1-Day Historic Obuse & Hokusai: Japan's 'Mad Man of Art' Tour
April to November
09:30 - 16:20
1-Day Historic Obuse & Hokusai: Japan's 'Mad Man of Art' Tour
Walk in the footsteps of Japan’s most celebrated artist, Hokusai Katsushika, on this engaging one-day tour in the quaint, historic town of Obuse. Starting from Nagano Station, you will visit Hokusai’s original studio in Obuse, view his original work at the Obuse Hokusai-kan Museum and finally, view his last and largest remaining ‘in-situ’ artwork – the giant phoenix of Gansho-in Temple. Including plenty of time to explore Obuse for yourself, this tour is designed to introduce you to or further your understanding of Japan’s greatest artist in the very place he walked, worked and produced his final masterpiece*.
- Discover the mastery of Hokusai with a guided visit to his studio in Obuse followed by viewing his original works at the Obuse Hokusai-kan Museum*
- Witness Hokusai’s largest remaining ‘in situ’ masterpiece, his celebrated ‘Happo Nirami Dai Hou-ou Zu’ (‘Phoenix Staring in Eight Directions’) on the ceiling of Gansho-in Temple
- Enjoy lunch at a popular local restaurant followed by free-time to explore Obuse including its ‘sake’ breweries, chestnut confectionary and craft stores
- Including transport and led by a local-based, English-speaking guide
Want to join this tour from Tokyo? It’s easy to do! Scroll to the bottom for our FAQs including train services that you can use to join the tour!
*the minimum age to join this tour is 13. It is also worth noting that this tour includes a visit to the Hokusai-kan Museum is in Obuse, Nagano and is not be to mistaken with the larger Sumida Hokusai Museum in Tokyo. They are two separate museums and with this tour taking place in Obuse, it will not visit the Sumida Hokusai Museum.
The tour begins at Nagano Station at 09:30, where your guide will greet you and once all guests have arrived, have you board the train to Obuse. Once a thriving agricultural and merchant centre, Obuse is a historically important town now famous for its chestnut confectionaries, ‘sake’ breweries and connection to Japan’s most celebrated artist, Hokusai Katsushika. Through his life – from 1760 to 1849 – during Japan’s ‘Edo Period’, Hokusai produced tens of thousands of artworks and mastered several art forms including ‘ukiyo-e’ (floating world) woodblock prints, ‘surimono’ (soft printing), ‘manga’ (hand-drawn images) and ‘kakemono’ (paintings), producing some of Japan’s most famous artworks – most notably, his ‘Thirty-six View of Mount Fuji’ series including the ‘Great Wave Off Kanagawa. In a culture that’s all about following the rules, it’s intriguing that its most heralded is artist is one who spent his life breaking them.
In 1844 at the age of 85, Japan’s self-proclaimed ‘Old Man Mad About Art’ walked himself to Obuse to seek the patronage of Takai Kozan, a wealthy Obuse merchant whom he had met in Tokyo, then called ‘Edo’. Led by your guide, you will visit the Takai Kozan Museum including Hokusai’s studio where he worked and taught while in Obuse. The story of how he came to be there and his relationship Kozan is a fascinating one; an ideal introduction to the life and work of Hoksaui which you’ll then have the chance to view at the nearby Obuse Hokusai-kan Museum*. The small museum rotates its exhibitions to highlight different stages of Hokusai’s prolific life including his early focus on ‘ukiyo-e’ to later mastery of styles including ‘surimono’, ‘manga’ and ‘kakemono’.
Lunch is at Kurabu, a popular local restaurant serving a tempting menu of traditional and modern Japanese. You can choose between a traditional ‘ochazake’ (grilled rice ball in soup) or ‘tororo’ (grated yam) with appetisers including ‘tsukemono’ (pickled vegetables), rice and ‘miso soup’ or more modern, Shinshu herb chicken also with ‘tsukemono’ (pickled vegetables), rice and ‘miso soup’.
After lunch your guide will set you free to explore Obuse for yourself – for up to 1 hour, depending on the pace of the tour – in which time you can enjoy the local chestnut confectionaries, ‘sake’, craft stores or simply grab a coffee and wander. It’s up to you and of course, your guide will point you in the right direction or accompany you – whichever you prefer.
The final stop on the tour is Obuse’s Gansho-in Temple. Founded in the 15th century, Gansho-in is the setting for Hokusai’s last masterpiece – the striking ‘Happo Nirami Dai Hou-ou Zu’ (‘Phoenix Staring in Eight Directions’) on the temple ceiling – and a fitting end to the day’s exploration and a truly memorable experience of the masterful hand of Hokusai. From the temple you’ll return to Obuse Station to take the train back to Nagano Station, where the tour is scheduled to conclude at 16:15.
|09:30||Meetup Nagano Station with your guide at Nagano Station. Once all guests have arrived your guide will have you board the 09:53 limited express service bound for Obuse.|
|10:15||Arrive at Obuse Station and walk into the centre of town to the first stop on your tour, the Takai Kozan Museum where you will be guided around Hokusai's original studio while in residence in Obuse.|
|11:30||Arrive at the Obuse Hokusai-kan Museum to view the artist's original works. Please note that the museum rotates its exhibitions seasonally therefore we cannot guarantee which works or period of his career will be on display at the time of your tour; but rest assured, it will be interesting.|
|13:00||Enjoy lunch at Kurabu. Please note, should Kurabu not be available, we will arrange lunch at a similar restaurant.|
|14:00||Free-time to explore Obuse. Your guide will explain what's on offer and show you were to go or should you wish, stay with you during this time.|
|14:45||Head to Gansho-in Temple to see Hokusai's final masterpiece, the painted phoenix on the temple ceiling.|
|15:30||Depart the temple and return to Obuse Station, from where you will take the 15:55 limited express service back to Nagano.|
|16:20||Tour concludes at Nagano Station.|
This tour operates to and from Nagano Station with the option of also starting from Obuse:
1 / NAGANO STATION @ 09:30 / main meetup point
The meetup point is inside the station, in front of the Information Board directly across from the Shinkansen / ‘Bullet Train’ ticket gate. Be sure to look for the guide wearing a SNOW MONKEY RESORTS tour tag and ensure you are there prior to the meetup time as the tour will need to depart by 09:35.
2 / OBUSE STATION @ 10:15
The meetup point is in front of the station entrance / exit. Obuse is a small station with only one entrance / exit. Be sure to look for the guide wearing a SNOW MONKEY RESORTS tour tag and ensure you are there prior to the meetup time as the tour will need to depart by 10:20.
- Transportation fee from Nagano to/from Obuse and all listed destinations
- Entry fee for Takai Kozan Museum, Hokusai-kan Museum and Gansho-in Temple
- Lunch (vegetarian options are available)
- English-speaking guide
- Additional food, snacks & drinks
- Shinkansen / ‘Bullet Train’ tickets to/from Nagano
- There is a reasonable amount of walking in this tour. It is suitable for anyone of reasonable fitness.
- The minimum age to join this tour is 13 years and old. Experience tells us that younger children will not be engaged by the content of the tour. Should you wish to book a group tour suitable for younger children, please refer to our ‘Tours’ main page where you will find a range of options including our Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour; Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun; Snow Monkeys & Cherry Blossoms and other tours suitable for guests of all ages.
- This tour is typically conducted using public transport i.e. by train from Nagano to Obuse and back and a short taxi ride to Gansho-in Temple once in Obuse. All transport costs are included in the tour price. For larger groups, we may choose to use private transport i.e. a van or small bus, for the entire tour.
- This tour is not wheelchair accessible and may not be suitable for mobility-impaired travellers. Should you have any concerns about your ability to join the tour, please contact us to discuss prior to booking.
- Both the Takai Kozan Museum and Hokusai-kan Museum rotated their exhibitions seasonally therefore we cannot guarantee which artworks will be on display at the time of your tour. This however will not affect the tour experience.
- This tour includes lunch at Kurabu. On rare occasions it may not be possible to use this restaurant in which case we would switch to another, comparable location. Please note that the restaurant may change their menu from time-to-time and the tour lunch may different to images shown on this page.
- This tour can be enjoyed as the second day of our 2-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji, Obuse & Luxury Ryokan Tour. For more information, please refer to the tour page.
- This tour is booked by request. Once you submit your booking request, we will reply within 24 hours but typically, much sooner.
- I'd like to join this tour from Tokyo. Which Shinkansen / 'Bullet Train' service should I use to arrive in Nagano on time? What time do services depart for Tokyo after the tour?
- The start and finish of the tour are arranged according to the Shinkansen timetable. You can book the following services on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line when joining this tour at Nagano Station:
Departing Tokyo Station - Arriving Nagano Station
Tokyo: 07:20 – Nagano: 08:42 – Kagayaki – reserved seats only
Tokyo: 07:24 – Nagano: 09:13 – Asama
Tokyo: 07:52 – Nagano: 09:30 – Hakutaka*
*Nagano Station is a small station and our morning meet-up point is directly opposite the shinkansen/bullet train tickets gates at 09:30. Therefore you can take the 07:52 – 09:30 train service however please ensure you come straight to the meeting point after your train arrives.
Departing Nagano Station - Arriving Tokyo Station
Nagano: 17:04 – Tokyo: 18:28 – Kagayaki – reserved seats only
Nagano: 17:35 – Tokyo: 19:34 – Hakutaka
Nagano: 17:56 – Tokyo: 19:20 – Kagayaki – reserved seats only
- Can I add accommodation to my tour booking?
- Yes. This tour can be booked as part of our 2-Day Snow Monkeys & Nagano Cultural Tour inc. Luxury Onsen Hotel or by adding accommodation at Hotel Senjukaku in Kabayashi Onsen – one of Nagano’s best traditional hot spring hotels – or Hotel Kokusai 21 in Nagano City before or after the tour. To do so, contact us at any time to discuss options.
- I’d like to join / leave the tour in Obuse. Is that possible?
- Yes. If you’d like to start the tour in Obuse, simply select that option at time of booking and on the day, meet us in front of the station exit at 10:15. This tour typically uses the train to travel to and from Nagano Station. We will arrive at 10:15 so please be waiting at the station entrance – it’s a small station, there is only one entrance/exit - and look for your guide wearing a Snow Monkey Resorts tour tag. Should you be staying in nearby areas such as Kanbayashi Onsen – including guests on our 2-day tour – Shibu Onsen or Yudanaka Onsen, you can take the 09:54 limited express service from Yudanaka Station. It also arrives at Obuse at 10:15. Any guest wishing to leave the tour at Obuse rather than return to Nagano is also free to do so, however please let us know in advance so that we can make the necessary arrangements for the tour.
- I have specific dietary requirements. Can these be catered for?
- Possibly. This tour includes lunch at Kurabu, a popular restaurant in Obuse. You can choose between a traditional ‘ochazake’ (grilled rice ball in soup) or ‘tororo’ (grated yam) with appetisers including ‘tsukemono’ (pickled vegetables), rice and ‘miso soup’ or more modern, Shinshu herb chicken also with ‘tsukemono’ (pickled vegetables), rice and ‘miso soup’. The first two options include only one appetizer with a small amount of meat. We can ask the restaurant to remove this should it suits your needs. We cannot guarantee that the restaurant can cater to gluten-free diets and allergies. We would appreciate if you can let us know in advance by entering that information in the booking form. We will then contact the restaurant to discuss. Please note that some dietary restrictions may require the restaurant to prepare a different lunch to the typical tour meal.
- Is this tour wheelchair accessible or suitable for mobility-impaired guests?
- Unfortunately, this tour is not wheelchair accessible and may not be suitable for mobility-impaired guests. The tour requires a reasonable amount of walking and ability to access buildings with stairs and narrows spaces. Guests who are mobility-impaired may also struggle. Should you have any concerns about your ability to join the tour, please contact us prior to booking to discuss options.
- I have read that the minimum age for to join this tour is 13 years of age. Why is that / is there any way my younger child can join?
- While we are confident that older children / teenagers and adults will find this tour fun and interesting, experience tells us that younger children will not be engaged by the content of the tour. Should you wish to book a group tour suitable for younger children, please refer to our 'Tours' main page where you will find a range of options including our Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour; Snow Monkeys & Snow Fun; Snow Monkeys & Cherry Blossoms and other tours suitable for guests of all ages. Alternatively, we can arrange a visit to Obuse as part of a private tour in which we can modify the itinerary and activities suited to the needs of younger children. Should you be interested in a private tour, please contact us to discuss your options.
(Travel Agency License No: Nagano 2-562)
Snow Monkey Resorts Tours
Nagano City Kurita 1015-7, NK Copo 202, Nagano, 380-0921 Japan
Member of All Nippon Travel Agents Association
Travel Service Supervisor: Tomoko Kasahara
April to November
09:30 - 16:20