Stay & Enjoy Togakushi: Recommended Seasonal Activities
Located within easy reach of Nagano City, Togakushi is an all-year-round destination offering a range of outdoor and cultural activities depending on when you visit. On this page you will find the following information:
Home to some of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan and part of the larger Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park, Togakushi offers lots of reasons to visit. Maintaining many aspects of their traditional mountain culture, the people of Togakushi are proud of their heritage and invite you to visit and share in the following unique experiences.
STAY AT A TRADITIONAL ‘SHUKUBO’
Among Japanese, Togakushi is best-known for its expansive Shinto shrine complex with five major shrines and other smaller sites dotted through the forests. Walking trails link the shrines and lead further into the forest and ultimately ascend to the sacred peak of Mount Togakushi. The area has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries with evidence suggesting it has been considered sacred for well-over one thousand years. To this day many people still visit Togakushi on pilgrimage to the shrines and to walk the trails of the ‘Togakushi Kodo’, and in-keeping with that tradition, the area is home to many ‘shukubo’.
A shukubo is basically a ‘ryokan’, a traditional guesthouse providing lodging to visitors to nearby shrines or temples. In the past, they provided accommodation to people on pilgrimages, a function they still serve today. However, you don’t need to a devotee of any particular faith or on pilgrimage yourself to enjoy staying at one. Offering traditional comforts and good food, staying at a shukubo while in Togakushi is an ideal way to further your understanding and enjoyment of the area.
In most ways, shukubo mirror the comfort and service of typical ryokan with rooms featuring ‘tatami’-matting, low furniture and on-floor ‘futon’ bedding and likely to include shared bathroom facilities segregated by gender. Many shukubo serve vegetarian menus in-keeping with their connection to a shrine or temple with some also offering optional religious activities. But as mentioned, regardless of your background and faith you are welcome to stay at any shukubo in Togakushi – an ideal way to further your understanding of the area and its celebrated shrines. For further information including how to book, see our ‘Stay at a Traditional ‘Shukubo’ in Togakushi’ activity page.
RECOMMENDED SEASONAL ACTIVITIES
Only 45-minutes from Nagano Station, Togkaushi is easily accessible and offers reasons to visit in each season. Shukubo operate throughout the year, allowing visitors to stay and enjoy the many seasonal activities during an overnight or multi-day stay. From the deep snow of winter, the cooler summer climate and beauty of autumn, each season offers its own reasons to visit. We hope that the following recommended activities will tempt you to do just that:
VISITING THE SHRINES / all year round
While most of the shrines can be accessed any time of year including winter, they are perhaps best enjoyed in spring, summer and autumn when each can be easily reached on-foot. Come winter, the Chusha (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.
HIKING & WALKING THE TRAILS / best: May to November
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 (Lake Kagami) is known for its beauty and (on a calm day), perfect reflection of the surrounding landscape.
Most trails should be open by the middle of April however to be certain that they are free of snow, it’s best to wait until May and enjoy until late-November. For further information, see our ‘Hiking & Walking Trails of Togakushi’ activity page.
E-BIKE RIDING / April to November
Available from the Togakushi Tourist Information Center – directly across from the ‘Chusha’ (Middle Shrine) – visitors can rent e-bikes between April and November. Each e-bike has a rechargeable battery that is controlled by the rider, allowing them to switch it on and increase the power when they need a little help riding-up an incline or when they just want to relax at let the bike do most of the work. You’ll really notice the difference, especially climbing hills, as the battery kicks in giving your pedaling added power and momentum – a great way to explore the overall area and some of the more distant attractions. For more information see our ‘E-Bike in Togakushi’ activity page.
SNOWSHOE TREKKING / December to March
From December to March, visitors to Togakushi can expect regular snowfall as the long, cold winter takes hold. During these months, the trails between the shrines are likely to be snowbound requiring additional gear to access them. For visitors with a little energy and sense of adventure, snowshoe trekking during these months is one of the most enjoyable activities available in Togakushi. Snowshoes can be rented and returned to the office, allowing you to then head-off along the many walking trails in the area. Highlights include walking toward the Okusha (Upper Shrine) and through the Zuishinmon and giant cedar avenue along with the longer circuit to Kagami-ike.
Togakushi Campground is another fantastic place to snowshoe. On fine winter days, the plateau of the campground affords easy walking and fantastic views of Mount Togakushi or if you’re feeling up to an uphill walk, you could venture all the way up to Togakushi Ski Resort. For more information, see our ‘Snowshoe Trekking in Togakushi’ activity page.
SKIING & SNOWBOARDING / December to March
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. For more information, see our ‘Togakushi Ski Resort’ page.
RELEASE YOUR INNER NINJA / April to November
The founding place of the Togakure school of ninja, Togakushi is also home to the Togakure Ninpo Museum and Chibiko Ninja Mura (Kids Ninja Village), dedicated to these most elusive of warriors. Located nearby the Okusha and Chusha 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.
TOGAKURE NINJA TRAINING / all year round
For visitors wanting to take their ninja experience one step further, believe it or not, you can still find a living, practicing ninja to teach you in their ancient ways. Workshops vary depending on the interests of the guest but typically run for a couple of hours in which time your instructor introduces some of the principles ninjitsu before teaching you some fighting and sword techniques. Available upon request throughout the year, our ‘Togakure Ninja Training in Togakushi’ activity page has details of how to book this fun and engaging activity.
INDULGE IN TOGAKUSHI ‘SOBA’ / all year round
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 welcome you. Soba can be enjoyed all year round.
LOCAL BAMBOO CRAFT / all year round
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 Chusha. Most stores will be open on weekends, holidays and throughout the summer peak season with fewer choosing to open during the winter months.
ENJOY THE AUTUMN LEAVES / October to November
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! For more information about where to find the best leaves in Nagano and Central Japan, see our ‘Autumn Leaves’ main page.
CAMPING / April to October
For visitors wanting an alternative to staying a local shukubo, Togakushi Campground is located next to Togakushi Ranch and with fantastic views of Mount Togakushi, the campground has space for more than 350 auto-campers, cabins, outdoor kitchens and stoves, showers and toilets and a small shop. Accessible all year round, the campground and its facilities operate from late-April until the end of October. Togakushi enjoys a notably cooler climate than the valley below, even in summer when the temperature is regularly around 10°C cooler than Tokyo. Easy to get to from the capital via nearby Nagano Station and offering welcome relief from the summer heat and crowds of the city, camping in Togakushi is great option when looking for a tree-change.
EXPLORE MYOKO-TOGAKUSHI RENZAN NATIONAL PARK
Located around 1200 metres above sea level, Togkaushi is nestled within the larger Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park. The park is densely-packed mountainous area of forests, waterways, ski resorts and important mix natural and cultural sites. Among its multiple peaks Mount Hiuchi is the tallest at 2,462 metres above sea level while the park takes its names from the peaks of Mount Myoko and Mount Togakushi. Extending into Niigata and the ski resorts surrounding Mount Myoko, the national park is a destination to itself that can be enjoyed throughout the year. For more information, see our ‘Myoko-Togakushi Renzan National Park’ page.
BOOK WITH US! NAGANO’S NO.1 TOUR & CHARTER OPERATOR
Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we are Nagano’s No.1 tour and charter operator. We have the local knowledge of where to go, when to go and what to do when you’re there to make sure you get the most out of your adventure in Togakushi and Central Japan! As a registered travel agent we can arrange experiences and tours, transport, accommodation and inclusive packages including in and around Togakushi. So no matter what you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered including getting you to the best destinations and events in the region. For more information, see our ‘Join A Guided Tour To Togakushi’ page.