Sushi is something uniquely Japanese. Sure you can get it readily in just about every other country in the world but why not get the whole experience when visiting Japan. If you don’t want to hit up a traditional sushi-ya then try one of the many Nagano sushi train restaurants in the area. Sometimes called conveyor belt sushi, sushi train is another must do eating experience. Popular franchises include Kappa Sushi, Kaiten and Uobei. Don’t know where/how to find them? Then ask your hotel hosts.
Let’s visit Nagano sushi train!
Sushi is a very healthy and traditional Japanese food, and eating at a sushi train restaurant in Japan is a great experience. This article will show you what to expect when you visit a Nagano sushi train restaurant in Japan.
When you arrive you will be allocated a seat or counter and provided a small clipboard ID with barcode. Sometimes if it’s busy you’ll need to take a number and wait. Try to go outside busy hours as some places are overflowing with people waiting.
A lot of sushi train restaurants have a conveyor belt with fresh sushi travelling around, so you can just snap up whatever you want to eat. Please note that if you’re visiting at less busy times some of the sushi may have been going around the belt for awhile. However at most sushi train restaurants they have this very cool actual mini-train that delivers your food fresh from the kitchen to your table.
To order specialties from the menu, or fresh sushi which isn’t on the conveyor belt, most sushi train restaurants have a touch screen pad, which you use to order food. At some places there is an English button so keep an eye out for it.
If there isn’t any English, don’t worry if you don’t know much (or any) Japanese, the devices are really easy to use and there might be an instruction sheet somewhere if you ask.
So order away and enjoy your Nagano sushi train! Usually you make several mini orders (the touch screen order can only fit 4 plates) and keep eating until we have a very high stack of used plates on the table.
Visiting a sushi train restaurant in Japan is a great experience, not only is the sushi fresh and cheap, there are many variations which include western style foods if you’re not too keen on raw fish. There are lots of side dishes, including karage (battered/crumbed) dishes, french fries, desserts, noodles and many others.
The prices are great! Around 1/3 – 1/2 the price of sushi train in your home country.
When you’re finished push the ‘check’ button and the waitress will come count the plates before giving you the bill to take to the cash register. If you’re at a sushi train that only delivers food on a train just take your clipboard ID directly to the register.
And if you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy all this, you can still experience it all when you get takeaway. You will be directed to an area along the conveyor belt which has the touch screen ordering device, as well as plastic takeaway containers.
Enjoy your Nagano sushi train! Check this video for more information
“Amazing experience for new and experienced travelers.” (review)
Kamesei Ryokan is a traditional ryokan inn featuring warm wood construction, gardens throughout, onsen hot spring bath and gourmet meals. Centrally located to the best of Nagano. Your experience starts at our spacious lobby that offers restfull views of the koi pond and central garden. Then we lead you to your guestroom, perhaps across the watari roka passageway by the many tsubo-niwa pocket gardens to one of the detached rooms with a private garden. Or up the stairs to one of the 2nd floor rooms that provide views of the tree-covered hills surrounding the Chikuma River valley. All of our guestrooms are traditional Japanese style with straw tatami mat floors and rice paper shoji screen doors but have private toilets.
Kamesei Ryokan in Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen, Nagano
Kamesei Ryokan offers convenient day trips to the Jigokudani snow monkeys, spiritual Togakushi Mountain, Matsumoto Castle, Zenkoji Temple and so much more. We can also arrange genuine local geisha to entertain you and your fellow guests. See our Japan Onsen Town Guide for more details. You can see the area on foot or rent a bicycle and ride along the Chikuma River Cycling Path. WiFi is available in the lobby. Outgoing, knowledgeable service is available in English by Tyler, our American proprietor. Your onsen ryokan experience here at Kamesei continues with the hot spring mineral baths. Our baths feature natural onsen water flowing 24 hours a day. Both the ladies and the mens baths have rotenburo outdoor baths. Once you have relaxed in your guest room and soothed your body in the onsen baths, it is time to nourish your body with our meals. When you stay at a Japanese ryokan, meals are an important part of the overall experience. Our kaiseki style dinner features local, seasonal ingredients and the breakfast is a full ryokan traditional breakfast. Staying at a traditional Japanese ryokan gives you a sense of time and place, of here and now. Come and let Kamesei Ryokan provide you the full ryokan experience during your trip to Japan. We look forward to providing you our famous omotenashi service.
If you think the Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival is crazy, well then mark your diaries for 2016 and head for the Onbashira Festival (御柱) in Suwa, Nagano. Being one of the “Big Three Strange Festivals” in all of Japan, the festival is held every six years and is something that definitely shouldn’t be missed. The purpose of the festival is to symbolically renew the Suwa Taisha or Suwa Grand Shrine. “Onbashira” can be literally translated as “the honored pillars”. Every six years in April and May, huge logs are selected from trees in mountain forests in the Lake Suwa region and transported by hand to the smaller shrines of Suwa Taisha. The Onbashira festival is reputed to have continued, uninterrupted, for 1200 years. The festival is held once every six years, in the years of the Monkey and the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac, however the locals may say “once in seven years,” because of the traditional Japanese custom of including the current year when counting a length of time. Onbashira lasts several months, and consists of two segments, Yamadashi and Satobiki. Yamadashi traditionally takes place in April, and Satobiki takes place in May.
Part of the journey includes Kiotoshi, where local men climb aboard the logs and endeavour to stay on as they slide down the steep mountainside. Injuries and deaths have occurred during the festival in past years, though being killed by one of the trees is considered to be an honourable death.
“Yamadashi” literally means “coming out of the mountains.” Before this portion of the festival, huge trees are cut down in a Shinto ceremony using axes and adzes specially manufactured for this single use. The logs are decorated in red and white regalia, the traditional colors of Shinto ceremonies, and ropes are attached. During Yamadashi, Teams of men drag the logs down the mountain towards the four shrines of Suwa Taisha. The course of the logs goes over rough terrain, and at certain points the logs must be skidded or dropped down steep slopes. Young men prove their bravery by riding the logs down the hill in a ceremony known as “Ki-otoshi.”
“Satobiki” festival involves the symbolic placement of the new logs to support the foundation of the shrine buildings. The logs are raised by hand, with a ceremonial group of log bearers who ride the log as it is being raised and sing from the top of the log to announce the successful raising. After two festivals, there is an important event “Building of Hoden”. This event isn’t generally famous, and few people know that the event is held even among people who live nearby and participate in Yamadashi and Satobiki. The end of this event marks the end of Onbashira.
Togakushi Village and the nearby Togakushi Shrine are situated in the north of Nagano within the Joshinetsu National Park – just 45 minutes drive from Myokokogen, Nozawa Onsen or Nagano City. This volcanic area has an altitude of 1,200m and is located at the foot of the two volcanoes, Togakushi and Iizuna.
Togakushi Village, Togakushi Shrine, Nagano
About Togakushi Village, Togakushi Shrine
Togakushi Village nestles amongst 900 year old cedars and is not only a beautiful place to visit but it’s delicious soba noodles are also famous throughout Japan. There is also a small reproduction ninja village and school open in the warmer months whilst in winter there is a great ski resort with lots of the renowned Japanese powder. Why not try a short stopover in this ancient Japanese village?
Togakushi Village was formerly known as the village of Togakure which some consider to be the birthplace of Togakure Ryu Ninpo – a school of ninjutsu founded eight hundred years ago by Daisuke Nishina (Togakure). Daisuke became the first Soke (family head) of one of the arts now known as ninjutsu. The name Togakure or Toh Gakure, means “Concealing Door” and refers to the myth of the door which sealed the cave that the sun goddess, Amaterasu had hidden in.
The local Togakushi Ninja Village (Togakushi Ninja Yashiki or Chibikko Ninja Mura) is not an actual village full of ninja or a place to study ninjutsu (see below) but rather a fun and popular place to visit with a ninja theme. It’s open 9am-5pm (late April – late November) and closed Thursdays (except mid-July to late August). Admission for adults is 450yen and children (over 4) 200yen. Some group packages are available. There is another attraction nearby named Togakushi Ninja Karakuri Yashiki (Ninja Trick House) which is quite fun, although a bit more geared toward adults or older children. It’s also open 9am-5pm. To get there catch the bus to Chusha-miya-mae and walk about 15 minutes (more directions below).
Togakushi Ninja Museum
There is also a ninja museum in the village. Togakushiryu Ninpo Shiryokan is a former ninjutsu building now established as an annex to the Togakushi Minzokukan (see below). It’s exhibits include 500 items related to ninjutsu and two hundred picture panels of ninjutsu practices.
Togakushi-jinja (Shrine) stands in the midst of a wood with cedar trees that are over a hundred years old, just at the foot of the precipice of Mt. Togakushi. It consists of three shrines – the lower shrine is Hoko-sha (Treasure of Light), the second Chu-sha (Middle Shrine) and the third Oku-sha (Deep Sanctuary). They were built at intervals of roughly two kilometers (see Togakushi Shrine map or Togakushi Google map). These shrines are dedicated to mythological gods and each has a long history. The approaches to each shrine are unique and it is customary to clap twice when worshiping at shrines to awaken the gods before praying. The approach to the upper shrine (see photo at top) is known for its natural beauty, lined with over three hundred majestic old Sugi trees. Check out the official website here (Japanese), as well as the video below.
Togakushi Museum (a.k.a. Togakushi Minzokukan)
Togakushiryu Minzokukan has many different items (over 2,000) on display which help to show what life was once like in the Togakushi area.
For kids and adults alike who want a bit more reality in their ninjutsu, there is an actual Togakure Ryu Ninpo teacher available. The teacher has a gift shop at the foot of the Chu Sha, the “middle shrine” of the three great shrines of Togakushi. Lessons are Sunday nights from 8pm, and if one would like to try an introductory lesson, you can go into the gift shop and ask for Matsuhashi-sensei. He doesn’t speak English, but there are a couple of students who can interpret for any would be ninja. Most students are only passing through, but there are three locals (two of which speak English) that learn regularly.
Togakushi Soba Noodles
Togakushi village is famous throughout Japan for it’s soba (buckwheat noodles) which come in a variety of sizes and are defined by how much buckwheat flour is used in their making. At least 30% buckwheat flour must be used in order for noodles to gain the trademark of soba. Higher buckwheat content makes sobamuch more desirable to the discerning public. It started its history there as sustenance for monks during their severely austere religious training; these monks ate soba powder dissolved in water, or took grilled soba powder into the mountains when they went for training. Today it’s still used in Togakushi’s harvest festival – and in Spring you can see fields of soba flowers, which are used to produce the flour for making soba. There are as many as thirty soba shops boasting the superior taste of their hand-made soba that line the long road leading to Togakushi shrine. Accordingly, the area is a favored destination for soba lovers from throughout Japan and overseas. For a sample check out this local soba restaurant and menu. You can also check out the Togakushi Soba Museum (open 9am-4.30pm) where you can make your own buckwheat soba noodles under the guidance of a master chef or just enjoy watching noodles made by an expert. The ‘A’ Course (instructional) is 3,000 yen, whilst the ‘B’ Course (cook and eat!) is only 700 yen. Both include admission to the museum as well. Courses run daily between 10am-3pm and reservations are recommended.
Many of the good hotels in the area have onsen (hot springs) plus there are several fine public onsen. These include Iizuna Resort Onsen Tengu no Yakata (phone 026-253-3740) which is three minutes by car from Iizuna Resort. It’s open 10:00 – 21:00 (closed every 3rd Tuesday) and the cost is ¥500 for adults and ¥300 for children. Nearby Togakushi Snow World at the end of the road by Togakushi Shrine is Togakushi Kamitsuge Onsen Yukokan (phone 026-254-1126) It’s open 9:00 – 21:00, but be warned they have irregular closing days. Adults are ¥600 and children ¥300. Local town onsen are also available and quite inexpensive but usually consist of only one smallish bath. Check our onsen page for further details
Togakushi bamboo craft work has been produced via traditional skills in Togakushi Village since the Edo period. They are now highly-rated as fine art. You will find these sold in a number of local gift shops and artisan quarters As well as it’s famous soba noodles, the local area has numerous roadside stalls and farmers’ markets where you can buy great local produce for just a fraction of the price you would pay in Tokyo or Osaka. The tomatoes and peaches are renowned and the region grows blueberries, apples, pears, corn, edamame(green soybeans) and dozens of other fruits and vegetables. You will also discover all sorts of local specialties such as Scotch thistle preserve, walnut jam and aloe vera honey.
Events & Festivals
The Togakushi Soba Festival is held during the fall equinox, Shūbun no hi. This time also celebrates the buckwheat harvest, without which there would be no soba. People buy small sake cups on the eve of the festival and eat soba at any (or all!) of the twenty one participating restaurants. Admission is free.
Togakushi videos: (1) Togakushi Ninja Village House
Togakushi videos: (2) Togakushi Shrine in snow
Birdwatching in Togakushi
More than one hundred kinds of wild birds inhabit the nearby highlands – one of the most renowned areas in Japan for wild birds. Togakushi Forest Botanical Garden (part of the Jo-shin-etsu National Park) covers over seventy hectares and is visited by many bird watchers and hikers.
Other nearby attractions
Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City is Nagano’s most popular tourist spot. Historic Lake Nojiri, with a variety of activities available, is about 30 minutes by taxi.
The rugged ridges of Mt. Togakushi attract many mountaineers, hikers and climbers. This mountain is sometimes linked to then religious myths associated with the foundation of early Japan. Also regarded as a sacred place, it has long been worshiped by Buddhists, making it the aim of many religious pilgrimages. Check out Togakushi hiking maps via the Togakushi English Travel Guide. Also, watch out for the wildlife! In November Togakushi hosts a 45km race that takes runners up and down the hilly hiking trails of Togakushi, Iizuna and Kurohime’s glamorous mountain range. A 25km middle course is an option for those looking for something less challenging. For beginners, juniors or team competitors a special 5km course is also available. See the official site for more details. “A superb year-round destination for hikers as well as skiers, and the ascent of Togakushiyama is a great introduction to the area…” Hiking in Nagano: Togakushiyama-Door Hiding Mountain
Note: If you arrive in the middle of the night and you don’t want to sleep in your car, or you’re just a cheapskate, the village has opened up the second floor lobby of the lodge for people to sleep in. It is open and heated (fortunately) from 10pm to 8am. However you must bring your own sleeping bag and/or blankets.
Iizuna Hotels. Please also see our Nagano Hotel guide (most establishments are only 30-40 minutes drive from Iizuna). More information coming soon
Exit Nagano station via the Zenkoji exit, then take a Kawanakajima bus bound for Togakushi Camp-jo or Togakushi Chusha-miyamae from the Kawanakajima bus station opposite Nagano station (Stop 7). Get off at Hokosha-miyamae if wanting to see all three of the Togaksuhi Shrines or Chusha-miyamae if wanting to start at the middle shrine. The scenic bus trip up takes approximately 45-50 minutes through a coil of switchbacks, hairpin bends and mountain passes. Cost is ¥1350 one way and return ¥2400. See here for more details.
If you are coming from Kanazawa or Niigata you can take the train to Kurohime station. From Kurohime station there is a free shuttle bus (40 minutes) to Togakushi, but you must make a reservation at the resort. You can also go by taxi. See here for more details
If you are coming by car from Tokyo, take either the Chuo or the Joshin-etsu expressways to the Nagano exit. Follow the signs to central Nagano, then to Zenkoji temple and finally to Togakushi. It should take between 30 and 45 minutes by car from central Nagano depending on traffic and weather conditions. From Nagoya or Osaka, take the Chuo expressway to the Nagano exit and follow the same directions. See here for more details.
The Togakushi Legend Murders is a suspenseful murder-mystery/detective story, skillfully intertwined with authentic local legends from the Togakushi area of Nagano. These just enough background and color to the tale without detracting from the murders and their investigation which are the main thrust of the plot. The story opens in war-time Togakushi, a small village whose main claim to fame is the legendary Maple Demoness, a woman who fed poisoned sake to a famed general during an ancient conflict. Fast forward a few years and all sorts of skeletons come out of the cupboard as the protagonist tries to uncover the perpetrator of a series of murders. A series of subplots will keep you guessing right till the very end.
Inspired by boyhood memories of ninja movies, Stephen Phelan of the Sydney Morning Herald looks for signs of stealth in the forests of Togakushi.
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Properties in the Japan Alps tend to be much cheaper than than similar properties in the main cities of Japan and in other developed countries. A number of the properties listed have been foreclosed – meaning there is a good chance to pick up Japan ski properties for sale at a bargain price! With a rising dollar against the yen, property in Japan is particularly attractive for Australians
What Japan real estate do we showcase here?
We list here, when available,Niigata and Nagano ski propertiesinHakuba, Nozawa Onsen, Myoko-Kogen, Lake Nojiri/Kurohime, Madarao-KogenandYuzawa. Other properties in the surrounding areas may also be listed if available. However, if you are looking for a specific type of property, specific location, etc., we have an agent whose speciality is sourcing – anything from vintage houses, ski properties, ryokan, to whole hotels or ski resorts (and there are quite a few available, but ‘offmarket’).
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