The city of Nagano is located in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture. It is a good place to stay as a base for making day trips in the area being centrally located for many sights with good bus and train connections. The city’s central area was renovated at the time of the Nagano Olympics in 1998, and it is lined with buildings in both Japanese and Western architectural styles, all arranged in a modern manner. Inside ice skating rink M-Wave, one of the venues that were used for the Winter Olympics, is the Nagano Olympics Memorial Corner exhibiting skating equipment that was actually used in the games along with licensed products.
Nagano developed as a temple town for the Zenkoji temple that is said to have been built at the beginning of the 7th century. This temple houses a ‘secret Buddha’, which is only put on display every 6 years. The next times will be in 2022 and 2028, so if you happen to be in the area in those years it is worth stopping by the Zenkoji temple to catch a glimpse. Chuo-dori Street stretching from the Zenkoji-guchi Square of Nagano Station is one of the city’s main streets. The Omotesando area, along with the front approach to Zenkoji temple, is now home to the largest shopping mall in the city.
It is also worth checking out Nishinomon, a sake brewery where you can tour the brewery, see a museum on sake brewing, and of course taste samples. If you are traveling with kids you may want to check out Chibikko Ninja Village where real-life ninjas will show their tricks. At the end of a long day, it is nice to soak for a bit in the Kagai Spa Ichiyokan, which is renowned for its healing onsen water.
If you happen to be in the city on the first Saturday of August, be sure not to miss out on the Binzuru summer festival with plenty of music, dance, and food.