(草津温泉) Kusatsu is one of Japan’s best onsen spots, which is proud of the most significant volume of onsen sources in Japan and several “free” public onsen where you can feel a traditional atmosphere of historical onsen town. As source of onsen is known for the high benefit for health because of the strong acid and bactericidal effect, Kusatsu Onsen is told to be “effective to any sicks except for love”. In a small onsen town, there are various onsen ryokans, souvenir shops, and free onsen facilities. From Tokyo, accessible in 2.5 hours and one-night stay is recommended. Also reachable from Karuizawa in 1 hour so a day-trip even possible as a part of your Karuizawa trip.
湯畑 The symbolic place of Kusatsu Onsen located at the center of onsen town where hot spring water gushes out in a pace of 4,000 liters per minute, and there is always a cloud of steam. On a pavement made of roof tile, it’s good to walk around and enjoy unique scenery in a smell of sulfur, lighted up in the night time.
熱乃湯 Used to be the oldest public bath along with Kannawa Onsen in Beppu Onsen and nowadays turned into a showplace of the performance “Yumomi and dancing” in a retro building. Yumomi is the traditional method to cool down hot water with the large wooden panel dancing and singing while keeping the benefit of hot spring. Here you can even experience this Yumomi. Cannot take a bath here.
(軽井沢) The summer resort beloved by world’s celebrities is proud of its moderate climate and beautiful nature from spring to autumn, which is the best for evacuation from crazily-hot Tokyo in summer because Karuizawa locates at the high altitude (1,000m) and accessible from Tokyo in one hour via Shinkansen. In an abundant nature, you can spend an extremely-relaxing moment eating/drinking at a fashionable cafe and restaurant, visiting around nature spots and cultural spots, and staying at a sophisticated hotel. The best season to visit would be from May to Oct, and traveling around in winter should be harsh. As it’s situated on the way of Hokuriku-Shinkansen, it might be a good option to drop off in the middle of Kanazawa travel from Tokyo. Also, Hoshino Area, run by Hoshino Resort Group which is one of the most luxury hotel brands in Japan, is also must-visit.
善光寺 Zenkōji Temple is the largest Buddhism architecture in east Japan which houses and enshrines Japan’s oldest Buddha sculpture. Since the foundation in 644, Zenkōji has attracted many people from entire Japan because it accepts visitors with any religions and sects, as described in old words “anybody should visit Zenkōji temple at least once in one’s life”. There are many historical buildings rebuilt in 1707, and you should try “Okaidan-meguri” which is; in Hondo (main building), to walk through the dark corridor and it’s told that if you can touch “the lock of the door to heaven”, you can go to heaven. The only a single time in seven years that oldest Buddha sculpture opens to visitors and then this temple gets very crowded like three hours waiting for okaidan-meguri. Usually, a whole watch would take around one hour.
仲見世通り Stretching from Niohmon gate to Sanmon gate which is the entrance of Zenkōji, the old shopping street is full of souvenir stores, restaurants, and Japanese cafes in traditional architectures. This street has been a place to take a rest for visitors to Zenkōji since long ago. It’s recommended to enjoy ice cream / Japanese sweets, upon strolling, enjoying the old-good atmosphere. Festivals and seasonal events take place frequently.
(戸隠) The top sight in Togakushi district is Togakushi Shrine which consists of five ancient shrines dating from more than 2,000 years ago. A serene atmosphere of those historical shrine buildings standing among the cedar trees of 400 years old is breathtaking. It’s suggested to visit around those shrines one by one on your foot so that you can enjoy the historical sites and rich nature following the route as locals have done for long ago. Also, as Togakushi is famous for one of old ninja sect “Togakushi-ryu-ninja”, there are some associated museum and amusement facilities so it’s good to stop by them if you have time and interest. The local specialty, Togakushi-soba is famous and worth trying. It’s major to visit from Nagano station via bus as one day trip.
Togakushi Shrine Houkousha
戸隠神社宝光社 The oldest building of Togakushi shrines moved to current location in 1058. Once you climb up 270 stone steps, you can see the graceful shrine building decorated with beautiful sculptures of dragons and Phoenix, which reflect the period of the merger of Shinto and Buddhism.
Togakushi Shrine Hinomikosha
戸隠神社火之御子社 Dating from 1098, this shrine is known for a couple of 500-years-old cedar trees like a married couple. Because of this, this shrine is known for the fortune of performance, matching and fire protection.
Togakushi Shrine Chūsha
戸隠神社中社 Known for the god of wisdom and the fortunes of academic achievement, the success of a business and so on, and the three cedar trees of 700-800 years old called (Sanbon-sugi) are astonishing. A painting of a dragon on ceiling and waterfall located on the right side of shrine building are also spots to see. No toilet is available after this point.
随神門 Located on the way of approach to Okusha, this is the oldest architecture in Togakushi shrine constructed in the year of 1710. The scenery of the mossy vermilion-colored gate standing between huge cedar tree avenues is picturesque.
Togakushi Shrine Okusha
戸隠神社奥社 The ancient shrine dating from more than 2,000 years ago is the primary shrine of five Togakushi shrines, known as a strong spiritual spot. Through the shrine gate “Zuishinmon gate”, walking to shrine building (2km, 40min) surrounded by fog and avenues of cedar 400-years-old trees make you feel like being in another world. Total 90min would be required for a round trip and visiting both Okusha and Kuzuryusha.
鏡池 One of the best scenic spots in Togakushi is proud of a mysterious beauty of mountains and surrounding trees reflected on the blue lake surface. Best season is autumn when leaves turn to be colored beautifully. Rest house is located here.
Togakushi Ninja Museum
戸隠流忍法資料館 Togakushi is famous for one of ninja sects, “Togakushi-ryu”, and this museum exhibits around 500 ninja items and related items. Located in the same ground of Togakushi Folk Museum.
Togakushi Plant Nursery
戸隠森林植物園 The large nature park located next to the forest of Okusha exhibits various sorts of wild birds and highland plants where you can walk around in about one hour.