Nestled in the mountains to the west of Nagano City, Togakushi is famous for its natural beauty and spiritual significance. It is a place of dramatic seasonal change experiencing heavy snowfall in winter, bursting into verdant forests and wild flowers through spring and summer, before turning slowly into a mosaic of color – of gold, amber, and red – in autumn.
With the snow now mostly gone, it’s a great time to visit Togakushi as many attractions that are closed through the winter months are now reopened and welcoming guests.
Togakushi Okusha Shrine holds particular significance in Shintoism, Japan’s native religion. The five shrines that make up the site are strongly associated with Japanese creation stories, imbuing Togakushi with significance and identifying it as one of Japan’s most important spiritual repositories. Grand cedar trees line the path through the forest and link the gates and shrines of the complex, creating a reflective atmosphere as you journey into the heart of the forest (and Japan itself).
The forest reserve surrounding the shrine is stunning and popular with Japanese who walk its many trails. The area is known for the beauty and clarity of its lakes, typified by Kagami-ike (or the Mirror Pond), which on a still day reflects the mountains above. Japan is a country known for the neon and bustle of its large metropolitan centers. Those wanting to escape the hum and pace of Osaka and Tokyo, or even (relatively small) Nagano City, a day strolling in Togakushi well truly be good for the soul.
Another attraction, particularly popular with families, is the Togakure Ninpo Museum which celebrates local history, folklore, and most importantly, the Togakure school of ninjitsu – that’s right, a ninja museum! Be assured, this is not stuffy museum! The museum displays profile the art, skill, and weaponry of Japan’s fabled (and trickiest) combatants.
A highlight of any visit to the museum is entering and then successfully escaping the Ninja House. No two rooms are the same and visitors must have their wits about them to move from one room of the house to the next and eventually back outside. Be on the look-out! Discovery the false walls, hidden doors, and sliding features of all kinds are the key in what is a truly fun adventure for visitors of all ages.
Togakushi is readily accessible from JR Nagano Station. At the station, take bus numbers 70 or 71. Buses depart approximately once per hour and the journey from Nagano to Togakushi takes approximately 50 to 60 minutes. There are several stops to choose from when you arrive including Togakushi-Hokosha (Lower Shrine), Togakushi-Chusha (Middle Shrine) and Togakushi-Okushairiguchi (Upper Shrine). The Okushairiguchi stop is nearest to Kagami-ike (Mirror Pond) while the Chusha stop is the most convenient for those wanting to visit the Ninja Museum.
Togakushi is an easy day trip with most visitors choosing to return to Nagano City in the evening. If you are choosing to do so, Hotel Kokusai 21 is an excellent choice of accommodation given its convenient location to the train station and English-speaking staff who will be able to assist you should you have any questions about planning a visit to Togakushi.
The hotel offers some of the best accommodation and service in the city, including a range of restaurants serving Japanese and international cuisine. Before departing on your day trip to Togakushi, treat yourself the breakfast on offer at the hotel – the perfect start to the day!
After a day of forest walks, Hotel Kokusai 21 is the perfect hotel to return to for a comfortable evening meal and rest. The staff pride themselves on their service and will ensure a warm and welcome return to your hotel in the evening.