Shinshu is the traditional name for Nagano Prefecture. Located in central Honshu—the primary island of Japan—Shinshu flourished in ancient times as a cultural crossroads between Eastern and Western Japan. With the easy access from Tokyo and the fame the 1998 Winter Olympics brought to Nagano, Shinshu is today a popular tourist draw for people from both within and outside Japan. Bordered on the west by the Japanese Alps, a range of 3,000-meter class mountains, Shinshu provides excellent opportunities for such activities as skiing at Hakuba and hiking in Kamikochi (the Upper Highlands) as well as beautiful mountain views and other natural scenery. To the east, lie towns filled with historical buildings and sites, including such treasures as Zenkoji Temple (near Nagano Station) and Matsumoto Castle (near Matsumoto Station). For food, one of the great delights to be found here is Shinshu soba, noodles made from local buckwheat grown with the pure water and natural goodness of Shinshu.
Although Shinshu has many tourist attractions considered prominent in Japan, there are many other attractions virtually unknown except to local residents. What treasures await you in Shinshu?
When you use your JR EAST PASS to travel to Nagano, you can receive a free gift!
Buy a JR EAST PASS and you can get a round-trip bus ticket between Matsumoto and Takayama for 2,500 yen, less than half the regular price! We highly recommend this special ticket for anyone wanting to visit Hida Takayama. Use your JR EAST PASS to take a rail trip at great savings, and you can save money on bus travel, too. Consider taking a trip to Hida Takayama to visit the World Heritage Site Shirakawa-go after enjoying the bountiful nature of Shinshu (Nagano).
Nagano's symbol Zenkoji Temple has drawn a large number of people of any belief since ancient times. Today, some six million people visit the temple per year. In Nagano City, which flourished with Zenkoji as its center, travelers can see historical buildings worth visiting.
Located next to Zenkoji Temple are famous soba shops. And don't forget to buy an oyaki, a special food made in Shinshu.
(Take the Zenkoji Temple bus from JR Nagano Station, Approx. 15 minutes. Get off at Zenkoji Temple Daimon.)
With 400 years of history, Matsumoto Castle is a National Treasure that every traveler should see. Once inside the keep, look out to the beauty of the Northern Alps. Matsumoto has an abundance of spring water. Spring water and wells can be found throughout the town. Pick up a copy of the Guide to Shinshu's Natural Water Features to appreciate the natural springs and wells around Shinshu.
(Take the North Course on the Town Sneaker Bus from JR Nagano Station. Get off at Matsumoto Castle/City Hall.)
"Snow monkeys" (Japanese macaques) are an attraction everyone should see. This is the only location in the world where wild monkeys bathe in the open air. This tour is a marvelous opportunity to observe snow monkeys in their natural habitat.
(Take the bus from Yudanaka Station on Nagano Electric Railway, 30 minutes on foot. Get off at Kambayashi Hot Spring.)
Surrounded by mountains over 3,000 meters in altitude, Kamikochi is the ground base for mountain climbing in the Japanese Alps. The best thing about this tour is the powerful impact that the mountains make at such short range. Even if you don't know the first thing about mountaineering, you can enjoy hiking all around Taisho Pond and Kappa Bridge. With clean air and beautiful natural scenery, Kamikochi is a place where both mind and body can relax.
(Take the bus from JR Matsumoto Station, Approx. 1 hour, 40 minutes. Get off at Kamikochi. Alternatively, take Matsumoto Electric Railway from JR Matsumoto Station and get off at Shin-shimashima Station. Then take the bus, Approx. 1 hour, 10 minutes. Get off at Kamikochi.)
Shinshu is located in central Honshu, the crossroads of Eastern and Western Japan. With convenient access from Tokyo, Shinshu is a popular tourism destination.