Mark enjoying early winter in Togakushi
Mark from the States was one of our recent guests. He came to Nagano to escape the concrete jungle of Tokyo. Mark had planned on just spending one night, but when I explained about the snow monkeys of Jigokudani and the spiritual trees of Togakushi, he ended up staying 3 days and making day trips to the monkeys and Togakushi Mountain. And by the look on his face, I’d say he enjoyed his travels in Nagano.
Note: Nagano is starting to enter winter mode. Up at Togakushi Mountain, the path to Okusha Shrine which is lined by impressively huge cedar trees, is starting to get covered in snow.
Trailhead to Togakushi's Okusha Shrine
The Ninpo Center across the street from the trailhead will be open for business one last weekend Nov. 21-23 before the ninjas go into hiding (hibernation?) for the winter.
Togakushi Ninpo Center transitioning to Winter. (Any ninjas hiding?)
I just spoke with fellow Nagano Ambassador, Zeno-san in Shibu-Yudanaka. He said the snow monkeys are now in their snowy element. I saw the Japanese Alps yesterday when I went to Matsumoto for a workshop — the snow level looks like it’s down to around 1000 meters. Down here in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen (elevation 370 meters above sea level), our hills are still in orangeish brown autumn leaf mode, quite a contrast with snowy-white Hakuba Mountain in the distance.
This is a time of transition here in Nagano. So come up and enjoy it, like Mark did!
Finally, a few more Togakushi Okusha pictures from Mark-san:
There’s a saying in Japanese that basically translates as, “Wives and tatami mats are best when they are new.” Here in Nagano, I think there is one more thing that people get excited about when new: soba. Nagano is proud of its buckwheat noodles, and it seems everywhere you look nowadays, there’s a Soba Festival going on somewhere in Nagano. Our guests often ask “When does Shin (New) Soba start?” So I checked with my soba man, Yamaguchi-san of Yamaguchi-ya soba restaurant in Togakushi. He told me that harvest has already started, but it takes time to process the soba and verify the quality of the crop. So his restaurant plans on starting New Soba on the first of November. Other restaurants may have already started serving New Soba, but you might want to verify whether or not they use local buckwheat.
A nagano buckwheat field waiting to be turned into yummy soba noodles
So in order to get New Soba, you have to wait a little while longer. I promise, though, it will be worth the wait.
Click here for the website of Yamaguchi-ya soba restaurant in Togakushi