When visiting Nagano City, many people choose to stay around the central precinct surrounding the station. It has the greatest concentration of accommodation, restaurants and bars and of course, is the nearest location to the station itself, making it a convenient location from which to arrive in and depart Nagano.
At its heart -literally – Nagano is however a temple town. Approximately 20 minutes walk from the station, the city’s near-1400 year old Zenko-ji Temple is the spiritual epicenter of the city, the ancient heart from which Nagano grew. Many if not most visitors to the city choose to visit the temple while here, taking the pleasant 20 minute stroll along the city’s original main thoroughfare. Known as the ‘Omotesando’ or ‘Pilgrims Way’, the road leads directly to the temple complex, through its progressively more impressive gates and ending at the Main Hall.
Many older buildings including traditional merchant buildings have been retained along the road, converted for use as restaurants, cafes and a range of interesting shops worth visiting as you stroll to and from the temple, including:
At the last major intersection you will cross before reaching the temple precinct, Patio Daimon is home to a mix of traditional buildings including ‘kura’ (storehouses) along with more modern additions – a historic precinct which blends tradition with modern touches, food with fun activities!
Patio Daimon offers a range of restaurants and venues hosting traditional craft experiences including ‘origami’, ‘mizuhiki’, and Japanese calligraphy among other workshops and fun activities as detailed in our blog article: TRADITIONAL CRAFT EXPERIENCES IN NAGANO CITY: MORNING & AFTERNOON ACTIVITIES NEAR ZENKO-JI TEMPLE!
Monzen Terrace ENYA
Located within Patio Daimon, Monzen Terrace Enya opened its doors in the summer of 2018 and has quickly established itself as one of the Nagano’s most popular restaurants. Situated only a couple of minutes walk from the temple, Enya is the perfect spot for lunch or dinner.
Enya’s menu blends Japanese staples with Western favorites, from sushi to fried chicken, ramen, pizza and everything in-between.
The restaurant is equally popular with visitors to the city and locals, who appreciate the restaurants outdoor seating, friendly atmosphere and English-speaking staff. So whether you want to sit for a meal, a quick drink or grab something to go, Enya has you covered!
For those with a sweet tooth, this is the place to head straight for. Inside the beautiful traditional building you will find all sorts of delicious chocolates, cakes, pancakes and more! It has an assortment of absolutely beautiful pastries that are made with the Japanese eye for detail and perfection.
Not just the pastries, but also the soft serve you can get there is pretty amazing. The soft serve is called ‘Cremia’, and not just the milky-flavored ice cream is lovely, the cone is very nice as well.
Shichimi Togarashi or ‘Seven Spice’ in English, is one of Nagano’s most famous brands and spiciest little resident. The distinctive and collectible cans and packaging making the spice very popular throughout Japan, and nowhere more so than at this store located just outside the temple precinct.
Chilli flavors include ginger, Sichuan pepper, hemp seed, black sesame, dried Yuzu peel, and perilla. Having sold Nagano’s famous spice for almost 300 years, Yawataya is a popular destination for visitors wanting to pickup a spicy little reminder of their trip for themselves, friends and family. If you like spice and heat, this is the place for you and while there why not try some spiced sweets or even ice cream…
Nagano is well-known for its delicious ‘soba’ (buckwheat noodles) and Daimaru is one of the best places to try the local delicacy while in Nagano City.
Located across from Yawataya, Daimaru Soba offers the chance (at the right time of day) to see the in-house chef handmaking soba in the storefront window. It’s not just for show, it’s the real thing being prepared for you to devour and enjoy so head on in!
Ninja Mura Daimon
As the name implies, the ninja store located across the road from Patio Daimon is filled with ninja themed stuff – making it a great stop for kids and families! Any would-be ninja will know that Nagano is synonymous with the Togakure school of ninjitsu, which was founded and practiced in nearby Togakushi.
The ninja shop has everything an aspiring or full-time ninja might need! Within the store, there is a kids ninja course to tackle including a ladder which leads into a ceiling which then requires mastery of trickdoors to escape!
Kashiwa Paper Shop
Right next to the Ninja Shop is the decidedly less-tricksome Kashiwa – a Japanese paper store. The store handles a huge variety of gorgeous Japanese paper and other handcrafts.
Fans made with the Japanese paper, paintings, postcards, Japanese hanging scrolls, paper dolls, and many more delightful things await inside.
Kinoko & Vegetable
Across the street from the Ninja Shop and Kashiwa, Kinoko & Vegetable is a buffet-style restaurant serving a vegetarian menu. Locally-sourced, seasonal vegetables make the restaurant even more appealing for those looking to enjoy the best of Nagano and support local farmers!
The buffet lunch is all-you-can-eat and great value at JPY1350 JPY – an economic, delicious, and healthy taste of Nagano!
Takei Craft Store
This store displays and sells a wide array of local crafts. They have coasters, paintings, photo frames, statues, tableware, cutlery, clothes, and more. All the items displayed are made by local craftsmen making it a great store to visit for those looking for a unqiue, meaningful gift or memento.
If you want a true and tried Shinshu souvenir, Takei Craft Store has you covered!
A special time to visit…
For visitors heading to Nagano in late-November through December, the Omotesando and Zenko-ji Temple will come to light each evening in the Zenko-ji Omotesando Illumination. Running from November 24th until December 25th, the Pilgrims Way followed by the temple itself will be awash with color and subtle light, as they are transformed into an imagine Buddhist heaven on earth…
The cold evenings of winter, this beautiful festival is perhaps the best way to explore the city after the stores have closed their doors for the day and the crisp chill of winter takes hold.
Getting to Zenko-ji Temple along the Omotesando
To access the road leading to the temple, simply exit the station via the Zenko-ji Exit and cross over the intersection in front of you. Once over the road, head to your right and you’ll quickly come across a diagonal road on your left with little traffic on it. Head along this road – you’ll soon see a 7-11 on your left and a Starbucks on your right – and walk to the end where it intersects with a larger road. Turn right and you’re on the Omotesando!
It’s that easy. Only a couple of minutes walk from the station you are now on the city’s main thoroughfare which will lead you directly to the temple – approximately 20 minutes – with so much to explore along the way!