Mr Cheerful and I spent a gorgeous weekend in Nagano for my birthday celebrations, we ended up doing a Snow Monkey and Temple tour. Today it’s all about the Temple (and city) part of that.
We went via Bullet train which was my first experience.
The route from Ueno to Nagano took just under 2 hours and was a pretty smooth ride if I say so myself. I know it’s not as cheap as going by coach, but it’s really convenient if you want to save travel time and to feel comfortable. There was lots of leg room and plenty of storage.
** Cost about 7,800 yen one way per person .
SORRY about the lack of photos inside the train, but here is a video from the interweb.
Welcome to NAGANO!
Fun Facts: Nagano is an inland prefecture situated in the central part of Honshu that spreads across the Central Highland, also known as the Roof of Japan. Because it is situated between the Kanto and Kansai regions, it developed while being influenced by the cultures of both eastern and western Japan.
We stayed in Nagano city (the capital), which is famous for Zenkoji one of Japans most popular temples. Back in 1998 the city also played host to the Winter Olympics and you can still spot evidence of this. We arrived late in the afternoon on a Saturday and stayed at Hotel Kokusai 21. The hotel was LOVELY and only a 15 minute walk from JR (Midori) Nagano station.
As it had been a hectic week beforehand it was Dinner at the hotels Chinese restaurant and straight to bed.
Having missed western beds, I was MORE than happy to have an early night ahead of our Snow Monkey & Temple Tour.
The tour cost 14,500 yen (per person) BUT included everything we needed to make our day run smoothly. More so than if we had organised it ourselves I think.
- Guided tour of Zenkoji Temple
- + Nakamise shopping street
- ALL transportion to and from Yamanouchi station
- Lunch at cozy ENZA Cafe
- Trail and all Entrance fees
- Plenty of photo opppurtunities with the world-famous snow monkeys
I really enjoyed listening to the guide telling us about the history of Zenkoji and the surrounding shrines / temples, it has such significance to this day! If you want to know more about it, here.
Once inside the temple: you are not allowed to take photos, and must remove your hat/shoes.
Whilst you’re there, why not take a walk on the spiritual side? Underground the main hall there is a narrow dark tunnel, which is meant to symbolize the path to enlightenment. When we heard this, we jumped at the chance to explore it! Costs 500 yen per person (as of Feb 2016).
A few side notes: halfway through the tunnel it actually gets darker, like what the!? I also felt a little light headed towards the end and it felt like someone was pushing me, as my body started to lean to one side. Creepy but fun.
For luck you are meant to touch a ‘’key’’ which is situated just before the exit, the key is on your right hand side and isn’t really a key but shaped more like a door knob. You’ll hear people in front of you touching the key as it sounds like knocking, so listen out for that.
The next day we went back up to the temple around the parts that were not included, so below are photos of our Unguided Tour.
I was fascinated by the surrounding area of the temple too and came across these beauts. I didn’t dare walk inside any of them as we didn’t know whether they were homes or shrines inside. So just admired them from afar.
On your way out, have a look at the colourful Where Are You From map!
All in all, I would highly recommend booking a tour, IF you are someone who needs a little bit of motivation to a) get out of bed in the morning OR b) you’re not very good at making use of your time whilst on holiday and tend to leave feeling like you could’ve done / seen more.
I highly doubt we would’ve seen any monkeys at ALL, had we not booked one. We wouldn’t have known when feeding time was or where they liked to congregate. Check back tomorrow for the Snow Monkeys to make their appearance!
Enjoy the rest of your week.