5 spots in Nagano, one of CNN's "best places to visit in 2018"

5 spots in Nagano, one of CNN's
On January 1st, 2018, CNN announced the "18 best places to visit in 2018", and Nagano prefecture of Japan made it onto the list.
The list introduced attractions like soba, onsen, and powder snow, and spots such as Snow Monkeys and the Matsumoto castle.

Nagano, which will very likely gain more attention as an international tourist site in the future, has many more fascinating spots.
This time, I would like to introduce such magnificent spots in Nagano that you should definitely visit this spring.

First, an introduction of Nagano

Nagano is sometimes called by its traditional name, "Shinshu" which comes from the name of the old province "Shinano", which used to be where Nagano is now.
There are many fascinating spots all over Nagano including a range of 3,000-meter-plus mountains, a resort located on a plateau, historic towns, and onsen.
Since the opening of the Shinkansen and expressways, Nagano has become easily accessible.
For example, to get to Nagano from Tokyo, it takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours by the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, and about 3 hours by car on the Joshinetsu Expressway.
Depending on the destination the access will change, so be sure to research the best route to a specific destination prior to the trip.
In April it will begin to show signs of spring, as temperatures rise above 10°C and cherry blossoms start to bloom. In May, the weather becomes nice and refreshing, but do not forget to bring a jacket because it will be chilly in the morning and evening.

From here, I would like to introduce you 5 highly recommended scenery spots where you can feel the spring in Nagano!

1. Hanamomo Road | Achi Village


|Get drunken over Japan's best peach blossoms and starry sky

Achi Village is located in the southwest area of Nagano.
From mid-April to mid-May, the area along the National Route 246 is filled with the colors of about 10,000 flowering peach trees.

Having a more brilliant red white and pink color compared to cherry blossoms and plum blossoms, the scenery of the peach blossoms in full bloom is called the "best paradise in Japan".

The 5,000 peach trees lined up in Tsukikawa Onsenkyo are especially beautiful, and you can enjoy the collaboration between the patchwork-like peach blossoms, the carp-shaped streamers that flicker in the wind, and the field of rape blossoms.
  • はなもも街道
  • はなもも街道
In addition, at the "Hanamomo Festival" that is held during the peak of the season, about 200,000 tourists come to visit, and many shops that sell local specialties of Shinshu such as the "gohei mochi" and souvenirs that have to do with the peach blossoms open up during this time.
After enjoying the beautiful sight and nice scent of the peach blossoms, you can spend some relaxing time at the Tsukikawa ONsen or the Hirugami Onsen.
Achi Village was also selected as the best place for stargazing in Japan. There is a popular tour called "Japan's best starry sky night tour" that is held from the spring to the fall.

The night sky viewed from the top of a mountain at an altitude of 1,400 meters is breathtaking and truly like a "heavenly paradise". At night, you can enjoy stargazing under "Japan's best starry sky" along with the fantasy-like view of the lit-up cherry blossoms.
【Peak】Mid-April to mid-May

2. Chikumagawa Teibo Sakurazutsumi | Obuse


|The colorful flowers along a dike

In the Edo period, Obuse developed as an important transportation hub, and is recently popular as a place where you can enjoy places connected with the Japanese painter Katsushika Hokusai, and also eat chestnut sweets.

Obuse is also called the "town of flowers" because during the spring, you can enjoy various flowers such as cherry blossoms, rape blossoms, and peach blossoms all at once. What I highly recommend in such town is the Chikuma River Park, located at the foot of the Obuse Bridge, which is about 20 minutes away by foot from Nagano Railway Obuse Station.
Along the Chikuma River, there is a 4km long street planted with 530 double-flowered cherry trees that create a beautiful tunnel of pink flowers called Sakurazutsumi.
The flowers are in full bloom from late April to mid-May. The fluffy double-petaled cherry blossoms are still young trees, so you can enjoy these impressive cherry blossoms at eye level.
When the Sakurazutsumi is at its peak, on the other side, there is a large garden of rape blossoms stretched out across 1.5ha.
There is also a maze created inside the garden.

In addition, you can enjoy various different flowers such as red white and pink peach blossoms, Yoshino cherry blossoms, and other peach blossoms and apple blossoms from nearby farms. Be sure to enjoy the flowers along with the lingering snow up in the surrounding mountains.
【Peak】Late April to mid-May

3. Takato Castle Ruins Park | Ina


|Castle ruins colored in light pink by the "best in the land" cherry blossoms

Takato Castle is one that has a connection with the great general, Yamamoto Kansuke. The cherry blossoms in this famous area of Nagano have been said to be the "best in the land", and it was selected as one of the "Japan's Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots".

In 1875, former clansmen who wanted to do something about the ruined castle began to transplant cherry trees, and now there are about 1,500 cherry trees planted in the area.
The "Takato Kohigan Cherry Blossoms" is a type that is smaller than the Yoshino cherry blossoms, and have a stronger red color. The peak is around early to mid-April, and during this time, the park is filled with the lightly pink flowers.
In addition to the Takatokaku pavillion,which is a national tangible cultural property, the Taikoyagura watchtower and the Ouunkyo bridge are great places to view the flowers from.
Every year from April 1st to 30th, the "Takato Cherry Festival" is held, and there is a light up of the trees.
At night, you can see a different fantasy-like view of the cherry blossoms from the daytime, such as the pink cloud-like cherry blossoms over the Ouunkyo brige and the reflections of the cherry blossoms on the pond.
【Peak】Early April to mid-April

4. Iiyama Nanohana Park | Iiyama


|The stage of the hazy moonlit night! A yellow carpet that spreads out along the Chikuma River

After the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen Iiyama station, Iiyama became more accessible from the metropolitan area.
In the mountain village of North Shinshu where the Chikuma River flows, there are many nostalgic areas that can be said to be Japan's original scenery.

Within these spots, I especially recommend the "Nanohana Park" that spreads out along the Chikuma River. This place is actually a famous place that the Japanese children's song, "Oborozukiyo " was set in.
The wide stretch of a yellow carpet consisting of 8 million rape blossoms over a vast area of about 13ha is breathtaking.
The flowers are in full blossom from late April to mid-May, and you can enjoy it along with the cherry blossoms.

As said in the Japanese songs, "Nanohanabatake ni Irihi Usure Douyou Shijin to Shite no Takano Tatsuyuki" and "Oborozukiyo", I highly recommend that you see the fantasy-like scenery of the park in the evening.
Every year from May 3rd to 5th, the "Iiyama Nanohana Festival" is held, and you can enjoy many fun events such as outdoor stands, music festivals, rice cake pounding.

ALso, on the other side of the Chikuma River, there is the "Michi-no-eki Hana-no-eki Chikumagawa", where you can eat local food at a cafe while enjoying the scenery of the Nanohana Park, or go shopping at the farmer's market.
【Peak】late April to mid-May
【Address】413 Mizuho, Iiyama, Nagano
【Access】20 minutes by taxi from JR Iiyama Station

5. Suwa Grand Shrine | Suwa~Chino~Shimosuwa


|A powerful spiritual spot! One of Japan's oldest shrines that encloses Lake Suwa

Out of the more than 10,000 Suwa shrines, the Suwa Grand Shrine is one that is considered to be one of Japan's oldest shrines.

Enclosing Lake Suwa in the center Nagano, the Grand Shrine is separated into the two "Kamisha (upper shrines)" and two "Shimosha (lower shrines)", each having a Shinto shrine. These four shrines together are called the Suwa Grand Shrine.
The upper shrines and the lower shrines are located far apart, so it is recommended that you visit them on separate days.
  • 諏訪大社
  • 諏訪大社
The Suwa Grand Shrine is well known as "Japan's utmost spiritual spot".

There are many reasons for this: it is located on the same ley line as two of "Japan's Three Holy Mountains", Mt. Fuji and Mt. Tate; the Northern and Southern Alps soar high up in its background; it is where the most energy from Mt Fuji can be gathered; and it is located in the center of the Itoigawa-Shizuoka Tectonic Line that divides Honshu, the mainland of Japan, into the east and west.

The pillars made from holy trees that stand at the four corners of each shrine are said to be especially spiritual.
Be sure to greet all four of the pillars for some spiritual power.
Kamisha Hongu:1 Miyama, Nakasu, Suwa, Nagano
Kamisha Maemiya:2030 Miyagawa, Chino, Nagano
Shimosha Harumiya:193 Shimosuwa, Suwagun, Nagano
Shimosha Akimiya:5828 Shimosuwa, Suwagun, Nagano
【Open】All year round
Kamisha Hongu/Kamisha Maemiya: About 10 minutes by taxi from JR Chino Station
Shimosha Harumiya: About 20 minutes by foot from JR Shimosuwa Station
Shimosha Akimiya: About 15 minutes by foot from JR Shimosuwa Station

So here are the highly recommended 5 magnificent spots of Nagano where you can feel the spring.
There are many more beautiful places in Nagao where you can feel the spring such as Azumino's wasabi flowers, Chikuma’s apricot flowers, Ueda Castle's cherry blossoms, and the skunk cabbage on the plateaus.
Please do visit Shinshu Nagano and enjoy the spring season.

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