When most people think of Japan, they tend to imagine the futuristic bustle of Tokyo or the traditional gardens and temples of Kyoto, but the gateway to the Northern Japanese Alps reveals another side of the character of this beautiful and varied country.
In an area offering so many different options, deciding where to go and what to do can be overwhelming. That’s where the charm of the Kurobe Kanko Hotel comes into play. Located in Omachi, Nagano, the hotel sits at a crossroad, both in its physical location and in its concept. It blends a traditional Japanese ryokan with a modern travel hotel, offering the best of both worlds.
For visitors wanting to rest and unwind, you can take off your watch and let your troubles melt away in one of its natural onsen baths, or stuff yourself on its truly massive buffet, featuring 70 different dishes. One of the best parts of staying at a ryokan is the food, which tends to spotlight local delicacies, and what makes the Kurobe Kanko stand out in this regard is that it offers not only mountainous specialties such as fresh grilled river fish, steak, and local vegetables, but its close proximity to the Sea of Japan also means you get to enjoy some of the freshest seafood in country. Sushi, sashimi, crab legs, shrimp, and more highlight the amazing variety of this special region. For travelers who are feeling a little homesick, they also offer western and mainland Asian style dishes, such as pizza, pasta, curry, soups and dumplings. There’s plenty of locally made sake and wine to help wash it all down.
Once you feel like your battery has been sufficiently recharged, you can enjoy the Kurobe Kanko’s “hotel” aspect, which serves as a springboard for getting out and exploring all Nagano has to offer. In an area literally chocked full of unique experiences and activities, the Kurobe Kanko Hotel sits in the epicenter of it all. Rather than choose just one of the local landmarks, guests who stay at the Kurobe Kanko are able to use the hotel’s strategic location as a jumping off point for accessing the area’s huge variety of options. Whether you’re interested in nature, such as Kurobe Dam, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Hakuba, and Mt. Happone, historic sites like Matsumoto Castle and Zenkou-Ji Temple, or festivals, museums, and local art galleries, the Omachi area allows you to enjoy any combination of these at your leisure.
The seasonal variety of the Omachi area and the access the Kurobe Kanko provides to these activities ensures that guests will never lack for new experiences. World class sports, such as skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Happone, home of the Nagano Winter Olympics, snow festivals featuring giant ice sculptures, and of course the warm thermal waters of the hotel’s onsen will keep you toasty during the cold, snowy winter months. In spring you may want to explore the beauty of the local castles, temples, and shrines under a blanket of softly falling cherry blossom petals. During the warmer summer months, festivals such as the Japan Alps art festival at Omachi City, June 4th to July 30th, highlight local art and cuisine. When fall rolls around, the area explodes in a wash of orange, red, yellow, and green leaves, making it the perfect time for hiking, in levels ranging from easy day hikes such as Hakuba, or more serious mountaineering in the Tateyama Range. Located about 15 minutes by bus or taxi from Shinano-Omachi Train Station, the Kurobe Kanko is just far enough outside of town to feel quiet and isolated, yet still near enough to remain easily accessible. For those looking to set their own schedule, a rental car will offer even more freedom and ease of travel.
Whether spending your days relaxing at the hotel in your yukata (a traditional Japanese robe), or setting out on an adventure in Nagano, the Kurobe Kanko Hotel provides the perfect balance to suit your travel needs. The warm, friendly staff go out of their way to make you feel welcome, with information in Japanese, English, and Chinese. During my stay in March, the hotel’s 88 rooms were packed with snowboarders and hikers, as well as families and travelers just looking to enjoy the peace and quiet of the region. The mixed group of guests, the traditional-yet-modern feel of the hotel, the distinct seasons, the landscape, the food, and the attractions all stand to reinforce this unique blend of the heart and soul of the Japanese Alps.