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Nagano Prefecture, JapanCulture & history

Our most recommended Nagano Prefecture, Japan Culture & history

Nagano/Matsumoto: Matsumoto Castle and Narai-juku Day Trip

1. Nagano/Matsumoto: Matsumoto Castle and Narai-juku Day Trip

Meet your guide at Nagano Station and board the bus to Matsumoto Station, the second pickup point of the tour. Once all guests are aboard, make your way to the historic center of Matsumoto, established as a castle town in the days of the Samurai. Begin the tour at Nawate-dori, known as “Frog Street”, home to more than 50 shops, restaurants, and cafes famous for selling all things frog-related. Browse shops selling an array of specialties including o-senbei (rice crackers), taiyaki (fish-shaped pastries), dagashi (candy), ice cream, and more. After looking at frog-themed sculptures and souvenirs, head to the Matsumoto Castle which dates to the end of the ‘Warring States Period’ with much of the original structure still intact. Explore the oldest surviving 5-tiered 6-story castle tower in Japan. Follow your guide into the castle grounds as you uncover the history and features that make it so lauded. Then, step into the castle itself, ascending all the way to the top of its 6 stories. Observe intricate woodwork and views of Matsumoto City. See a collection of historical guns, artifacts, and other items that offer a glimpse into the life of a Japanese warrior when the castle was first built. From there, enjoy some free time to take a longer look around the castle grounds and visit a few shops around the castle. Then, continue your journey to Narai-juku, which once flourished as a place for travelers to rest up on their journey from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Nakasendo road. Sit back and soak in scenic views of fields and mountains – often capped with a glistening blanket of snow. Arrive at the entrance to Narai-juku, near the train station, from where the guided portion of the tour begins. As you walk down the main street, learn about the quirks of Narai-juku’s construction and hear stories from its golden age. After the guided walk, get an hour of free time to look at the shops on the main street or grab a bite at a café or restaurant, before returning to Matsumoto or Nagano Station.

Osaka: teamLab Botanical Garden Entry Ticket

2. Osaka: teamLab Botanical Garden Entry Ticket

Visit the newly reopened Nagai Botanical Garden, which is run by the art collective teamLab as a hybrid garden and art space. Wander through the grounds home to roughly 1,200 species of plants, then enjoy the interactive art installations which come alive at night. Stroll through the botanical gardens, with its 240,000 square meters of grounds and wide array of plant species to admire. Stop by the central pond and relax in the serene natural beauty of the gardens. As night draws in, stay to discover teamLab’s unique art project which explores how nature can become art. The concept of the project is that non-material digital technology like light displays can turn nature into art without harming it.  Watch incredible light spectacles which actively interact with the surrounding nature, animals, and visitors, and become part of the artwork yourself as you experience it. 

Osaka: Hotspots & Hidden Gems Private or Group Tour

3. Osaka: Hotspots & Hidden Gems Private or Group Tour

You will get an insightful understanding of everyday Japanese customs, including topics that other local guides may not be comfortable letting visitors know about, so please ask me any questions (our guides are super open-minded and present Osaka for what it is: the good, the bad and everything in between) First you'll slip through the non-touristy hidden maze of bar/restaurant zones in central Osaka, and even get a short glimpse of a Yakuza clubhouse (it’s safe and we’ll just walk past it). After check out the traditional Kuromon Ichiba Market seafood market where top chefs continue to shop at everyday. We’ll contrast that by ducking into quiet cobblestoned back alleys to uncover a mystic temple and its centuries-old unique history, while passing boutique eateries and hidden shops. Be prepared for a sensory overload as we navigate wacky larger-than-life billboards highlighting modern Japanese culture. You’ll get to hear plenty of interesting stories about Osaka while we amble down the central downtown Dotonbori river....and get some fantastic photo opportunities. The America town further down the road provides a curious insight of what Japanese people think what America is hahaha. The retro town of Shinsekai is just as intriguing with its mix of crazy fishing restaurants to its ancient Japanese gaming provides a lot of nostalgia! You’ll be dazzled by the retrograde neon all over the city and the exciting nightlife that Osaka is so famous for. This tour is known for exposing the contrasting faces of Osaka! Note: You will go to all the above places mentioned on the 3hr tour Note: On the 4hr tour we will visit all of the above plus 3 extra places: a knife shop (a private demonstation given), go down a plethora of off the beaten paths full of authentic restaurant alleys, full coverage of the Dotonbori River area with more of a deeper insight to Osaka local life. Note: Osaka Castle will not be visited on this tour (as it take over an 2hr just to view this 12 acre land that Osaka Castle is built on. I hope our tour is more than memorable!:)

Kyoto: Personalized Guided Private Tour

4. Kyoto: Personalized Guided Private Tour

Spend a day discovering some of Kyoto’s attractions. Let a professional guide design a tour in line with your interests. You can visit 3 or 4 attractions, depending on your pace! Experience thousands of Red Torii Gate in Fushimi Inari shrine, and visit Golden Pavillion, the iconic temple of Kyoto. Visit the Kiyomizu temple, one of the Unesco world heritage sites, with a large veranda located in the mountain side and explore the Gion, the most famous geisha district. You can enjoy traditional wooden machiya merchant houses. Try out a Washoku Japanese restaurant or try some green tea if you are interested.

Full-Day Tour: Matsumoto Castle & Kamikochi Alpine Valley

5. Full-Day Tour: Matsumoto Castle & Kamikochi Alpine Valley

The tour begins at JR Nagano Station at 8:15 AM. Your guide will greet all guests and quickly have you on your way toward the historic city of Matsumoto. Arriving around 09:45 AM, your guide will lead you to Matsumoto Castle one of Nagano’s most impressive cultural sites, known for its structural beauty set against a splendid mountain backdrop. Before making your way to the castle. Explore the famous "Frog Street" Nawate-Dori. Home to more than 50 shops, restaurants, and cafes most famous for selling all things frog-related. At the castle you will be guided into the castle grounds as your guide reveals the history and features which make it so lauded, before giving you time to explore for yourself. It’s then time to head high into the mountains, as you are transported into the Northern Alps and onto Kamikochi. Situated 1500 meters above sea level deep within the Chubu Sangaku National Park, Kamikochi is famous for its pristine natural state, beautiful rivers and ponds, lush forests, and dramatic mountain peaks rising to over 3000 meters. The next few hours are yours to enjoy as choose. You can choose to stroll further along the river or sit at a café or restaurant, and simply take in the view. At 5:30 PM the tour bus will depart and begin the journey back toward Nagano.

Hiroshima: Full-Day City Highlights Private Guided Tour

6. Hiroshima: Full-Day City Highlights Private Guided Tour

Spend the day with your guide exploring the highlights of the amazing city of Hiroshima. Explore the city's downtown, learn about the events of 1945, and visit the beautiful island of Miyajima. Walk around the Peace Memorial Park which is dedicated to the memories of the direct and indirect victims of the nuclear bomb attack in 1945. Continue to Genbaku Dome, a UNESCO world heritage site, and the only structure left standing in the area where the first atomic bomb exploded. Visit the Peace Memorial Museum where you will see belongings left behind by victims of the nuclear attack, artifacts from the bomb, and read testimonies from survivors. As you explore the museum you will learn about the horrors, inhumane nature, and events of the 1945 attack. Try some local foods like Hiroshima-yaki or oysters for lunch before you finish up your tour of downtown Hiroshima. Board a ferry downtown and head to Miyajima, the Island of the Gods. Marvel at the floating red torii gate in high tide and go inside the Itsukushima shrine built over the sea.

Private Snow Monkey Tour: From Nagano City / Ski Resorts

7. Private Snow Monkey Tour: From Nagano City / Ski Resorts

This tour offers amazing value for those keen skiers wanting to hop between ski resorts for their Nagano ski vacations, while seeing some of the best of what Nagano has to offer along the way! Once your tour begins, you will board our private tour vehicle and begin your journey to the Snow Monkey Park. Your guide will take you along the forest trail which leads to the park and into Jigokudani – rather dramatically translating to ‘Hell’s Valley’. Home to the only troop of monkeys in the entire world known to bathe in hot springs, there are no barriers separating you from the wild monkeys, making this a unique and memorable experience. Your guide will introduce these truly curious creatures and provide you time to enjoy the unique experience of observing them in close proximity. Make sure to bring your camera as you`re going to need it! Your guide will then accompany back along the trail and you will enjoy a traditional Japanese ‘Bento’ Box Lunch with variety that is sure to please any tastes. This specially prepared bento is locally sourced and offers a visually pleasing and decadent experience that will leave you wanting more! This lunch is designed to match the season and highlight the best of Nagano’s renowned food culture. Well-fed and content, it’s time to head-out of Yudanaka to explore the picturesque town of Obuse, and its remaining Edo-style buildings. Known for its historic character, chestnut delicacies and sake breweries, walking the streets of Obuse provides an incredible opportunity to sample some local specialties and appreciate the local culture of Nagano and Japan as a whole in this stroll through time. After spending some time in Obuse, you will once more board the private vehicle bound for Zenko-ji Temple. As a registered National Treasure, the temple is the most important cultural site in Nagano and one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in the entire country! A place of true historic importance, full of legends and myths, you will be guided around the temple before your guide will give you the opportunity to explore the surrounding precinct of smaller temples, shops, and food by yourself. As Japan’s second largest producer of sake, Nagano is synonymous with sake and no visit to the region is complete without delving into Japan’s most famous beverage. Your guide with lead your party to a local producer of sake, and introduce how to differentiate one brew from another as you taste a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The information provided by your guide will allow you to continue to enjoy sake in a meaningful way even after the tour concludes. After sake tasting concludes, the guide will say their goodbyes as you board the bus to your selected drop-off location. The ride back is the perfect time to sit back, relax, and look through all those monkey photos before you finally arrive safe and sound at your destination!

Private Kamikochi & Matsumoto Tour: From Nagano/Matsumoto

8. Private Kamikochi & Matsumoto Tour: From Nagano/Matsumoto

This tour offers amazing value for travelers looking to get a taste of nature in Japan at their own pace, attended by a knowledgeable English speaking guide. Escape from the heat and crowds in the cities, and enjoy an evening in the Japanese Alps. Once your tour begins, you will board our private tour vehicle and be shuttled to our first destination. For guests boarding from either the Nagano or Matsumoto areas, that will be the formidable Matsumoto Castle. At a total of 6 stories high, and covered on the outside with black wood, it’s architecture is equal parts elegant and imposing, reflecting the era in which it was built. One of only 12 original castles left in Japan and registered as a National Treasure, the interior of the castle also houses a number of artifacts from the era of the samurai, including muskets, armor, and rockets. The views from the top of the castle are of course stunning, and the whole plain on which Matsumoto is situated in will be visible along with the mountains which surround the city. Guests will also have a chance to walk through some of the famous streets of downtown Matsumoto while on their way to the castle. A very picturesque city, Matsumoto is relatively small but boasts a lively art and music scene, and has a number of cafes and eateries catering to its residents. On Nawate doori, also known as frog street, you will have some time to sample local specialties and enjoy a visit to the most important shrine in the city. You will the board the tour bus again, headed for Kamikochi. Leaving from Matsumoto, the drive up the mountains is stunning and offers lots of scenery to gaze out on the roughly 1 hour long drive. Customers with a keen eye may spot a number of wildlife species along the way, including snow monkeys, Japanese black bears, golden eagles, badgers, and sika deer. Upon arrival at Kamikochi, guests will get off the bus at Taisho-ike pond, from where the 3 kilometer walk to Kappa-bashi (pictured above) will begin. The trail is flat and well maintained, and any guest of reasonable physical capabilities will be able to easily complete the trek. Upon arrival at the scenic Kappa-bashi bridge, guests will have further time to themselves to enjoy a snack or browse for souvenirs at the shops around Kappa-bashi. For those who would like to hike further, Kamikochi also offers other trails from Kappabashi that guests are free to explore on their own terms during this free time. Your guide will offer an explanation of what there is to do around Kappa-bashi before free time starts, Once free time is finished, your guide will lead you to the tour bus which will take you on to your destination, whether that be Nagano or Matsumoto. The return journey will take around 1 hour for guests returning to Matsumoto, or 2 hours for guests who will be returning to Nagano.

Zenkoji Experience Tour: Overnight 'Shukubo' (Temple Lodge)

9. Zenkoji Experience Tour: Overnight 'Shukubo' (Temple Lodge)

Designed to provide guests with an intimate yet entertaining understanding of Nagano’s near-1,400 year-old Zenko-ji temple, this half-day group tour combines an in-depth guided experience at the temple including a private ‘goma’ prayer fire ceremony and an exploration of the region’s food culture and renowned ‘sake’ with an overnight stay at a traditional ‘shukubo’ (temple lodging).

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What people are saying about Nagano Prefecture, Japan

Overall rating

4.9 / 5

based on 39 reviews

The tour was excellent. It was pleasant and very informative that, time (5 hours) flew by so fast. Andrew was right on time. He is amazingly knowledgeable, well mannered and cultured. The tour was relaxed yet professional. I would strongly recommend this company and will likely use them again.

I'd do this tour again in a heartbeat. The tour of the temple was great, as was learning about the history of the area. The sake tasting was interesting and lunch was quite nice.

Amazing experience. 100% recommended. Not as immersive as Team Labs in Tokyo but wonderful in it's own right.

A very memorable trip.. December is good timing to visit!! would recommend everybody to join..

The guide was fantastic. Good humoured and knowledgeable!