地獄谷野猿公苑へのアクセス Access to Jigokudani Wild Snow Monkey Park from Kamesei / Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen

2023.07.31: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

The Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park and the world-famous Snow Monkeys are an easy 25-minute train and 45-minute bus ride (plus a 30-minute walk through a beautiful cedar forest) from Kamesei Ryokan and our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada.

Here is a convenient train and bus schedule for Summer / Fall 2023.  There was a baby rush this past spring, so a plethora of adorable baby snow monkeys are waiting your visit.

While there are group tours available from Nagano Station, many of our guests use Nagaden's express bus as per the above schedule, and enjoy the freedom to travel at the times they like.  And by buying the Snow Monkey Pass at the Nagano Dentetsu subway ticket counter below Nagano Station's Zenkoji Exit, besides saving money you can avoid the hassle of figuring out what/ how/ when to pay for transportation to and from the trailhead.

One last word of advice -- make sure to recharge your camera's battery before going as you will be taking lots of pictures!

東信の代表の登山ループ: 根子岳と四阿山 Epic Eastern Nagano Loop Hike: Nekodake and Mt. Azumaya

2023.04.24: 季節 Seasons, 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano, 信州の山 Nagano’s Mountains

百名山である2,354mの四阿山と花百名山である2,207mの根子岳は菅平牧場から約7時間の登山ループで繋がれている。Mt. Azumaya (one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains) and Neko-dake (a Top 100 Wildflower Mountain) can both be climbed via a 7-hour loop hike from the Sugadaira Pasture.

菅平から見る根子岳(左)と四阿山 Nekodake (left) and Mt. Azumaya from Sugadaira

以前は四阿山も根子岳も個別で登った。4月20日にその二つの山を繋ぐ2.5kmの道も歩けて、ループ出来ました。特に四阿山に部分的に雪が残っていて、アイゼンが必須でした。四阿山の頂上からの360°パノラマが特に印象的。煙を出している浅間山→湯の丸と烏帽子とその後ろに蓼科→美ヶ原とその奥に北アルプス→白馬連峰→戸隠と高妻と黒姫と妙高→白根山。四阿山のコースは笹と白樺から始まり、途中からは松林、様々な景色が楽しい。根子岳コースの下の分は牧場沿いで菅平高原スキー場を眺めながら快適に歩ける。戸倉上山田温泉からアクセスは楽(高速で牧場まで41km, 52分)朝9時に出たが日帰りは可能。

We’d climbed both peaks individually before but on 20-April we managed to do the 2.5km course to Nekodake after summiting Mt. Azumaya for an enjoyable loop hike. The 360-degree view from the top of Azumaya was particularly impressive, and the trail offers a great variety of scenery, from bamboo grass with birch trees to pine forests. Nekodake’s course runs along a cow pasture at the bottom for expansive views of the Sugadaira Highlands and ski areas.

牧場の駐車場から北アルプスの眺め まだ冬季だったから簡易トイレ敷かなかったけど、4月21日は公式の開山だそうで、それから常設トイレと売店が開くそうです。 View of the Northern Japanese Alps from the Sugadaira Pasture parking lot.  The regular toilet and gift shop probably open with the official start of the climbing season on 21-April, but there was a porta-potty.

Mt. Azumaya trailhead

前半は笹と白樺 The trail starts through "sasa" (bamboo grass) and birch trees.

中間の高台から見る四阿山 View of Mt. Azumaya from a high point midway up the mountain

菅平高原を見下ろす 背景に北アルプス Looking down over Sugadaira Highlands with the Northern Japanese Alps in the distance

登山道は面白い地質を通る。時に赤っぽい石、時に青っぽい、他の場所に黒い土。火山の影響かな? この石は赤と青のハイブリッド。 Interesting geology along the path. Some areas with reddish rocks and dirt, some with blue rocks, and others with dark black earth. We could sense the ancient volcanic activity. This rock was a hybrid of red and blue.

4月20日の時点で所々に雪が残っていて、アイゼンは必要だった。 As of April 20th, there was still snow in several places. We definitely made us of our crampons.

四阿山の頂上付近の木の階段 Wooden stairs near Mt. Azumaya's summit

四阿山の頂上にある宮。真田地区の山家神社の説明版によると、戦国時代に四阿山が修験道の聖地だったのでその神社が登山口だったそうです。 Shrine at the top of Mt. Azumaya. According to a sign at Yamaga Shrine down back at the Sanada District, Mt. Azuyama was a pilgrimage destination back in the Warring States era, with Yamaga Shrine as the trailhead.

Mt. Azumaya's summit (2,354 meters elevation)

四阿山の北側の下り。アイゼンに感謝! Descending Mt. Azuyama's north side. Thank goodness for crampons!

道が雪で隠れて、足跡も少なく、ピンクリボン探しでした。 The path was covered in snow, and footprints were hard to find, so we had to rely on the pink trail markers.

二つの山の間の笹平(標高2,040m) これから根子岳の頂上へ The bamboo grass flat between the two peaks (elevation 2,040m). From here we started the ascent to the top of Mt. Nekodake.

笹平を見下ろして、背景は四阿山 Overlooking the bamboo grass flat, with Mt. Azumaya in the background

根子岳の頂上付近の岩場。ドキドキする道。 Boulders near the summit of Mt. Nekodake. The path is not for the faint of heart.

根子岳の頂上 Mt. Nekodake summit 2,207m

根子岳の頂上から牧場へ降りる道 Descent from Mt. Nekodake's summit back to the pasture trailhead

途中に牧場の上で展望台の東屋がある Gazebo at the viewpoint at the top of the pasture.

左は牧場、右は白樺の林 Pasture to the left, birch woods to the right.

下りてからのお勧めのソフトアイス; 菅清園 Best spot for post-climb soft-serve ice cream: Kanseien in Sugadaira's central village

今回の立ち寄り湯; 十福の湯 外の広い石風呂と周りの庭園(枝垂れ桜も山桜も満開だった!)で体の充電が出来た。 Our post-climb bath this time was Juppuku no Yu. With it's outdoor bath made of majestic rocks and glorious garden (the weeping cherry trees and wild cherry trees on the nearby hillside were in full bloom), we rejuvenated our sore bodies.


There aren't too many places where you can climb two mountains from one starting point, so being able to summit both Mt. Azumaya and Mt. Nekodake from the Sugadaira Pasture trailhead is pretty special.  It takes a long time (I suggest planning on 7 hours to be safe) but you get twice the summitting satisfaction.  We went Pasture - Mt. Azumaya - Mt. Nekodake - Pasture (i.e. reverse-clockwise).  However, in the summer, the path from the bamboo grass flat up to Nekodake doesn't have any tree shade whereas the ascent to Azumaya would be through a pine forest (thus relatively cooler) so I suggest circling clockwise.

四阿山 Mt. Azumaya 2,354m

根子岳 Mt. Nekodake  2,207m

登山道長さ Trail Length 4.6km + 2.5km + 2.6km

標高差 Elevation Gain 754m + 167m (1,600 ⇒ 2,354 ⇒ 2,040 ⇒ 2,207 ⇒ 1,600m)

一周 Total time 6:30

体力 Level of Exertion ●●〇

難度 Level of Difficulty ●●〇

景色 Views / Sights ●●●

表記 Signage ●●〇

登山口 Trailhead 🚙Px30 WC有りYes https://goo.gl/maps/hax3tskBwJWLbtxbA

入場料 Entrance Fee ¥200/pax


ご開帳は6月29日まで 残り1週間にヒント Gokaicho Ends 6/29 — Tips for the Last Only Week

2022.06.22: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada, 季節 Seasons, 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

長野市・善光寺さんの七年に一度のご開帳は6月29日(水)まで。駐車場が溢れて、回向柱、戒壇巡り、御朱印そしてお蕎麦屋さんに列が長くて、最後まで待つ人が多いんで、これからはさらに混む可能性大。ラストスパートのご開帳のためのアドバイスを提供します。The venerable Zenkoji Temple in center of Nagano City is celebrating its once every 7 years Gokaicho ceremony through 29-June.






ご開帳の豆知識: 本堂な西側に歴代の回向柱が立ってます。歴史とパワーを感じます。








お詣りの後は精進落としの湯・戸倉上山田温泉へ♪ 温泉街の上の観音寺が善光寺別院なのでお朝事を



ご開帳・追加アドバイス、その1: 小松美羽の展示


ご開帳・追加アドバイス、その12: 夜間の善光寺も神秘的。



2022年度 戸倉上山田温泉の夏まり・千曲川花火大会 開催予定 Onsen Town Togura Kamiyamada 2022 Summer Festival Schedule

2022.06.13: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada, 季節 Seasons, 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

戸倉上山田温泉の夏祭りと千曲川花火大会は3年ぶりに開催決定なのでカレンダーに入れましょう♪ Togura Kamiyamada’s Onsen Summer Festival and Chikuma River Fireworks will both be held for the first time in 3 years, so mark your calendar!

千曲川に反射する花火 Fireworks reflecting on the Chikuma River

2022年千曲川花火大会8月7日 2022 Chikuma River Fireworks 07-August

第91回信州千曲市千曲川納涼煙火大会が2022年8月7日(日)午後7時半〜9時まで開催。我が亀清旅館から川辺(土手)まで徒歩5分。かなり迫力のある花火です。打上げ数がなんと10,000発!近くから見えますから真上で光る様な感覚。そして音は周辺の山から響くし。グランフィナーレの万葉橋の「ナイヤガラ」が格別。 The 91st edition of Togura's Chikuma River Fireworks will be held on Sunday 07-August 7:30-9pm.  The riverside viewing area is a short 5 minute walk from our inn Kamesei Ryokan.  This is a stunning pyrotechnical display with over 10,000 fireworks launched.  From the river bank the explosions seem to happen practically overhead, with the flashes reflecting on the surface of the Chikuma River and the sound reverberating off the surrounding hills.  The grand finale includes an awe-inspiring "Niagara" of fireworks extending the length of Manyo Bridge.

詳しく Details

土手に並ぶ屋台 Festival food stalls
万葉橋の「ナイヤガラ」 Manyo Bridge “Niagara”

ギャル神輿が輝く Popular "Gal" omikoshi

2022年上山田温泉夏祭り9月18日に延期 2022 Kamiyamada Onsen Summer Festival postponed to 18-September

コロナの影響で2022年度の上山田温泉夏祭りは海の日の連休から9月18日日(日)に延期。若連のお神輿と勇獅子と冠着太鼓がいつもの様に燃えます♪ Kamiyamada Onsen's Summer Festival normally takes place on the Marine Day holiday weekend in July, but this year it will be held on Sunday 18-September instead.  The energetic Omikoshi (portable shrines), massive Shishi Lion and Kamuriki Taiko Drummers will be as explosive as always. 

戸倉セツブンソウ群生地: 可愛らしいお花で春の合図 Setsubun-so Wildflowers: Cute Sign of Spring

2022.03.09: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada, 季節 Seasons, 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

戸倉駅の裏山(戸倉宿キティーパーク、別名「天狗公園」)にセツブンソウの群生地がある。「春の妖精」と呼ばれているセツブンソウは雪が融けると咲いて来ます。可愛らしい2〜3cm 白雪の花びらに鮮やかな黄色と紫色の中心部と言うエレガントな彩りさ。暖地で2月上旬に咲いて「節分草」お言われているが、この辺の標高が高くて雪が3月まで残る事が多くて一か月遅れです。(注: 2022年は雪が特に多かったために3月12日の週末から見ごろになりそうです。) 戸倉の群生地が長野県下最大級の広さだそうです。

Setsubun-so (Eranthis pinnatifida “winter aconite”) is a cute harbinger of winter. The wildflower’s tiny (2-3cm) snowy white petals contrast with the purple and yellow stamens to form an elegant color combination. In warmer climates it blooms around Setsubun, the change in seasons around February 3rd, hence the flower’s name. Here at our elevation the snow doesn’t melt until early March so Setsubun-so blooms a month later. (Note: for 2022 there’s been an unusually large snowfall so prime viewing won’t start until around the weekend of March 12th.)

戸倉キティパークの駐車場から徒歩750m、約20分 From the Togura Kitty Park parking lot, 750 meters, approximately 20 minutes on foot
途中の自在山神社と樹齢400年の天狗の松 Jizaisan Shrine and its 400-year old Tengu pine tree

お勧め里山登り: 弘法山(塩田平) 信仰と歴史の探検 Recommended Hike: Mt. Kobo. A Mystical and Samurai Adventure

2022.03.01: 山城 Mountaintop Forts, 季節 Seasons, 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano, 信州の山 Nagano’s Mountains


Kobo-Yama is the smallish mountain behind national treasure Zenzan-ji Temple on Ueda City’s Shioda Plain. Despite its short stature the view from the summit is stunning but what makes Kobo-Yama distinct are the remains of the Warring State era Shioda Castle and the adventure of finding the 33 stone Buddhas tucked into crevices around the peak.

弘法山から見下ろす塩田平 Looking down on the Shioda Plain from Mt. Kobo
塩田城跡(虎口)Shioda Castle: remains of the Tiger Gate
33石仏(弘法の眼)Searching for the 33 stone Buddhas — the Eye of the Kobo (Priest)

弘法山 Mt. Kobo (842m)

距離 Length 1.3km. 標高差 Elevation Gain 280m. 登り Ascent 90 min. 下り Descent 90 min. (探検しながら、前山寺見学含め)難度 Level of Difficulty: 初心者 Easy (冬は雪でアイゼン必須・中級 In winter Moderate due to needing crampons when snow). 2022.03.01

前山手の駐車場(とトイレ)Zenzan-ji parking lot (with toilet)
登山口(後は弘法山) Trailhead (Mt. Kobo in the distance)
足跡がガイド Footprints were our guide
一つ目の石仏見付け♪ Found the first stone Buddha
岩に階段が掘られた Stairs carved in stone
岩場 stone cliff
高さ2mの穴も Some hollows were 2m tall
他は高さ1.5m Others only 1.5 meters tall
背景は菅平 Sugadaira in the distance
塩田平と背景は戸隠山 The Shioda Plain with Mt. Togakushi in the background
塩田城城・虎口 Shioda Castle Remaiy
前山寺の未完成の三重塔 Zenzan-Ji’s “Unfinished” Pagoda

アクセス: お車なら前山寺は国宝なので沢山の看板が出てます。公衆トイレに広い駐車場あり。交通機関なら上田駅から別所線で塩田町駅、⑧信州の鎌倉シャトル線で前山寺バス停(本数と運行期間に限りあり)。 亀清旅館から車で20km、40分。戸倉駅から上田経由で塩田町まで約45分、バス20分又はタクシー5分。https://www.city.ueda.nagano.jp/uploaded/attachment/3023.pdf

ACCESS: By car, Zenzan-ji Temple is a National Treasure so well-signed. Use the large parking lot by the public toilet. By train, from Ueda Station take the Bessho Line to Shiodamachi and transfer to Bus #8 to the Zenzan-ji stop (frequency and operation limited). From Kamesei Ryokan, 20km (40 min.) by car. From Togura Station via Ueda 45 min. to Shiodamachi +20 min. bus or 5 min. taxi.

コース: 正面の登山口と塩田城経由の二つのコースがあるからループ可能。33石仏探しも含めて中嶋豊さんの「信州山歩き地図・里山編III北信東信」がマスト。COURSE: Two trailheads (official one above Zenzan-ji Temple and via Shioda Castle) so can be done as a loop. For both the course and for finding the 33 stone Buddhas, get Yutaka Nakajima’s 3rd hiking book.

お勧めのスノーシュー: 戸隠 Recommended Snowshoeing: Togakushi

2022.02.03: 季節 Seasons, 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano, 信州の山 Nagano’s Mountains



The giant cedar trees of Togakushi’s Okusha (Inner Shrine) in the mountains above central Nagano City are popular as a sort of Power Vortex. The cedars are especially impressive during the winter and the area is our favorite place for snowshoeing.

戸隠奥社の杉並木。雪と素敵なコントラスト。The towering cedars lining the path to Togakushi’s Inner Shrine


Winter in Nagano is synonymous with skiing and snowboarding and rightly so. But steadily snowshoeing is gaining in popularity. We’ve gone snowshoeing throughout the prefecture but keep returning to our favorite: Togakushi. It has areas that are only accessible when covered in snow and would be impossible with just regular shoes.

亀清の女将: スノーシューの笑顔 Kamesei’s proprietress in her happy place snowshoeing at Togakushi


When we went in early February there was about 5 feet of snow. We parked at the Okusha entrance, put on the snowshoes, passed the Torii gate and headed towards the Zuijinmon Gate which marks the beginning of the cedars.

入り口の鳥居。随神門まではよく通られて普通な靴で行けるがその道から一歩離ればスノーシューが必要。The entrance Torii. The path to Zuijinmon is well-enough traveled so that regular shoes could suffice but take one step off the path and you’ll need snowshoes.
ミズナラ大王 “King of the Forest” Oak




クマさんの目印 Follow the golden bear


天命稲荷神社を通って Pass by the Tenmei Inari Shrine and its rows of vermilion Torii gates
長〜い影 Long shadows
鏡池の上から見る戸隠山 Togakushi Mtn. as seen from on top of Mirror Pond

冬で鏡池に雪が積もるから上に歩ける。戸隠連峰が迫力ある背景になります。ピクニックには最適な場所。 In winter Kagami Ike (“Mirror Pond”) is covered by a layer of snow so thick that you can walk out on to the middle of the pond, meaning you can literally walk on water. With the towering Togakushi Range as a dramatic backdrop the pond makes a perfect place for a picnic.

いざ山城! 岩崎城経由で村上義清の葛尾城へ Samurai Forts: Climbing to Katsurao-jo via Iwasaki-jo

2021.02.07: 山城 Mountaintop Forts, 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano, 信州の山 Nagano’s Mountains


Local samurai lord Murakami Yoshikiyo's main castle was Katsurao-jo, visible across the Chikuma River from our inn Kamesei Ryokan here in Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada.  From the nearby Isobe neighborhood, there are 2 trails to Katsurao-jo, one called the Kome-Iriguchi course that follows the old rear-entrance supply route, and one that passes by in intermediate fortress called Iwasaki-jo.  We recently hiked the latter.  Although hardly anything remains of Iwasaki-jo itself besides 'do-bashi' (earthen bridges) and some rock wall sections, the trail passes the mysterious Bikuni boulder and offers several panoramic viewpoints of the Chikuma River valley, so is well worth the climb.  (More info on Iwasaki-jo and Katsurao-jo from our friends at Jcastle.)

上戸倉宿から見た葛尾(上左)と岩崎城の跡地 Katsurao (upper left) and the location of Iwasaki Fort as seen from Upper Togura-juku

Traihead marker










秋和神社 Akiwa Shrine

比丘尼石 Bikuni Rock

村上義清の奥さんが武田信玄の包囲攻撃から逃げた時に「ここで故郷の住民の永遠の幸せを祈願し化石となった」と書いてあります。When Takeda Shingen laid a siege to Murakami Yoshikiyo, he had his wife escape down this route.  According to legend, the princess stopped here and prayed for the local people so hard she turned into this rock.

二の曲輪の石垣 Stone rampart of the lower bailey

一の曲輪の跡 Site of the Upper Bailey

戸倉上山田を見下ろす絶景 Panoramic view of Togura-Kamiyamada

登った時期 2月上旬 Climbed early February

距離 Distance 岩崎城まで To Iwasaki-jo 200m (葛尾城まで to Katsurao-jo +500m)

標高 Elevation 登山口 Trailhead 400m, 岩崎城 Iwasaki-jo 610m, 葛尾城 Katsurao-jo 805m

時間 Course Time  岩崎城まで To Iwasaki-jo 20 min. (葛尾城まで to Katsurao-jo +30 min.)

難易度 Difficulty ★★☆☆☆  お勧め度 Recommendation  ★★☆☆☆

アクセス 車で戸倉上山田温泉から国道18号を登って、「磯部南」信号の70m先に左曲がって、岩崎踏切でしなの鉄道を渡って、Yで右曲がって、登山口は約50mで右手に。バスは温泉や戸倉駅から路線バス⑧五加戸倉線で磯部ミニ公園で降りる。

Access: By car from Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada, take Route 18 south towards Sakaki / Ueda.  Pass the Isobe-Minami signal and in 70m turn left, cross the railroad tracks, at the Y turn turn right, and the trailhead will be on the right in about 50m.  By bus, from the onsen or Togura Station, take the #8 "Goka-Togura" bus and get off at Isobe Mini-Park stop.

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新しい信楽焼浴槽が完成! New Shigaraki Ceramic Onsen Bath!

2020.12.29: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan, 温泉Onsens, 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano, 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

亀清旅館の女湯に二つ目の露天風呂が出来ました: この狸色の信楽焼の浴槽。




Kamesei Ryokan's women's onsen now has a 2nd outdoor bath:  this tanuki-colored Shigaraki ceramic bath.

The proprietress and I drove the 260km to Shigaraki (Shiga Precture, Koka City) and picked out the size and color, and had the bath specially made.  Meanwhile, I made the fence surround, deck and pocket garden for the bath.

Our women's onsen has a fairly small indoor bath, but now guests can enjoy not one but two outdoor baths.  And the Shigaraki ceramic is the perfect complement for Kamiyamada Onsen's skin-softening hot spring mineral water.

We hope everyone can come and take a soak in our new bath!

Long-Stay Vacation in Nagano: 10 Tips with Kamesei Ryokan as Your Base

2020.07.13: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada, 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan, 季節 Seasons, 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

How about spending an extended vacation in Nagano?  Make Kamesei Ryokan your base for exploring Nagano Prefecture.  Here are the 10 most popular day-trips.

1.Zenkoji Temple, Nagano City

Our onsen town, Togura-Kamiyamada, has traditionally been considered the resort of choice after visitors make their pilgrimage to Zenkoji.  The venerable temple houses the "Amida Triad Sharing One Halo" image which is the oldest Buddhist image in Japan, having crossed over from the Korean Peninsula in 552.  Once every 7 years it is put on display during the renowned Gokaicho ceremony.  Visitors to the temple usually enter the Main Hall, and take the stairs down into a pitch-black corridor, feeling along the wall in the hopes of finding the 'key' that is located directly under said image.  After transmitting prayers through the image, visitors ascend the stairs to once again be in the light, a sensation similar to being born again.  More info here.

Venerable Zenkoji Temple

The main road leading to Zenkoji, "Naka-mise", is lined by souvenir shops and soba noodle restaurants.  Here you are sure to find the perfect memorabilia to take home, as well as satisfy your tummy.

Access from Kamesei Ryokan:  By car it is 27km (approx. 50 min.) to Zenkoji.  It's best to take Route 18 and surface streets as the Expressway runs in an inconvenient direction.  By train, it is 25 minutes from Togura Station to Nagano Station, and then a 5 minute bus to the temple.

Kamesei Tips:  Leave your car at our inn, take the train from Togura Station, and walk from Nagano Station to Zenkoji.  This allows you to enjoy walking up the Naka-mise street, as most parking lots are located behind the temple.  Also, one block off Naka-mise to both the left and right are narrow lanes lined with Shukubo (temple lodging), a serene contrast to the chaotic scene of the shops and restaurants along the main street.


Nagano Prefecture's premier resort town, Karuizawa boasts a large number of high caliber art museums and galleries, fantastic boutique shops, quaint chapels, and a smorgasbord of gourmet restaurants, all in a lush, natural setting.  And that's not to mention the outlet shopping center.  Plus there are the elegant Mikasa and Manpei Hotels and the fancy summer homes, giving the town an opulent atmosphere.  Official info.

Classic Karuizawa; Mampei Hotel

Access from Kamesei Ryokan:  For by both car and by train, there is a slow and fast option.  By car, taking the Joshin'etsu Expressway and exiting at the Komoro IC, it is 50km, approx. 55 minutes.  If you avoid the expressway and take the Asama Sun Line highway, it will take 10 minutes longer but the rural scenery is worth it.  By train, you can transfer at Ueda to the Hokuriku Shinkansen and reach Karuizawa in 45 minutes.  Or you can take the local train all the way from Togura for a leisurely 1 hour and 15 minutes (and 1/3 the price).

Kamesei Tips:  Karuizawa's roads tend to get congested on weekends and holidays, especially in the summer, so take the train instead.  Many head to Karuizawa to shop at the outlet stores, but the old-fashioned Kyu-Karu "Ginza" and the classy Harunire Terrace offer enticing alternatives.


The name "Togakushi" refers to a tale related to Japan's creation myth, appropriate for the area's mystical atmosphere.  Perhaps the place best suited for feeling the spiritual power is the trail to Okusha, the Inner Shrine.  It is lined by ancient cedar trees that give a distinct vibe of the power of nature.  Togakushi is also famous for soba noodles, and there is something extra-special about the noodles prepared with the highland's clear water and clean mountain air.  Togakushi hides one other secret:  the eponymous Togakure-ryu ninjas.  Many of our guests have come back from the Togakushi Ninja Village gushing that it was more fun than USJ!  Official Info.

Zuijinmon Gate with the ancient cedar trees beyond



Access from Kamesei Ryokan:  By car, there are 2 main routes.  The typical way is to drive to Zenkoji and then up to Togakushi from there.  45 minutes + 45 minutes, for a total of 90 minutes.  Alternatively, you can take the Joshin'etsu Expressway from the Koshoku IC to the Shinano Machi IC, and then the back roads up to Togakushi.  With that route, from our door to the Okusha parking lot, it is 60 minutes.  You have to pay the toll and it's the long way around, but it is considerably faster and less crowded.  By train is is 25 minutes from Togura to Nagano Station, then an hour-long Alpico Bus up to Togakushi.

Kamesei Tips:  Togakushi features 4 very distinct faces, depending on the season.  Autumn is the most popular, with the fall leaves colors peaking in October and the new crop soba coming in November.  However, spring is spectacular for bird watching and for the creamy white marsh lilies (aka skunk cabbage), summer means cool highland temperatures and playing in the streams, and in winter Togakushi is a snow shoeing paradise (ask us for great course recommendations).  For ninja fans, the Ninja Village has an extensive variety of activities, but the Ninpo Center near the entrance to Okusha is much less crowded.


Known as the Crow Castle, the formidable Matsumoto-jo is a designated National Treasure.  It has been recently joined as such by Matsumoto's old Kaichi School building.  Another popular destination is the Municipal Art Museum, with a selection of works by the world-renowned 'polka-dot lady', Yayoi Kusama.  The Nawate-dori and Nakamachi shopping streets round out the must-see spots in central Matsumoto City.  Official Info.

The stately black facade of Matsumoto Castle, aka The Crow Castle

Access from Kamesei Ryokan:  By car, if using the Obasute SA Smart IC, it Matsumoto is a convenient 45 minutes from Kamesei.  By train, we can provide shuttle service to Obasute Station to catch the local JR train Matsumoto Station, also 45 minutes.

Kamesei Tips:  We personally are big fans of Matsumoto's craft scene.  There are several unique shops along Nakamachi, including our favorite, Chikiriya.  The Craft Fair held the end of May is one of the best in the country, and year-round you can go to the Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum and see some outstanding examples of Matsumoto's hand-built furniture.

5. Obuse

Famous for chestnut sweets and the ukiyo-e artist Hokusai, Obuse is particularly popular with two types of visitors:  Japanese and other Asians for the chestnut mont blanc, and Westerners for the Hokusai Museum and ceiling painting of a phoenix at Gansho-in Temple.  Personally, our favorite aspect is the quaint townscape, especially Chestnut Lane and all the Open Gardens.

Obuse's quaint Chestnut Lane

Access from Kamesei:  By car Obuse is 45 minutes using the Joshin’etsu Expressway and the Obuse SA Smart IC (ETC card required).  By train, from Togura Station to Obuse Station transferring at Nagano Station, it takes approximately 80 minutes.

Kamesei Tips:  In the center of town is the Takai Kozan Musem.  Here you can learn about Hokusai’s patron and see what the town was like when the famous artist resided here.  Outside of the center beyond Gansho-in is another temple called Joko-ji.  The enterprising head priest has undertaken many initiatives to make the temple relevant to today’s Japan.  Just one project is indicated by Joko-ji’s nickname:  The Slackline Temple.  By the way, next door is a restaurant specializing in tofu dishes – Yummy!

6. The Roof of Japan – Kamikochi, Utsukushigahara and a variety of Ropeways and Gondolas

One of Nagano’s biggest draws are its many mountains.  The Prefecture is not only home to all three of the Japanese Alps ranges (Northern, Central and Southern), but has Shiga Kogen and the “5 Northern Nagano Peaks”.  Everywhere you go in Nagano you will see mountains!

Convenient Access to the Roof of Japan (Pictured: Ryuoo Ropeway

Many of our guests visit Nagano to go to the mountains, then come down to relax at our inn.  Some of the easiest to access are Norikura (via the Echo Line bus), Komagatake and the Senjojiki Cirque via ropeway, Utsukushigahara Highlands and Mt. Kurumayama by driving the Venus Line and taking the Kurumayama Skylift, SORA Terrace via the Ryuoo Ropeway, Nojiri Lake Terrace on Mt. Madarao using the Tangram gondola, and Mountain Harbor high up in the Hakuba Range using the Iwatake gondola.

Access from Kamesei varies by destination.  We suggest you confer with us and use our collection of brochures (and discount coupons!).

7. Mountain Climbing and Trekking

Lots of guests show up wearing hiking boots after traipsing around Nagano’s mountains and forests.  We are actually fans of mountain climbing, too, and have explored most of the trails around our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada and several throughout the Prefecture.

Explore Nagano's Wilderness

We would be happy to give advice for Nagano's popular trails, such as Mt. Asama and Shiga Kogen, as well as lesser known treks such as abandoned rail tunnels or the Birth-mountain of Kintaro, the Golden Boy -- we've explored them all.  After factoring in the weather and your desired activity level, we are sure to come up with the perfect suggestion.  And don't worry if the day of your expedition turns out to be rainy -- there are indoor options, too, such as rock climbing gyms.

Access as well as our Kamesei Hints depend on the actual trail so feel free to inquire.

8.Winery Tour

Nagano's wineries have been gaining attention on the global stage lately, and we are fortunate to have several "Wine Valleys" in our vicinity.

The eastern section of the Chikuma River Wine Valley is perhaps most famous for Villa d'Est Garden Farm and Winery, but don't overlook its Tomi City neighbor Rue de VinMann's Winery in Komoro has a long-established history, while Chateau Mercian's new Mariko Winery in the hills above Ueda City has already made the global Top 50 list.

The northern reaches of the Chikuma River Wine Valley includes the highly-acclaimed Kusunoki Winery in Suzaka (the chardonnay is a life-changer!) and St. Cousair and its restaurant with panoramic view in Iizuna town.

Access and our Kamesei Tips will depend on your itinerary.  We would be happy to provide suggestions.  And with our Nagano Wine Stay Plan, you are welcome to bring your own bottle of Nagano Wine to have with your dinner.  We also have an eclectic selection of local wines to enjoy with your meal.

9.Apricot Village, Fruit Paradise

The nearby Mori district is nicknamed "Anzu no Sato" (Apricot Village), as our city is Japan's #1 producer of apricots.  In early April the entire valley is covered in the delicate pink blossoms.  It is said you can see 100,000 apricot trees at one time from the viewpoint at the top of the valley.  On a clear day, the snow-capped peaks of the Northern Japanese Alps provide a stunning backdrop.

Pastoral "Apricot Village" Mori with blossoms in the foreground and the snow-capped Alps in the distance

Apricot fruit is available for picking in late June / early July.  The heritage varieties tend to be tart and are ideal for making into jam or dried fruit, but newer varieties such as Harcot are sweet enough to eat fresh off the tree.  And don't forget apricot soft-serve ice cream!

Besides apricots, our area features a parade of fresh fruit year-round.  Later in July following apricots are cherries and then plums and nectarines.  With August comes the famous Kawanakajima peaches.  September means table (eating) grapes while apple season is primarily October (Nagano's "Three Apple Siblings": Shinano Sweet, Shinano Gold and the deep-red colored Akibae, as well as the tart heritage Kogyoku) and November (the mainstay Fuji apples).  Strawberries are available for picking in green houses in the winter through late spring.

Our Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada has several fruit orchards nearby

We are fortunate to have several grape and apple orchards within a 5 minute drive from our inn.

10. Fabled Moon-Reflecting Obasute Rice Terraces  *Japan Heritage Site*

The Obasute Rice Terraces are a quick 10 minutes by car from Kamesei Ryokan.  They are located on a slope at the base of the 1252-meter tall Mt. Kamuriki which towers over our city.  The mountain is nicknamed “Obasute Mountain”, refering to the ancient legend about abandoning elderly people on the mountaintop. From ancient times, the area at the foot of the mountain has been renowned for its stunning views of the moon, especially a phenomenon known as “Tagoto no Tsuki” where the moon reflects in the individual rice paddies.  In October 2020, Obasute was designated a Japan Heritage site for the moon-viewing story. 

Obasute's moon-reflecting rice terraces

Obasute overlooks the Zenkoji Plain.  One of the best places for the view is the platform of Obasute Station.  The lights down in the valley at night are a popular site.

Don't miss the Obasute Night View

Access and Advice:  The Obasute Rice Terraces are just 10 minutes by car from Kamesei Ryokan.  You can park at the Obasute Tourism Hall on the north side and stroll the paddies from Choraku-ji Temple.  We at Kamesei Ryokan through our Zukudashi Eco Tours offer guided cycling tours of the Japan Heritage site.  For the night view, the local tourism association runs a special sightseeing bus.  Kamesei's owner is one of the regularly scheduled guides and would love to accompany you to see the lights of the Chikuma River Valley from Obasute.

Bonus:  The Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park

No visit to Nagano would be complete without seeing the world-famous Snow Monkeys at the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park.  These are the only wild monkeys in the world that soak in an onsen bath.  They draw photographers from across the globe to capture their blissful expression as they luxuriate in the hot spring water.


Blissful snow monkeys

While many people go see the monkeys during winter to see them in their snowy habitat, the babies born in the springtime are little fur-balls running all over the place making the Monkey Park a treat to visit year-round.

Playful Baby Snow Monkey

Access and Advice:  By car the parking lot is 60 minutes from Kamesei Ryokan using the expressway.  By public transportation, it is 25 minutes by train from Togura to Nagano, then a 45 minute express bus to the trailhead.  (See the Kamesei blog for updated train / bus schedules.)  Either way, there is a 30 minute walk through a beautiful evergreen forest to the actual park.  If you go in the fall, during the macaques' mating season they may be, err, preoccupied and won't come down to the park.  You can check the live camera feed on the park's website for the latest status.