Most visitors to Nagano will take the time to head up the hill from the station and visit the city’s most famous attraction, Zenko-ji Temple. With a near 1400-year history, the temple embodies a seductive mix of history and myth, luminous statues and dark, dark tunnels.
As the sun goes down the temple empties of visitors. Many if not most stroll back to Nagano Station, back to their hotels, dinner, or onto other destinations. However those who linger will discover that as the light fades and visitors disperse the complex fills with shadows, and as darkness falls, the sentinel guards of the ‘Niomon’ are lit-up (pictured above), casting their endless vigil with dark intensity.
The temple grounds remain open at night and those who hang around to explore the precinct will also discover the nearby nightlife that many people miss-out on!
Only a short stroll from the templem nighttime lingerers will find Nagano’s newest restaurant, Monzen Terrace Enya. Enya’s outdoor terrace is particularly inviting in the warm evening, a place where you can sit down with a cold drink, great food, and plan your evening ahead.
Enya’s menu is based on the best local produce and freshest seafood from the Sea of Japan including oysters, sashimi, and sushi. In the late warmth of summer, combining your meal with a local craft beer or sake from one of Nagano’s acclaimed is an ideal way to end your day of exploration and soak in what you have just experienced.
For those wanting to explore a little further, Nagano’s Gondo-dori precinct is a short walk from Monzen Terrace Enya. Heading down Omotesando (the main road leading back from the temple to the station), you will pass a covered street on your left after about 5 minutes (there is a 7-11 directly across the road). The passageway of Gondo-dori and the laneways running it off cater for those wanting to keep the night going with a range of bars, izakayas, and other restaurants including James Nagano Beer Market, Beerhall Topi, and Bistro & Bar Nagi.
There’s no shortage of options in the area with an increasingly young crowd drawn to the less developed laneways running-off Gondo-dori and Zenko-ji, opening new bars all the time. Gondo-dori remains open late into the night and offers something for everyone looking for an excuse to stay-out. After all, getting out and about after dark is the best way to get to know the locals! Often overlooked by international visitors, this area of town feels very local and authentic. You’ll standout for all the right reason, and guaranteed to get into some interesting conversations!
Once you’re done there’s no need to walk back to Nagano Station with convenient accommodation options throughout the precinct. Located just a short walk from the Zenko-ji and Gondo-dori precincts, Hotel Kokusai 21 is one of the most convenient for those wanting the comfort and service of a truly international hotel, accustomed to welcoming international visitors to Nagano.
By staying at Kokusai 21 you will be within easy walking distance of Zenko-ji and its after dark attractions and can look forward to an indulgent breakfast buffet, featuring both Japanese and Western options, in the morning to recharge and refresh for the day ahead.
And for those who have really made the most of the night before, Kokusai offers a free shuttle service to JR Nagano Station, to save your feet and brain the trouble of getting yourself there for your onward journey.