8 Best Summer Escape Destinations in Nagano and the Japan Alps area

Feb 21, 2023

Yes, Japan is hot in summer, but not that hot in Nagano and the Japanese Alps area (if you know the right places to visit)!


  1. 1. Togakushi Shrine (戸隠神社)
  2. 2. Happo Pond(八方池)
  3. 3. Mt. Norikura (乗鞍岳)
  4. 4. Kamikochi (上高地)
  5. 5. Narai-juku Post Town (奈良井宿)
  6. 6. Norikura Snow Walls (乗鞍雪の壁)
  7. 7. Daio Wasabi Farm (大王わさび農場)
  8. 8. Iwatake Mountain Resort (岩岳マウンテンリゾート)

Togakushi Shrine (戸隠神社)

Togakushi is one of the most famous spiritual places in Nagano, and also appeared in the mythology of Japan. To get the best of Togakushi, we recommend you hike the Togakushi five-shrine pilgrimage from Hokosha, Hinomikosha, Chusha, Kuzuryusha, and Okusha. The whole trail is about 5.5 kilometers long (one-way), which you can complete in about 3 hours. 


The highlight in Togakushi is the avenue of 400-hundred-year-old cedar trees and the iconic Zuishinmon Gate in red. If you don’t have much time, you can visit only the Okusha, which is at the end of this mysteriously beautiful avenue. (40 minutes-walk from Togakushi Okusha bus stop)


Read also:

Hiking the five shrines in Togakushi


Summer season: May – September

How to get there: Board Alpico bus No. 70 from bus stop no.7 in front of Alpico Kotsu Ticket Office, which is just across the street from JR Nagano station (Zenkoji exit). If you are going to Togakushi Okusha only, please get off at Togakushi Okusha bus stop. You can also board bus No. 73, but it will go as far as Togakushi Chusha, not Togakushi Okusha.


See Google map >

See the bus timetable from Nagano to Togakushi >

Happo Pond(八方池)

Happo pond is a little picturesque pond on the hiking trail to Mt. Karamatsu. When the weather cooperates, you will see the striking Japanese Alps reflected on the surface of the pond. From the highest ski lift, it takes only about 1 hour to Happo Pond at an altitude of 2,060 meters. Most of the trail is made of wood, very easy to hike, even for beginners.


Read more about hiking to Happo Pond>


Summer season: July – September

How to get there: The most convenient way to is to begin from JR Nagano station. Board the Nagano – Hakuba bus and get off at Hakuba station or Happo Bus Terminal (travel time about 1 hour). From there, there is a shuttle bus to Happo Gondola station, where you board a gondola and ski lifts to the trailhead. You can also catch a taxi if the bus waiting time is too long. 


See Google map >

See the bus timetable from Nagano to Hakuba >

See all the bus timetables to Hakuba >

Mt. Norikura (乗鞍岳)

Mt. Norikura (3026m) is a part of the Japanese Alps, known as the easiest three thousanders to hike. You can ride a bus all the way to Tatamidaira at an altitude of 2,702 meters. From there you can hike to the peak of Mt. Norikura in only 3 hours. Another thing we highly recommend doing here is the sunrise viewing.


Read more:

Climbing the Highest Peak of Mt. Norikura (3,026m) in Just 3 Hours


Summer season: July – September

How to get there: From JR Matsumoto station, take the Alpico train’s Kamikochi line to Shin-Shimashima, the terminal station. Then, change to a bus bound for Norikura Kogen and get off at N-29 Norikura Kogen Tourist Information Center. From there, buses are running to Mt. Norikura (Tatamidaira) about every hour, depending on the weather conditions.


See Google map >

See timetable for Sunrise Viewing Bus >

See the train/bus timetable from Matsumoto to Norikura Kogen >

See the bus timetable from Norikura Kogen to Mt. Norikura >

Kamikochi (上高地)

Without a doubt, Kamikochi is one of the most picturesque valleys in the world. Not only the season of autumn leaves, but we also recommend visiting Kamikochi in summer, especially from the second week of May until June when you still can enjoy the snowcapped Alps and fresh green. The weather is also great, not too hot, or too cold.


Spring season: May – June

Summer season: July – September

How to get there: Read a complete guide about traveling to Kamikochi >


See Google map >

See all bus timetables to Kamikochi >


Read also:

Updated for 2022: A Complete Guide to Visiting Kamikochi (Best Time to Visit, Access, Opening, Hiking Routes and More)

Kamikochi – 7 Spots to Visit in This Japan’s Picture-postcard Valley

Narai-juku Post Town (奈良井宿)

Narai-juku was one of the 69 stations on the Nakasendo highway, connecting Kyoto to Tokyo during the Edo period (1603-1868). The town is so well preserved and full of Japan’s traditional culture and colors that you can imagine how they used to live in ancient times. You can get in one of the many old houses to have Soba noodles or Gohei-mochi (Rice cake with Walnut Miso), or buy some lacquerwares which is the famous traditional product from this town. 


Summer season: May – mid-October

How to get there: Narai-juku town is about 3 minute’s walk from JR Narai the nearest station on the Chuo line.


See Google map >

Norikura Snow Walls (乗鞍雪の壁)

Do you know the snow walls on the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route? Actually, there is a similar one in Norikura, but smaller in size, called Norikura Snow Walls. It is a lot less crowded and very close to Kamikochi. If you love to ski, you can spring-skiing here even in June. (But there aren’t any ski lifts, you have to climb up yourself and ski down.


Snow walls period: Around April 25 – June

How to get there: You can read how to travel to and enjoy the snow walls in Norikura here >


See Google map >

See timetable for Snow Walls Viewing Bus (Haruyama Bus) >

Daio Wasabi Farm (大王わさび農場)

Wasabi is not an easy plant to plant. It needs clean and cold flowing water and just the right amount of sunshine to grow. At Daio Wasabi Farm, there are 120,000 tons of 13℃ spring water from the Japanese Alps gushing out every day, and produces about 130 tons of wasabi in a year. You can see what real Hon-Wasabi looks like and can try many dishes made of wasabi.


Summer season: April – Mid-October

How to get there: The nearest station is JR Hotaka station (Oito line). From there, you can take a taxi (10 mins) or rent a bicycle to get to Daio Wasabi Farm


See Google map >

Iwatake Mountain Resort (岩岳マウンテンリゾート)

Iwatake Mountain Resort is our last but not least favorite place to escape the heat in summer. It is a viewpoint that is accessible by bus and gondola. Not only the beautiful photo spots but there are also plenty of activities for you to choose from, from a buggy cruise, horse riding, MTB, luge, and many more. The most popular attraction is the Yoo Hoo! Swing, on the edge of the cliff and facing out towards the Japanese Alps. While swinging on the swing, you will feel as if throwing yourself to the mountain peaks.


Summer season: May – Mid-October

How to get there: From JR Nagano station, get on the Nagano – Hakuba bus for about 1 hour and 30 minutes and get off at “Hakuba Iwatake Mountain Resort” bus stop. For those starting from JR Hakuba station or Happo Bus Terminal, you can get on the Hakuba – Tsugaike bus and get off at the same bus top. It only takes about 20 minutes. If you travel in a group, taking a taxi is your alternative option.


See Google map >

See the bus timetable from Nagano to Hakuba >

See all bus timetables to Hakuba >

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