In another attempt to beat the summer heat, I headed up to Shigakogen with a group of friends to enjoy the highland weather and the area’s unspoilt nature. There are a total of 19 trails around Shigakogen that climb its many peaks, wander its marshlands and cut through its forests. In addition to its beautiful ponds and mountains, the views of the Nagano Plain below are stunning.
We drove up Shigakogen separately and met in the Kuma-no-yu area by the Sanzen Ski lifts. There is plenty of parking next to the ski lift and by the hotels across the street. A bus stop is also nearby, so those without a car can use the Shigakogen line bus from Nagano or Yudanaka station to get here.
Our course for the day was the Ikemeguri Trail (#6 on Shigakogen’s list here) which passes through Shiga’s marshlands and ponds before reaching Onuma-ike. The whole course takes about four hours total. You can either walk straight through the course and ride a bus back from the ending point, or double back from Onumaike to Kuma-no-yu. If you do the latter you can enjoy a dip in the local Kuma-no-yu hot springs .
The weather was great and Shigakogen was a pleasant 27°C. A few clouds hung high in the sky and a gentle breeze blew over the fields below. The trail was shaded by birch and pine forests and interposed with sections of man-made boardwalks across delicate marshes.
About 2 hours into our hike, we came to a clearing above the striking, cerulean-blue waters of Onuma-ike. As we descended towards the shore the water changed colors, becoming more vibrant and green one moment, calm and clear the next. When we finally reached the shore we walked out towards the bright torii gate in front of the pond’s Shinto shrine. The contrast of the lacquered wood and water made for a great photo op.
The rest of the trail continued through shaded woods, lasting about another hour and a half. When we resurfaced on the main road we took a friend’s car back to our starting point. As a reward for our outdoorsiness we planned to take a dip in the hot spring there but it was inundated with high schoolers on vacation. Instead, we headed down the mountain and got gelato at one of my favorite places in Nakano City, then parted ways to our separate air-conditioned apartments.
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to visit Shigakogen yourself but don’t have your own vehicle, check our Shigakogen line bus timetable.
Shigakogen Trails list
See this page for a list of all of Shigakogen’s hiking trails (Japanese only).
This hotel at the base of the Kumanoyu ski resort is known for its jade-colored hot springs. The water contains a variety of minerals and a relatively neutral pH. A great place to soak after a long day on the slopes or in the mountains.
Entrance Fee: 1000 yen for Adults
Hours: 12:30 to 15:30 (Weekdays), 12:30 to 15:00 (Weekends)
Fiore Gelato Shop
This small shop in front of the Tsuruya in Nakano City is conveniently located on the main road towards Shigakogen. They have a rotating selection of flavors including local specialties Nagano Purple (Grape) and Shinshu Ringo (Apple).
Holidays: Closed on Wednesdays
Hours: 10:00 to 18:00
Location: See Google Maps
The rainy season has ended and the time for hiking is officially here. Monday’s weather was perfect, so a couple of us decided to climb Chougatake, a 2,677 meter high mountain in Azumino. Bordering Kamikochi to the Southeast, it has splendid views of the Northern Japanese Alps.
On Saturday we set out for a tour of Kirigamine Kogen, one of Nagano’s central highland areas connected by the Venus Line. The name Kirigamine means “the misty peak,” because the warm airs of Suwa regularly rise up here and condense into fog. On clear days, however, you can enjoy an amazing view from the top of Kurumayama, the tallest point of the Kirigamine area.
The temperature has become much warmer recently, and we ventured to go on a hike along an ancient Nakasendo lane.
Nakasendo Lane is now paralleled to the state route 19, and some parts of it are preserved as they were during the ancient times from the Samurai Period.
In the Edo Period, this lane was one of the main official routes which ran between Tokyo and Kyoto al the way for more than 600km.
All through the route, there used to be altogether 69 post station towns to cater for travelers.
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Hakuba’s main attraction during the warmer months is the hiking and the most popular day hike would be Happo Ike ( Happo Pond). Each day hundreds of people of all ages ascend up into the mountains to this spectacular viewing platform. I would rate it on a world scale at “as good as it gets”. The journey starts with a Gondola ride and then 2 chairlifts that are lowered after the winter which brings you closer to the natural foliage. The top of the resort by itself has some amazing views for those not up to the hiking and is certainly worth the trip. For the more adventurous the 45 minute hike along some rocky pathways and boardwalk steps will offer up some breathtaking vistas along the way. The route follows the ridgeline so there are many vantage spots for photos and even the most novice of photographers will be taking professional shots here. The rocky step sections along the way can be a little difficult to manoeuvre so take your time on the hike and absorb the environment. Once you reach the pond the views will amaze you with the stunning back drop of 3000 meter peaks. This is truly a special place.
Aussie expat and fellow Go-Nagano ambassador has been at it again. He just published his 3rd book in his Hiking, Walking & Biking Nagano Guide — the Karuizawa edition. Joining the Chikuma City and Ueda City editions, Peter’s guide gives detailed information on lots of well-researched courses from walks around town to vigourous hikes in the nearby mountains.
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The Shin-etsu Trail 信越トレイル
Nestled along the Sekida Ridge (about 1,000m above sea level) on the border of Nagano and Niigata Prefectures, the 80km Shin-etsu trail served as an important link from the coast into the interior areas. The rich beech forests give away to beautiful mountain vistas on this lush trail. The trail is open from roughly mid-April until mid-November.
This route helped transport salt and sea products from Niigata to Nagano. And, mustard seed oil and Uchiyama paper from Nagano to Niigata. During the Warring States period, the famous warlord Uesugi Kenshin reportedly led tens of thousands of men to fight the Battle of Kawanakajima around the mid 1500`s. The trail is divided into 6 sections and can be easily accessed by any of the 5 visitors’ centers. Camping is available along the trail.
Access: For the southern part of the trail via Madarao Kogen:
20 minutes drive from IC Toyota/Iiyama
or 20 minute taxi ride from JR Iiyama Station on the Iiyama Line
Link: Shin-etsu Trail Club
Guided tours are available: TEL: 0269-69-2888 email@example.com
At 2568m, Mt. Asama is the largest mountain in eastern Nagano. The active volcano towers over Komoro and Karuizawa, frequently sending up plumes of volcanic ash and smoke. The Nagano Shinkansen is named after Mt. Asama, and riders of the bullet train get a front seat view of the awe-inspiring mountain.
But what does the world look like from the top of Mt. Asama? And can you see into the volcanic crater? I had always been curious, so on a recent day when our oldest son had a day off from middle school, we decided to make an ascent of the volcano.
On September 17th, we went through the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, which is a famous mountainous scenic passage going up from Toyama (altitude: 7m) to Murodo (2,450m) and down to Omachi (713m) by cable cars and special trolley buses.
We are a multilingual group of Japanese, Brit, Taiwanese, Korean, and Thai, who will translate and write contents of new leaflets and website this year.
Mt. Tateyama is one of the Japan’s three sacred mountains (other two are Mt. Fuji and Mt. Hakusan) and some ponds and places are named after gods, heaven and hell. For example, Mikurigaike, the beautiful cobalt blue pond in the first photo, is named as “a pond of the kitchen for gods” and another red pond is named as “a pond of bloody hell”!
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