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.
The Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum, located nearby Zenko-ji temple, stages art exhibit from artists of Nagano prefecture. An annex of the museum, the Higashiyama Kaii Gallery, features artworks from Higashiyama Kaii depicting the beautiful scenery of Nagano prefecture (some examples here). Taking photos of the artwork is prohibited, but there was no issues with taking photos of the museum’s modern architecture.
Japan boasts many famous shrines and temples that most first time visitors will learn about while planning their trip. But japan may have hundreds or thousands of thousand of such historical sites if not more. Each neighborhood generally has its own, where locals will celebrate many traditional rituals throughout the year. The Hozonji Temple and Isesha Shrine located in Nagano, located side-by-side, are beautiful examples.
Away from the popular touristic attractions, one may find great beauty in the common Japanese lifestyle. This beauty will be seen by the one who ventures away from the beaten path. I will collect over time in this post photos that feature the beautiful Japanese countryside I had the chance to witness by walking in rural areas of Nagano city.
This peculiar stone church was built as a memorial of Uchimura Kanzo, the founder of a Japanese Christian movement. The church was built by the American architect Kendrick Kellogg in harmony with the surrounding nature. The church’s structure is unique with multiple stone arches and rows of windows allowing plenty of natural light in the stone building. The design is also striking by its unusual asymmetry.
The Harunire terrace, located in Naka-Karuizawa, boasts a great selection of restaurants and specialty shops in a natural setting. Whether you are looking for a delicious coffee or locally-made ice-cream, you’ll enjoy a relaxing time on the river-side terrace.
Karuizawa is a resort town along the Hokuriku Shinkansen in Nagano prefecture. It is particularly popular among Tokyo residents who wish to escape the summer heat. It is a great place to eat at the many restaurants, cafes, and bakeries and to shop at the many fashion outlets located near the Shinkansen station.
Hakuba is a famous ski resort of the Northern Japanese Alps in Nagano prefecture. In 1998, the ski competitions of the Nagano Olympics were held at the Hakuba ski resort. Other than ski in winter, the Hakuba resort offers a magnificent mountain scenery with famous mountains such as the Kashima-Yarigatake and mount Yarigatake. It can serve as an elevated starting point to some serious hikes in the Northern Japanese Alps.