Nagao is one of few regions in Japan that not facing the ocean. It is surrounded by 3,000m tall mountains and known as Roof of Japan. Nagano is also famous for winter sports and hosted the Winter Olympics in 1998.
The most popular tourist spot in Nagano among the tourists outside of Japan must be ”Jigokudani Yaen-koen” where you can see wild Japanese monkeys soak in onsen hot spring! It is very hard to get there but many tourists from all over the countries visit there. If you are driving and want to have a relaxing time as well, we recommend you to stop by Togurakamiyamada Onsen on the way back to Tokyo or your destinations in the south. It is only about an hour to drive from Snow Monkey spot and you can enjoy special hot spring with a smell of sulfur.
We stayed “Kamesei Ryokan”, a traditional Japanese style inn and had a great time there. We can enjoy a variety of local dishes for dinner and breakfast and it only cost just over 10,000 yen per person for half board. They have an English speaking host, who is from Seattle and married to a daughter of the owner of this inn, works there. The area is very peaceful and calming and surrounded by mountains. Chikuma river runs nearby and it is relaxing to walk on the river bank along the river.
On the way back to Tokyo, we visited “Shiraito no Taki” in Karuizawa. Karuizawa is an extremely hot spot among both Japanese and foreign tourists so this area was very busy though it was located in the middle of the mountains. At Shiraito no Taki, you can see a very unique landscape with waterfalls. It looks a bit like Niagara falls in a way as the shape is a bit like a shoe house. It is well worth visiting if you want to maximize your time to spend in Nagano.
Snow Monkeys – Jigokudani Yaen-Koen
Go! Nagano – The official Nagano prefecture’s website
Oshibori Udon – serves local Udon noodles, Udon is fantastic but hot raddish to dip in a souce is very hot and eye opening! If you dare, try it!
Shiraito no Taki – Waterfalls in Karuizawa