We’ve chosen the best places and activities that you must experience when you come to Japan! Discover what walking and cycling at a historical townscape, eating Wagashi and Yakinikuwear, experience a hot spring and foot bath…
Especially, in this article, we pick up Nakasendo that was in the Lonely Planet. Nakasendo is one of the most popular sightseeing contents in Japan. We hope that it makes your Japan trip even more enjoyable.
Visiting Historical Places in Japan!
Japan has a characteristic history and culture around the world. Shrine, Temple, Kominka(Japanese Old House), Shukuba(Post Town in Edo era) and much more. This summary article introduces historical spots where can be enjoyed on Nakasendo, an old road full of good old Japanese charm.
Cycling on Nakasendo -Kasatori Pine Tree Pass-
In 1604, Japan was Edo period (Samurai period), the second shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Hidetada Tokugawa, made the row of a pine tree at Kasatori mountain pass (笠取峠のマツ並木). This place was a famous place in the past and was also drawn on famous Japanese paintings by Hiroshige Utagawa who was known as Ukiyo-E painter. The row of pine on the way is steep because it is in the middle of the pass, but you can go smoothly with e-Bike.
This Place is one of the most attractive and recommends a place on this tour. Visitors can look to a landscape that is the same of Ukiyoe by Hiroshige Utagawa.
Pray at Shrine -Suwa Taisha Akimiya (Grand Shrine)-
It is far away 1km from JR Suwa station, and the middle between old Nakasendo and Koshu Kaido. Firstly when you enter into the torii(like a gate), you will be attracted by the big tree whose age is about 800 years old.
Suwa Taisha Akimiya is a part of Suwa Taisha. There are 4 different parts near to Lake Suwa in Nagano. The goddess of wind and water is enshrined here, so local people prayed for their agriculture improvement from the old age.
Japanese Old House -Settai-
Here is the popular secret spot where it is not up in magazines and web site for sightseeing. The place can be arrived only by the tour going around Nakasendo by e-Bike. This is a rest point built by donation for travelers going over strict mountain roads during the Edo period.
From now on, the original people come to draw water because there is still beautiful clearly water. The building is made by traditional ways of the establishment. What the woman in the picture is holding is Chikara Mochi of Shiokado in Tateshina Town.
This is a modern food arranged from the available recipe during the Edo period. You can buy them in Enkado and Michinoeki Megami no Sato Tateshina.
Look at Historical Townscape -Wada Juku Post Town-
Although Wada-juku is flourished as the yado town near to Wada Toge which is the hardest to go over, in 1861, most of juku was burn by fire. However, Kazunomiya who is a wife of the minister during the Edo period was staying there, so it is said that all the town was built again. From now on, they have remained, so you can go through the town by e-Bike, and enjoy taking a walk without e-Bike.
Edo Headquarters -Wada Juku Honjin-
Honjin means the building where the top-level people visited and stayed in Wada-juku which is known as a yado town in Nakasendo during the Edo period. Tourists can go on a field trip and understand the history of post-station towns and the beauty of Japanese buildings during the Edo period.
Although the guide cannot speak English, it is valuable only to visit.
Shukuba (Post Town) -Motai Juku Post Town-
Motai post town (茂田井宿) doesn’t become a sightseeing spot. So there are a few tourists. there are lots of attractions such as old big traditional Japanese houses, cafes and Japanese sake brewery. It’s a great place for harmony between daily life and tradition.
Having a tour in Japanese Sake Brewery -Takeshige Shuzo Brewery-
Takeshige Shuzo is the brewery of Japanese sake in Motai-juku. These 30 buildings are donated as registered tangible cultural property in Japan. Since this was open in the first period of Meiji, almost every year this is won for a competition of Japanese sake in Japan and also in Nagano.
Visitors can see the historical building freely and come to see historical articles at the brewery and the museum decorated by old Japanese weapons. Moreover, they can taste sake and buy them. It is a good point that the staff is very kind to tourists. Let’s go shopping for Japanese sake made of clear water in Nagano as souvenirs.
Eating Japanese Food and Dishes!
Japanese food has been popular around the world in recent years. Japanese food is healthy and complex. This article introduces three main dishes, sweets and common meals.
Eating Yakiniku (Tateshina Beef) -Ittou-
Iitou is a beef bar where the beef was bought as a whole cattle by the owner’s son directly from the ranch. the cattle which the owner’s father bred in Tateshina, where Nakasendo sets its route through the town. The characteristics for the beef are that – the name of the brand ‘Tateshina Beef’ is based on Yatsugatake Mountain, one of the power spots in Japan. It’s a good meat-fat proportion, the slight sweetness and the great quality of the meat itself.
Eating Wagashi(Japanese sweets) -Shintsuru Honten-
Established since 1873 in Suwa city, Shintsuru Honten is one of the most famous and popular Wagashi shops (or Japanese sweet shops) within the city. Yokan, or Azuki red bean pudding in English, is a jelly type pudding or dessert with Azuki red bean as the main ingredient and mixed with Kanten (oriental gelatine).
Shio Yokan (salted Azuki red bean pudding) is rated no.1 best selling dessert in the shop, for both locals and tourists from past to present. During your visit to Suwa city, if visitors feel tired and would like to have something sweet to eat, or would even like to buy a souvenir to family and friends, please feel free to pay a visit.
For more information, please visit the following websites for your own interest.
Eating Japanese Traditional Dishes -Kagura-
Located near the Akimiya of the Lower Suwa Taisha Shrine, Kagura is a shop that serves Omusubi (Rice balls) and soup. Not any preservatives or artificial substances have been added to any products sold in this shop. This shop also uses ingredients which are all produced
Experience and Activities in Japan!
There are many things you want to experience when you come to Japan. Making traditional Japanese paper, picking delicious fruits, and making Japanese tea. Please try it!
Let’s try Tea Ceremony -Sado Japanese Tea-
Seian is a Chashitsu or literally translated as a ‘Japanese Tea Room’. This type of Japanese Tea Room is a place where the traditional way to serve Matcha (Japanese style green tea) to the customers. This traditional serving method in Japan is called ‘Sado’.
In Seian, there are two guest rooms available, visitors can pay a visit to the tea room with the opportunity to experience to perform the tea ceremony by making and taste the tea with the instructors who wear the Kimono. Tour visitors can also try on the Kimono and be luxurious by enjoying the full course (served) Matcha Tea ceremony.
“One of Seian’s characteristics is that the staff can easily arrange all sorts of arrangements if the visitors who pay a visit and wish to experience all these ceremonies themselves. Such arrangements had often been done previously and the staff is experienced in adapting to the situation, therefore, please relax and enjoy the visit.” Comment from Mr/Ms. Kanei, representative of Seian
Apple Picking -Ueda Apple Farm-
There are a lot of places available for visitors to experience apple harvesting or talk to the farmers in Tateshina area along the Nakasendo Tour route. Nagano Prefecture is well known in Japan as one of the places for apple production. Whereas Tateshina area in famous within the Nagano Prefecture.
It feels good and is also strongly recommended to view the apple farms from the top of the hill by traveling with e-Bike, visitors can try various types of apples depending on the time of visit.
Taking a Hot spring -Foot Bath-
Foot Bath means that legs soak in a hot bath to get rid of fatigue. In onsen town in Japan, their foot bath everywhere, so in the way of travel, you can stop by a foot bath. Many foot bath is available for free.
In the foot bath of Shimosuwa Oideya, there is a towel, so it is no problem to take things to dry your wet legs with you. In the tour course of Nakasendo, there are other foot baths, so as getting rid of fatigue by making tires legs hot, enjoy your trip.
→The Best 9 Hot Spring (Onsen, 温泉) in Nagano
Visit Roadside Rest Station -Michi no Eki Megami no Sato Tateshina-
Michi no Eki is the multiple parking areas where you can buy and eat local food besides a facility of taking a rest. There are more than 100 spots like this in Japan. In Megami no Sato Tateshina, you can eat ice cream made from apples that were picked up in the religion.
Along the route of Nakasendo tour, there are many shops where you can take ice cream. And also, in Megami no Sato Tateshina, you can enjoy not only eating ice cream but also buying souvenirs in Nagano and eating something in a restaurant. Moreover, there is a space which you can park e-Bike, so I recommend this Michi no Eki is the spot for taking a rest.
If you want to know more about Michi no Eki, please check the explanation in the website.
Making an Original Washi(Japanese Traditional Paper) -Washi no Sato-
Here, you can experience making by yourself washi which is Japanese traditional paper. The washi made in Washi no Sato is called “Tateiwa Washi” and they keep making this washi for about 300 years. Added to the experience of making washi, visitors can experience making E-Hagaki used by washi.
Although there is no staff who can speak English in Washi no Sato, you can take a kindly and clearly lecture from staff and you can make memorabilia of travel with a lot of humor. Finally, you can ask the washi you made is sent to your hometown a few days after.(also to the world.)
Let’s go to a filming location -『Your Name』 Tateishi Park-
Tateishi Park is a good park to see the panorama of both Lake Suwa and the townscape in Suwa. Therefore, this place became the modeling of Japanese hit anime movie, “Kimi no Na Wa”. When it is sun-set time, you can see beautiful seen. If you visit there in the sun-set, you can see the park shrunk by shine of sun and Lake Suwa. And also, after it is getting dark, you can see the night view in Suwa.
The park is on the hill, so it is too far to go on foot, and it is too tight to go by car. You can go there only by e-Bike. I suggest people who love Japanese anime to go there.
Let’s Try The Best 16 Things To Do in Japan
This time, we introduced a careful selection of things that you must do in Japan. From seeing and experiencing Japan, we pray that you will have an enjoyable stay! If you want to know more information, please read the below articles!