Togakushi is situated in the north of Nagano within the Joshinetsu National Park just 45 minutes drive from Myoko City or Nagano City. This volcanic area has an altitude of 1,200m and is located at the foot of the two volcanoes, Togakushi and Iizuna.
The village nestles amongst 900 year old cedars and is not only a beautiful place to visit but it's delicious soba noodles are also famous throughout Japan. There is also a small reproduction samurai village and school.
Togakushi was formerly known as the village of Togakure which some consider to be the birthplace of Togakure Ryu Ninpo - a school of ninjutsu founded eight hundred years ago by Daisuke Nishina (Togakure). Daisuke became the first Soke (family head) of one of the arts now known as ninjutsu. The name Togakure or Toh Gakure, means "Concealing Door" and refers to the myth of the door which sealed the cave that the sun goddess, Amaterasu had hidden in.
The local Ninja Village is not an actual village full of ninja or a place to study ninjutsu, but rather a fun and popular place to visit with a ninja theme. It's open 9am-5pm (late April - late Nov.) and closed Thursdays (except mid. July to late August). Admission for adults is 450yen and children (over 4) 200yen. Some group packages are available.
Food - The village is famous throughout Japan for it's soba (buckwheat noodles) which come in a variety of sizes and are defined by how much buckwheat flour is used in their making. At least 30% buckwheat flour must be used in order for noodles to gain the trademark of soba. Higher buckwheat content makes soba much more desirable to the discerning public. There are as many as thirty soba shops boasting the superior taste of their hand-made soba. Accordingly, the area is a favored destination for soba lovers. For a sample check out this local soba restaurant and menu
You can also check out the Togakushi Soba Museum where you can make your own buckwheat soba noodles under the guidance of a master chef or just enjoy watching noodles made by an expert.
Festivals - The Togakushi Soba Festival is held during the fall equinox, Shūbun no hi. This time also celebrates the buckwheat harvest, without which there would be no soba. People buy small sake cups on the eve of the festival and eat soba at any (or all!) of the twenty one participating restaurants. Admission is free.
Bird Watching - More than one hundred kinds of wild birds inhabit the nearby highlands - one of the most renowned areas in Japan for wild birds. Togakushi Forest Botanical Garden (part of the Jo-shin-etsu National Park) covers over seventy hectares and is visited by many bird watchers and hikers.
|Where to stay?
||Try Togakushi Tabinoyado Sirakabasou - a popular establishment in a central location|
Togakushi-jinja (Shrine) stands in the midst of a wood with cedar trees that are over a hundred years old, just at the foot of the precipice of Mt. Togakushi. It consists of three shrines - the lower shrine is Hoko-sha (Treasure of Light), the second Chu-sha (Middle Shrine) and the third Oku-sha (Deep Sanctuary). They were built at intervals of roughly two kilometres (see map below). These shrines are dedicated to mythological gods and each has a long history. The approaches to each shrine are unique and it is customary to clap twice when worshipping at shrines to awaken the gods before praying. The approach to the upper shrine is known for its natural beauty, lined with over three hundred majestic old Sugi trees. Official website (Japanese)
Togakushiryu Ninpo Shiryokan is a former ninjutsu building now established as an annex to the Togakushi Minzokukan It's exhibits include 500 items related to ninjutsu and two hundred picture panels of ninjutsu practices.
Shopping - For just a fraction of the price you would pay in Tokyo or Osaka, the local area has numerous roadside stalls and farmers' markets where you can buy great local produce. The tomatoes and peaches are renowned and the region grows blueberries, apples, pears, corn, edamame (green soybeans) and dozens of other fruits and vegetables. You will also discover all sorts of local specialities such as Scotch thistle preserve, walnut jam and aloe vera honey.
Directions - To get there by public transport take a shinkansen (bullet) train to Nagano. Travelling time is 2.5 - 3 hours from JR Tokyo or JR Ueno stations (depending on connections and stops), then take a Kawanakajima bus bound for Togakushi Camp-jo (approx.45-50 minutes) from outside Nagano station. If you are coming from Kanazawa or Niigata you can take the train to Kurohime station. From Kurohime station there is a free shuttle bus (40 minutes) to Togakushi, but you must make a reservation at the resort. You can also go by taxi. If you are coming by car from Tokyo, take either the Chuo or the Joshin-etsu expressways to the Nagano exit. Follow the signs to central Nagano, then to Zenkoji temple and finally to Togakushi. It should take between 30 and 45 minutes by car from central Nagano depending on traffic and weather conditions. From Nagoya or Osaka, take the Chuo expressway to the Nagano exit and follow the same directions.
Other nearby attractions
In nearby Shinanomachi lies the home of the revered Japanese poet, Issa.
Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City is also a popular tourist spot. Catch the Dentetsu line train to Gondo or Zenkoji stations and then walk about 10 minutes.
During late summer, areas of Kurohime Plateau (kurohime kogen) become covered in the new blooms of cosmos flowers - more than a million blooms in every colour of the rainbow. In early summer lavender grows all over an area on the south face of Mount Kurohime.
Note: If you arrive in the middle of the night and you don’t want to sleep in your car, or you’re just a cheapskate, the village has opened up the second floor lobby of the lodge for people to sleep in. It is open and heated (fortunately) from 10pm to 8am. However you must bring your own sleeping bag and/or blankets.
- http://www.togakusi.com/skimenou/flv/ - A ski promotion video
- http://www.ninjamura.com/ - The local 'ninja village'
- http://markun.cs.shinshu-u.ac.jp/japan/sobashop/togakushi-e.htm - A local soba restaurant with menu
- http://togakushi-21.jp/ - The official tourism site for Togakushi
- http://theanimeblog.com/2007/11/08/togakushi-soba-matsuri-noodles-and-ninja/ - A ninja commentary
- http://www.togakusi.com/skimenou/ - Snow World Togakushi
- http://www.snowjapan.com/e/features/features-3.html - A ski article by Gardner Robinson
- http://www.skydancers.com/japan/03togakushi1.html - A visitor's diary entry with photos and maps