Where to Go Stargazing in Nagano

Escape the city lights and behold the beautiful starry skies of Nagano.

Nagano is known for its beautiful nature, fresh air and clear skies. Far away from the lights of the big city, Nagano offers some truly spectacular starry scenery. Sometimes it is nice to slow down and spend some time just looking up.

Star Village Achi

Starry skies in Southern Nagano's Achi Village

Star Village Achi is said to be the best place to see the stars in all of Japan. It was even recognized for having the most visible and beautiful stars by the Ministry of Environment in 2006.

You can take the gondola from the base of Heavens Sonohara Snow World to Star Village Achi, where there is a café, telescopes and an open field that is perfect for stargazing. At over 1,400 meters in altitude and surrounded by the Japanese Alps, there is little light pollution and only the feeling of being amongst the stars.

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Senjojiki Cirque

A timelapse of the stars atop Senjojiki Cirque

At an altitude of 2,600 meters high, Komatagake’s Senjojiki Cirque is another popular destination for anyone wanting to view starry skies. Here, guests can stay at Japan’s highest altitude hotel, Hotel Senjojiki.

Enjoy stargazing and listening to the guide’s commentary in a relaxed atmosphere. Although lovely all year around, the cold temperatures and clear skies make Senjojiki Cirque especially beautiful during the winter months. Lucky guests during the winter may even be able to see the sunrise over Mt. Fuji which only happens a few times a year.

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Ginga Momiji Campground

What better place for a stargazer to stay than in a sleeping bag with a view of the stars?

Ginga Momiji Campground, whose name roughly translates to "the galaxy and maple tree field," was also named one of the best places to view stars in all of Japan.

Here there are tent sites as well as bungalows set far away from the convenience of city life. and Many constellations and stars are visible in any season. This is a great spot for stargazing enthusiasts who want to spend the night (or a few) under the open sky.

Nobeyama Radio Observatory

The Nobeyama Milimeter Array (NMA) of Nobeyama Radio Observatory
©Shinshu Minamimaki Village

Perhaps the best place for the more serious or aspiring astronomers, Nobeyama Radio Observatory is a project overseen by the National Astronomical Organization of Japan. Nobeyama Radio Observatory houses one of the world’s most powerful radio telescopes and both students and researchers frequently visit the facility.

Nobeyama's starry skies
©Shinshu Minamimaki Village

Part of the campus is open to the public and the tour course takes you through explanatory panels and interesting astronomical objects. During the summer holiday once a year, the campus also holds an open house event where guests can hear special lectures and see special equipment usually closed to the public.

Takamine Kogen (Takamine Onsen)

©Komoro Tourism Bureau

At an altitude of 2,000 meters, Takamine Kogen offers other-worldly views above the clouds of the stars and cityscape below. It is a popular summer destination but the clear, cold winter air provides the clearest views of the year.

Takamine Onsen and Takamine Kogen Hotel (Japanese site) are both wonderful places to stay for those wanting to relax in the hot springs while stargazing. Both offer guided stargazing gatherings for their guests and telescopes are available for an even closer look at the numerous constellations.

For early risers, a sea of clouds is often visible in the early mornings with even an occasional glimpse of Mt. Fuji in the distance.

Norikura Kogen

Starry skies above one of Norikura Kogen's many ponds

Even though Norikura Kogen is located slightly lower than some of the more well-known stargazing destinations, it is still one of the best places to see shooting stars and the Milky Way.

At 1,500 meters high, Norikura Kogen is set amongst the Northern Japanese Alps close to Kamikochi, a famous scenic and mountaineering area. There are many lodges and guesthouses here that offer outdoor activities throughout the year. Weather permitting, guests can make reservations to join a stargazing tour. Here, the best stargazing happens when the new moon phase begins, so tours are usually held around those dates. Be sure to check in advance as tours tend to fill up quickly and are not held every day.

Recommended accommodations that offer stargazing tours include Guesthouse Raicho and Kyukamura Norikura Kogen National Park Resort. Guests can relax while enjoying the surrounding rugged mountains and beautiful nature.

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Stargazers at Kera Ike Ice Rink in Karuizawa

Karuizawa is another one of Nagano’s popular highland areas, where city folk often travel during summer to escape the heat. Its picturesque nature, variety of wildlife and brilliant starry skies are icing on the cake.

The Picchio Wildlife Research Center offers a wide variety of nature tours around Karuizawa, and during winter, they hold stargazing tours at the Kera Ike Ice Rink. The rink is open for ice skaters during the day, and in the evening, it transforms into a theater for watching the stars. Cozy up with a warm drink and enjoy the show.

See details on the stargazing tour on Picchio’s website. Reservations are required.

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