By Elena Lisina
If you want to take a day off to enjoy the serenity and quietness of the Japanese countryside, Obuse is a must-see. It is easily reachable from cities like Tokyo and Kanazawa. Only 30 minutes away from Nagano station by train, you won’t find any retail chains here or crowds of tourists. What you get is a town full of chestnuts, Hokusai (i.e. paintings by Katsushika Hokusai) and flowers.
Here are the best things to do in Obuse, following a recommended route:
1. Rent a bike from Obuse Tourist Information Centre (Apr–Nov)
Obuse is a little quaint town perfect to travel around by bike. There are plenty of beautiful sceneries of traditional Japanese houses and meadows along the way, plus the roads are fairly quiet at most times. You can rent a bike from a lot of places, but the Obuse Tourist Information Centre has the most budget-friendly deal going and it is right next to the station: ¥400 for the first 2 hours, and ¥100 per hour onwards.
Obuse Tourist Information Centre
Opening hours: 09:00–17:00
Address: 1497-2 Obuse, Obuse, Nagano prefecture 381-0201
2. Kantenbaba (かんてんばば) – Agar food products store
Kantenbaba is all about agar. It offers more than 200 different agar food products, ranging from agar jelly to agar noodle, agar juice to agar salad. You can also try out some agar snacks like the one below at the takeout corner, and enjoy the artworks at the store’s repurposed warehouse.
Opening hours: 09:00–18:30 (–18:00 in winter)
Address: 1117 Obuse-machi, Kamitakai-gun, Nagano, 〒381-0201
3. Senseki Restaurant (桜井甘精堂泉石亭)
Known for its kuriokowa (steamed rice with sweet chestnuts), Senseki restaurant offers delicate dishes with seasonal ingredients. I would say the price is quite reasonable for the food’s taste, presentation and particularly the view - it has arguably the best garden in Obuse. You won’t regret asking for the table next to the garden.
Opening hours: 10:30–18:00 (Closed on Tuesday)
Address: 779 Obuse, Kamitakai-gun, Nagano, 〒381-0201
4. Kanseido (桜井甘精堂本店) - Chestnuts confectionery shop
For all the chestnuts lovers out there, this is the best shop you can ever ask for. Established in 1808, all Kanseido's sweets are jam-packed with quality chestnuts - rich and natural flavour. It has a snacking area where you can have some chestnuts ice cream, but if you are looking for more traditional confectioneries, you should definitely give Youkan(traditional Japanese Jelly) and Dorayaki (traditional Japanese pancake) a shot!
Opening hours: 08:30–18:00
Address: 774 Obuse, Kamitakai-gun, Nagano, 〒381-0201
Official website: www.kanseido.co.jp
5. Kurinoki Terrace (栗の木テラス) - High tea and cake shop
If you are looking for somewhere relaxing, Kurinoki Terrace is the one. It is right at the centre of Obuse, with a rather western look and feel that stand out from the rest. Here you can enjoy cakes and high tea in a very western setting as well. Since you’re at the town of chestnuts, Mont Blanc and the chestnut tea should be at the top of your list.
Opening hours: 10:00–18:00 (Closed on Wednesdays)
Address: 784 Obuse, Kamitakai-gun, Nagano, 〒381-0201
6. Hokusai Museum (北斎館)
Katsushika Hokusai was the artist behind the world-renowned masterpiece - The Great Wave off Kanagawa, currently displayed at Sumida. Since he spent his later years here in Obuse, the Hokusai Museum also has an extensive collection of Hokusai's work, such as Dragon and Phoenix. You will be amazed by the complexity of Hokusai’s distinctive work and the constant variation of art style throughout his 90 years life.
Opening hours: 09:00–17:00 (Adults: ¥1,000 / Students: ¥700)
Address: 485 Obuse, Kamitakai-gun, Nagano, 〒381-0201
7. Kurinokomichi (栗の小径) - The Chestnut Alley
Kurinokomich is a picturesque alley paved with chestnut wood, surrounded by traditional Japanese architectures and chestnut tree. It is a great alley for photos after visiting the confectionery shops and museums nearby.
Address: 470 Obuse, Kamitakai-gun, Nagano, 〒381-0201
Bonus: Look out for this sign!
If you see this sign around Obuse, it means you are welcome to visit the garden for free and take as many pictures as you want! These gardens are gorgeous but please do keep in mind to keep the volume down and only walk around the designated areas, because you are visiting someone's backyard after all.
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Like many others from Hong Kong, Japan feels like a second home to me. Having been to Japan for more than twenty times, it has never failed to surprise me with something new and exciting. As a Digital Media Arts student at the University of Surrey in the UK, I am keen on using media, particularly photography, to share both my observations and recommendations of the places I have visited around Japan. I hope my content will come in handy, especially when you are heading to the lesser known areas in Japan.