One of Japan’s most famous ski jump arenas, Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium is located at the base of Happo-One Ski Resort. The stadium was used for the ski jumping events at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. Visitors can take the chair lift and elevator to the top of the 90-meter and 120-meter jumps.
Built in the 16th century, Matsumoto Castle is known as the “Crow Castle” due to its unique black exterior. The five-storied donjon is one of only four castles in Japan to be designated a national treasure. The Matsumoto City Museum, located next door, has various displays which introduce local archaeology, history and folklore.
The Jigokudani Monkey Park is home to about 200 wild Japanese macaques who spend their days soaking in the natural hot springs, keeping warm during the harsh winter months. The park, opened in 1964, is considered the only place in the world where one can see snow monkeys bathing in the wild.
With a history reaching back more than 1400 years, Zenkoji Temple is a must-see destination for visitors to the Hakuba area. Located in Nagano City, Zenkoji Temple houses the first image of Buddha brought to Japan in the 7th century. The streets surrounding the temple are lined with charming lantern-lit shops and tiered-roof stalls.
Obuse is a historic town located 30 minutes outside of Nagano City. This charming town is well known for its chestnuts and sake, as well as the outstanding Hokusai Museum, dedicated to preserving the wonderful works of famous ukiyo-e woodblock print artist Hokusai Katsushika. Visitors to Obuse should also be sure to visit the beautifully preserved Masuichi Sake Brewery next to the museum.
Togakushi Shrine is steeped in myth and is considered a sacred place in the original creation stories of Japan. Visitors will be astonished by the natural beauty of the massive 900 year old cedars that line the passage to the inner temple. Also in the area is a real ninja training ground and museum (open April - Nov.), as well as plenty of restaurants featuring hand-made soba noodles, a specialty of the Nagano area.