Mountain adventures at Japan's Alps
Nagano, with nine of the twelve highest mountains in Japan, is best known for it's abundance of mountains and natural parks, it's many hot springs, and as a mecca for outdoor sports such as hiking, mountain-biking, skiing and snowboarding.
As host to the 1998 Winter Olympics, there is a well-developed infrastructure and no shortage of hotels, ryokan, pensions, B&Bs, private chalets/apartments and backpacking hostels.
You will find university students, B&B owners and professional athletes bumping shoulders with wealthy resort investors and hunched-over rice farmers all sharing tales relating to the frequently changing mountain weather. Summer brings 35+ degree days, while in Winter the region is transformed as it is blanketed in meters upon meters of snow.
In terms of tourism, old and young alike visit to participate in activities ranging from trekking across 3000m high alpine ridges with views all the way to Mt. Fuji in one direction and the Sea of Japan in the other, to spending their days slurping soba noodles and basking in the healing properties of centuries-old onsen, to making pilgrimages to the ancient temple Zenkoji, to snapping shots of monkeys basking in hot pools. Not to mention the hordes of domestic and, increasingly, foreign tourists who come to experience some of the best snow in the country at resorts such as Nozawa Onsen and Hakuba's Happo-one.
As a large inland prefecture bordered by more prefectures than any other in Japan, is incredibly diverse - drive from the furthermost point in Japan from the ocean to just 50km from the Sea of Japan to spend the morning skiing and the afternoon bbqing in the sun beneath sakura.
A lot of people visit only for the snow and miss everything else there is on offer - while a visit to ski Nagano's famous resorts should be on everyone's to-do list, there is plenty more on offer - whether you are a long-term resident of Japan or here for a short visit, be sure to include Nagano in your travels .