Nagano is an area surrounded by abundant nature from the north to south. Here you can find a variety of historical structures, from the national treasure of Matsumoto Castle among others. Here are some of the most recommended hot spots. in the prefecture.
1. Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle has walls painted with white plaster and black lacquer, with a beautiful view of the mountains stretching out behind it. The castle tower serves as a natural treasure - it would be a waste not to visit this spot if you are a lover of castles. The entrance fee here is 610 JPY and you may use this ticket to enter the Matsumoto City Museum within the same area. You do not need to purchase ticket if you are only coming to view the castle proper. Please remember to check opening times beforehand, as they differ from season to season. It would also be a good idea to go early, as you may expect the area to be crowded. You may access the castle by bus from the JR Matsumoto Station, but you may also get there on foot within 15 minutes, so it might be a good idea to walk there while enjoying the town of Matsumoto itself.
2. Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
This mountainside tourism route is where you may enjoy the abundant nature of the northern Alps by the season, while riding the rope ways or cable cars that connect Nagano to Toyama. It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes by the express bus from the JR Nagano Station to reach the departure area, Ogizawa, in Nagano. By the time you get to the final stop of Tateyama in Toyama, it should already take you about 1 hour and 50 minutes just by riding on the vehicle. However, you may come across a number of beautiful scenic spots along the way, such as the Kurobe Dam, which should take you only 16 minutes one way. It would be a good idea to plan according your schedule how far you can go.
3. Togakushi Shrine
This is one of the 5 shrines standing at the bottom of Mt. Togakushi which has long been a place for divine worship, along with the inner shrine, middle shrine, lower shrine, Kuzuryu Shrine, and the Hinomiko Shrine. It is said that this shrine has been a sacred mountain place as well as a sacred place for Shugendo during the Heian period (794 to 1185). If you enter deep into the mountains, you will come across the inner shrine, which has a pathway that takes about 30 to 40 minutes to walk through, so you may also enjoy the nature as you go along. This place has also been a dwelling place for ninja in the Togakushi way, so you may also visit the Togakushi Ninja Museum and the Ninja Trick Mansion, which are facilities all about ninja. Please give them a visit if you are interested.
4. Nozawa Onsen
This is a hot spring with a long history, known for its huge-scale ski resort within the country. You may find many hot spring inns and accommodation spots here, but that is not all. You may also find 13 outdoor communal baths at the Nozawa Onsenkyo, which you may avail of until 11:00 pm. The only fee you have to pay for is the small amount of money you insert in the offertory box, as a form of thanks. In between going from each hot spring to the other, you may go to the open space to rest, or avail of the open-air bath facility during your day trip, or even visit the Furusato-no-Yu, Asagama Onsen Park (Entrance Fee: 500 JPY). You may come here to enjoy the ski facilities, but it might also be a good idea to try out the hot springs, as well.
5. Jigokudani Monkey Park
The monkey park is famous for the wild monkeys that enter the hot springs. You may access this park from Nagano Station in northern Nagano by bus for about 40 minutes, and then walk further for 30 minutes. The entrance fee is 800 JPY (incl. tax). Here you can view the wild monkeys from up close, but they mainly go into the hot springs only in the winter. They take a bath in order to survive the harsh winter so you might not always be able to see them dip in, but during the other seasons, you may also be able to see them do other activities, as well. It would be a good idea to wear outdoor clothing when you visit, as you will be visiting the monkeys near their natural environment.
All of thse spots in Nagano are filled with nature and history. Please come for a visit.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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