Hi, Will be visiting Matsumoto Castle on 22 Nov upon arrival in Tokyo. Have booked 2 nights in Nagano. Will be visiting either Chikuma or Beesho Onsen on 23 Nov in the day before returning to Nagano to watch the fireworks at night. Between Chikuma or Beesho Onsen, which would you recommend if I want to enjoy nature – short hiking and scenery and easy access? I am also open to other nearby places and amend my hotel booking to spend the first night elsewhere. Please also recommend a good place to watch the fireworks. Thanks!
Choosing between Chikuma’s Togura Kamiyamada Onsen and Bessho Onsen in Ueda comes down to personal preference.
Togura Kamiyamada was built more recently and has many hotels and restaurants that reflect the atmosphere of the Showa period. You can walk around in Yukata and enjoy onsen town activities like shateki (shooting arcades). Also, one of the local ryokan owners offers cycling tours of the area. As for access, the nearest station is Togura Station and buses run into town from there. Your hotel operator may be able to pick you up as well.
Bessho Onsen is outside of Ueda City and has a long history. Beautiful temples can be found here, like the Kitamuki Kannon and Anraku-ji, but the town is very quiet. There are three hot springs in town that you can visit while wearing yukata, as well as the lovely hot springs in your hotel. There are also a number of drinking fountains that have natural mineral water, not necessarily delicious but certainly good for you! Bessho can be accessed by 30 min. train ride from Ueda Station.
Considering that you’ll be visiting one of them after Matsumoto and before Nagano City, Chikuma’s Togura Kamiyamada Onsen will be a more convenient trip as its located between the two.
Regarding the Ebisuko Fireworks, the main viewing area is along the Sai River between the Tanbajima and Nagano Ohashi bridges. Buses will run between Nagano Station and the viewing area from 15:00. You can take the Nagano bus from East Exit platform 23 (180 yen one way), or the Alpico bus from Zenkoji Exit platform 2 (200 yen one way). You can see a map of the venue here (only in Japanese).
I hope that answers your question. Let me know if I can help you with anything else!
Thank you very much for the swift and detailed reply!
Will likely spend one night in Chikuma.