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13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It’s Not Winter Ski Season — Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and Norikura

Win a visit to Kamikochi value S$4,700 (flights, accommodation, every thing!)! Learn how here.

Nagano could also be well-known for its winter activities like skiing at snow resorts, but the perfect season to go to Nagano is definitely not in the course of the winter.

Yep, not even when it means getting to see monkeys soak in an onsen on the Jigokudani Monkey Park.

From the majestic Japanese alps in Kamikochi to ice walls in Norikura, there are lots extra issues to do in Nagano apart from skiing and seeing snow monkeys.

So it’s about time that the Japanese countryside doesn’t get swept beneath the rug on the subject of non-winter destinations! Cities are overrated, guys. Countryside areas like Nagano look even higher in the spring or fall, and you gained’t even have to danger freezing your butt off for these views.

My first publicity to the Japanese countryside was in Niigata’s Echigo-Yuzawa for the Fuji Rock Pageant, and it left me wanting more. There are virtually all the time no crowds, filled with tranquil nature, and let me put this on report — the Japanese know what individuals need.

Japanese alps in Kamikochi in the autumn - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraThe Japanese alps in the autumn.

Epic viewpoints don’t require leaping by way of hoops of fireside or traversing treacherous rivers to get to. Mountaineering trails are superbly paved to go well with each individual and their grandma, and in Nagano, efforts are made to ensure you gained’t be missing out on something even in the event you don’t have a automotive.

So if Nagano’s only reserved in your December vacation, listed here are the reason why it’s time to modify issues up.

Learn also: 6D5N Nagano Itinerary — The Romantic Getaway three Hours from Tokyo

1) It’s the gateway to the Japanese Alps

View of Kamikochi Taisho Pond - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraTaisho Pond, Kamikochi.

“You mean the gateway will close in the winter, meh?” Um, the reply is sort of actually yes. Nagano is most well-known for its Mount Fuji equal, the Japanese alps, in Kamikochi. However you’ll be able to overlook about getting this up shut in the winter — Kamikochi, along with many different places in Nagano, only open to guests from 17 April to 15 November, when there isn’t loopy snow.

Dubbed considered one of Japan’s greatest mountaineering spots, you may say Kamikochi’s match for a royal — Kamikochi pummelled its strategy to grow to be considered one of Japan’s favourite city escapes, partially because the Imperial Family’s recognized to make frequent visits to siam the crowds too.

For more deets on the mountaineering trail and methods to get there, take a look at our Nagano itinerary!

2) Straightforward strolling trails

The Avenue of Cedar Trees Leading Up to the Okusha Shrine in Togakushi - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraAvenue of Cedar Timber in the direction of Okusha Shrine, Togakushi

As I stated, every thing is properly paved for you with signs erected now and again to keep you on the appropriate path. “Safety is sexy” is my mantra, so I gladly welcome this over risking a sprained ankle down slippery slopes, tripping on unfastened gravel or crossing rivers over logs…

Entrance to the Okusha Leg of the Five Shrines Walk in Togakushi - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraThe entrance leading in the direction of the Okusha Shrine.

There’s the 5 Shrines Stroll in Togakushi, a famous pilgrimage path that takes eight hours to stroll from Nagano. For tourists though, there are numerous trails to take from beginner to professional, the latter of which matches all the best way up to the summit of Mount Togakushi. It’s so hardcore, it is advisable submit your proposed climbing plan before carrying on with it.

But should you’re a normie like me, the beginner’s trail is pretty straightforward — you possibly can read extra about in our Nagano itinerary.

3) The prospect to expertise ninja and samurai culture

Kimono and Samurai Hakama Costume Experience in Matsumoto - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and Norikura

I’m not the sort who cosplays, however strolling around Matsumoto city in samurai put on made me really feel pretty badass. As a fort town that’s barely gentrified, the whole expertise strolling down the streets with traditional Japanese storehouses was really an immersive one.

We rented our costumes from Hanakomichi where we might choose between the kimono, ninja costume or samurai hakama. We even obtained a particular “passport” to say presents or deals from the nearby buying streets. Neat.

Samurai Combat Experience in Matsumoto - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and Norikura

For the true badass experience, you’ll be able to even study a number of sword-fighting methods from instructors who simply may cross off as precise fighters.

4) Glamping while feasting on wagyu beef, anybody?

Shinshu Wagyu Beef and Sukiyaki in Shabu Shabu Style at Norikura Star and Moon Restaurant - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraDrooling yet?

I went to wagyu heaven in Norikura. I can’t confirm this, however I was informed the native Shinshu cows are fed apples!

We had this as part of an eco-glamping experience beneath the celebs, literally in the center of nowhere in the mountains of Norikura Highlands. This fancy four-course dinner treat (full menu right here) solely occurs outdoors of winter, and is open solely to friends staying in Norikura and Shirahone Onsen solely!

Eco Glamping Experience at Norikura Star and Moon Restaurant - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraPhotograph credit score: Moshimoshi-nippon.jp

It’s very fashionable among domestic Japanese vacationers for an escape from city life, and supposedly underneath good circumstances you possibly can even see the Milky Means together with your eyes. Whereas that didn’t grow to be the case for us, I’ve to admit that the stargazing experience was actually chill and enjoyable (although we have been freezing), and virtually as dazzling because the night time sky in the Sahara Desert.

On prime of the stunning Japanese hospitality we acquired, this premium experience was one to remember — and in all probability romantic enough for marriage proposals 😉

5) See ice partitions with out visiting a Recreation of Thrones set

Walking Through the Alpine Snow Wall Corridor in Norikura Highlands - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and Norikura

You gained’t should take the black and turn into a crow simply to see these Recreation of Thrones-esque ice walls. Only a bus can convey you that prime up Mount Norikuradake, and is en route to a well-liked snowboarding spot in #7.

The perfect part (for useless millennials like us) is that the roads are empty most of the time, which makes it straightforward to take epic photographs like the one above. As you may guess, the snow gets crazy up there in the course of the winter, so it’ll be inconceivable for you to rise up there then.

6) Natural scorching springs without the Hakone or Kawaguchiko crowds

Private outdoor onsen in Guesthouse Raicho - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraPersonal outside onsen in a backpacker-friendly ryokan, Guesthouse Raicho.

You’ll be able to’t miss visiting an outside onsen once you’re in the boonies of Japan. Heck, I went each probability I had. Being excessive up in the mountains means with the ability to expertise the chilly weather while enjoyable in scorching springs that’ll heat you up for hours!

When you’re the shy sort, guesthouses like Guesthouse Raicho have personal outside onsens — friends can reserve 30-minute slots at the reception. That’s one thing you’d not often anticipate in institutions internet hosting backpackers! But for what it’s value, even once I stayed at Kamikochi Lemeiesta Lodge, I was the one one in the communal onsen once I visited later in the night time.

Photograph credit score: Matcha-jp.com

One other thing you’ll be able to experience in the countryside — mixed-gender onsens! You possibly can’t discover this in cities because the scorching springs are sometimes artificial and clear (and are hence inappropriate for combined genders).

Awa no Yu in Nagano’s Shirahone Onsen is hottest for its milky-white waters brought on by pure carbon in the ground, and because it’s opaque, all genders can bathe inside since you gained’t be capable of see beneath the surface.

Supposedly, bathing for 3 days right here staves off colds for 3 years — better than an apple a day! 😉

7) Snowboarding even in the summer time

Skiing during Springtime in Norikura Highlands in Nagano - Nagano Itinerary - Kamikochi Norikura MatsumotoThis photograph was taken in end-Might.

No more squeezing at Hokkaido or Tochigi ski resorts! We have been stunned to see individuals all equipped in winter ski gear as we have been heading up Mount Norikuradake by bus — in end-Might! I assume Snow Metropolis wouldn’t be the only place you’ll be able to expertise snow outdoors of winter now.

8) Reasonably priced kaiseki meals with local produce

Summer Kaiseki Course at Restaurant Sakura in Nagano - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and Norikura

Nagano has turn out to be recognized for several well-known meals from soba to Oyaki dumplings, but what you possibly can anticipate at kaiseki eating places listed here are loads of recent mountain greens. I child you not, I literally noticed the vegetables I ate the day before, growing in the grass along a climbing trail I went on.

Takagi Soba Master - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and Norikura

The region’s additionally very pleased with their soba, being house to one in every of Japan’s “big 3” sobas — the Togakushi soba. That stated, get the complete expertise of creating and consuming your personal soba underneath the tutelage of soba masters in Matsumoto, with faculties like Takagi. Learn more in our Nagano guide!

9) A special look with every season

Spring vs Autumn in Kamikochi - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraSpring vs Autumn in Kamikochi

Be it vibrant greenery, radiant sakura or golden autumn foliage, visiting Nagano in the autumn is totally different from visiting in the spring, and every scenic spot is value visiting at the least twice (over totally different seasons).

The Matsumoto Citadel grounds, for example, has over 300 cherry blossom timber and becomes a bustling hanami spot during sakura season. Within the autumn, the grounds exhibit other flowers as an alternative, like chrysanthemums.

And naturally, across the Japanese alps in Kamikochi, you get to take pleasure in a special scenery as properly.

Sakura Trees On the Matsumoto Castle Grounds during Full Bloom - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraCherry blossom timber in full bloom round Matsumoto Citadel. Photograph credit score: 4travel.jp

Read additionally: Ultimate Cherry Blossom Japan Information — Every part you have to know

10) It’s a simple pitstop in your Japan itinerary

Matsumoto Castle - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and Norikura

Nagano Prefecture’s situated right smack in the center of Japan. It’s only three hours from Tokyo, five hours from Nagoya, and six hours from Osaka/Kyoto, and you possibly can even take in a single day buses to save lots of you an evening’s lodging. To assist together with your trip planning, examine the timetables right here.

That makes Nagano an ideal stopover destination in the event you’re planning an inter-city Japan journey.

11) A temple with deeper history

Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraZenkoji Temple, Nagano Metropolis.

Zenkoji Temple is arguably Nagano’s most prolific place of worship, with a spiritual significance that’s unparalleled. It’s no secret that this temple homes Japan’s first ever Buddhist statue introduced from India, but the true secret lies in where it’s hidden. No one knows, and even its duplicate is hidden from sight besides every six years, when it will get paraded in an elaborate ceremony.

What made this temple a highlight for me is seeing residents going by way of the rituals — rubbing smoke from the enormous incense pot over themselves for luck, or touching a statue of Binzuru to heal physique pains.

Staircase in the Main Hall of Zenkoji Leading to the Pitch-Black Altar - Reasons to Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraThe highlight of Zenkoji Temple’s Important Corridor — getting into a pitch-black altar.

Inside the primary hall, a pitch-black tunnel runs beneath the primary altar the place a secret is hidden out of sight — you must feel your method by way of to touch it, and doing so guarantees you an afterlife in paradise.

12) Nagano individuals stay the longest in Japan

Hama San Wasabi Farm - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and NorikuraPerhaps the key is in recent wasabi.

The Japanese are already world-famous for their longevity, but Nagano emerges prime of the listing out of all 47 prefectures — 87.7 years for ladies, and 81.8 years for males. What’s the key?

Perhaps it’s the alpine air. Perhaps it’s the recent vegetable-laden eating regimen. Perhaps it’s the laidback way of life. Perhaps it’s the wasabi (Nagano produces 90% of Japan’s wasabi). Perhaps it’s Maybelline. When you don’t go, you’ll by no means discover out.

13) It’s a countryside you possibly can truly get round by bus

Alpico Highland Shuttle Bus - 13 Reasons To Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and Norikura

Excellent news in case you don’t know how one can drive, because one of the best of Nagano’s countryside is in reality, greatest skilled by bus.

Often we’d do street journeys for points of interest like these, but because of the federal government’s efforts to regulate customer populations and preserve the stainless nature, they’ve literally banned personal automobiles from getting into places like Kamikochi and the Norikura ice wall. The only economical option to get there’s by way of bus.

ALPICO’s bus providers can take you to all the most effective spots — from the perfect viewpoint in Kamikochi on the Taisho Pond to the Mount Norikuradake summit, which can also be Japan’s highest bus cease. Their buses also take you to the start of the Five Shrines Stroll in Togakushi!

Alpico Bus Route for 4 Day Wide Free Passport - Reasons to Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and Norikura

Save on transport prices if you buy an Alps WIDE Free Passport for limitless bus and practice travel in Kamikochi, Norikura, Matsumoto and Takayama. From two to four-day choices, the cross can more than cowl your commutes with out the effort of paying cash on board (you possibly can’t use Suica cards there).

Sadly, virtually every Japanese countryside seems to get relegated to ski-only territory in everybody’s headspace, however this sentiment couldn’t be further from the reality in this landlocked prefecture.

Win a Journey to Kamikochi (Value S$four,700 incl. flights!)

Kamikochi Mountain View - Nagano Japanese Alps- Kamikochi Mountain Scenery - Nagano GuideThe scenery that awaits you for those who participate in this giveaway.

Right here’s your probability to win a free trip for 2 to Kamikochi! We’re talking free flights, a one night time stay in a premium mountain resort lodge, and in the cooling autumn in addition!

(Y’all, I’m so jealous that I can’t truly take part in this.)

Right here’s what you stand to win:

Lemeiesta Hotel Kamikochi - Nagano ItineraryPhotograph credit: Alpico Holdings

– A pair of flight tickets from Changi Airport to Narita Airport (SQ, JAL or ANA)
– A pair of bus tickets from Shinjuku to Kamikochi by way of Sawayaka Shinshu Go, which is the comfier and extra spacious bus
– A one night time stay at Kamikochi Lemeiesta Lodge for 2 which features a breakfast buffet and full-course French dinner using native produce and a choice of wines — this is also considered one of Japan’s greatest lodges for star-gazing!!

Word: For travel between 1st Sep to fifth Nov 2019 — throughout the most effective season! Full phrases and circumstances here.

Right here’s how one can win:

1) Head to this Facebook publish:

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Want more possibilities to win? Do any or all the following to extend your profitable possibilities:

+1 Probability: Like Alpico’s Fb web page
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Giveaway ends: 28th July 2019, 11:59PM

Nagano — greater than a winter vacation spot!

Chusha in Togakushi - Reasons to Visit Nagano Even When It's Not Winter Ski Season - Scenic Gems in Kamikochi and Norikura

My favourite part about Nagano is the truth that all the nature spots are conveniently accessible by way of public transport. They usually’re not even that excessive about making every little thing touristy — regardless of how common Kamikochi is, there’s a restrict to how many resorts or memento outlets are allowed to open there. As somebody too used to capitalism, I discovered this beautiful fascinating.

When you like what you see, find out how you can put all of it together in a one-week itinerary!

When do you propose to visit Nagano? Share with us your experiences in the comments!


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