The flower festival of the city of Nagano is held every year in early May. For the occasion, Chuo-Dori, the main street leading to Zenko-ji Temple, is covered with flower mosaics. Cultural performances, such as the lion dance, are also held during the festival. It is also a great chance to enjoy a good Matcha ice cream!
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.
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.