Enjoy the Seasonal Beauty of Togakushi
Togakushi can be enjoyed at anytime of the year with each season offering its own reasons to visit. Most famous for its shrines and soba which can be enjoyed throughout the year, Togakushi offers plenty of activities, some of which can only be enjoyed in specific seasons. There are some of our favourites:
Visiting the shrines
While most of the shrines can be accessed any time of year including winter, they are best enjoyed in spring, summer and autumn when each can be easily reached on foot. Come winter, the Chuusha (Middle Shrine) is the most accessible however the walk to the Okusha (Upper Shrine), along its impressive avenue of giant cedars, is without doubt the most stunning.
Walking along the ancient path in the snow is a memorable experience and offers amazing photo opportunities. The walk can be difficult however and should the snow be deep, visitors should consider specialist gear including snowshoes and walking poles.
The trails connecting the shrines are not the only ones in the forests of Togakushi with many paths spanning out across the landscape including those descending into the mountains. Away from the major shrines, visitors will quickly find themselves alone, surrounded by pristine nature and wildlife.
At 1904 metres, the jagged summit of Mt Togakushi conjures thoughts of landscapes depicted in traditional Japanese and Chinese art; while ‘Kagami-ike’ (Mirror Pond) is known for its beauty and (on a calm day), perfect reflection of the surrounding landscape. Best enjoyed in spring, summer and autumn, hiking in Togakushi is highlight of any visit to Nagano.
Togakushi has a couple of camp sites including a large area nearby the trailhead for Mt Takatsuma. The well-appointed camp ground has extensive area for tents, cabins for rent, and amenities including electricity, bbq facilities, hot showers, toilets, and coin laundary. Operating form late April until November, camping is most popular during August when families flock to Togakushi for the Japanese school holidays and to escape the summer heat. Rental gear includes tents, blankets, bbq grills… basically everything you might need!
While in Togakushi, visitors are basically obliged to enjoy at least one ‘soba’ meal – one of Nagano’s most popular and famous dishes. There are no shortage of restaurants, each serving their own hand-made soba. Weekends and public holidays, especially in summer, are the busiest times, with most restaurants in operation.
Expect a lot of competition for tables at the most popular restaurants on these days. Outside of peak periods, some restaurants choose to close. Those that are open should be quiet and happy to serve you. Soba can be enjoyed all year round.
Local bamboo craft
Known as ‘nemagaridake’, Togakushi is also famous for its bamboo craft industry. Taking a lifetime to master, this intricate skill produces beautiful baskets, containers and other items that are highly sought after. Stores can be found throughout Togakushi, with the greatest concentration located in the village nearby the Chuusha. Most stores will be open on weekends, holidays and throughout the summer peak season with fewer choosing to open during the winter months.
Release your inner ninja
Home to the Togakure school of ninja, Togakushi hosts a ninja museum and kids ninja village dedicated to these most elusive of legends. Located nearby the Okusha and Chuusha respectively, both the museum and kids village are equally enjoyable for adults and children.
Open from late April until early November, visitors seeking to release their inner ninjas best appear in spring, summer or autumn or risk being bitterly disappointing. Both the museum and kids village close during the winter so make sure your timing is right – an essential skill for any ninja.
As autumn takes hold through October and November, the forests of Togakushi will turn rich shades of yellow, amber, red and gold. Known as ‘koyo’ in Japanese, the autumn leaves of Togakushi are considered some of the most beautiful in Central Japan, drawing visitors from afar to wander through an enchanting world of colour.
The timing is different each year but if you are visiting Nagano in autumn, visiting Togakushi for this reason alone is an essential experience. Needless to say, the shrines look even more stunning and soba tastes even better in autumn!
Togakushi Ski Resort
Though located just outside of Nagano City, Togakushi experiences significantly colder temperatures with overnight lows of -15°C and even below -20°C being common in winter. With that comes snow, lots of it and of course fantastic skiing and snowboarding. Togakushi Ski Resort boasts the nearest ski runs to Nagano City and Nagano Station yet remains relatively unknown to international visitors.
A relatively small resort – consisting of 19 ski runs serviced by 7 chairlifts with 550 metres of vertical – Togakushi oozes character and is a favourite with locals, offering a great local experience. Open from late-December until mid-March (dependent on the snow conditions), a visit to Togakushi Ski Resort is a highlight of winter.
Stay at a traditional guesthouse
A visit to Togakushi is best enjoyed while staying at a local ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouse) or ‘shukubo’ (ryokan servicing a temple or shrine). The main concentration can be found nearby the Lower and Middle Shrines and offer guests an authentic, traditional Japanese experience. Featuring Japanese-style rooms including on-floor futon bedding, local cuisine including soba, and the warm and attentive service Japan is renowned for, guesthouses are typically family-run and the best way to experience the true nature of Togakushi.