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Nagano is the capital of the Nagano Prefecture which is part of the Chubu region in central Honshu, Japan's main island. Almost 400,000 people call the city their home, which became better known after the 1998 Winter Olympics which were held in Nagano and its immediate surrounding Japanese Alps. Nagano is still one of the best places in the country for winter outdoor activities like skiing and snowboarding. In summer, there are good treks into the mountains and in both seasons you can enjoy a few good sites in the city itself.
Japan has countless traditional festivals and holidays. Then when you add the local festivals that number just grows and grows. Here is a list of the few major national traditional festivals.
Summers in Nagano are hot and relatively humid like most of the country. Temperatures hover around 30 °C from June to September while nights are generally between 18 and 22 °C during this time. Winters last from December to Marc when daytime temperatures are generally well above zero and nights in the city itself are around zero or just below though it gets much colder in the mountains. Summer months see most of the rain, though winters are far from dry as well. Spring and Autumn are pleasant times for a visit if you are not keen on skiing and want to avoid the hot conditions.
Nagano itself has no airport, but the nearest airport is Matsumoto Airport with Japan Airlines (JAL) having flights to/from Sapporo, Osaka and Fukuoka.
Buses connect the city and airport in about 70 minutes, the train to Matsumoto is faster but you will need a connection to the airport after that.
Japan Railways offers a number of services to other Japanese cities. Nagano is accessible from Tokyo station via the Hokuriku Shinkansen, formerly known as the Nagano Shinkansen. The trip takes anywhere from 80 to 110 minutes depending on the train that is used, but generally the Kagayaki (かがやき) and the Hakutaka (はくたか) services make fewer stops than the Asama (あさま). The fare is ¥8,200 for a reserved seat. Standard and Green Car seats are fully covered by the respective versions of the Japan Rail Pass, but if you want to use the premium GranClass seats - which feature airline-like business class seats and personal attendant service - you will have to pay the limited express and GranClass surcharges (an additional ¥11,910 from Tokyo to Nagano), as any version of the Japan Rail Pass only covers the base fare.
The regional JR East Rail Pass will cover the full trip from Tokyo to Nagano, but the more local JR Kanto Area Pass will only cover the trip to Saku-daira, a few stations short of Nagano; you will have to purchase a regular ticket (¥3,330 for a reserved seat) for the remainder of the journey.
The Wide View Shinano (ワイドビュー しなの) limited express train runs hourly from Nagoya to Nagano (3 hours, ¥7,330). From Kyoto or Osaka there are two ways to get to Nagano: Either take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya and change to the Shinano (¥12,000 from Osaka), or take the Thunderbird (サンダーバード) service to Kanazawa and then take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Kanazawa to Nagano (¥14,290 from Osaka). Each of the options take approximately 4 to 4 1/2 hours from Osaka depending on stopping patterns, and both are fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass (except for Nozomi trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen).
Highway buses from Tokyo depart from the terminal in Shinjuku, and from the Sunshine City Prince Hotel in Ikebukuro. The trip takes around three and a half hours, and the fare is ¥4000 one-way. The ¥7200 round trip fare is about half the cost of the Shinkansen.
Hankyu and Nankai buses also make a few daytime and nighttime runs from Osaka and Kyoto to Nagano. The day runs take about seven hours, and the night runs take nine hours. Expect to pay ¥6200 one-way, ¥10000 round trip from Osaka, and ¥5300 one-way, ¥9500 round-trip from Kyoto.
There are buses that loop around the city center called the Gururingo (ぐるりん号). If you stay within the main area a ride is only 100yen.
|Chuoukan Shimizuya Ryokan||49,Daimoncho||Hostel||89|
|Hotel Iidaya||1-2-3, Chuo Matsumoto||Hotel||-|
|Kamesei Ryokan||2-15-1 Kamiyamada Onsen||Hostel||-|
|Kawaichiya Ryokan||8923-1 Toyosato Nozawa Onsen-mura, Shimotakai-gun||Hotel||-|
|Kaze-no Yasuyado||4-7-40, Tsukama, Matsumoto-shi Nagano||Hostel||87|
|Megamiko Station Inn||1027 Megamiko Tateshina-machi Kitasaku-gun||Guesthouse||-|
|Obuse-no-Kaze Youth Hostel||475-2 Oaza Obuse, Obuse-machi Kamitakai-Gun||Hostel||-|
|Ryokan Seifu-so||634-5, Minami-asama||Hostel||94|
|Zenkoji Tokugyoubou Shukubo||448 Motoyoshicho||Hostel||-|
|Hotel Yudanaka||3246-2 Hirao Yamanouchimachi||Hotel||-|
|Yudanaka Seifu-so||Yamanouchicho Shinyudanaka Onsen||HOSTEL||91|
|Hatunoyu Ryokan||Shibuonsen,Yamanouchi-cho,Shimotakai-un Onezawa Yukinori||HOSTEL||-|
|Kawahiro||Nagano-ken Shimotakaigun Nozawa Onsen Mura 7819||Hostel||-|
|Pension Chiisana Kuni||3878-136 Azumi Norikura-kougen Matsumoto City||Hotel||-|
|Nagano Yudanaka Shimaya||3075, Hirao Yamanouchi-machi||Hostel||94|
|Japan Karuizawa Stay||5538-6 Nagakura, Kitasakugun Karuizawa city||Guesthouse||-|
|Guesthouse Hilltop||130, Shinkai, Kiso-machi Kiso-gun||Guesthouse||-|
|Pension Tengallonhat||4306-8 MatsumotoCity Azumi Norikura||Guesthouse||-|
|Takahan Ryokan||923 Yuzawa Yuzawa-machi Minamiuonuma-gun||Guesthouse||-|
|Hotel MATSUMOTO YOROZUYA||1-24-1,Chuo,Matsumoto-shi,Nagano-ken||HOTEL||-|
|Matsuya Ryokan Zenkoji Temple||484 Motoyoshi-cho, Nagano city, Nagano Prefecture||HOSTEL||-|
|1166 Backpackers||1048 Nishimachi||HOSTEL||92|
|Hotel New Station Matsumoto||1-1-11, Chuo, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0811||HOTEL||-|
|Moritomizu Backpackers||1-6-2 Nakagosho, Nagano, Nagano||HOSTEL||83|
|Lodge Nagano||6846-1 Oaza-Toyosato Nozawa-Onsen-Mura, Nagano||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hotel Hoshikawakan||2941-50 Hirao, Yamanouchi-machi, Shimotakai-gun, N||HOSTEL||-|
|Senshinkan Matsuya||2222 Hirao, Yamanouchi-machi Shimotakai-gun||HOSTEL||-|
|Guest House KURA||39, Suzaka, Suzaka city, Nagano prefecture, Japan||HOSTEL||-|
|Hotelli Backpackers||2-14-33,Chuou Ueda City||HOSTEL||-|
|Matsumoto Backpackers||Shiraita 1-1-6||HOSTEL||-|
|Candela Guest House||1-4-5,Kitahukashi, Matsumoto-city, Nagano-pref||HOSTEL||-|
Manga cafes are dotted along the streets of almost every city in Japan. For a very reasonable price (about ¥100 per 15 minutes), you receive a private cubicle with a PC with internet access at blistering Japanese internet speeds. The chairs are incredibly comfortable (making them an excellent place to sleep for the cash-deprived), and you can even order snacks and drinks from the staff.
A number of business hotels have Internet access available if you have your own device, sometimes for free. It is also possible to find Wi-Fi "hot spots" around many large cities in Japan, especially near tech-related businesses and large corporate buildings with unsecured wireless networks. 3G Wireless Data and Pocket Wifi are other options.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Payphones (公衆電話 kōshū denwa) are easily found, particularly near train stations, although with the popularity of mobile phones, public pay phones are not quite as numerous as they once were. Gray and green pay phones accept ¥10 and ¥100 coins and prepaid cards. Be aware that not all places with public telephones have phones that accept coins, so it may be worthwhile to buy a phone card for emergency use. Some of the gray phones, as indicated on the display, can make international calls. Pre-paid cards can be purchased at convenience stores, train station kiosk stores and sometimes in vending machines next to the phone.
Modern Japanese mobile phones (携帯電話 keitai denwa or just keitai) tend to operate on unique cellular standards not always compatible with the rest of the world. 3G phones using the UMTS/WCDMA2100 standard and equipped with a 3G SIM card will most likely work. If your phone is up to spec, double-check with your carrier if they have a roaming agreement with either SoftBank or NTT DoCoMo. Coverage is generally excellent, unless you are heading to some remote mountainous areas. If you have no 3G phone but still have a 3G-compatible SIM card, you can rent a 3G phone in Japan and slot in your card, allowing you to keep your home phone number in Japan. For a longer trip, you can also purchase a phone, but doing this legally requires an Alien Registration Card (or an obliging Japanese friend willing to front for you).
The easier way is to get a prepaid phone. Prepaid phones are sold in most SoftBank and AU stores. If you already have a 3G phone, go with Softbank as it can sell SIMs as opposed to au whose prepaid service is phone-based like most CDMA carriers. Prepaid phones use a "card" with a pass key to "charge" a phone with minutes. These prepaid calling cards, unlike the phone itself, can be found in most convenience stores. A prepaid cell phone is available for as little as ¥5000 plus ¥3000 for a 60-90 day call time package, which will get drained at a rate of ¥100 per minute (¥10 per 6 seconds for AU's prepaid service). Both SoftBank and AU offer prepaid phones.
The Japanese postal service is excellent! Domestic and international mail service is very quick and reliable. The prices for sending letters, postcards and parcels vary depending on where you send if from and to which country you send it too, and of course depends on weight as well, so check this calculation page of Japan Post for more details. Post offices generally are open from 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays, closing at weekends and also on national holidays, though a few open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Central post offices are sometimes open until 7:00pm, open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm and on Sundays and holidays from 9:00am to 12:30pm. There are post offices in every major city and minor town. Another thing to remember is that the post office is one of the few places in Japan that is guaranteed to have ATMs that take international cards.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Nagano searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Nagano and areas nearby.
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