Nagano: History and Snow

Home of the 1998 Winter Olympics, the city of Nagano is approximately 150 miles northwest of Tokyo in the central area of the main island of Japan. You can reach Nagano in about 2 ½ hours by train from Tokyo.

Nagano is a large city, but not comparable (population-wise) to much of the rest of Japan. With about 378,000 residents, it ranks 51st on the list of most populated cities in the country. (Tokyo, the most populated, is home to approximately 8.1 million people.) However, it’s that relatively “small, large city” feel to Nagano that makes it an ideal destination for travelers, who will have plenty to see and fewer crowds with which to contend.

No trip to Nagano is complete without a visit to Zenkou-ji, the 7th century Buddhist temple that’s a destination for 1 million tourists each year. Zenkou-ji is closely tied with the history of the city, as the city of Nagano was established in 1897 (1200 years after the temple was built) as a town built with the temple as its focal point.

The temple is famous aesthetically for its images of Amida Buddha, and temple history says that the temple got its name when a priest who rescued images of the Buddha from being drowned in a canal by a rival Buddhist clan. The most famous image of Buddha at the temple, though, is hidden from the public and is known as a hibutsu (“secret Buddha”). According to legend, this hibutsu is the first image of Buddha to have been brought to Japan by China.

You may also be interested in touring parks and museums dedicated to the Battles of Kawanakajima, five major battles in Japanese history that took place in the 16th century. These parks are the principal battlegrounds and are still preserved in Nagano today.

As you could likely tell from its selection as the host for the Winter Olympics, Nagano City and the rest of the Nagano Prefecture is known for winter weather and ski resorts. The most famous resorts may be Iizuna, which doubles as a campsite in summer and has an onsen year-round, and Shiga Kogen, where you can see snow monkeys at the nearby Jigokudani Monkey Park.

Have you ever been to Nagano? Do you remember seeing some of Nagano during the 1998 Winter Olympics? Would you like to visit Nagano?

No related posts.

Tags: japan, japanese history, japanese places, nagano, olympics