Last week at the height of cherry blossom season, we headed down to Azumino to enjoy some early spring rafting! The combination of fast currents, snow-capped mountains, and blooming cherry trees are perfect for an exciting and scenic day on the water. Read the rest of this entry »
Soba noodles can be eaten throughout Japan but they are especially famous in Nagano. With abundant buckwheat and fresh water from the mountains, Nagano’s artisans make simple yet incredibly aromatic soba. After a plate or two or three, you find yourself hooked on this deceptively delicious dish.
And while it’s not necessarily true that the soba you make yourself is more delicious—let’s be honest, our crudely cut soba noodles pale in comparison to a soba master’s—the experience is a whole lot of fun and makes for a great memory. There are a number of places throughout the prefecture where you can try making soba for yourself and learn to appreciate soba made by the professionals. Read the rest of this entry »
The Northern Nagano valley opens up behind the Madarao Kogen hotel.
The Madarao and Tangram ski resorts sit between Iiyama City and Shinano-machi in Northern Nagano prefecture on opposite faces of Mt. Madarao. They are interconnected and you can ride both resorts in the same day with the 5,000 yen “Mountain Pass.” They resorts are medium-sized with well-rounded courses that suit all levels of skiers and snowboarders. Smooth pistes, moguls, and terrain parks are all available, but these resorts’ specialties are trees and powder, often referred to locally as “Madapow.” Read the rest of this entry »
Enjoy fire festivals, illuminations and more in this winter wonderland.
Winter is here. Snow is falling steadily up in the mountains and people around Nagano are bringing out their kotatsu tables, kerosene heaters and nabe pots. Once again, it’s that time of year for skiing, hot springs and great winter festivals. Why stay inside when you could warm up in front of a magnificent fire festival or in the company of Japan’s many spirits?
When I tell people that I live in Nagano, they always respond with an envious, “Suzushii naaaaa (How Refreshing)!” But while they’re imagining all of the grassy highland fields gently undulating in the cool breeze, I’m sitting in my apartment in Nagano city sweating profusely on my couch. I’ve been doing my best recently to get out of the city and into the cooler parts of Nagano, and this weekend I visited Hakuba for some outdoor adventures. Read the rest of this entry »
An outdoor bath with beautiful views of the Yatsugatake mountain range in Komi city.
Japan is one of the most volcanically active countries in the world, blessing it with thousands of naturally heated mineral springs. These hot springs, or Onsen, have served an important role in Japanese daily life for hundreds of years. Locals came to the baths to cleanse themselves and socialize, and others came from far and wide to soak in springs that would cure their ills. Now, soaking in hot springs is an popular pastime attracting visitors from around the world. Read the rest of this entry »
I took our 2 elementary school age kids to the Chausuyama Zoo and Dinosaur Park in Nagano City’s Shinonoi District one recent fine autumn day.
I was reminded how fun it is to climb a dinosaur,
Our daughter Misaki climbing the Chausuyama Dino Park triceratops, with the Zenkoji Plain in the background.
and just how cute the zoo’s lesser pandas are.
One of the Chausuyama Zoo's popular lesser pandas entertaining the audience
Chausuyama makes a great play date destination for families with small kids.
By the way, Chausuyama Zoo’s 2014 edition of its annual Zoo Festival takes place October 18th and 19th. Besides the normal activities such as feeding the giraffes and pony riding, there will also be turtle races (?), naming the baby lesser pandas, and other fun events.
Spending an afternoon cross-country skiing in Nabekura Highlands is the perfect respite. Fields of white powder snow welcome you as you follow the trail which is surrounded by mountains. Unlike the fast-pace of downhill skiing, cross country provides a chance to slow-down and experience the nature first-hand. In your light-weight skis and boots you can glide peacefully down the path.
Details: Nabekura Highlands, Mori-no-Ie 0269-29-2888
Address: 1571-15 Teruoka, Iiyama-shi, Nagano-ken 389-2601
Access: 40 minutes from the IC Toyota-Iiyama on the Joshin-etsu Expressway
Cross Country rental available: 2,500 Yen per day (2,000 yen half-day)
Snowshoe rental is also available. Guides can be arranged for an additional fee.
Looking for a place to fish? While Nagano is land-locked; you can enjoy fishing at the Azumino Fishing Center year round. Choose from bait fishing and take the fish you caught home and they will even gut the fish for a small extra fee. Or, try your hand at lure or fly-fishing (catch and release). See the website for prices.
This spring-fed fishing center provides majestic views of the Northern Alps and is located near the Daiou Wasabi Farm.
On September 18th, 2 new baby red pandas(lesser pandas) were revealed to the public at the Nagano Chausuyama Zoo. The twins were born June 21st, 2013. At first, the babies can only be seen between 10am and 10:30am and 3pm and 3:30pm as they are getting used to their new environment. Gradually, as they adapt, they will spend more time with the public. There are 19 red pandas at the zoo. Come and check out these “living stuffed animals” that are too cute to be real.
You can even submit names for the pandas at the Chausuyama Zoo Fall Festival on October 19th (Sat) and 20th (Sun) from 9:30am until 4:30pm. Click here
The Nagano Chausuyama Zoo with 64 species of creatures including tigers, lions, wombats and giraffes was established in 1983. Located on the top of verdant Mt. Chausu, the views of the Nagano cityscape are beautiful and nearby there is the Dinosaur Park, Botanical Garden and a mallet-golf course. More info
Hours of operation:
March 1st until end of November 9:30am until 4:30pm
December 1st until end of February 10:00am until 4:00pm
Entrance: 500 Yen for adults, 100 yen for children elementary and junior high school students
Car: 15 minute drive from JR Shinonoi Station
Train: Closest station is JR Shinonoi
Bus: “Zoo-guru bus” runs on weekends from April until the end of October.