By Elena Lisina
The Suwa area of Nagano Prefecture is a traditional getaway for the Japanese and rising in popularity as a destination among tourists. Due to the beautiful scenery, highlighted by Lake Suwa, Mount Yatsugatake and the Kirigamine Highlands, there is much to love about the area. The towns surrounding Lake Suwa have plenty to offer as well with a rich history in crafts, festivals and foods.
Here are a few of the well-known and popular destinations as recommended by multiple foreign residents living in the Suwa area. While not a comprehensive list, the below are certainly worth a visit if you are in the area. In no particular order:
Sake Breweries / Masumi Sake Brewery
Sake is intertwined with Suwa culture and history and many of the older breweries date back nearly 400 years. There are nine major breweries in the area, each with a front-end area where they sell sake bottles and souvenirs and offer tasting selections to visitors. There are also sake walking festivals in Spring and Autumn where visitors can purchase a single cup and walk the streets from brewery to brewery to find your perfect match.
Masumi Sake Brewery is one of the finest breweries not only in Suwa, but across all of Japan. Known for its history, accessibility for foreigners and quality Masumi is a must visit location for anyone remotely interested in Japanese Sake. Masumi has specialized in sake production since 1662 and focuses on the purity of creating Sake with local area ingredients. Masumi is famous for originating unique sake creation process that has led the brewery to win multiple awards and is now is used by over 60% of sake breweries around Japan. The shop itself is located just in front of the factory and is beautifully designed with a large variety of sake selections and locally sourced souvenirs on display. Tasting courses and tours in English should be reserved in advance on the website.
This is a brand new location in Suwa that combines a high-end restaurant, beer garden, bakery, cafe and souvenir shop into one multi-story building. On the first floor, there is a range of food and gourmet-related souvenirs including sake, dressings, meats, sweets and more. There are also seasonal souvenir sets that are updated regularly to reflect Nagano's specialties throughout the year. The bread store and cafe are nice for a quick stop on your travels. The upstairs area houses a high quality restaurant with reasonable prices and a beautiful interior. On the roof is outdoor seating with sweeping views over Lake Suwa. In the summer, the roof can be converted into a beer garden and in July and August it makes an excellent viewpoint for the nightly fireworks displays.
Local Italian restaurant focused on the foods and recipes from Northern Italy. Here customers can enjoy their favorite heart-warming pasta dishes and meat courses paired with fine local wines and Nagano sake. Course prices are moderate starting around JPY 3,000 per person including coffee and dessert. Danlo is located about seven minutes from JR Kami-Suwa Station.
Another popular restaurant in the area, Tsujimoto is a Japanese restaurant that is known to be stylish and trendy. The menu keeps up with the seasons and always uses the freshest local ingredients. Many of the dishes are known to be simple and calming, very minimalist in nature. Be sure to try the fugu sashimi if you are interested in this novelty gourmet. Tsujimoto prices average around JPY 3,000 ~ 4,000 per person and is also within walking distance of JR Kami-Suwa Station.
Yakitori chicken skewers are always a favorite in Japan and Suwa's local Toriume does not disappoint. Grill up your favorite chicken selections and pair it up with beer or local sake for maximum enjoyment. A full meal and drinks is around JPY 3,000 ~ 4,000 per person. Open in the evenings from 5:00pm to 10:00pm and located within walking distance of JR Kami-Suwa Station.
For an intimate and traditional Japanese dining experience you can't go wrong local foods and oden, the specialty of Hinata. There are a number of unique appetizers and oden selections here that you will not find around Japan. Hinata has a wide range of drink selections including cocktails, beers, sake and more.
Along the Venus line at high altitude visitors can explore the wetlands area known as Yashima Shitsugen. Located in the northwest of the Kirigamine highlands, the area is a national monument and natural paradise. Spring brings life as birds sing and frogs chirp to announce their presence. In Summer the grounds are covered with flowers and in autumn the marshlands is covered with beautiful red-tinted grasses. Winter is covered with snow and the area closes until mid-April. There are a number of walking paths throughout the area and it is quite easy to spend half a day or more in the beautiful surroundings. More >
The area surrounding Lake Suwa is all quite beautiful, but if you truly want to get the best view of the Lake, then you need to head to Tateishi Park. The park can be reached by walking or by bicycle and is elevated enough to provide sweeping views of the Lake and the surrounding cities. Day time is amazing to see blue on blue with the backdrop of the nearby highlands and mountains while evening views show off the vibrant city lights. As a bonus the sun sets just across the horizon and the park was selected as one of the top 100 sunset locations in Japan.
Located in the Yokoyaonsen Valley, this beautiful area is famous for hot springs and beautiful mountain views. One of the highlights of the area is the walking course with several waterfalls along the way. The autumn season is especially beautiful with yellows, reds, and oranges filling the horizon. The elevation here reaches 1500 meters so it can be quite cold in the winter time. Near the entrance to the course is a visitor center with an observation deck for viewing the valley below. Along the course you will pass the waterfalls and the Yokoyaonsen Hot Spring Inn. Visitors can stop at the onsen for the night or simply take advantage of their beautiful outdoor baths.
There is much more to Suwa than what we have listed here. Check out the aditional links below.
- Suwa Feature - JapanTravel collection of Suwa Area content
- Suwa Official Website - Brand new Suwa tourism website
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