Nagano is a landlocked, mountainous prefecture some 200 kilometers (124 miles) east of Tokyo that is visited for its natural scenic beauty, hot springs and rich culture. Its rugged terrain and relative isolation have long been a source of fascination for adventurers and artists alike. Today, the prefecture is home to numerous world-class art museums and mountains resorts as well as an abundance of beautifully preserved historic architecture and stunning Alpine scenery.
- Relish immense mountain vistas from atop iconic Matsumoto Castle.
- Wander through bygone alleyways that have changed little since the Edo era.
- Discover the delights of cycling in culture-rich Azumino in the shadow of the spectacular Japan Alps.
- Prepare to be wowed by a night of luxurious glamping under the starry Nagano sky.
- Immerse yourself in rejuvenating hot springs at altitudes of over 1000 meters.
Located in central Nagano Prefecture, the city of Matsumoto is acclaimed for its breathtaking mountain vistas.
Your day begins at the iconic Matsumoto Castle, one of only five Japanese castles designated as National Treasures. Note how the characteristic black wainscoting adds to the castle’s grandeur. Climb the steep, wooden staircase to the observation deck and take in stunning views of the city and shimmering mountains.
From the castle, it’s a five-minute drive to Matsumoto City Museum of Art, famous for its permanent collection of works by locally bornavant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama, famous for Naoshima’s Yellow
A short drive brings you to Nawate Street, a picturesque lane of quaint stores and cafés that is known affectionately as “Frog Street.”“Kaeru” in Japanese means frog but can also mean to be able to buy and return home. Continue on foot to Nakamachi Street. The beautifully preserved
architecture here includes a number of old storehouses known as kura. Characterized by their bl
ack and white, crisscross-patterned walls, kura are eye-catching symbols of old Japan.
Spend your first night at Tobira Onsen Myojinkan, a luxurious, hot spring hotel situated at an altitude of 1050 meters (3445 feet) not far from Matsumoto.
Leave the forests of Yatsugatake and travel by private vehicle for approximately 50 minutes to the rural city of Azumino in the foothills of the Japanese Alps.
If the weather is good then the best way to experience Azumino is by pedal power. So hop on a bike and set out in the direction of Daio Wasabi Farm located in the rural outskirts of this small city. Recognized as the largest wasabi producer in Japan, the farm featured in the 1990 Akira Kurosawa movie Dreams.
A 20-minute drive brings you to Chihiro Art Museum Azumino, which is dedicated to the paintings and illustrations of Chihiro Iwasaki (1918-1974), celebrated for her charming depictions of flowers and children. The children-friendly museum is stunningly located in 35,000 square meters of parkland at the foot of the Japan Alps.
The highlight of your Nagano experience begins with a 10-minute journey by ski lift to Snow Peak FIELD SUITE HAKUBA KITAONE KOGEN, a luxurious glamping facility located some 1200 meters (3940 feet) up in the Hakuba mountains. On arrival, you are ferried by buggy to your private area, in the center of which stands a spacious tent that more resembles a luxury hotel room. There are even two double beds and air conditioning.
After a stroll through the garden-style Nature Flower Park, head to the terrace for a glass of champagne and slices of prosciutto.
With your appetite whetted, it’s time to sit down for a remarkable dinner prepared by a chef who cut his teeth at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy. Each dish is paired with a Nagano wine chosen from a cellar so extensive that it’s difficult to believe you are dining on top of a mountain.
After dinner, relax in a private, open-air hot spring beneath a vast sky that, on clear nights, is studded with stars. End the evening with a nightcap or two around a bonfire at the resort’s very own Takibi Bar.
Wake up early to see the sun rise through a sea of clouds. It is a mesmerizing sight that is not to be missed. Coffee and snacks are provided ahead of breakfast, which is served on the terrace between 7:00 and 9:00. Check out time is 10:00.
Sit back and enjoy the 90-minute drive from Hakuba to Obuse, a small town with a big heritage that is best experienced on foot. Follow your guide through Obuse’s narrow lanes, stopping to admire the many attractive, traditional-style buildings. The town boasts numerous art museums, souvenir shops and fine restaurants, and even has its own sake brewery.
Obuse owes much of its acclaim to Hokusai, the celebrated Edo-era woodcut artist who spent his later years here. The Hokusai Museum in the center of town houses a striking collection of his ukiyo-e prints and paintings and is a memorable place to end your visit to Nagano.
Travel by private vehicle to Nagano Station and catch a Shinkansen bullet train to either Tokyo or Kanazawa, depending on your itinerary.