Jul 17, 2019
Updated Jul 18, 2019
Hiking the 5 shrines trail in Togakushi
Untouched by the busyness of everyday life, Togakushi is a sacred spiritual spot located on Mt. Togakushi blessed with abundant nature and a rich culture that is thousands of years old. With direct bus access from Nagano Station, you’ll get there in about an hour, which makes it the perfect daytrip. (You’ll find more details on how to get there and special ticket info at the bottom!)
The spiritual connections come from Togakushi’s history. According to an important story in Japanese mythology, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu become so furious with her little brother that she hid herself inside a cave. With the Sun Goddess gone, the world plunged into darkness, so the other gods had to devise a plan to get her out again. One goddess started doing a funny dance and the laughter she heard outside made Amaterasu curious. She peeked out, and at that moment one of the gods grabbed the cave’s door and quickly threw it away. The door flew all the way to Nagano Prefecture and landed in a forested area which was thus named Togakushi, or “Hiding Door”.
Togakushi is most known for the Togakushi Shrine. The Togakushi Shrine actually consists of five shrines: Hokosha (lower shrine), Hinomikosha, Chuusha (middle shrine), Kuzuryusha and Okusha (upper shrine). Hokosha, Chusha and Okusha are located about a 2-kilometer hike apart from each other, while Hinomikosha is near Hokosha and Kuzuryusha is next to Okusha.
I’ve been to Togakushi a few times, but I had never walked the trail that goes past all five shrines. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to do so and took the bus from Nagano to Togakushi. You can get off at several places on the way; Togakushi Hokosha, Togakushi Chusha, Togakushi Okusa Entrance and Togakushi Campsite.
I got off at Togakushi Chuusha because the Togakushi Tourist Information Center was located there, and you can get information about the trail or restaurants etc., as well as an area map! (Even though the trail is easy to follow with markers along the way).
While I started with the Chusha Shrine, or middle shrine, you can of course start at the Hokosha Shrine, or go straight to the Okusha Shrine and make your way down.
The trail itself is simply breathtaking. Hiking to the shrines through the forest, surrounded by luscious nature, I can see why they call Togakushi a spiritual power spot. Especially the part from the Chusha Shrine to the Okusha Shrine, as well as the entire path toward the Okusha Shrine. You can even go through a botanical garden at some point, where you’ll find many different flowers and plants, ponds, and wooden paths that will lead the way.
Going all the way to the upper shrine takes some time, so if you want to take a rest or grab a bite to eat, there’s a small restaurant with a shop near the entrance of the path to Okusha Shrine where you can try some local specialties such as soba and oyaki.
From left to right: The entrance of the path to the Okusha Shrine, Zuishinmon midway along the path to the Okusha Shrine, and Beautiful giant cedar trees line most of the trail.
As you walk through a primeval forest on a path that is lined with giant cedar trees of over 400 years old, you can see the sunlight spilling out between them which makes this place truly magical. After a while, you’ll see a red gate called Zuishinmon which marks the halfway point of the path to the upper shrine. The red color of the gate immediately catches your eye among the green and earthy colors of the nature that surrounds it.
One thing to note here is that you have to take the stairs to get to the Okusha Shrine. I went during a time when there was still a little bit of snow left, so some places of the stairs were quite slippery. Walking from the lower Hokosha shrine to the upper Okusha shine also takes about 2 hours, so be sure to wear some good shoes if you’re thinking of going.
However, if you ever get tired of walking, don’t worry! You can just take the bus from one of the bus stops (see below for a link to the bus timetable).
For those who like nature and the outdoors, hiking to the five shrines of Togakushi is highly recommended. Of course, if you also have an interest in Japanese shrines and culture, then you definitely can’t miss it!
How to Get There
Togakushi is easily accessible from Nagano City via the Togakushi line. There is one bus going roughly every hour, starting from 6:57. From Nagano Station, take bus 70 from bus stop 7 (see image below) and after about an hour you will arrive at the lower shrine bus stop called Togakushi Hokosha. You can opt to get off here and start walking or you can continue your bus journey until you get to the Chusha or Okusha Shrine.
Click here for the Togakushi bus timetable.
The Togakushi Kogen Free Ticket is a discounted bus ticket available from Nagano and Shinjuku for 2,600 JPY (Children 1,300 JPY) and 8,700 JPY (Children 4,750 JPY) respectively.
📌When purchasing a ticket in Nagano, the ticket includes a round trip to Togakushi from Nagano Bus Terminal, Nagano Station or Zenkoji Daimon, and allows you 5 days of unlimited bus rides in the Togakushi Kogen area. You can purchase this ticket at the Nagano Station Information Center (aka ALPICO Kotsu Nagano Sta. Ticket Office), Nagano Bus Terminal, or book a ticket online here.
📌When purchasing a ticket in Shinjuku, the ticket will include everything written above, plus a round trip from Shinjuku to the Nagano area. You can buy the Shinjuku ticket from the Central Honshu Information Plaza (Keio Shinjuku) or book a ticket online here.
In addition, this ticket gives you discounts at certain places in the Togakushi (and Nagano City) area as well, so it is highly recommended if you want to get the best value.