Take in Nagano’s top highlights, including a samurai-era post town, a national treasure castle, the snow monkeys, the spiritual morning ritual at venerable Zenkoji Temple and the premier resort town of Karuizawa.
- Walk the samurai road at Narai-juku, the longest post town on the Nakasendo
- Visit Matsumoto Castle, Japan’s oldest surviving keep
- Stay at a traditional ryokan at Asama Onsen and soak in an onsen bath
- Trek to the world-famous snow monkeys at Jigokudani
- Breathe the rarified air at the ritzy resort town of Karuizawa
Day 1: Samurai-era post town and Matsumoto Castle
Travel the Kiso Valley to Narai-juku then tour Matsumoto’s famous castle and its iconic shopping streets.
If you have an extra day to spend in Nagano, Kamikochi is an excellent option from Matsumoto. The gateway to the Northern Japanese Alps, Kamikochi is a pristine natural wonderland, with the turquoise-blue Azusa River and breathtaking views of the towering Hotaka Range.
Day 2: Snow Monkeys and Zenkoji Temple’s historical neighborhoods.
Take a short hike to see the snow monkeys then head to Nagano City to stroll around Zenkoji’s temple district and take in the night life.
Option: Togakushi Soba Noodles
Soba (buckwheat) noodles are Nagano’s quintessential dish, and Togakushi in the highlands above central Nagano City is one of the main buckwheat growing areas. A side trip there is highly recommended.
Day 3: Solemn Temple and Luxury Resort
Experience the rituals and chants of Zenkoji Temple’s ceremony then head to Karuizawa, Nagano’s premier resort town.
From Karuizawa, it is a quick 65 minutes by Shinkansen to Tokyo. But with so much to see and to, you might be tempted to spend another night in Nagano—or even a lifetime!