Most people stay close the Nagano Station when visiting Nagano City. We’d like to propose an alternative course. When staying overnight, stay closer to Zenko-ji Temple, Nagano’s main attraction, and closer to Gondo, a district in Nagano City that’s little explored by foreign visitors.
Gondo is best recognized by its arcade street, that is found in between of Nagano Station and the temple complex of Zenko-ji. If you go to this street during the day, it is quiet, calm, and more for elder Japanese it seems. At night though, the area transforms into a hub, with groups of salary men, prettily dressed women, and tough-looking men traipsing the streets and visiting bars and restaurants.
The arcade street of Gondo seems to sleeps during the day, with the occasional store that sells cheap fruits and veggies (a luxury in Japan), a lovely corner store that sells Japanese hanging scrolls though, and a secondhand bookstore. At the end of the street, next to the station of Gondo, is a department store called Iko Yakodo where they have clothing stores, a grocery store, and a 100 yen shop for those looking for cheap souvenirs.
In the later hours, the district is lively and energetic, with all sorts of different restaurants and clubs lighting up the arcade street. Gondo offers an array of dining options, ranging from Japanese yakitori, to sushi, to Indian, to Italian. For more detail on the various places you can find, please take a look at this site .
There are places in the arcade street that are open both during the day and during the night as well. For example, singing at the chain-store Maneki-neko, one of Japan’s cheapest karaoke bars! There are plenty of English/Chinese/Korean/Japanese songs for you to sing. If your throat is parched from all the singing, you can replenish yourself with beverages from the complementary drink bar.
Just a little further from the karaoke bar is a Pachinko store, a mechanical, recreational gambling game. This is one of the biggest vices/hobbies for the Japanese so give it a try as a cultural experience!
Love movies? Gondo’s movie theater Grand Cinema has many movies, with Japanese anime and real life, to Hollywood blockbusters. If you go to the movies in the morning you can see classics from 70 years ago.
And just a little further up the hill you’ll find…
Open from 11:30 22:30 everyday, Monzen Terrace Enya is one of the city’s newest and most exciting restaurants offering guests an extensive menu of meal, snacks and drinks including local craft beer and sake. Enya has an English menu and English-speaking staff, and with seating across two floors and outside to enjoy the evening atmosphere during the warmer months of the year. Located just up the hill from the main Gondo district, you’ll reach Enya is under 10 minutes walk.
How to get there
You can walk comfortably from the station to Gondo within 20 minutes. Just follow the main road that leads to the Zenko-ji temple complex and you will see the start of the Gondo arcade street on your right, across from a 7/11. If you like a less physically straining route, go by Nagano Dentetsu train to the station of Gondo. This train is the same train that will take you to the Snow Monkey Park.