20 Things to Do in Yamanouchi

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Best known for it famous hot spring-loving monkeys, Yamanouchi proudly lays claim to being the the home of the Snow Monkeys! As one of Central Japan’s best known destinations, visiting the Jigokudani Monkey Park is one of the highlights of any visit to the region yet once in Yamanouchi, visitors will discover and charming and quiet corner of Nagano with lots to offer.

jigokudani-monkey-winter

Blessed with numerous natural sources, Yamanouchi is home to some of Nagano’s oldest ‘onsen’ towns including Yudanaka Onsen and Shibu Onsen – great places to enjoy a hot spring and the traditional comfort and service of a ‘ryokan’. As such Yudanaka and Shibu are the gateways to Yamanouchi including nearby Shiga Kogen – Japan’s largest and highest ski resort – along with the resorts of Kita-Shiga.

food-fruit-apples

Outside of winter, the mountains are just as big and beautiful offering great hiking, nature photography and an escape from the heat and humidity of the cities. Autumn is a particularly beautiful time of year to visit, as the leaves change colour and the bountiful farms harvest their rice and pluck Yamanouchi’s plump apples for the orchards – some of the best in all of Japan!

 

Here are our recommendations of 20 things to do in Yamanochi:

 

1 / Jigokudani Monkey Park / all year round

 

This one goes without saying! As the only troop of monkeys in the world known to naturally bathe in hot springs, the Jigokudani Monkey Park – often referred to as the Snow Monkey Park – is one of the region’s most popular destinations and Yamanouchi’s best known attraction.

jigokudani-monkey

With no barriers separating you and the monkeys, this is a unique chance to observe these curious creatures in close proximity and witness the unusual sight of a Japanese macaque relishing the warm thermal waters of the park.

jigokudani-monkey

Most famous for their antics in winter, the monkeys in fact come to the park throughout the year. Spring sees the local cherry blossoms bloom and the year’s baby monkeys being born, followed by the lush, hot and humid summer and finally, the beautiful leaves of autumn; all before winter takes hold again and each season offering its own reasons to visit.

snow-monkey-baby-jigokudani

Here are our tips and suggestions for getting the most out of your visit to the Jigokudani Monkey Park.

jigokudani-monkey-groom

Located at the top of the small hot spring village of Kanbayashi Onsen, the monkeys are a must-see when visiting Nagano.

senjukaku

Interested in staying nearby the park? Please see our ‘Stay in Yamanouchi: Area Descriptions’ page for details including hotel bookings.

 

2 / Explore & stay in Yudanaka & Shibu Onsen / all year round

 

Nagano is blessed with numerous ‘onsen’ (natural hot springs) which can be enjoyed in the many historic onsen towns spread throughout the region. Taking inspiration from the monkeys, when visiting Nagano in winter why not try an onsen for yourself?

shibu-onsen-winter

Located nearby the monkey park, the historic hot spring towns of Yudanaka Onsen and Shibu Onsen are home to many ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses) and blessed with numerous hot spring sources.

shibu-onsen-autumn-leaves

Shibu Onsen is particularly charming. With a history stretching back 1300 years, this quaint town is full of surprises with many ryokan family-run.

Yudanaka Seifuso Hotel

Of particular note, Shibu is home to nine ‘public’ onsen however all but one is reserved for the use by hotel guests and local residents.

shibu-onsen-nine-outside-onsen-Bath

Upon check-in, guests of any hotel or guesthouse are given a key which opens each of the nine small baths.

shibu-onsen-nine-outside-onsen-Bath

Each has its own source of water and own (claimed) medicinal properties. Trying each of the nine onsen on ‘kyu-to-meguri’ (nine onsen tour) is an experience unique to Yamanouchi.

shibu-onsen-yamanouchi

While in Yamanouchi, make sure to enjoy one of the many restaurants and a couple of bars, known for their welcoming atmosphere, good food and of course, cold beers and warm sake. For further information about what awaits in both hot spring towns, see our ‘Activities in Yudanaka Onsen & Shibu Onsen’ page.

 

3 / Enjoy a traditional ‘ryokan’ & ‘kaiseki’ / all year round

 

Onsen come in all shapes and sizes. Some are ancient, run-down and a little bit wild while others are modern, stylish and indulgent. Many are open to the public as daytime spas open to the public however just as many are inside or attached to hotels and guesthouses and for the exclusive use of overnight guests. Known as ‘ryokan’ or ‘minshuku’ in Japanese, staying at an onsen hotel is a fantastic option for guests wanting a truly immersive experience.

senjukaku

Yamanouchi is home to numerous ryokan and minshuku. Often family-run, staying at one while in the area is a great way to experience traditional Japanese service and a warm welcome.

Senshinkan Matsuya, Shibu

Ryokan typical reserve use of their onsen exclusively for their guests and often offer private onsen, known as ‘kashikiri-buro’, which can be arranged at time of check-in (possibly at a small additional fee).

Sakaeya, Shibu

Most ryokan will also offer a traditional ‘kaisekei’ multi-course menu for dinner. While many international visitors to Japan have heard the term ‘kaiseki’, the exact meaning is often less well understood. That is for good reason. Kaiseki refers to a multi-course meal service which uses seasonal and often local ingredients to create a unique menu, as designed by the head chef.

senjukaku

For that reason, not only is there fantastic variation between kaiseki menus between guesthouses, kaiseki dining will varying greatly at the same hotel between seasons. Each chef strives to serve their guests with the best possible ingredients and intricate dishes that profile their region and its unique cuisines and flavors, in each season.

Sakaeya, Shibu

For tips and suggestions on choosing where to stay, see our ‘Stay in Yamanouchi: Area Descriptions’ page.

 

4 / Traditional onsen town experiences / all year round

 

One of the basic charms of any onsen town, is the feeling they imbue of stepping back in time into a quaint and fading world. Life is slower in an onsen town and tradition holds on with determination in the face of a changing world.

shibu-onsen

When visiting Yamanouchi and its historic hot spring towns of Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen, one of the most simple but enjoyable activities is savouring the trimmings typical of such places.

summer-festival-shibu-onsen-yamanouchi

Wandering the streets you will find stores selling savouries and confectionaries including ‘senbei’ and ‘manju’ – snacks synonymous with onsen towns. You will also find ‘onsen tamago’, eggs literally boiled in the onsen water and hot water sources you can drink.

shibu-onsen

Shooting galleries and other traditional games can be enjoyed by guests of all ages, while you wander the streets in your ‘yukata’ (light kimono) and ‘geta’ (wooden sandals).

shibu-onsen-yamanouchi

These are the charms of onsen towns. For more information, see our ‘Activities in Yudanaka Onsen & Shibu Onsen’ page.

 

5 / Day onsen & foot spas / all year round

 

For visitors not staying overnight in Yamanouchi, or simply in need of a daytime soak, several hot springs cater to day-visitors. Kaede no Yu is a hot spring actually attached to Yudanaka Station! Located on the opposite side to the platform access and station waiting room, Kaede no Yu is open from 10:00 to 21:00 with a large outdoor ‘ashi-yu’ (foot onsen) for free use by anyone, while waiting for your train or just relaxing.

kaede-no-yu-yudanaka-onsen-foot-spa

The ninth and largest of Shibu Onsen’s ‘public’ onsen, called the ‘O-yu’ can be used between the hours of 10:00 and 16:00. For entry and tickets, you need to first visit tourist information. Once inside, you will discover a very traditional wooden bathhouse with pleasant, silky water.

shibu-onsen-foot-spa

Direclty above the O-yu, is one of Shibu’s two foot onsen, free for use by anyone and open all times of day. The other, and larger of the two, is located at the top-end of town nearby Onsen-ji Temple.

Waku waku no yu, Yudanaka onsen

Located near the monkey park, Waku Waku no Yu is another that welcomes day-visitors between the hours of 10:00 and 20:30, while Toomi no Yu is open from 10:00 to 23:00 and includes the option of two private onsen that can be booked for 45-minute sessions. Both the private and public onsen at Toomi no Yu has outdoor baths, a great point from which the sunset each evening.

Mountain onsen with snow

Around 15-minutes drive from Yudanaka Station, visitors heading to Toomi no Yu should arrange a taxi, available immediately infront of the station. For more information, see our ‘Activities in Yudanaka Onsen & Shibu Onsen’ page.

 

6 / Explore on-foot & Discover Local Life / best: spring to autumn

 

Yamanouchi is an easy and enjoyable destination to explore on-foot. The two hot spring villages of Yudanaka Onsen and Shibu Onsen are spread along the Yomase River, a walk of around 15 to 20-minutes from one to the other.

kaede-no-yu-yudanaka-onsen-autumn-leaves

Enjoying the quiet laneways and forgotten corners of an old onsen town allows for great photography, while allowing time just to wander you can discover unassuming yet unique spots.

World peace kannon, Yudanaka

Located above the two towns and looking over the valley, the World Peace Kannon and Daihiden Temple are dedicated to enduring peace on Earth. Housing a continually burning flame, lit from the Hiroshima ‘Flame of Peace’, inside the temple, the 25-metre tall statue of Kannon – an important Buddhist ‘bodhisattva’ – commemorates the use of the atomic bomb and the enduring affect of that event.

Peace bell at Heiwa Kannon, Yudanaka

Continuing on from the temple, nearby ‘Issa’s Pathway’ commemorates the renowned haiku poet Kobayashi Issa as a forest trail leads to seven different shrines.

Kannon statue Shiga-kogen Highlands hike

Taking around 20 minutes to walk, ‘peace bells’ are positioned along the trail in further dedication to enduring peace of Earth. Visiting these unique and local sites can be enjoyed all year round but is perhaps most enjoyable during spring and autumn, when Yamanouchi’s stunning cherry blossoms and autumn leaves transform the area – see below for further details!

 

7 / Shiga Kogen – skiing & snowboarding at Japan’s Largest Resort / winter

 

Nestled within the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest and highest ski resort. As Japan’s largest ski resort, Shiga Kogen offers an expansive area to explore and conquer – around 80 courses, spread over a huge variety of terrain connected by more than 50 chairlifts and gondolas. In total, Shiga Kogen offers around 600 hectares of terrain and 80+ km of trails covered by one all-mountain pass.

snowboard-ski-winter

Shiga Kogen is in fact comprised of 18 ski areas – some large, some small – spread between five mountain peaks. The topography and layout of Shiga is reminiscent of European resorts, with ski runs leading into the valleys between the mountains where a seemingly endless expanse of terrain is waiting to be discovered.

shiga-kogen-central-area

Shiga Kogen is both the largest and highest ski resort in Japan. Boasting the highest chair-lifted ski run in Japan – reaching 2307 metres at Yokoteayama – Shiga is notably higher than the nearby resorts of Nozawa Onsen, Myoko Kogen and Hakuba.

central-area-shiga-kogen

The altitude and topography of the mountain means that Shiga is blessed with Nagano’s best and most reliable powder snow and stunning natural beauty.

winter-ski-snowboard

Shiga’s season starts earlier and goes longer with some ski areas opening as early as late-November and staying open until late-April or even into May – long after the other resorts of closed for the season. As such, Shiga offers visitors Nagano’s best spring-skiing and all within easy reach of the onsen villages of Yudanaka, Shibu and Kanbayashi.

shiga-kogen-yamanoeki

For visitors heading to Shiga Kogen using public transport from Yamanouchi or Nagano, Shiga Kogen Yamanoeki is the first major hub you will come to in the resort. Located in the Hasuike area, Yamanoeki (pronounced ‘yama-no-e-ki’), operates as a bus stop for local buses and the express bus service from Nagano Station with a café, shop selling souvenirs, snacks and drinks, a waiting room and public toilets inside.

Okushiga resort

In winter, ski and snowboard rental is also available inside and lift passes can be purchased here. The building is currently undergoing renovation including the installation of a new gondola that will connect Shiga Kogen Yamanoeki/Hasuike to the bottom of the Giant ski field/course – making Yamanoeki the gateway to Shiga Kogen. As that development nears completion and we can confirm all new facilities, we will update this page.

 

8 / Other Winter Activities in Shiga Kogen / winter

 

As Japan’s largest resort, Shiga Kogen has plenty to offer through winter (and throughout the year!). For families, especially those with younger children, the ski areas of Maruike and Yakebitaiyama have activity areas, fenced-off playgrounds where children and families can use sleds, tubes and other snow gear.

snow-fun-shiga

Winter visitors to Shiga can also enjoy snowmobiling in the Yakebitai ski fields. One of the most scenic areas of the resort, Yakebitai is the perfect place to enjoy a single or tandem ride, guided by a certified instructor.

Want to enjoy these activities in Shiga in combination with a visit to the monkeys? Check-out our winter tours in Shiga Kogen. Available from December to March each year, a tour is a convenient and fun way to enjoy Shiga Kogen at its wintery best!

 

9 / Olympic Challenge – Test Yourself on Shiga’s Olympic Courses / winter

 

As host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano’s credentials as a winter sports destination are well-known. The region is home to around 80 ski resorts however only a handful were selected as Olympic venues…

nagano-olympic-games-shiga-kogen998

Shiga Kogen was one of those resorts, hosting mens and womens snowboarding events and womens downhill skiing. As the first Olympic Games to include snowboarding as a medalled-event, Shiga Kogen has a strong connection to the development of snowboarding at a winter sport.

shiga-kogen-takamagahara

Today, visitors can still test themselves at the various Olympic courses spread through the resort. For details, see our ‘Winter Activities in Yamanouchi’ page.

 

10 / Staying in Shiga Kogen / all year round

 

Shiga Kogen boasts plenty of accommodation options spread across all areas of the resort. Ranging for luxury to budget and including everything from small family-run ski lodges to large hotels, you won’t have trouble finding accommodation. For first-time visitors, choosing where to stay can be a little confusing given the size of the resort.

grand-phenix-okushiga

When arriving at Shiga, the first ski fields you come to are Sun Valley, Maruike and Hasuike – good options when wanting to be located at the gateway to the resort. The ski fields around Ichinose and Takamagahara are the most central, with Ichinose village boasting the greatest number of bars and restaurants; while nearby Highashidate and Hoppo Onsen are slightly less central but with a good range of options.

grand-phenix-okushiga

Looking to go deeper into the resort and get those fresh powder runs to yourself each morning? Try the hotels Yakebitai, Okushiga or even further afield at Yokoteyama.

sunny-shiga

For area descriptions and accommodation listings in Yamanouchi, see our ‘Stay in Yamanouchi: Area Descriptions’ page.

 

11 / Kita-Shiga Kogen – skiing & snowboarding at Shiga’s Little Brother / winter

 

The ski resorts of Kita-Shiga Kogen offer some great powder and fun terrain, within easy reach of Yudanaka Station. Of the resorts in the area, Ryuoo Ski Park is the largest and most popular. Ryuoo has only 15 courses but a substantial 1080 metres of vertical (850-1930). Popular with locals and young Tokyo-ites, Ryuoo has a youthful atmosphere and is dominated by snowboarders.

Ryuoo-Ski-Park-Kitashiga-Kogen

Popular with locals and young Tokyo-ites, Ryuoo has a youthful atmosphere and is dominated by snowboarders.

Ryuoo ski park

The resort is long, narrow and effectively split into three sections: easy (and often crowded) beginner slopes at the bottom, intermediate courses in the midsection and advanced terrain and often excellent powder at the top. The resort is dominated by the ropeway which ascends to the top of the resort at 1770 metres and Sora Terrace Café – a popular destination in both winter and late-spring to autumn.

Ryuoo ski park

Though it wouldn’t take much to connect Ryuoo and Kita-Shiga to its much larger neighbor of Shiga Kogen, unfortunately at this time the two ski areas are not connected. For further details of what’s on offer in Kita-Shiga through winter and the year, see our ‘Activities in Kita-Shiga Kogen’ page.

 

12 / Events & Festivals in Yamanouchi / all year round

 

Known as ‘matsuri’ in Japanese, festivals play an important role in the health and well-being of local communities, and joining-in on the fun is one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have in Japan. Visitors to Yamanouchi can enjoy many local events and festivals throughout the year.

Yudanaka-summer-festival

The Yudanaka Summer Festival sees nightly events take place around the Yudanaka Station area from late-July until mid-August. There is a strong emphasis on community, with all events and activities arranged and conducted by local residents including ‘taiko’ (traditional drum_ performances, school bands, outdoor karaoke and ubiquitous game and food vendors found at Japanese festivals.

summer-festival-shibu-onsen-yamanouchi

Taking place from early to mid-August each year, the Shibu Onsen Summer Festival is a simple but fun local event, that sees the local community enjoying traditional games and activities in the streets of the famous hot spring down. ‘Bon O-dori’ is danced in the streets with everyone welcome to join in the fun each evening.

Daija festival

Taking place in the third week of August, the ‘Daija Festival’ is held in nearby Shiga Kogen and commemorates the legend of a serpent that is said to live in the waters of Onuma Pond.

shiga-kogen-daija-festival-yamanouchi

Having fallen in love with a beautiful princess, the serpent would disguise himself as a samurai but once discovered, Kurohime’s father forbid the relationship and tried to trick the giant snake. Let’s just say the story doesn’t well… culminating in the serpent destroying her father’s castle and Kurohime throwing herself into the pond.

Daija festival parade

This low-key local festival takes place of three days and includes the Miss Shiga Kogen competition, traditional performances and fireworks.

Once winter rolls back round, the ‘Kanbyashi Onsen Sendayaki’ is a small and very local fire festival taking place in the first week of February. The event sees members of the ‘Mitake-kyo Chusei-kosha’ – a Shinto sect that worships Mount Ontake – move from the lower town of Shibu Onsen up to Kanbayashi Onsen in ceremonial attire.

Parading from Shibu Onsen to Kanbayashi Onsen, the festival concludes with the three Shinto members walking across burning charcoal as a form of purification.

Come March, Shiga Kogen plays host to an increasingly popular beer and music festival – Snow Monkey Beer Live. Taking place over three days, the festival actually heralds the end of winter and beginning of Shiga’s spring ski reason. As Japan’s largest and highest resort, Shiga Kogen really comes into its own just when most other resorts are closing. Heading to Snow Monkey Beer Live for one or all of the three days of great beer, music and food is the perfect way to welcome spring in Yamanouchi.

 

13 / Yamanouchi in Spring: Cherry blossoms & Baby Monkeys! / spring

 

Spring sees the snow melt in Yamanouchi and an increasingly green and lush landscape emerging, heralded by the blooming of the local cherry blossom trees.

cherry-blossom-sakura

Known as ‘sakura’ in Japan, wandering below the pink and white canopy of the cherry blossoms in spring is perhaps the quintessential Japanese experience. Yamanouchi’s higher elevation means that the bloom is later most other areas, typically occurring from mid-April onward.

cherry-blossom-sakura

Notable spots to see the blossoms in Yamanouchi include the ‘Kodaizakura’ (pictured below) which is estimated to be over 850-years of age yet retains a glorious bloom each spring. One of several historic tress located in the Uki Ward of Yamanouchi, the trees in this area are best accessed by car or taxi, and once there explore the area on-foot.

chitosezakura-cherry-blossom-yamanouchi

The World Peace Kannon – discussed above – is another renowned blossom spot and one that can be reached on-foot from both Yudanaka Onsen and Shibu Onsen, along with the banks of the Yomase River which runs past the two onsen towns.

cherry-blossom-yudanaka-onsen-Sekai-Heiwa-Kannon-World-Peace-Buddha-Statu

Visitors heading to the monkey park will also be able to enjoy some spectacular blossom – usually around mid-April onward – as they walk through Kanbayashi Onsen.

kanbayashi-onsen-cherry-blossom-yamanouchi

Around the same time, the expecting mothers of the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park will begin to give birth to the year’s adorable babies. Witnessing these awkward bundles of fur, with their long limbs and glassy eyes, begin their first stumbling exploration of the world is a true highlight of spring.

snow-monkey-jigokudani-baby

Typically born from mid-April until mid-June, the baby monkeys grow in confidence quickly, and by summer and scurrying around the park trying to keep up with their brothers, sisters, and cousins – one of the best times to visit the monkey park!

 

14 / Hiking in the Mountains of Yamanouchi / best: spring to autumn

 

Blessed with high mountain peaks and deep snow in winter, Yamanouchi offers some of Nagano’s most enjoyable hiking from spring to autumn.

shiga-kogen-autumn-leaves-trail

The expansive Joshinetsu Kogen National Park has numerous hiking trails, most of which are suitable to anyone of reasonable fitness. Declared a UNESCO Biodiversity Reserve in 1981, the highlands cradle an important alpine ecosystem, home to numerous unique flora and fauna.

shiga-kogen-trail-guided-trekking

A mixed landscape of woodlands, swamps, ponds and high moors is criss-crossed by an array of hiking trails – from well-maintained sealed and elevated walkways to less readily identifiable trails leading deep into the forest and toward the mountain peaks.

shiga-kogen-autumn-leaves-trail

One of the best ways to enjoying hiking in the mountains of Yamanouchi, is to do so with a local guide. Fun and informative, they can make sure you get the most out of your time in the mountains and turn your walk into an even more rewarding experience.

 

15 / Ropeways & View Points in Yamanouchi / most of the year

 

Home to many mountains and some of Nagano’s best ski areas, it is not surprise that Yamanouchi also boasts multiple ropeways that transport passengers to outstanding views of the surrounding landscape. All ropeways listed below operate throughout the year, with periods that they do not operate either side of winter:

 

Higashidateyama Ropeway

 

In winter, the Higashidateyama Ropeway provides access to (what were) the womens alpine skiing courses at the 1998 Olympic Games, while outside of winter transports passengers to 2008 metres above sea level to enjoy panoramic views, a café and alpine botanical garden.

shiga-kogen-winter

Small gondolas allow passengers to ride by themselves or just with family and friends. For visitors wanting to ride the ropeway outside of winter, please note that it operates from early-June to mid-October.

 

Yokoteyama Chairlift

 

Rising to an elevation of 2307, the Yokoteyama Chairlift services Japan’s highest ski run. Outside of winter, the chairlift operates from late-May until the end of October. At the top, visitors have a panoramic view back for Shiga Kogen and toward the North Japan Alps.

A café and viewing deck awaits up top, with walking trails leading back down or further into the national park. Both the Higahidateyama and Yokoteyama Ropeways are located in Shiga Kogen. See our ‘Activities in Shiga Kogen’ page for further details.

 

Ryuoo Sora Terrace & Skyland Express Ropeway

 

Servicing Ryuoo Ski Park in winter, the Skyland Express Ropeway operates for most of the year including from May until November. Rising to the upper station at 1770 metres above sea level the large gondola can carry more than 160 people and on a clear day, affords fantastic views of the valley below and the mountains of the North Japan Alps.

Ryuoo ropeway with a sea of clouds

Located next to the upper gondola station, Sora Terrace is an observation deck and café offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The café serves typical fare including meals, snacks and drinks.  The Skyland Express Ropeway is located in Kita-Shiga Kogen.  See our ‘Activities in Kita-Shiga Kogen’ page for details.

 

16 / Drive the Shiga-Kusatsu Route / spring to autumn

 

Also called the Shiga Kusatsu Kogen Road, this famous alpine route is actually part of National Route 292, and connects Kanbayashi Onsen and the Jigokudani Monkey Park with Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma. In doing, the road passes over and through Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, passing the peaks of Mount Yokote (Yokoteyama) and Mount Shirane before reaching Kusatsu.

shiga-kogen-kusatsu-route

Due to heavy snow in winter, the road is only open between May and mid to late-November but in that time, offers drivers a beautiful drive on well-maintained roads. Upon opening in spring, visitors can enjoy snow walls lining either side of the road as the pass the higher points near Yokoteyama and Shirane.

shiga-kogen-kusatsu-route

Driving the route is a great way to move to and from Yamanouchi but make sure to check advisories as the road can close from time-to-time as a precaution, when activity is detected or expected at Mt. Shirane. Mt. Shirane is an active volcano and your personal safety should be your first priority. The Japan Meteorological Agency provides real-time advice and warnings for the entire country. Prior to visiting Shirane, we recommend checking the following website.

kusatsu-shirane-gunma

Driving the Shiga-Kusatsu Route is a great option for visitors wanting to combine their visit to Yamanouchi with nearby destinations including Mount Shrine and Mount Asama, the famous hot spring town of Kusatsu Onsen and the popular mountain resort town of Karuizawa. See our ‘Activities in Shiga Kogen’ page for details.

 

17 / Fruit-picking in Yamanouchi / summer to autumn

 

Blessed with an ideal climate for growing countless varieties of fruit and vegetables, Nagano is most famous for its apples and grapes, both of which grow to impressive size and deliciously flavorful in the higher elevation of Yamanouchi’s orchards. Growing many varieties of apples including well-loved Fuji and San Fuji types, the pronounced temperature difference between day and night promotes the growth of delicious apples which you can pick and enjoy for yourself and several of the region’s many orchards.

food-fruit-apples

This leisurely activity is suitable for all ages and is particularly popular with families, whose children relish the rare chance to be among orchards and choosing their own delicious apples directly from the tree. For details, see our ‘Summer Activities in Yamanouchi’ page.

 

18 / Other Summer Activities / best: June to September

 

Witnessing the fireflies of early-summer is a magical experience. Known as ‘hotaru’ in Japanese, late-July to the end of August sees Shiga Kogen’s ‘Ishi-no-Yu’ glow brightly in the night as Japan’s highest firefly breeding ground (1650 metres above sea level), whirls into magical life.

Tatsuno-Hotaru-festival-Japan-fireflies-dance

Visitors heading to Shiga to witness this remarkable sight are asked to refrain from using flash photography and avoid using bright lights, such as the screens of mobile phones, to avoid disrupting the fireflies.

shiga-kogen-torii-onumaike-pond

Yamanouchi also offers a range of other activities in summer including golf at the Shiga Kogen Country Club, stand-up paddling (SUP) on the lakes and yoga classes in the open spaces of Shiga Kogen, or a series of trail running events in Shiga.

Happy runners

Held in July, the Shiga Kogen Mountain Trail Run includes 40km and 14.8km alpine running races with a notably shorter 1 to 3km children’s event, followed by the Shiga Kogen Extreme Trail Run in October including 54km, 32km and 8km events and also featuring a 1 to 3km children’s race.

Good runners

Races are great fun and supported by a welcoming running community. They are however also highly demanding and longer races should only be undertaken be persons of suitable fitness and preparation. For the safety of entrants, event organisers reserve the right to refuse entry to the races. But whether you running or simply there to watch, these are increasingly popular and fun events in Yamanochi’s yearly calendar. For details, see our For details, see our For details, see our ‘Summer Activities in Yamanouchi’ page and ‘Events & Festivals in Yamanouchi’ page.

 

19 / Autumn Leaves in Yamanouchi / October to November

 

Known as ‘koyo’ in Japan, seeking-out the cherished leaves of autumn is a favourite national pastime. Typically occurring from October to November – depending on the location and weather conditions that year – Japanese will go great distance to see the beautiful leaves of autumn.

autumn-leaves-koyo

Our ‘Cherry Blossoms & Autumn Leaves in Yamanouchi’ page provides lots of good information about the culture of ‘momojigari’ (hunting for autumn leaves) and how to best plan your trip around it, including Shiga Kogen – one of the best stops to enjoy the colours of autumn.

 

20 / Visit Yamanouchi Using a 2-Day Snow Monkey Pass

 

For many visitors heading to Yamanouchi, the 2-Day Snow Monkey Pass offers convenience and great value including unlimited use of the Nagano Dentetsu Railway line between Nagano Station and Yudanaka Station and/or use of the Nagaden Snow Monkey Express Bus service between Nagano Station and Kanbayashi Onsen/Jigokudani Monkey Park for two days, along with one entry to the park itself.

 

snow-monkey-pass

The pass represents great value for money and allows you to combine your visit to Yamanouchi with nearby destinations including those in Nagano City. Boasting a near-1400 year history, Zenko-ji Temple is the spiritual heart of Nagano Cityand one of Japan’s most open and welcoming Buddhist temples. The temple offers a range of Buddhist practices and experiences including meditation, calligraphy and ‘goma’ (fire prayer) ceremony while also conducting a morning ceremony every day of the year. Visitors of all faiths and backgrounds are welcome. Nearby Zenko-ji, the small precinct of Monzen Terrace / Patio Daimon offers a range of craft workshops including ‘origami’, ‘mizuhiki’ and calligraphy.

nagaden-yukemuri

For those on their way to Yamanouchi using the Nagano Dentetsu (Nagaden) Railway line, stopping at Obuse is another great option. Home to the Hokusai Museum, Obuse has a strong association with Japan’s most famous artist – Katsushika Hokusai – and is home to a popular chestnut confectionary industry, sake breweries and pleasant craft shops.

Explore Yamanouchi - Home of the Snow Monkeys

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