Choose from 5 Fun Things to Do in Nagano
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The Narusawa Ice Cave is located at the entrance to the Aokigahara Jukai (or Sea of Trees) forest. After being designated by the Ministry of Education as a natural monument in the 1920s, it is now considered a geological wonder, attracting tourists exploring the Five Lakes area at the base of Mount Fuji.
More than 1,100 years ago, a volcano on Mount Fuji erupted and the lava flowed down between ancient volcanoes creating this two-tunnel cave. The cave experiences temperatures of three degrees celsius and is covered with ice all year-round, even at the height of summer.
During April, the cave's icicles have been known to grow up to three meters long and almost half a meter wide. The cave itself is 150 meters in length, although the route down is short, and it will take visitors just a few steps to experience this natural phenomenon's cooler climate.
The Narusawa Ice Cave is approximately 25 minutes by bus from Kawaguchiko Station (Fuji Kyuko line). Helmets are provided at the cave, but sensible shoes with a good grip are recommended as the path and steps are usually wet.
Address: 8533, Minamitsurugun, Narusawa, Yamanashi Prefecture 4010320, Japan
Hours: 9am to 5pm (Shorter hours in winter / longer hours in summer)
Admission: 290 Yen
From $ 163
Wine-making in Japan began in the 19th century and is now produced in various regions across the country. Situated in the Yamanashi Prefecture, Katsunuma lies within picturesque countryside at the eastern part of Kofu Valley and to the north of Mount Fuji.
The Katsunuma Winery was established in 1937 and lies at the very heart of the region, easily accessible as a day trip from Tokyo. The main building is styled on the traditional architecture of Japanese private houses. For three generations, the Katsunuma Winery have cultivated grapes in an area covering more than 70 acres, with 70% of their harvest produced from indigenous Koshu grapes.
Visitors can tour the cellars where the wine is stored in barrels for fermentation and the bottling process is conducted. The highlight for many of course is the wine tasting, with the Katsunuma Winery Co. producing their very own ‘Aruga Branca’ range.
The Katsunuma Winery can be reached from Tokyo by catching a train to Katsunuma-budokyo Station. The journey takes around an hour and 30 minutes. The best time to visit is October when the vines are laden with grapes.
Address: 71 Shimoiwasaki, Koshu, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan 409-1313, Japan
From $ 90
Located near the base of Mt Fuji sits Fuji-Q Highland, one of Japan’s most popular amusement parks. Aside from its scenic setting, Fuji-Q Highland is best known for its record-setting roller coasters — four in total. Considered one of the most extreme roller coasters in the world, Dodonpa holds the record for fastest acceleration, while Takabisha features a drop angle of 121 degrees, making it the steepest steel roller coaster on the planet. Eejanaika, a 4D roller coaster with rotating seats, has more inversions than any other coaster, and the park’s first coaster, Fujiyama, was the tallest and fastest when it debuted in 1996.
Thrills can be found off the track as well; the park is home to one of the world’s largest haunted attractions, the appropriately named Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear, which takes guests on a spine-tingling trip through a haunted hospital. Carnival rides, anime-inspired attractions and kid-friendly Thomas Land round out the park’s offerings.
Reach Fuji-Q Highland by taking the JR Chuo Maine Line from Tokyo to Otsuki Station and transfer to the Fujikyu Line, which stops at Fuji-Q Highland.
Address: 5 Chome-6-1 Shinnishihara, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi, Japan
Admission: 1,400 yen
From $ 33
Located 2,789 feet (850 meters) above sea level in the Valley of Yokoyu, Jigokudani Monkey Park stands out as one of Japan's most popular and unique onsen. Although onsen (the Japanese term for hot springs) are popular throughout the country, the ones in the frequently snow-covered region of Joshinetsu-Kogen National Park in Northern Nagano attract more than just human bathers.
The forests of the valley serve as the natural habitat of wild Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys, who gather in large groups to bathe in the natural hot spring water. Jigokudani Monkey Park features a man-made onsen where the natural hot water collects and the monkeys congregate, making it possible to view and photograph these wild animals from a safe distance. Visitors are not allowed to bathe with the monkeys but can choose to visit one of the area's human-centric onsen to do some soaking of their own.
Monkey sightings are not guaranteed, but the best time to see them is during the snowiest months of the year, typically from December to March. In warmer months, the monkeys may still be around (sometimes with babies in tow), but they don't enter the pools as frequently.
The monkey park can be reached by bus from JR Nagano station. While the area's snow monkeys are certainly fascinating to observe, visitors should note that they're still wild animals and refrain from touching them, feeding them, or getting into the pools with them.
Address: 6845 Oaza Heion, Yamanouchi, Chubu, Japan
Hours: Summer: 8:30am–5 pm; winter 9am–4pm
Admission: Adult 500 yen, child 250 yen
From $ 96
Lake Motosu is the westernmost and third largest of the Fuji Five Lakes, which are situated at the foot of Mount Fuji. Lake Motosu sits at an elevation of 900 meters, which is the same as nearby Lake Shoji and Lake Sai, suggesting that the three lakes in fact used to be just one. These lakes are said to have been divided by an enormous lava flow from Mount Fuji and remain connected to this day via underground waterways.
Activities on and around the the lake include fishing, hiking, boat trips, and a number of watersports, and there are a few campsites around its shores for visitors looking to spend the night.
The annual Fuji Shibazakura Festival is held in the area surrounding Lake Motosu. It takes place between April and May when fields of pink moss flowers bloom together, with the backdrop of the mighty Mount Fuji in the background.
There’s a regular Chuo Highway Bus between Tokyo’s Shinjuku and the Fuji Five Lakes area, with the trip taking approximately 2.5 hours.
Address: Lake Motosu, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture 409-3714, Japan
From $ 90