February 06, 2017

10 reasons why Nagano, Japan should be your next destination this 2017

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  • We can list hundreds of reasons why Japan is the dream destination. We all know about Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and many more; however, there is one place in the Land of the Rising Sun that’s surely waiting to be discovered by Filipinos this year.

    Nagano prefecture is situated in the central part of Honshu or Japan’s main island. This part of the region is influenced by the cultures of both eastern and western Japan. This is why many tourists find Nagano a very beautiful and unique escape from the bustling cities of Japan. In about an hour and 30 minutes, tourists from around the world will be able to enjoy the best of Nagano by riding the Shinkansen, Japan’s bullet train.

    This article lists ten reasons why Nagano Prefecture is a great choice when deciding where in Japan you might want to explore.

    1. Seasons

    1

    Nagano is beautiful all-year round. It does not matter if it is winter, spring, summer, or fall; Nagano is the ideal site to visit for tourists year-round. It’s a snow paradise during the winter season; people from around Nagano and outside the country flock the areas, like Hakuba or Yamanouchi, to experience outdoor activities.

    You can experience both snow and cherry blossoms during spring. Revel on the beauty of pink hues dotting the streets of Matsumoto.  Tourists can visit the Zenko-ji Temple in Nagano City or the Grand Shrine of Suwa during summer. Fruit-picking is one of the many fun activities that can be done as family.

    The valleys of Nagano turn (or become a picturesque) red, yellow, and gold during autumn. Enjoy the bite of cold while walking along Kyu-Karuizawa Ginza.

    2. Snow Monkeys

    2

    Snow Monkey

    Located in the Valley of Yokoyu River in the northern part of Nagano prefecture, the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park would perhaps be the best highlight when you visit Japan this year. This park is known worldwide as a place where you can observe Japanese macaques or “snow monkeys.” While in the park, it’s recommended to stay for about 40-60 minutes to catch the fascinating interactions of the snow monkeys and how they demonstrate social hierarchy. Plus! They make lazing in hot spring like the best activity in the world.

    Bring warm clothing and appropriate footwear for walking 1.8km in snow, ice and/or mud, depending on the weather condition. Don’t worry! The walk to Jigokudani is worth the visit. A word of caution: hold on to your camera or any personal belongings as the snow monkeys can easily take them away.

    3. Temple and Shrines

    3a

    Zenko-ji Temple

    The best way to learn about Japanese history and religion is by visiting their temples. Zenko-ji Temple in Nagano City has been around for over 1400 years and is one of Japan’s centers of Buddhist faith. It is said that Zenko-ji houses Japan’s earliest Buddhist image which no one has ever seen and has been kept behind the curtain, although the replica of the image is displayed every six years. Zenko-ji is a non-sectarian temple and welcomes visitors from all faiths. So, people from all walks of life will enjoy the stunning pieces of architecture inside the temple.

    3b

    Suwa Grand Shrine

    Have you ever seen the Japanese festival in TV wherein men ride the big logs as they slide down a steep slope? If yes, then you are in for a treat. The Onbashira Festival is held in Suwa Shrine in the Lake Suwa region in Central Nagano, every six years. Suwa Grand Shrine is one of the famous shrines in the country because of its 10,000 sub-shrines located all over Japan. Suwa is home to four shrine complexes, namely Akimiya, Harumiya, Maemiya, and Honmiya. Two of them, (Maemiya and Honmiya) make up the Kamisha (upper shrines) and are located south east of Lake Suwa; Harumiya and Akimiya make up the Shimosha (lower shrines) and are located north west of Lake Suwa.

    When you visit a Japanese shrine or temple this year, don’t just take pictures – experience it by paying your respects. It will definitely add to your experience and make a great memory.

    4. Japanese cuisine

    4

    Soba Noodles

    Visiting Nagano would not be complete without trying its local cuisine and products.  Savor a healthy meal at Yayoi-za with their Seiro Mushi, a bamboo steamed dish that has been served to Nagano residents since the Edo period.

    Nagano is also known for their Soba noodle. One of the best soba restaurants on the way to the Kamikochi-Norikura region of Matsumoto city is Gurinderu. It’s recommended to stop by early as they only operate 4 hours a day and they only make limited amounts of their handmade noodles. Japanese cuisine is sometimes served in Kaiseki style, a traditional course Japanese dinner. This kind of meal is offered inside the hotel; if ever you are staying in one of the hotels in Nagano, make sure to order a Kaiseki meal.

    5. Cultural Experiences

    Ryokan

    Ryokan

    It is very interesting to see how easily Japan has mixed traditional and modern culture. A visit to Nagano will let tourists see and feel the traditional and the modern at the same time. Staying at a ryokan (Japanese hotel) is the best way to experience Japan’s famed omotenashi or hospitality.

    5

    Wasabi Farm

    Immerse yourself by learning how the famous wasabi is cultivated, from planting to harvesting.  Get to know the unique world of Japan better by experiencing all of these in Nagano.

    6. Castle

    6

    Matsumoto Castle

    Matsumoto Castle is one of the prominent tourist spot in Nagano. The black and white structure of the castle strikes a beautiful contrast with the pink hues during cherry blossom season. As an important castle in Japan’s history, it was elected as a national treasure and has been carefully restored and preserved for a long time.

    7. Home of the 1998 Winter Olympics

    7

    Not many of us know that Nagano hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. One of the locations used during the Winter Olympics was in Hakuba where some of the structures, like the Ski Jumping Stadium, are still operational until today. The weather played a major role in the outdoor activities during the said event. Until now, Hakuba’s powdery snow offers the best winter action such as advanced ski and snowboard slopes in Japan.

    8. Onsen

    8

    Biyu No Yado Hotel

    Onsen or hot springs are a vital part of Japanese culture. Soaking in an onsen after a tiring day is a common thing to do in Japan. Some of the ryokan in Nagano have their own onsen, but if you are going to stay in hotel without one, there are also public baths around Nagano. Suwa in particular is a popular destination for those wanting to try an onsen. Take advantage of the moment and take a bath ala Japanese.

    9. People

    9

    The people of Nagano are some of the nicest people on earth. Tourists can experience the unbelievable hospitality in everywhere they go, be it inside the temple or outside the busy streets of the city.

    10. Getting around Nagano with ease

    10

    Traveling around Nagano is now easy thanks to ALPICO Group transportation and hospitality services. If riding the shinkansen is not an option, the ALPICO Highway Bus can pick up your group from Shinjuku or Nagoya and take you to Matsumoto City.  From there, tourists can use the ALPICO taxi or local bus to visit tourist destinations like Matsumoto Castle, Wasabi Farm, or the shrines in Suwa. ALPICO also offers transfers to Nagano City or Hakuba.

    10a

    Hotel Buena Vista in Matsumoto 

    To make your stay in Nagano more comfortable and convenient, ALPICO also manages 5 hotels around Matsumoto and Suwa. Hotel Buena Vista is a business hotel and is strategically located in the heart of Matsumoto while the three hotels (Hotel Shoho, KAMIKOCHI Lemeiesta Hotel, and Sosennoyado Suhaku) are the ones that offer a Japanese style onsen.

    If you are interested to learn more about Nagano and the services of ALPICO Group, they will have a booth at the Japan Pavilion in the PTAA Travel Tour Expo from February 10-12 at the SMX Convention Center Manila.

    This trip is in partnership with Philippine Primer Luxe Travel. For more information, please call +632 805 3616,  (+63) 915 404 8367 (Globe), (+63) 920 949 7950 (Smart) or email them at travel@primer.ph.

    Full article will be published in Philippine Primer Magazine March and April 2017 issues.

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