With two days in Nagano, you can enjoy the cultural highlights of the city, see the beautiful mountains of Nagano Prefecture that surrounded it, and watch the region’s famous “snow monkeys” bathing in hot-spring pools. Here are some tips for how to spend two days in Nagano.
Day 1: Tour Nagano City
Morning: Start your day at one of Nagano’s most important sites, the 8th-century Zenkoji Temple, around which Nagano City grew. See the Buddhist statues inside the Main Hall (rebuilt in the 1700s), then head to the nearby Zenkoji History Museum to learn more about the history of the temple and Nagano itself.
Afternoon: In the afternoon, learn about the local Togakure school of ninja, founded in the 12th century. If you’re traveling with children, check out the Kids’ Ninja Village theme park; otherwise dip into local ninja history at the Togakure Ninpo Museum.
Night: Enjoy a relaxed dinner this evening at a local izakaya, a Japanese pub-restaurant. Local food specialties to try include buckwheat soba noodles, oyaki dumplings, pickled mustard leaves, and—if you’re game—horse sashimi.
Day 2: See the Snow Monkeys
Morning: Set out this morning for Yamanouchi, less than an hour’s drive northeast of Nagano city and famous for the Japanese macaques that bathe in the hot waters of Jigokudani Monkey Park. Although it’s possible to see the monkeys year-round, winter is the best time to see these wild animals, which learned to enjoy the hot springs by mimicking humans.
Afternoon: If it’s winter and you’d like to warm up after seeing the snow monkeys, head to the hot springs at the nearby towns of Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen. If you’re visiting at another time of year, devote the afternoon to hiking in nearby Shiga-kogen, within the UNESCO World Heritage Site Joshinetsu-kogen National Park.
Night: Spend your final evening in Nagano enjoying the lively nightlife along the shopping arcade Gondo-dori. Join nattily dressed locals perusing the bars, clubs, and cafés, all open late, and raise a glass to your Nagano visit.