Nagano is situated almost right in the middle of the main island, without being surrounded by the sea. It is famous for mountaineering as there is the Japan Alps which includes Hida mountain range. Karuizawa is situated in the eastern part, next to Gunmma prefecture, and well known summer resort with cooler climate. Niigata stretches north to south, faces Sea of Japan, and has heavy snowfall. It is also known as a great rice producing region, with popular “Koshihikari” brand produced in Uonuma regarded as the best quality rice. Toyama also faces Sea of Japan and, with the Japan Alps situated in south, this prefecture is surrounded by abundant nature. There is a mountain area called “Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama” which is listed as the site of World Heritage.
“Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama”, listed as the site of World Heritage, is situated in Shirakawa-go, Gifu prefecture (Shirakawa village, Ono-gun, Gifu) and Gokayama, Toyama prefecture (Nanto city, Toyama). A various types of ancient people’s wisdom can be found in the houses specifically built for their life style in the snowy climate. During the winter, the area is buried under the 2-3m high snow. There is a light-up event to entertain tourists these days.
Toyama bay to which Namerikawa city is facing offers a unique magical experience of light. There is a “Firefly squid watching tour” available only between April and early May when the guests get on board a ship before the dawn to watch firefly squid fishing. Although the squids are 4-6cm small, they light up in blue-white and create the magical scenery. Firefly squid fishing can be cancelled due to bad weather and they are hard to catch as well therefore, anyone who is able to actually watch the squids is said to be lucky.
Shopping & Gourmet
There is a large outlet shopping mall called Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza in Karuizawa, where shopping can be enjoyed all day. Honcho market in Niigata city is loved by locals and known as “the pantry for the citizen of Niigata”. Freshly caught seafood from Sea of Japan and seasonal local produce are available there. Niigata is also famous for producing great Sakes. There has been a lot of Sake breweries since many years ago, producing delicious Sakes by using high quality rice and pure natural water. They are very popular worldwide. Shinsyu Soba (buckwheat) noodles contain more than 40% of buckwheat flour. Nagano is a perfect region for growing buckwheat due to its high altitude and cool climate. There are many facilities that offer make–your–own-Soba noodles experience, so why not give it a go and taste the noodles you made.
Jigokudani Monkey Park is situated at Jigokudani Onsen (hot spring), north of Nagano. It is globally known as “Snow Monkey Park”, due to the wild monkeys that enjoy the outdoor hot spa in the winter. Since it opened in 1964, the park is known as a great spot for watching wild Japanese monkeys. It takes around 30 minutes (2 km) on foot from Kanbayashi Onsen to Jigokudani via “Yumichi Promenade”. You may also be able to see some wild animals such as Japanese serow and squirrels along the way. Near Jigokudani, there is another hot spring called Shibu Onsen which boasts abundant 100% hot spring water as well as its quality. During the winter, the road is closed to all vehicles but special “Snow Monkey Bus”, so if you don’t fancy walking, just use this bus service.