Nagano Travel Guide

Home to several of Japan’s highest mountains, discover the many secrets of Nagano; from world-class pistes to villages frozen in time, and even a troop of hot-tub loving monkeys!

Nagano Featured Food Experiences

Nagano Featured Restaurants


Fogliolina della Porta Fortuna

Lunch: ¥30,000-40,000
Dinner: ¥30,000-40,000

Morino's Pizza

Dinner: ¥1,600-2,000

Noh Cafe

Lunch: ¥1,000-1,999
Dinner: ¥1,000-1,999

Sounds Like Café

Lunch: ¥1,000-1,999

A real winter wonderland in the Japanese Alps, with plenty to offer year-round, Nagano Prefecture is the go-to place for those seeing high-altitude adventure in Japan. That’s why it played host to the majority of the events for the 1998 Winter Olympics, and remains a must-visit destination for skiers and snowboarders the world over.

The volcanic mountains also provide an abundance of natural onsen hot springs, which are enjoyed not only by humans, but monkeys too! That’s right — there’s a good chance you’ve seen Japan’s famous hot spring bathing macaques online, and this is where they live!

After the snows melt, man and monkey alike can head into the forests instead to explore the wealth of hiking trails and rivers which cut through the valleys between some of the highest mountains in all of Japan. City people won’t feel too out of place though; there are plenty of vibrant urban centers up here among the clouds, too.

The capital is Nagano City, home to Zenkoji Temple — one of the oldest in the country dating back to the 7th century. The city of Matsumoto has one of Japan’s best castles, with black walls which give it an otherworldly feeling when draped in snow. Aside from the big towns and cities, you’ll also find some small villages which seem completely frozen in time — pieces of living history from centuries past such as Narai and Tsumago.

Whether you come to hit the ski slopes of Nozawa Onsen Resort, kick back with well-heeled Tokyoites in the upmarket resort town of Karuizawa, or travel back in time to walk the pages of an old samurai novel, the atmosphere of Nagano will leave you feeling enchanted.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to eat in Nagano?

Nagano is actually thought to be the birthplace of soba noodles in Japan, and whether this is true or not, they do produce some fantastic buckwheat. It’s also used to make a local favorite dish called oyaki (steamed dumplings), which are delicious discs packed with vegetable or fruit fillings.

What are the best things to do in Nagano?

If you’re at all into nature and wildlife, do yourself the favor of visiting Jigokudani Monkey Park in winter. There’s nothing quite as bizarre and cute as seeing a tribe of cheery macaques chilling in a hot tub. Come for the monkeys, and stay for the pistes; you’d be a fool to pass up on the world-class Nagano ski slopes here.

Where and when to ski in Nagano?

There’s plenty of competition, but the crown probably goes to Hakuba Valley, the main site of the 1998 winter Olympics. There are trails to suit any level of ability, with 200 different pistes and a total of 136 kilometers of trails between them. The best time for powder is January, but be sure to avoid New Year and Chinese New Year.

What is Nagano famous for?

The snowfall and ski resorts may have won it international acclaim, but Japanese gourmands might care more about Nagano’s reputation for great wasabi. It’s also a favorite playground for the middle class of Tokyo, as many own second homes here.

What to buy in Nagano?

The city of Matsumoto is known for its colorful thread balls called “temari”, made of silk and cotton, with a bell inside. These were originally made as toys, but nowadays they’ve become a popular little decoration in Japanese homes.
Stay in the Loop!
Be the first to know about the latest foodie trends.
Sign up for insider tips & sneak peeks into the diverse world of dining in Japan