Mount Eboshi is located not too far from the Hokuriku Shinkansen line linking Tokyo to the city of Nagano. Reaching its summit takes about 1-2 hour from the trail-head, depending on your fitness level. The bare summit offers an impressive panoramic view of Ueda city and of mount Asama, a nearby active volcano. I was quite surprised to see a white column of smoke being released from the volcano’s crater during our trip.
The Oykot train is a special scenic train which starts from Nagano station and follows the Iiyama line all the way to Tokamachi station. The Iiyama line follows the Chikuma-gawa river which features truly beautiful rustic scenery featuring rice paddies and small villages that are representative of the beautiful Japanese countryside.
The purpose of the Oykot train is to allow its passengers to enjoy this scenery while having a relaxing time onboard the train. To this end, the train interior is designed to mimic the old rural Japanese home and the trip also includes a serving of locally-made Japanese pickled vegetables. Guests can also bring their favorite food and beverages onboard. This philosophy of the Japanese countryside is reflected in the train’s name, Oykot, which is the reverse of Tokyo, the most populous metropolis of Japan. It is possible for the passengers to explore further the Japanese countryside by stopping at stations along the Iiyama line and taking another Oykot train, or a regular train, for the return trip to Nagano.
I love the quietness and the beauty of the countryside in Nagano Prefecture. These photos were taken in Furuma, not too far from Mount Kurohime and lake Nojiri. Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact location but it should be easy to get similar vistas by walking around Furuma station.
Hanamomo-no-sato is a large garden of peach trees located in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. The best time to visit the region is at the end of April or at the beginning of May when the trees are in full bloom. At that time, the small village is filled with the white, pink, and red color of the peach flowers. It is a great place to do Ohanami, the Japanese picnic, so bring snacks to eat with your favorite beer or sake.
The Uga Shrine is located on an island in the middle of Lake Nojiri. The only way to access it is by a taking a cruise boat from Nojiri city. The cruise does a brief tour of the lake before stopping on the Island. You can spend as much time as you like visiting the shrine since you can hop on subsequent cruises as well for the return trip.
Mount Karita is a nice and easy hike (about one-and-half hour climb up) with a rewarding view of the valley surrounding the city of Obuse. The mountain got its name because it looks like a bird (Kari) spreading its wings. The trailhead starts at Gansho-in temple and the hike is not so steep. The trail eventually goes through the ruins of an old castle located on the mountain. I also recommend walking in the region surrounding the trailhead parking since the fields at the base of the mountain are really picturesque.
The Ikushimatarushima Shrine dates from the 9th century. The main prayer hall is built on a small island in the middle of a pond and most of the structures are of the classic vermillion red which is used to decorate shrines throughout Japan. The shrine structures, water elements, and vegetation blend beautifully.
To reach Zenko-ji temple from Nagano station, one can walk on Chuo Dori (literally meaning central street) all the way north until in front of the temple. On that same street just north of the first gate of Zenko-ji temple are located many small stores. It is a great place to buy Omiyage (gifts) to family or friends.
This small zoo is located not far from Zenko-ji temple. It is operated by the city of Nagano and is free to access. Many species of birds, reptiles and mammals are on display. A small monorail and a go-kart track will please kids and the young at heart.
Amateurs of Japanese trains will be satisfied at the SCMaglev and Railway Park, a museum dedicated to Japanese trains. The museum features historical and modern locomotives including a good selection of Shinkansen express trains and the new Maglev currently being developed. An impressive train diorama and train simulators are also popular attractions. Lucky winners of a lottery can test their driving skills in the Shinkansen simulator.