Winter is the best time to discover the charm of the Yatsugatake Mountains. This itinerary showcases all the winter highlights of the Chino city, Nagano, while giving a few tips on how to add a little luxury to your trip. Enjoy plenty of outdoor and cultural activities without giving up relaxation and comfort. Don't forget to explore a rural village that looks out of an old tale while staying in a traditional century-old farmhouse too!
|Duration||5 days (4 nights)|
|Period||December to March|
It only takes a short 2-hour train ride to get to Chino from Tokyo.
Once at the station, you will be picked up by your personal driver who will be at your disposal for the rest of your journey. You can also rent a car, arrange a taxi, or utilize bus services as you like.
10 min drive
Enjoy authentic matcha green tea with traditional Kanten (agar) sweets, while observing a beautiful Japanese garden covered with snow.
5 min on foot
Suwa Taisha is one of Japan’s oldest sanctuaries, first mentioned in Japanese literature in the 7th century. Built to hold the sacred rituals which animate the spiritual life of the region, this is the largest and most elaborated of the Suwa Taisha shrines. Take time to observe the detailed carvings of the shrine buildings and the massive ceremonial drum. If you like, you can also join a special purification ceremony and receive the local deity's blessing.
10 min drive
Soba ("buckwheat") is a traditional food in Nagano Prefecture and Chino is no exception. Stop by this small family-run restaurant and try some soba noodles.
30 min drive
This is a very popular cafe/pastry shop that sell both Western and Japanese sweets. Take your time and enjoy a parfait made with seasonal fruits or matcha green tea served with a hot cup of green tea or carefully hand-dripped coffee from Brazil.
Put on a pair of snowshoes and set off with our certified guide to discover a white world of ice at the top of the Yatsugatake Mountains. With the Kita-Yatsugatake ropeway, we will reach the mountain top at over 2,000m, then hike all the way to the peak of Mt. Shimagare and back.
15 min drvie
Tateshina Ai is a small high-end onsen ryokan in Tateshina area. It has two private open-air hot spring baths and the food served at dinner in the form of a kaiseki course meal is a work of art, both delicious and pleasing to the eye.
Tucked away in the middle of Tateshina area, Kaoru Kaze is a little onsen ryokan with just 12 rooms. The delicious meals which features plenty of local ingredients, the natural free-flowing hot springs and the cheerful staff are just some of the appeals of this accommodation.
Auberge Terra is an exclusive lodging that only accepts reservation for four rooms a day. Here, you can savor delicious French course meals by a renowned chef. All dishes are made using local vegetables and the auberge has a wide selection of wines you can pair with them. The lodging is located at an elevation of 1,600m, the perfect spot to enjoy the starry night and the beautiful mountain environment.
Dinner at Tateshina Ai is made following the concept of "hand-made" kaiseki. All the tasty and beautiful dishes are inspired by traditional local recipes and are made using local ingredients from the fields and the satoyama. The food is not the only thing to look at, though. At Tateshina Ai, dinner is served in fine old porcelain plates and bowls. Enjoy a dinner which is equally pleasing to the mouth and to the eye.
In most of the hotels, you can choose Japanese or Western style breakfast.
At Tateshina Kaoru Kaze, in order for guests to feel refreshed and energized before starting a day, the tasteful breakfast is prepared to enhance metabolism by balancing ingredients that warm up or cool down the body temperature.
Indigo blue can be made from various kinds of plants depending on where you are in the world. The Japanese indigo, called ai, is extracted from "tade," an endemic plant in Japan. Interestingly enough, the name "Tateshina" also comes from this plant.
Japanese indigo is characterized by a deep, elegant and rustic feel.
Tateshina Ai offers a workshop to experience dyeing with indigo. You can make your very own indigo handkerchief and/or tablecloth.
*This activity is limited to guests staying at Tateshina Ai
1 min drive
This small bakery restaurant is situated in the highland area of Tateshina at an elevation of 1,200 meters. Their specialties include apple danish, crunchy yet fluffy croissants, pizzas made with lots of homegrown vegetables, savory onion soup and much more. All ingredients are genuine products from the area.
30 min drive
Mount Kurumayama boasts an average sunshine rate of 70% throughout the winter season. On a clear day, you can enjoy an unhindered view of the three ranges of the Alps, Mount Fuji and the Yatsugatake Mountains. The ski resort features a total of eight ski slopes designed to suit all levels, from children just beginning to learn how to ski or snowboard to advanced skiers and snowboarders.
20 min drive
1250 meters above sea level by the Lake Tateshina, the newly renovated lodges and cabins are surrounded by the camping ground, the clear air and white birch trees offering a pleasant time where daily life and festive atmosphere intertwine.
Under the starry sky, talk to friends around a bonfire with craft beer in one hand. Enjoy the atmosphere of the highland with activities on the lakeside. Relax at Tateshina Onsen and enjoy a relaxing stay with nature.
Terrace Tateshina is a high-class hotel with a modern design. Guestrooms are spacious and feature large terraces and windows that overlook the splendid natural scenery of the Tateshina area. The greatest charm of the lodging is probably its open-air onsen bath that offers a panoramic view of the Yatsugatake Mountains.
Shinyu is a prestigious ryokan established in 1926. The interior design is inspired by the Taisho period (1912-1926), an era characterized by the encounter of Western and Japanese style. Once a place of gathering for writers, the ryokan can boast a library containing more than 30,000 books. What better way to relax than enjoying a drink in the lounge while reading a book from the ryokan's collection. Shinyu is also famous for its fine cuisine and the open-air Onsen bath overlooking a mountain stream.
All three resorts have natural free-flowing Onsen baths. You can also relieve the fatigue of the day with a relaxing massage.
The dinner at Tiny Garden includes salad/appetizer buffet and main dishes to choose from several options. They use locally grown ingredients such as Fukumidori chicken, Shinshu salmon, venison and highland vegetables, taking enough time to bring out the flavor of the ingredients to the fullest.
Winter is the best time to go stargazing. When it gets cold, the air is cleared and the stars shine brighter in the night sky. A guide will take you to a secret spot near the hotel, and teach you the stories of all the celestial bodies in the sky.
Breakfast of Tateshina Shinyu Onsen starts with fresh local vegetable “Sunny Salad” and continues with six assorted dishes and Yudofu (simmered tofu by Shinshu soybeans); a perfect combination to have a wonderful start of the day.
15 min drive
To find a secret to longevity of people in Nagano, let's pay a visit to a local farm to see how Kanten (agar) is made. Making Kanten following the old methods means working at the cauldron during the night, and then spend hours out in cold during the day. It is tough work, but producers take tradition very seriously. And so, every winter for the last 200 years, they have laid out their Kanten under the cold sky of Chino.
The owner of the farm will guide you through all the stages of production. You will see the enormous cauldron where they boil seaweed, observe how they cut the solidified jelly-like substance called "Namaten", and then walk through the rows of Kanten laid out under the sky. You can also help the farmers take out the wobbly bar of Namaten and puncture them with the a traditional spiky instrument called "Chusha."
10 min drive
Yatsugatake Cycling guide tours are a great way to explore the foothills of the Yatsugatake. Itineraries can be personalized to fit your preferences and fitness level. You can ride through rice fields and peaceful little villages, or maybe go up to Lake Tateshina to check out the sculpture park. When the weather is good, you can enjoy a great view of the Japanese Alps and Yatsugatake Mountains. Even in winter times, you can explore snow covered trails on Fat Bikes!
5 min drive
A small café run by a local couple inside a renovated old folk-house. They have only one menu which features a selection of typical seasonal dishes. Enjoy a delicious lunch and don't forget to ask for desserts. We recommend their selection of Tenyose, elegant and colorful cakes made with Kanten (agar).
10 min drive
People have inhabited the region at the foot of the Yatsugatake Mountains uninterruptedly for over 10,000 years. Visit the Jomon museum to see some of the beautiful artifacts made by the first settlers, who lived in close contact with nature. The two voluptuous statuettes of the “Jomon Venus” and the “Masked Goddess” which dates back more than 5,000 years are especially remarkable.
10 min drive
Meet a polished space that retains all the beauty of traditional architecture while offering all modern comforts. If you like architecture, you will find yourself busy checking out all the original features such as massive beams and pillars, decorative alcoves, original ceilings, etc.
Kinkei is a lovely farmhouse positioned right in front of a small river. You can while away the time while sitting on the porch, listening to the gurgling stream, or enjoying the fantastic view of the Yatsugatake Mountains from the sofa. Either way, you will not want to leave the house.
Impressive and sturdy, Shibumichi was clearly intended to be home for a big family. As all the farmhouses produced by Alex Kerr, it retains all the beauty of traditional architecture while offering all modern comforts. The highlights of this building are the nostalgic irori hearth, the 2nd-floor master bedroom with its thick beams and antique chimney, and of course, the waterway that circles the house.
Alex Kerr has called Sasahara a “hidden gem,” a place that miraculously withstood modernization thanks to its position up in the mountains. And this hamlet indeed looks out of an old Japanese tale. Here among antique Kura storehouses, terraced fields, and gurgling streams, you can still experience the romance of “lost Japan.”
And who better to guide you than one of the villagers. It will be like a treasure hunt, looking for cute small shrines, funny plaster-relief drawings, and beautiful natural landscapes.
An authority when it comes to local cuisine, the owner-chef prepares dainty meals that offer a new take on traditional recipes from the Yamaura. Pleasing both to the palate and the eye, his menus feature regional classics such as Tenyose agar cakes, soba gaki (buckwheat porridge), nota mochi
(partially-pounded sticky rice with savory edamame sauce) etc. One of the main themes of Mori no
ya is “grass from rice-field banks”, which indicates all the edible spontaneous vegetation that can be found around rural villages.
The philosophy of Kamosuya is to deliver genuine food made with local ingredients and lots of care. The central elements of every meal are fermented foods, such as miso and tsukemono (pickles), all hand-made by the owner. Western style breakfast is also available.
30 min drive
Step into "Masumi" Sake Brewery to see the sake artisans work their magic and observe the various phases of production. We want you to experience this iconic beverage using all your senses. Feel the change in temperatures, smell the fragrance of steamed rice and fermenting mash, listen to the fizzling sound of the microorganisms at work and, of course, taste the yeast mash, and sake lees! The tour will conclude with a tasting of different sake labels by Masumi, and the store located at the site is a perfect place to purchase high-quality sake glasses and best sake including Masumi's signature "Yumedono" Jumai Daiginjo.
15 min drive
Come to one of the small farming villages in the foothills of the Yatsugatake Mountains and participate in the daily life of a family of locals. You can visit a real countryside Japanese home, eat delicious home cooking and enjoy plenty of fun activities in a truly authentic context.
15 min drive
In Winter the waterfalls along Shibu-gawa River freeze and a glimmering layer of ice covers the rocky walls of the gorge. If you put crampons on, you can easily hike most of the trail and the icefalls make for some great winter photography.
* A private tour in English can be arrange upon request.
15 min drive
There are several gibier (game meat) restaurants in Chino, and Auberge Espoir is an intimate high-end restaurant where every dish is prepared with the utmost care and highest-quality ingredients. The chef values the season of its ingredients and serves wild edible plants in spring, local highland vegetables in summer, natural mushrooms and wild chestnuts in autumn and wild game dishes in winter. The restaurant also offers a wide variety of world-class wines, liquors and cigars to go with the elegant and tasty food.
20 min drive
If you’re looking for a fun way to occupy your winter night, we invite you to join us at a local schoolyard ice-skating rink to take part in this local ice-skating tradition.
The locals will explain how the rink is made and show a video with the actual footage of the works. Then, you will be provided with skate shoes so that you can enjoy gliding on the ice. The villagers will kindly teach you the basics, and if you are really a lost cause, you can have a chair as a prop.
You also have a chance to help with the maintenance. Fixing an ice rink can be quite an unusual and exciting procedure!
* A daytime version is also available.
Relax on the porch while sipping some sake or tea if you are not a drinker. The twinkling of the stars and the nocturnal orchestra of animals and insects playing in the background are sure to keep you entertained.
Yatsugatake Ohisama prepares flavorful vegetarian meals made with locally grown ingredients. Their cuisine is in harmony with nature and follows the rhythm of the land and its seasons; the perfect breakfast to start your day!
Ariura-san uses homemade rice malt made from local rice, organic soybeans, and high-quality natural salt to make miso. They are all carefully selected, and if you taste them, you will know how delicious each ingredient is.
In the workshop carried out in an old farmhouse surrounded by a natural garden, you will first make a fire in the garden of an old farmhouse and boil soybeans slowly, and later learn how to mash the beans and make miso to your taste. The workshop comes with a special lunch and miso you made to take home.
There are plenty of Onsen facilities in Chino with various different hot spring sources. In recent years, the dynamic open-air bath where you can enjoy the beautiful nature became very popular. Shake off the cold, get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a relaxing bath in the clear air of the highlands.
A few steps away from Sasahara village, there is a lovely café where you can enjoy a steaming cup of coffee while browsing through a small gallery featuring pottery and wood craftworks. The traditional building which houses the café is a spacious farmhouse with a beautiful Japanese garden. Food and beverages are served in cups and plates made by the owner, who is a pottery craftsman himself. It is a perfect place to look back your holiday in Chino before heading back home or moving to your next destination.
*This service comes with no obligations.
Your reservation will not be finalized until you give us confirmation.
Miso Making Experience
Japanese drum performance at an Edo Period rural stage
Rural Village Half-day Walking Tour in Nagano
Journey into the frosty food tradition of the Yamaura
Authentic Rural Japan Experience [Yamaura Stay- Kiyomizu & Hanato] 3 days 2 nights
Long stay at a crossroad village [Yamaura Stay- Shibumichi] 3 nights 4 days