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Japan Hour

Road Trip to Shinshu (Part 2)

Places visited this week include a temple with beautiful paintings on its ceiling, a museum dedicated to a famous composer of children’s songs and an inn offering an authentic farming experience.

We resume our two-day stopover local train journey in Nagano Prefecture. On the first day, after eating soba at a restaurant next to Ikushima Tarushima Shrine, we head by taxi to Mugonkan to check out an exhibition of a famous painter. However, it is closed on this particular day. So we take the same taxi back to Nakashioda Station along Ueda Electric Railway’s Bessho Line. We then catch the 4pm train to Bessho Onsen Station, which commands a travel fund of 5,000 yen. 

Bessho Onsen is one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. We visit Aisome no Yu, which has day-trip hot spring packages. A night’s stay with two meals costs 12,000 yen per person. We decide to spend the night here and enjoy the outdoor hot spring which overlooks the town. For dinner, we are served kaiseki cuisine made with seasonal ingredients of Nagano. Dishes include a raw fish sampler with fish from Shinshu, teppanyaki with miso sauce and daio char.

The next morning, we depart from Bessho Onsen Station at 7.25am and go to Ueda Station. We then transfer to Shinano Railway Line and ride on the 8.10am train. We reach Chikuma Station at 8.30am. It has a payout of 5,000 yen. We hop on a bus and head to Obasute Station, located on a hill 500m above sea level. It boasts one of the best views in the prefecture. From the train platform, one can see the whole of Nagano and beautiful rice fields. Furthermore, when the moon is reflected on the water-filled rice-fields on the hillside, it creates a wonderful sight known as “tagoto no tsuki”.

From Obasute Station, we catch the 9.15am bus to Yashiro Station, 50 minutes away. We then take the train back to Chikuma Station and hop on the 10.45am train heading towards Hino Station, which has a payout of 10,000 yen. It is located along Nagano Electric Railway’s Nagano Line, so we first have to transfer railway lines at Nagano Station. We hop on the 11.40am train at Nagano Station and make our way to Hino Station. 

A local tells us that a famous attraction in this area is the Hokushin Gogaku mountain range. It comprises five peaks which are 2,000m above sea level. However, a better place to view them is around Murayama Station. So we depart from Hino Station at 12.15pm and go to Murayama, which has a payout of 5,000 yen. From Murayama Station, we walk to Chikuma River to see the five peaks of Hokushin Gogaku - Mt. Madarao, Mt. Myoko. Mt. Kurohime, Mt. Togakushi and Mt. Izuna. People from other prefectures travel all the way here to see these mountains. 

After this, we take the 12.55pm train from Murayama Station to Tsusumi Station, which offers a travel fund of 15,000 yen. A resident here suggests we visit Ganshoin Temple, where one can see paintings by ukiyo-e artist Hokusai on the ceiling. He lived in this area in his late years. We have to walk 1.5km to reach Ganshoin, which opened during the Muromachi period. One of Hokusai’s paintings found at Ganshoin Temple is called Happonirami Phoenix. It took one year to be finished and was completed just before he died. We are also shown a pond in the temple where well-known poet Kobayashi Issa wrote his famous “frog” haiku. 

Next, we take the 2.30pm train from Tsusumi Station and head to Entoku, which offers a payout of 15,000 yen. Here, we visit the Shinpei Nakayama Museum, dedicated to the songwriter whose children’s songs are famous. Nakayama, an icon of the area, was born in Nakano City. Soap Bubble, Tokyo Ondo and Sunny Monk Boy are just a few of the 3,000 songs that he has written. 

At 3.55pm, we take the train to Kamijo, the station with the highest travel fund payout of 50,000 yen. Only about 50 people use this station each day. A passenger at transfer station Shinshu-Nakano tells us about the popular IPPU inn near Kamijo Station. It has been run by a farming family for 20 years and offers guests an authentic agricultural experience. People from all over Japan come to stay at the inn, where they can learn about harvesting and farming. 

We take the train from Kamijo Station and head to the goal of our trip, Yudanaka. We have reached our travel fund target so are rewarded with a feast and night’s stay at Kanaguya, an old established hotel that is also a National Tangible Cultural Property.


1)    Obasute Station offers one of the best views of Nagano from its platform
2)    Guests keen to experience a farmer’s life should stay at the IPPU inn near Kamijo Station


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