Hiking & Walking Trails of Togakushi
Part of the larger Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park, Togakushi lies just outside central Nagano City and is an area blessed with fantastic hiking and walking trails. The area has long been considered sacred and acted as a place of devotion for at least one thousand years. Some of the most important Shinto shrines in the country are found within the forests of Togkaushi, the trails leading to which are known as the ‘Togakushi Kodo’ – pilgrimage trails that have been walked for centuries.
Trails between the shrines are suitable for anyone of reasonable fitness while other more challenging hikes can be found along trails leading deeper into the forest and mountains above. For visitors looking to enjoy a casual day of hiking, it’s best to first head to the Togakushi Tourist Information Center and pickup a map or ask for suggestions of where to head.
As the map above shows – you can view an enlarged version by clicking on it – the trails range in length and lead toward Mount Togakushi in the top left-hand corner of the image. At 1904 metres above sea level, Mount Togakushi isn’t as tall as some other mountains in the national park however it is considered a more challenging climb than most with a treacherous ridge line. Hiking the trails that lead toward the mountain and then ascend towards its summit should not be attempted by anyone other than experienced mountaineers and even then, we recommend arranging a local guide.
The main appeal for most visitors will be walking the trails between the shrines and to other attractions including the seasonally-beautiful Kagami-ike, the Togakushi Forest Botanical Garden or to the Togakushi Campground. Trails are well-maintained, sign-posted and in areas of the botanical garden, consists of raised walkways making the walking exceptionally easy.
Togakushi receives heavy snow over winter but most trails should be open by early to mid-May and stay open until the end of November. It is worth noting that the forests and mountains of the area are home to a large number of Asiatic black bears. The bears are typically shy and want nothing to do with humans. While sightings are common, confrontations are rare with bears usually fleeing at the sight of a human. You will notice that many people walking the trails choose to wear a bell for this reason and it’s worth being particularly cautious around the botanical garden at dusk, when bears often appear after visitors have left for the day.
Early-spring and late-autumn are also times to exercise more caution as the bears emerge from or prepare for hibernation. For further information about the types of animals you might encounter in Togaksuhi, see our ‘Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park’ page.
WALKING BETWEEN THE SHRINES
Walking between the shrines is suitable for anyone of reasonable fitness and an ideal day activity from Nagano City. When approaching from Nagano City, you will first come to the Hokosha (Lower Shrine). Accessed via a steep flight of stairs, this is the oldest of the extant shrines and dedicated to the patron goddess of maternity and academia. Staring the trail from this point will lead you to the smaller Hinomikosha – approximately 15 minutes walk – dedicated to the god for fire, marriage, and the performing arts.
You then begin a more energetic 2km walk uphill – suitable for anyone of reasonable fitness – which takes you to the ‘Chusha’ (Middle Shrine) – pictured above. Dedicated to wisdom, the middle shrine is famous for several enormous cedars estimated to be around 800 years old. Surrounding the middle shrine, several soba restaurants and bamboo craft shops are within easy walking distance.
From the Chuusha you undertake a longer 2km walk to the avenue leading to the Kuzuryusha and finally, the Okusha (Upper Shrine). Approaching the Upper Shrine along an avenue of giant cedars and through the red Zuishinmon – pictured above and below – calm turns to wonder as the towering trees dwarf the people below – a truly spectacular sight only enhanced by the fog and mist common in Togakushi. The Okusha celebrates the god who cast the stone door aside from Amaterasu’s cave bringing light back into the world. You can enjoy the entire walk over several hours or pick and choose which trails you want to follow depending on your schedule.
For directions to the area from Nagano City and other starting points, see our ‘How To Get To Togakushi’ page and for suggestions of what else is on offer once you’re there, see our ’15 Things to Do in Togakushi & Where to Stay’ page.
Best: May to November
Approximately 70-minutes drive from the Jigokudani Monkey Park
The Togakushi Tourist Information Center can be reached using local bus services from Nagano Station. Buses depart from outside the Alpico office across from the Zenkoji Exit of the station. Take either Bus No.70 or No.73 and disembark at the Chusha / Middle Shrine Stop when you see the large 'torii' gate to your right. The journey takes around 65-minutes when using Bus No.70 and 85-minutes when using Bus No.73 and costs JPY1,350 one-way