20th Roukaku Plum Garden Flower Festival

April 1st, 2014 by
Category: Events, Experience, Information, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

Dates: April 5th (Sat)-12th, 2014 (festival events on 4/5 and 4/6)

Place: Roukaku Bai-en, Shinshu-Shinmachi, Nagano-City

長野市信州新町「ろうかく梅園」

In early April spring returns to Nagano as the snow finally melts away. Come see nearly 600 plum trees in blossom during the festival and fragrance fills the air as people gather to enjoy the relaxing Shinshu spring.

 

One Month and Counting for the Start of the Mori Apricot Blossom Festival

March 6th, 2013 by
Category: Events, Seasonal Topics

The main Spring event for our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada and the greater Chikuma City area is the Mori “Apricot Village” Apricot Blossom Festival.  The dates for the 2013 edition have been announced as follows:

58th Annual Mori Apricot Blossom Festival April 6th-21st 2013.
Anzu-no-Sato Sketch Park Light Up will be April 12th-14th from 6-9pm.

Mori "Apricot Village" Apricot Blossom Festival Map for 2013

And, a bit of big news:  Japan’s Emperor is reportedly planning on coming to see the blossoms this year.  Actual date will depend on the timing of the blossoms.  As soon as information is released, we will announce it here on the blog.

So if you’ve been thinking about coming to see Mori’s apricot blossoms, perhaps this is the year to do it — with no less than the Emperor of Japan coming!

Soft pink apricot blossoms in Mori (Scheduled to Bloom Starting April 6th for 2013)

Mori Apricot Village is 12km from our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada, approx. 25 minutes by car.  Train access is via Yashiro Station on the Shinano Railway line.

Hanamomo peach blossoms in Achi village

May 10th, 2012 by
Category: Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

“Hanamomo Kaido(road)” is well-known for its beautiful “hanamomo” or ornamental peach blossoms. In the southern part of Nagano prefecture,  ranging from Iida city in Ina valley to Nagiso village in Kiso valley, there are thousands of  well-cared hanamomo trees.

They are usually at their best from April through early May, almost for a month. This year, because of the unseasonal cold weather in April, the best season started late April.

Hanamomo peach in Hirugami onsen-kyo

 

The photo above is taken in Hirugami onsen-kyo. It is a relatively new hot spa resort, the source of its hot water happened to be discovered  in the trial boring to construct a national railroad through  a huge mountain in 1973.

It would be fun if you spend some time on the riverbed of the Achi-gawa.

people enjoying themselves by the Achi (Achi-gawa)

 

The following is the hanamomo peach blossoms in area named Tsukikawa. You will be greeted by blossoms in crimson, pure white, rose pink , and most impressively, white blossoms tinged with pink. There are several paths lined with two thousand hanamomo trees in total, on which you can walk comfortably.

Hanamomo peach paths in Tsukikawa area, Achi

 

Nagano city in full bloom!

April 20th, 2012 by
Category: Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing
 

somei yoshino in Matsushiro castle, Nagano city

 

Flowers, Flowers!
The height of spring has finally come here in Nagano city, Nagano, Japan!

The cherries are blossoming late this year by a week or two throughout Japan. It was just last week when I saw so many tourists on sightseeing tour buses (featuring sakura blossom viewing) greatly disappointed to find the cherry blossoms still in bud.

In and around the city of Nagano, which is well-known as the host city of the Nagano Winter Olympic Games 1998, almost every kind of spring blossoms and flowers are in all glory. Sakura, or cherry blossoms, apricot, magnolia, dandelion, shepherd’s purse flower all come into bloom!
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Mori “Apricot Village” in full bloom

April 20th, 2012 by
Category: Information

Chikuma City’s Mori District is known as the Apricot Village and has the most apricot trees of any district in all of Japan. Every year, the apricot blossoms attract visitors from all over the country. This year, due to the cold winter, the blossoms are blooming about 2 weeks later than usual. But I’m happy to say the valley is in full bloom now. The entire valley is covered in the light whitish-pink blossoms. They should last through the end of April.

Apricot Blossoms in Mori "Apricot Village"

Climbing Mt Oobayashi

August 24th, 2011 by
Category: Outdoor Activities

At 1333 meters, Mt Oobayashi (大林山) is the highest mountain overlooking Togura-Kamiyamada onsen on the west side of the Chikuma River valley. To get to the start of the climb, take route 77 south from Togura-Kamiyamada onsen. At the Mezawa Bridge intersection, turn right on route 55. After about 1 km you will see Chishiki Temple on the right. If you have time, stop and take a look around the temple, which has an 11-faced goddess that is displayed in public only once per year.

Follow the road as it winds up the mountain. Just before the tunnel, there is a car park on the left. The track starts from here and is signposted in Japanese (look for the wooden sign that says 八頭 大林 登り口). After about 200 meters the track reaches the old route 55. Turn right and follow the road for about 100m. The track then goes off to the left, up the hill. After climbing up the hill, you reach an intersection. The track on the right goes up a short steep climb to the top of Mt Hatto (八頭), although the views from here are somewhat obscured. We saw fresh bear droppings on the track here, so be careful.

Returning to the main track, turn right and follow the path to the summit. In the spring, you will see many purple and orange mountain azaleas flowering along the path. On a clear day, from the top you can see Mt Kamuriki (1252m) to the north. To the northeast is the Nagano City plain, and to the east, the Chikuma River valley at Togura-Kamiyamada.

Looking down to Togura Kamiyamada from the summit of Mt. Oobayashi

Looking down to Togura Kamiyamada from the summit of Mt. Oobayashi

Azaleas at the top of Mt Oobayashi

Azaleas at the top of Mt Oobayashi

Hike in Kamikochi

June 11th, 2011 by
Category: Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

Kappa Bridge and Japan Alps Mountains in the background

Kappa Bridge and Japan Alps Mountains in the background

I hiked in Kamikochi, which is a popular hiking and sightseeing spot and also a trekking gateway to the Japan Alps, with two Japanese, one Brit and one American.
I think May and June is the best season in Kamikochi if the weather is fine (despite the rainy season) because we can see the Japan Alps mountains covered with snow, some wild flowers and the fresh green of trees and it is less crowded than summer.
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Spring trip to Iiyama — Nanohana Blossoms and

May 19th, 2011 by
Category: Culture Art, Information, Seasonal Topics

Our family took a drive to Iiyama City north of Nagano City and adjacent to Niigata Prefecture. We timed it to see yellow fields of nanohana blossoms.

(Nanohana also has an unfortunate name in English: rapeweed. Allow me as I stick to the Japanese name, nanohana, which has a much more elegant feel.)

Iiyama's Nanohana blossoms with the Chikuma River and Mountains in the Background

Iiyama's Nanohana blossoms with the Chikuma River and Mountains in the Background

I had seen pictures of the fields filled with yellow flowers with the Chikuma River and Nagano’s ‘five northern peaks’ in the background. But pictures don’t do the flowers justice. For one thing, seeing them in person means you can enjoy the sweet scent of the flowers wafting on the breeze.

And for another reason, Iiyama’s main nanohana park, called simply enough ‘Nanohana Park’, has a nanohana maize allowing you to immerse yourself in the field amongst the plants bursting with yellow color.

Lost in the maze

Lost in the maze

The flowers normally bloom between mid April and early May, with special events scheduled from May 3rd to the 5th coinciding with Japan’s Golden Week holiday. This year, however, the blossoms are about a week later than usual.

Our drive to Iiyama had another purpose: to see the Mayumi Takahashi Doll Museum.

Mayumi Takahashi Doll Museum Facade

Mayumi Takahashi Doll Museum Facade

Opened just in April of last year, the museum has attracted visitors from all over Japan to see Mayumi-san’s unique dolls that adroitly depict the type of country bumpkins one is apt to see in Iiyama’s backroads.

The museum itself has limited display space, but that is more than compensated by the enjoyment that can be had from looking at each individual doll’s expression and composure, especially in relation to the background displays.

The doll museum is set in a neighborhood filled with traditional Japanese buildings. Especially impressive is ‘Butsudan-dori (street)’. A Butsudan is a Buddhist altar that most families in Japan have in a prominent place in their houses. I had heard that Iiyama is a major manufacturer of Butsudan, but I wasn’t aware that there was a whole street of Butsudan shops! I guess it makes sense, though, to have a Butsudan shopping district here in Japan.

Butsudan Shopping Street

Butsudan Shopping Street

There was an interesting phenomenon that came out of seeing the doll museum. Driving around the town and in outlying farming areas afterwards and seeing the old ladies bent over in the fields or the old gentlemen walking along the back streets, I started to get a sense of where Mayumi-san got the inspiration for her dolls!

Mayumi Takahashi Doll Museum
2941-1 Iiyama Oaza, Iiyama City
Tel (0269)67-0139
Hours: 9:00-17:00 (Apr-Nov); 10:00-16:00 (Dec-Mar)
Closed Wednesdays
600 yen for adults, 400 yen for middle and elementary school students

Chikuma City’s Apricot Village Trees in Full Bloom

April 18th, 2011 by
Category: Outdoor Activities

In the world of apricot blossoms, 2 days makes a huge difference. Last Thursday, I went  Apricot Village in Chikuma City’s Mori district to see if the namesake apricot trees were in bloom or not. They were only at 20-30% at that time. Then I went again on Saturday, and was happy to see that they were in full bloom! Weekend visitors were no doubt thrilled to be able to enjoy the apricot blossoms and their subtle pink beauty. Mori’s laid back farming village setting makes for such a quaint background to the apricot trees. I highly suggest a trip to see them.

Mori's apricot trees in full bloom

Mori's apricot trees in full bloom

Other Nagano flower info (as of Monday 18-Apr)

Togura Kamiyamada Onsen’s Chuo Park cherry blossoms: Full bloom
Togura Kamiyamada Onsen’s Wakamiya apricot blossoms along the Chikuma River: Full bloom

According to our weekend guests:
Ueda Castle cherry blossoms: Full Bloom

According to fellow Inbound Ambassador Andy, Matsumoto Castle cherry blossoms: Full Bloom (beautifully lit up at night)

According to Ina City Tourism Dept.:
Takato Castle cherry blossoms: Full Bloom

Access

By Train:  From Yashiro Station on the Shinano Railway line there is regular bus service to the Mori area, or a 5 minute taxi ride, or 25 min. walk.

By car:  From Route 18 in Chikuma City’s central business area, take Route 403 / County 392 approx. 2km.

Close-up of the apricot blossoms

Close-up of the apricot blossoms

What’s going to happen with this year’s Apricot Festival in Mori’s ‘Apricot Village’?

March 21st, 2011 by
Category: Events, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

With all the images of earthquake / tsunami victims on the TV, it is understandable that everyone loses a desire to enjoy a festival.  As a result, festivals throughout Japan are being canceled.  So what is going to happen to Togura Kamiyamada Onsen / Chikuma City’s banner festival, the Mori ‘Apricot Village’ Apricot Festival?

According to the city’s tourism association, the apricot trees will bloom despite the natural disaster, and people will come and see the blossoms.  So if the festival organizers don’t set up a minimum of road signs and parking facilities, there will be chaos.  Hence there will be road signs and parking set up, but all festival advertising and things like the evening light-up event will be canceled.

In other words, a non-festive festival.

If you ask me, though, coming to see the ephemeral light pink apricot blossoms will raise people’s spirits.  There is something about the scene of the quaint valley of Mori filled with the light pink blossoms of thousands of apricot trees.  It will give everyone a desperately needed dose of happiness.

This is what the Mori 'Apricot Village' looks like in full bloom

This is what the Mori 'Apricot Village' looks like in full bloom

The apricot blossoms are predicted to be in bloom from April 2nd thru April 16th, 2011.  And after enjoying the beauty of the apricot blossoms, be sure to stop at Togura Kamiyamada Onsen for a bath!

Click here for apricot blossom updates.