen


Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort has one of the longest runs in Nagano at a total length of 10km. You’ll love flying down its scenic courses and blasting through the powdery terrain at the top of the mountain. But it’s not just the runs themselves that attract people here, one of Nozawa’s main charms is its pedestrian-friendly hot spring town, which is just a short walk from the hill. The town retains its traditional atmosphere while making room for stylish restaurants, cafes, and bars. Around town are 13 public hot spring baths where you can soak away your fatigue to prepare for another day of skiing.

Nagano’s Winter Festivals

Don’t get stuck hibernating indoors during the long winter evenings. Instead, experience traditional Japanese festivals and other lively events!

Iiyama Snow Festival

Saturday, February 9th, 2019 to Sunday the 10th

Iiyama City is a part of Japan’s “Snow Country,” where heavy snowfall completely covers the landscape. While the snow has been a burden for a long time, residents of Iiyama have taken it and turned it into something enjoyable once again. Now, for two days in February, you can see magnificent snow sculptures in a range of Japanese motifs, from popular anime characters to bullet trains.

Another popular aspect of Iiyama during winter is the Iiyama Kamakura Restaurant. At night during the festival, the igloos here are lit up and you can enjoy beautiful scenery of the igloos and fireworks in the sky.

See more details about the festival here.

Nagano Lantern Festival (Nagano Tomyo Matsuri)

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019 to Monday the 11th, 18:00 to 21:00

The Nagano Lantern Festival is held annually in reminder of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. Zenkoji is bathed in the five Olympic colors, and beautifully-crafted lanterns fill the street between the station and temple. During the illumination a number of other events will happen as well, such as musical performances, sake-tasting and more.

Nozawa Fire Festival (Dosojin Matsuri)

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

On January 15th of every year, the villagers of Nozawa Onsen celebrate the Dosojin Matsuri, a fire festival of epic proportions. Male villagers battle with fiery bundles of straw to burn down a mock shrine built for the festival. 25-year-olds defend the shrine while 42-year-olds sit atop it–both ages considered unlucky for men in Japan. Through the cleansing flames, they rid themselves of their bad luck and pray for the health and success of the first-born sons, as well as for the harvests in the coming year.

Kiso Valley Ice Lantern Festival (Hyousetsu no Hi Matsuri)

Saturday, January 26th, 2019 to Monday, February 11th, 2019

Every year from late January through early February, the Kiso Valley hosts their ice lantern festival along the ancient Nakasendo trail. Beautifully-preserved Edo period buildings glow with warm candlelight and locals set up stalls with festival foods and free hot sake and soup. Interact with local kiso people, try some of its delicious sake, and enjoy the romantic atmosphere of these post towns forgotten by time.

For those unfamiliar with the Kiso Valley, highlights include the Narai, Kisofukushima, and Tsumago post towns, as well as Magome to the south. Many visitors walk the hiking trail which follows the Nakasendo between Tsumago and Magome post towns, or walk along the kilometer-long street of Narai. Kisofukushima is home to two of Kiso’s sake breweries, Nanawarai and Nakanorisan, and has several hot spring hotels and a foot bath to warm up during the cold winter months.

Snow Activities and More

Skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only ways to enjoy winter in Nagano. Ski resorts offer an increasing number of activities like snowmobiling, sledding, and snowshoeing around the mountain. These activities are usually available from the beginning of January to the end of March. Don’t forget to visit some of Nagano’s historic sightseeing spots covered in snow, like Matsumoto Castle and Zenkoji Temple—not to mention the snow monkeys of Jigokudani Yaen Koen.

Snowmobiling


If you want to enjoy the cool winter wind and blast through fields of powder without putting on a snowboard or skis, look no further than snowmobiling! Cruise through the snow and gaze over incredible views of the Japanese Alps. See Hakuba Lion Adventures for snowmobile rides in Hakuba and Shiga Kogen.

Snowshoeing


Walk through winter forests covered in snow while enjoying the crisp air and calm, or climb up snowy hills for majestic views of white mountains and fields. You can go snowshoeing on your own or arrange for a guide to take you to some of Nagano’s most beautiful winter locales. Ski resorts such as Nozawa Onsen, Iwatake Ski Field, and Madarao Kogen have snowshoeing trails, and areas such as Togakushi and Norikura Kogen are also popular for snowshoeing. See more details here.

Hot Springs


After a long cold day on the mountain, nothing beats a dip in a steamy hot spring bath. Most ski resorts have on-site hot springs, and many hotels throughout the prefecture have natural hot springs on premises. If you stay in a hot spring town like Nozawa Onsen or Shibu Onsen, you can also try public bathhouses called soto-yu, each with their own mineral and healing properties. See our blog on enjoying hot springs in Nagano for more information.

More Resources for Planning Your Winter Trip to Nagano!

Go! Nagano’s Hot Springs Page
Go! Nagano’s Winter Activities Page
Go! Nagano Blog: Nagano’s Hidden Ski Resorts
Go! Nagano Blog: Beautiful Winter Phenomena

August 31st, 2018
Enjoying Nagano in Autumn

The hot summer is beginning to wane as cool breezes blow through the valleys of Nagano. Soon, autumn will be upon us as vivid crimson and yellow leaves cascade down the mountains to Nagano’s many sightseeing spots.

Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of the year in Nagano. Visitors from around the country flock to Nagano’s highlands and mountainous areas for Momiji-gari, or autumn leaf-viewing. The many ropeways around the prefecture make it easy to see golden alpine scenery or hike around the Japanese Alps.

And who could forget the bounty of harvest season? Fresh apples and grapes are ready for the picking in idyllic orchards; fields of mature buckwheat become delicious, aromatic soba noodles; and chestnuts are baked into tantalizing desserts.

See some of our favorite scenic spots and places to go fruit-picking below!

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Autumn Scenery
Fruit Picking

Best Places to see Autumn Colors in Nagano


From September through November, autumn colors slowly spread from the mountain tops to the valley and head south. Below are some of Nagano’s best places to see autumn scenery. You can also check our Fall Colors Watch page for up-to-date reports.

Senjojiki Cirque
(Komagane, Southern Nagano)

Early September to Early November

The steep slopes of the Senjojiki Cirque were carved by glaciers some 20,000 years ago. During autumn, the cirque becomes a colorful tapestry interwoven with the red leaves of the mountain ash trees.


Ryuoo SORA terrace
(Yamanouchi, Northern Nagano)

Late September to Early October


Located at the top of Ryuoo Ski Park’s ropeway lift is the 1,770m-high SORA terrace. It has stunning views of the surrounding mountains as well as unkai, a sea of clouds that appears below.

Happo Pond
(Hakuba, Northern Alps Area)

Late September to Late October


From the top of Hakuba Happo One, you can see beautiful views of the Hakuba Sanzan mountains and their autumn colors. 90 min. on foot from the lift is Happo Pond, one of the area’s most scenic spots.

Kamikochi
(Matsumoto City, Northern Alps Area)

Early to Mid-October

Kamikochi is the crown jewel of the Japanese Alps. On this remote basin at an altitude of 1,500 meters, you can see crystal clear rivers, unspoiled forest, and the majestic peaks of the Hotaka mountain range and Mt. Yari. Stroll around the valley or hike up the mountains to see spectacular vistas. Popular autumn leaf-viewing spots include the valley floor and the Karasawa and Dake Cols.

Togakushi
(Nagano City, Northern Nagano)

Mid October to Late October


Located about 1,200 meters high, Togakushi’s highlands are covered in pristine forest that were once home to ascetic monks and ninja. Togakushi’s most popular sights include Kagami Pond and the Okusha Shrine.

Nezame no Toko
(Agematsu, Kiso Area)

Late October to Early November


Nezama no Toko, outside of the town of Agematsu in Kiso, is a group of strange rock formations along the Kiso River—a perfect place to take a nap or relax. Enjoy the sounds of the flowing river along with the beautiful colors of autumn.

Akasawa Forest Park
(Agematsu, Kiso Area)

Late October to Early November


This natural forest in Kiso is the birthplace of Shinrin-yoku, or forest-bathing in English. There are many trekking paths and a working railroad in the park that makes for great photos.

Komoro Kaikoen
(Komoro City, Eastern Nagano)

Late October to Mid November


Komoro Kaikoen is home to the remains of Komoro Castle. The keep no longer exists, but its maze-like stone walls still stand covered in moss. It is well-known for its cherry blossoms and autumn leaves as well.

The Tenryu Gorge
(Tenryu-kyo, Southern Nagano)

Mid November to Late November


Carved by the flow of the Tenryu River, the Tenryu Gorge features picturesque cliffs and beautiful autumn colors in November. Visitors can enjoy the view by pleasure boat.

Where to Pick Apples and Grapes in Nagano


Did you know? Nagano is the second largest producer of both apples and grapes in Japan! The countryside is full of farmland and orchards where you can pick and eat your own fruit. Grapes are ripe from August to mid-October. Apples can be picked from August to mid/late November.

See More about Fruit-Picking in Nagano

Outdoor Activities for the Whole Family in Northern Nagano (Apple-Picking at NTA Farm)
Picking Grapes in early Autumn (Sorimachi Noen)
Experiencing the Japanese Countryside in Chikuma (Crown Farm)
Nagano Fruit-Picking Orchards PDF

Below are some of Go! Nagano’s recommended orchards for picking grapes and apples:

Shiozaki Noen & NTA Farm
(Iiyama City, Northern Nagano)

Located just 7 minutes from Iiyama Station, Shiozaki Noen and NTA Farm offer grape and apple-picking during the autumn season. Both grape and apple-picking are all-you-can-eat (with no time limit!). For the former, you also receive a bunch of grapes to take home. For apple-picking, English-speaking guides help explain the apple-growing process, as well as aspects of daily life around the area and its sightseeing spots.
Hours:
8:30 to 16:30 (Apple-picking until 16:00)
Price:
Grape Picking (All-You-Can-Eat + One Bunch): 1,500 Yen
Apple Picking (All-You-Can-Eat): 1,200 Yen


Yamanouchi Area Farms
(Yamanouchi Town, Northern Nagano)

Yamanouchi, famous for its wonderful hot springs and the snow monkeys that soak in them, also has plentiful orchards where you can enjoy fruit-picking. Inquire about fruit-picking in Yamanouchi on their English website.
Hours:
Vary
Price:
Grape Picking (All-You-Can-Eat + Gift): 1,500 Yen
Apple Picking (All-You-Can-Eat for 30 min. + Five Apples): 1,500 Yen


Shinshu Fruitsland
(Nakano City, Northern Nagano)

Located near the Shinshu Nakano IC of the Joshin’etsu Expressway, this orchard is perfect for those traveling by car. It has a large souvenir shop with all kinds of fruit and fruit products like jam and cookies. You can pick apples or grapes in the orchards behind the shop.
Hours:
8:00 to 17:30
Price:
Grape Picking (All-You-Can-Eat for 30 min.): 1,000 Yen
Grape Picking (Pay Per Bunch): 500 Yen ea.
Apple Picking (All-You-Can-Eat): 440-490 Yen


Crown Farm
(Chikuma City, Northern Nagano)

The owners of this farm near Togura Kamiyamada Onsen have been abroad and can speak English. They’re happy to introduce their orchards to guests. You can see more details of Crown Farm on the Unique Nagano website.
Hours:
8:00 to 17:00
Price:
Apple Picking (All-You-Can-Eat + Six Apples): 1,300 Yen


Sorimachi Yuran-en
(Suzaka City, Northern Nagano)

This orchard in Suzaka City sits along the Fruits Line, 15 min. on foot from Kita-Suzaka Station. You can pick you own grapes or apples here and pay by the bunch (no all-you-can-eat plans).
Hours:
8:30 to 17:00
Price:
Varies by bunch


Hara Noen
(Shiojiri City, Central Nagano)

Shiojiri City is well known for its grapes and wineries. Hara Noen is a 15 min. walk or 6 min. taxi ride from Shiojiri Station and has many delicious varieties of grapes and apples to choose from. All of their fruit-picking plans are all-you-can-eat. For more varieties, you can upgrade your plan for a few hundred yen.
Hours:
9:00 to 18:00
Price:
Grape Picking (All-You-Can-Eat*): 500 Yen
Grape Picking (All-You-Can-Eat* + Kyoho variety):1,000 Yen
Apple Picking (All-You-Can-Eat*): 500 Yen
*For two or more varieties, add 300 Yen


Fumondi Orchard
(Shiojiri City, Central Nagano)

Similarly to Hara Noen, Fumondi Orchard is a 15 min. walk from Shiojiri Station. They have over 16 varieties of grapes to try, including some of Nagano’s most popular varieties such as Shine Muscat and Nagano Purple.
Hours:
9:30 to Sunset
Price:
Grape Picking (All-You-Can-Eat of Two Varieties): 1,080 Yen
Grape Picking (All-You-Can-Eat of 5 Varieties + one bunch of Shine Muscat): 3,260 Yen


Miharashi Farm
(Ina City, Southern Nagano)

Miharashi Farm is an agricultural park with year-round activities for the family. In addition to its grape and apple-picking, it also has restaurants, hot springs, cooking lessons and workshops. See the Miharashi Farm page on our website for more details.
Hours:
9:00 to 19:00
Price:
Grape Picking (All-You-Can-Eat for 60 min.): 1,200 Yen
Apple Picking (All-You-Can-Eat for 60 min.): 600 Yen

June 12th, 2018
Enjoy Nagano’s Picturesque Mountain Scenery

Summer is on its way and the routes to Nagano’s highest peaks have revealed themselves after a long winter’s slumber. Hiking trails and Nagano’s many nature parks are now open for exploration!

Ropeways to the Sky

Nagano has over 80 ski resorts across the prefecture, some of which operate their lifts during summer. Take a ride into the sky and enjoy the views from incredible heights.

  • Ryuo Ropeway (SORA terrace)
    Ryuo Ski Park’s summer ropeway is known for its views of vast seas of clouds which can be seen from its stylish terrace. The nearby, newly renovated Sora Cafe offers coffee, sparkling beverages, and a variety of light snacks.
  • Ontake Ropeway
    See the Kiso Valley from the mountainside of Mt. Ontake, Japan’s second highest volcano and one of the country’s most sacred mountains. Shrines, stone monuments, and waterfalls are scattered around the mountain and the forests below.
  • Kita-Yatsugatake Ropeway
    Trek through the highlands of Yatsugatake while enjoying panoramic views of Japan’s three alp ranges.
  • Chuo Alps Ropeway
    Travel to Japan’s highest ropeway station (2,612m). The ampitheatre-like shape of Senjojiki Cirque

Highland Trekking

Nagano’s highlands are a perfect escape from the heat of summer. Enjoy cool breezes and beautiful views in Nagano’s mountainous regions.

  • Shigakogen
    A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with a variety of trekking and hiking trails. Enjoy panoramic views from Mt. Yokote or walk among highland marshes and ponds on the popular Onuma Ike route.
  • Tsugaike Nature Park
    Trek through Tsugaike’s highland marshes while enjoying the views of the snow-capped Hakuba mountains. Delicate alpine flowers bloom from mid-June through August.
  • Kamikochi
    Nagano’s representative highland resort area. The views of the Northern Japanese Alps from the Kappa Bridge are breath-taking. Trek through the woods along the Azusa River or hike up to one of the peaks around Kamikochi; the valley has something for everyone.
  • Happo Pond
    Atop Happo One’s ridgeline is a tranquil pond called Happo Ike. It has amazing views of Hakuba’s sanzan peaks, which reflect beautifully in its waters. The pond is just a 90-minute hike from the top of Happo One’s lifts.

If you’d like to see some of Nagano’s mountain activities from the perspective of our Go! Nagano ambassadors, check out the Mountains and Hiking section of our blog.

May 11th, 2018
Vibrant Spring Flowers and Parks

The days are warmer and cherry blossoms have given way to a variety of other colorful flowers. The fields of northern Nagano are carpeted in yellow as nanohana flowers bloom. In parks and highlands around central Nagano, shades of pink, purple and red azaleas brighten the landscape. Snow continues to melt from the mountaintops as trees and hillsides glow in emerald green.

One of the best ways to enjoy the idyllic Japanese countryside during spring is by bicycle, and there are many places throughout Nagano where you can rent one and ride through flowering fields. See our cycling page for more information.

April 2nd, 2018
Pretty in Pink

The new year has begun in Japan. The shirts of business men and women are tinted with the playful pink of spring, and cherry blossom-themed snacks and products pack the shelves of convenience stores. While some of us may be crying with hay fever blues, others are excited for new opportunities and the colorful flowers to come.

Nagano’s historical sites and towering mountain ranges look even more impressive when paired with delicate cherry blossoms. For all three, look no further than Matsumoto Castle, a national treasure and the pride of the region. For views of the alps, consider traveling to Kozen-ji Temple in Komagane before taking a ride up to the 2,600m heights of Senjojiki Cirque. If you’d like to see illuminated blossoms reflected in the water, then Garyu Park in Suzaka City is a must-see (pictured).

Due to this year’s unusually warm temperatures, cherry trees in many places around Japan are blooming as much as ten days earlier than last year. For peak flower-viewing in Nagano, get your picnics ready for early and mid-April. Since Nagano is long from North to South and quite mountainous, some areas will still be blooming in late April to early May.

For more information, see our 2018 cherry blossom forecast as well as our bloom watch page!

December 4th, 2017
Winter is Here!

Snow is falling and Nagano’s ski resorts are turning into winter wonderlands. Several resorts are already open for the season with a majority of resorts planning to open in mid-December. Head to the slopes early for discount ticket prices and short lift lines!

Winter is also full of special events and other activities. During the day, go snowshoeing, sledding or snowmobiling, and at night, enjoy illuminations and fire festivals that embody the magical and cozy charms of the season.

See more information about current conditions of the resorts below by clicking on the links:

Northern Nagano

Hakuba Valley

Eastern Nagano

Kiso Valley

September 19th, 2017
Autumn Colors in Nagano

Autumn is on its way! Cool evenings are filled with the chirps of bell crickets, and slowly but surely trees are blushing with autumn color. As we move into October and November, areas throughout Nagano will turn brilliant shades of red, yellow, and gold.

Enjoy autumn in Kamikochi, Nagano’s premier sightseeing spot. Gaze upon wide-open mountain vistas in Shiga Kogen, Tsugaike Kogen, or Senjojiki Cirque. Explore Nagano’s history at Matsumoto Castle, at Komoro Kaikoen, in Togakushi, or along the Nakasendo!

For up-to-date information on the best spots for fall foliage, see our Fall Colors Watch page!

June 6th, 2017
To the Highest Peaks

June is the start of hiking season in Nagano. Snow has melted from many of the mountain peaks and the valleys are full of vivid green hues. Areas known for skiing in winter such as Shiga Kogen and Tsugaike reopen as highland nature parks in summer, with leisurely trekking courses and hiking assisted by ski lifts.

Kamikochi, undisputed gem of the Northern Japanese Alps, enthralls visitors with its pure waters and majestic scenery. Photographers flock to the Kappa Bridge and Taisho Pond for breathtaking pictures while nature lovers walk the long, riverside trails and hikers ascend Mt. Yari, and other 3,000m peaks. Day hikes such as Mt. Yake are quite popular as well.

Ropeways offer opportunities for everyone to enjoy the cool breezes and expansive scenery of the highlands. Take the Komagatake Ropeway to Senjojiki Cirque; the Ryuoo Ropeway to the Sora Terrace; the Ontake Ropeway to the heights of Kiso’s spiritual center, or the Kita Yatsugatake Ropeway to amazing scenery of Yatsugatake and the Southern Alps.

May 2nd, 2017
In Full Color!

The days are warmer and cherry blossoms have given way to a variety of other colorful flowers. The fields of northern Nagano are carpeted in yellow as nanohana flowers bloom. In parks and highlands around central Nagano, shades of pink, purple and red azaleas brighten the landscape, and bright red and white hanamomo blossoms decorate southern Hirugami Onsen. Snow continues to melt from the mountaintops as trees and hillsides glow in emerald green.

Kamikochi opens its doors once again, allowing visitors to witness the majesty of the Northern Japanese Alps and walk along untouched forests and pure waters.

Roads closed during winter open as well, allowing passage through the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Shiga Kusatsu Route, and leisurely drives along the Venus Line of central Nagano.

April 4th, 2017
Cherry Blossom Season is Here!

While snow still occasionally drifts through the morning air, the warmth of spring has come to Nagano and slowly but surely flowers are beginning to bloom. Fresh greenery has made its way back to Nagano’s valleys and snow glistens on the mountaintops. In mid to late April, cherry blossoms will bring the parks and hillsides to life, and people will be out celebrating in typical hanami fashion with festivals, picnics and plenty of beer.

Don’t miss out on some of Nagano’s—and even Japan’s—most beautiful cherry blossom spots this year! Enjoy panoramic views of the Japanese Alps framed by cherry tree branches and clouds of cherry blossoms so thick that you can’t even see the sky! Learn more about some of our favorite cherry blossom spots here, or see our sakura watch page for up-to-date bloom information.