Chikuma ( Chikuma-shi) is a city in Nagano.
Chikuma City was formed in 2003 from the amalgamation of Koshoku City in its northern parts with the historic onsen towns of Togura and Kamiyamada in the south. This southern part of the city, known locally as Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, boasts numerous traditional ryokans (inns), ancient temples and shrines, seven public onsen bathhouses, a history of geisha entertainment that lives on today, and numerous natural features such as mountains, forest, hiking trails and picnic spots. In the west of the city, the areas known as Obasute and Yawata provide other historical and cultural attractions including the famous moon viewing rice paddies of Obasute and the Takemizuwake Shrine in Yawata. In the east of the city is the village of Mori, often called Anzu no Sato, or Apricot Village, because of the wealth of apricot trees that blossom profusely in spring.
With a population of about 62,000, Chikuma is a small city by Japanese standards, and has urban areas mixed in among the forests, orchards and rice paddies. It's a great place to experience a different aspect of Japan than what you find in the big cities or on the regular tourist trail. Maximum daily temperatures average 15-20 °C in April, 25-31 °C in July, 18-21 °C in October, and 0-5 °C in January. Most years see 850 mm to 1100 mm of rain falling, with the winter months being the driest.
phone: +81 26-276-2241address: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-12-10
By trainChikuma has one JR station at Obasute on the Shinonoi Line, and four stations on the Shinano Railway: Yashirokokomae, Yashiro, Chikuma and Togura.
- From Nagano, take the Shinano Railway from Nagano Station. There are trains about every 30 minutes. ¥330 to ¥390.
- From Matsumoto, take the JR Shinonoi line to Shinonoi then change to the Shinano Railway. About 1 hour, ¥2,300.
- From Tokyo, take the Nagano Shinkansen to Ueda (Nagano) and change to the Shinano Railway. The fare to Togura with an unreserved seat on the Shinkansen costs ¥6310 one way (about 2 hours)
- From Osaka or Kyoto, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya, then the JR Chuo Line and JR Shinonoi lines to Shinonoi, then take the Shinano Railway. The fare from Osaka to Togura with unreserved seats is ¥10,630 (about 4 hours), and slightly less from Kyoto.
- From Niigata take the Joetsu Shinkansen to Takasaki, then the JR Nagano Shinkansen to Ueda (Nagano) and change to the Shinano Railway. The fare to Togura with unreserved seats is ¥10,740 (about 2½ hours). Alternatively, for ¥6,490, take the Shinkansen Max Toki to Nagaoka, the JR Limited Express to Naoetsu, the JR Shinetsu Line to Nagano, and then the Shinano Railway (4.5 hours).
- From Kanazawa or Toyama take the JR Hokuriku line to Naoetsu, then the JR Shinetsu line to Nagano, then the Shinano Railway. The fare to Togura with unreserved seats is ¥6,960 (about 4½ hours), while from Toyama it is ¥5,590 (about 4 hours).
By busChikuma doesn't have its own bus station per se, but does have three stops which are served by intercity buses.
- Yashiro (上信越道屋代), on the Joshinetsu Expressway, is the stop for buses from Tokyo. Alpico Bus company runs 15 buses per day between Shinjuku Station and Nagano, . 3 hr 20 min, ¥3,700 one way, ¥6,660 return.
- Naganodo Koshoku Interchange and Naganodo Obasute parking area are both stops on the Nagano Expressway for buses from elsewhere.
- From Kyoto, Alpico/Hankyu runs a night bus to Nagano . 7½ hours, ¥5,900 one way, ¥10,000 return.
- From Osaka, Alpico/Hankyu runs 2 buses per day to Nagano, . 7 hours (day bus) or 8½ hours (night bus). ¥6,500 one way, ¥11,000 return.
- From Matsumoto, Alpico/Meitetsu has 4 buses per day to Nagano . About 55 min.
- From Nagoya, Alpico Bus has 4 buses per day to Nagano 4 hr 40 min, ¥4,500 one way, ¥7,000 return.
By carThe nearest highway interchanges are Koshoku IC, at the north end of town, and Sakaki IC, a few kilometers south of town. Both are connected to the city via Route 18.
- From Tokyo, exit the Joushinetsu Expressway at Sakaki IC (total travel time 2½-3 hr)
- From Kyoto or Osaka, take the Meishin Expressway to Komaki Junction, then the Chuo Expressway to Okaya Junction, then follow the Nagano Expressway, exit at Koshoku IC. About 5 hr from Kyoto or 6 from Osaka.
- From Kanazawa, Toyama, or Niigata take the Hokuriku Expressway to Joetsu junction then follow the Joshinetsu Expressway to the Koshoku IC (3 hr from Niigata, 3½ hr from Toyama, 4½ hr from Kanazawa)
- From Nagoya, take the Chuo Expressway from Komaki Junction towards Tokyo. At the Okaya Junction, turn on to the Nagano Expressway, exit at Koshoku IC (total travel time 2-2½ hours)
By busChikuma City Council runs an extensive local bus network connecting various parts of the city and stopping at all the railway stations. Most lines run less than once per hour, so be sure to pick up a schedule if you are going to be relying on them. The main routes are:
From Yashiro Station
- No. 1-2 : Chikuma Station, Togura Station, Kamiyamada, Yawata and Inariyama
- No. 3 : Anzu no Sato, Chikuma City Council Office (only some buses).
- No. 5 : JR Obasute Station via Inariyama and Yawata
- No. 6 : Inariyama and Oodahara
From Chikuma Station
- No. 4 : Yashiro Station, JR Obasute Station
From Chikuma City Council Togura branch
- No. 7 : Kamiyamada, Togura Station and JR Obasute Station
- No. 8 : Goka and Togura Station.
- No. 9 : Togura Station
By trainThe Shinano Railway runs through the city along the east side of the Chikuma River. Stations from north to south are Yashirokokomae, Yashiro, Chikuma and Togura. Fares between these stations range from ¥190 to ¥240.
By bikeThe Chikuma River valley is quite flat and is great for getting around on a bike. Bikes can be hired from Kamesei Ryokan. A cycle path goes along the west side of the river from the northern to the southern end of the city, providing excellent views of the river, various neighbourhoods, and the surrounding mountains. Plenty of other sights and attractions also are accessible by bike.
Temples and shrines
Chourakuji Templeaddress: Yawata 4984This temple has magnificent thatched roof buildings including a moon viewing temple used by the poet Bassho to write haiku. Behind the temple is the large rock Oba-iwa from which you can get great views across the valley.
Zenko-ji Daihongan Branch Templeaddress: Kamiyamada 3510-7A sprawling complex on the hill above the Togura Kamiyamada Onsen with good views across the valley.
Chishiki Templephone: +81 26-275-1753A quaint semi-rural temple with a Goddess image that is only shown in public once per year.
Fukei Templeaddress: Kamiyamada 2454This renovated temple has a beautifully crafted main gate and bell tower. A five 5-stone statue of Kannon, Goddess of Mercy and Bodhisattva of Compassion, gazes out over the Chikuma River valley from below the main gate.
address: Yawata 3012This large shrine complex has been holding the Daitousai festival (usually held on 15 September) for over 400 years, and the current buildings date from 1850. The grounds are resplendent with massive cedar and other trees, as well as numerous statues.
Castles and tombs
Joyama Historic Park and Arata Castlephone: +81 26-275-5180The site of a castle used in the Warring States era (1500s). It was destroyed in the Battles of Kawanakajima, and restored in 1995. Fabulous views of the Chikuma River valley.
Mori Shogunzuka Keyhole Tombphone: +81 26-274-3400address: Yashiro 29-1This very interesting tomb of an ancient ruler is about 1600 years old, and was beautifully restored in the 1980s. This 100-m-long tomb is perched high on a hill just east of the Shinkansen line and opposite the Anzu no Sato Agri Park. At the base of the site is Shinano no Sato Historic Park, depicting a village from the same era, and the Nagano Prefectural History Museum. Both are worth a visit, although English information is minimal.
Nishizawa Piggy Bank Museumaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 3-10-5 上山田温泉 3-10-5
Togura Kamiyamada Onsen Museumaddress: Kamiyamda Onsen 4-1-8, 上山田温泉4-1-8
Shuzo Collection Sake Museumaddress: Togura 1855-1
address: Inariyama 931; 稲荷山931A beautifully restored traditional building with a fascinating museum out the back.
Koshoku Furusato Cartoon Museumaddress: Inariyama 2181-1; 稲荷山2181-1Focusing on the work of the political cartoonist Hidezo Kondo.
address: Yashiro 260-6; 屋代260-6A comprehensive museum with a permanent display room, a special exhibitions room, a library reading and reference room, a visual media room, and a lecture hall.
Togura Juku Kitty ParkThis is a very pretty park that has a great display of exquisite white cherry blossoms in spring. It is also a good place for a picnic, and there is play equipment for the kids. Beautiful lawns and a nice view across the Chikuma River valley from the pavilion at the top of the park.
Mori Apricot BlossomsThe best time to view the blossoms is usually in early April. Good viewing places include Sketch Park (スケッチパーク) and Uwadaira Viewpoint (上平展望台).
Togura Kamiyamada Onsen Summer FestivalEnjoy lion dances, drum performances, fireworks and the spectacle of portable shrines being paraded through the streets.
Togura Fireworks FestivalListen to the big booms echoing up and down the valley during the massive fireworks display and eat your fill from the numerous food stalls.
Jomon FestivalSee reenactments from prehistoric times at the Sarashina no Sato Ancient Experience Park.
OnsenSoak up the atmosphere and steam away your worries at one of the public bathhouses:
Kara Koro Footbathaddress: Chuo-dori - KamiyamadaYou can soak your feet for free in this footbath onsen.
Zuishophone: +81 26-275-4321address: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-chome 18-8Although it is the most expensive public bathhouse in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, it is also the most well equipped with the greatest variety of baths. The separate male and female areas each have a large indoor bath decorated with colourful natural boulders. The indoor area also has a sauna, jet baths, and a freshwater (cold) bath. The outdoor bath area has elegant gardens and contains baths you can lie down in, baths you can recline in, a stone slab with hot water trickling over it that is great for lying on at any time of the year, a large, sheltered bath, and two or three large ceramic tub baths.
phone: +81 26-272-1154address: Inariyama 571-1The onsen in this hotel is open for day visitors. The separate men's and women's baths have two hot baths inside and a pleasant tear-drop shaped outdoor bath, which catches the morning sun.
Kamenoyuaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 1-27-11. 上山田温泉1-27-11The separate men's and women's baths have two indoor baths, as well as one large outdoor bath and a ceramic pot bath in a nicely treed area. If you like your onsens hot, this is the place for you.
address: Kuwabara 1551; 桑原1551A pleasant neighborhood onsen with 3 indoor baths of varying temperatures and large windows that catch the afternoon sun. From the baths you can access a zen-like outdoor garden area with benches, potted bamboo, and white gravel.
address: Togura 2254; 戸倉2254This onsen was refurbished in 2005 but it is still like stepping back into 1970s Japan. There are a variety of quite nice baths in a cavernous room, and a small outdoor bath. In the same building are a games arcade and clothing store where time seems to have stood still. Classic.
- Climb Mt Kamuriki (冠着山) (1252m). From the Kamiyamada Culture Hall intersection in Kamiyamada, drive west on Route 498 (which is called Manyou-dori in the town). Go up the steep hill past Zenkouji Daihankan Temple (善光寺大本館). When you get to the top of the saddle, ignore the road on the left, and veer to the right, towards Lake Hijiri (聖湖). After about another 500 m to 1 km there is a guide map and car park on the right. If you have 4WD, follow the track to the left of the guide map for another 500 m. Otherwise, hike up the track following the Mt Kamuriki (冠着山) signs. It is 1.1 km from the first car park, and takes about 20 minutes. If you take a torch, climb up in late afternoon, enjoy the sunset and night views far out across the Zenkouji plain to Nagano City and beyond, and climb down in the dark.
- Climb Mt Mitsumine (三峰山) (1131m) on the boundary of Chikuma City and Omi Village. To get there, take route 498 out of Kamiyamada. Follow the signs to Lake Hijiri (聖湖). After about 9 km you should see the lake. Turn right and follow the road along the south side of the lake. Park opposite the war museum. Look for a track going up the hill through the camp ground. It is a 15-minute hike to the top, where there is a lookout platform and you can reward yourself for your efforts with an ice cream from the cafe. Hike back down, or take the ropeway (chair lift), or, better still, buy a ticket and descend via the giant slide down the hill.
ClimbMt Gorigamine (五里ケ峰) (1094 m). Drive south on route 18 and take the first on the left after the Isobe Minami intersection. Cross the railway line, and take the first on the right. About half way up the hill is a car park. Follow the signs for Gorigamine. It's about a 2-hour climb to the top and involves an ascent of 600 m from the car park. On the way back down, follow a path to the left along the ridge to the ruins of Katsurao Castle (葛尾城) on Mt Katsurao (葛尾山). Keep you eyes open along the path for bits and pieces of the old fortifications. At the castle site are a few memorial stones and a pavilion for taking a rest. The views down to Chikuma to the north and west and Sakaki to the south are terrific.
Hire bikesAnd pick up a Hiking/Cycling brochure from Kamesei Ryokan and cycle along the Chikuma River cycle path.
- Tengu Park Hill Climb. From the Imai intersection on route 18, follow the signs to Togura Juku Kitty Park (戸倉宿キテイーパーク). There is a serious hill climb up through the cherry trees, and past the giant goblin (Tengu) statue. At the top of the park is a pavilion with good views. Keep following the road up to the saddle, then ride down into Mori Apricot Village. Total distance is about 10 km and may take 1-1½ hours.
- Otawara Hill Climb. From the Inariyama (稲荷山) intersection on route 403, ride west and southwest until you get to the start of route 390 at Kuwabara (桑原). Turn right into route 390 and follow it up the hill until you reach Tabara Shrine (田原神社). Turn left at the shrine and head back down the hill. Turn left when you reach route 403 again to return to Inariyama. Total distance is 33 km and may take 3 to 4 hours.
- Obasute Mountain Loop Hill Climb. Start from the Yawata Tsuji intersection on route 77. Ride west on Route 340 until it joins route 403. Follow 403 to the left. Keep going on 403 past Lake Hijiri and all the way to the Honmachi (本町) intersection in Omi Village (麻績村). Turn left onto route 12, then left on to route 55. Stay on route 55 through the tunnel and down the hill to route 77 at Kamiyamada. Total distance is about 41 km and may take 3 or so hours.
phone: +81 26-273-4346address: Yashiro 515-1Strawberry picking from November to June.
phone: +81 90-9666-3096 (English), +81 90-9357-9565 (German)Pick apples from October to early December, grapes in September
Other fun stuff
Shatekiaddress: Various places in KamiyamadaShateki involves shooting at targets with a cork gun and trying to win prizes. Look for the 社的 signs in the narrow alleys of Kamiyamada.
Hijiri Kogen Summer Mountain Lift and Skyrideraddress: 聖高原A stainless steel slide that you ride down on luge type contraptions. The course is 710 winding metres long and drops over a 100 m from top to bottom. The ticket price includes going up on the chair lift. Free for infants, but children under 9 years old need to accompanied by an adult. Awesome fun for everybody!
Taishokan Theatreaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-26-1. 上山田温泉2-26-1Kabuki for the masses.
Jujiyaaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 1-60-10Wide range of Nagano souvenirs, and they also serve tea.
phone: +81 26-275-1045address: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-11-2English-speaking pharmacist that also has Chinese herbal medicine.
- Sarashina Yaki Pottery - tinted blue with a pigment made from apple wood ash
- Obasute Masamune Sake - made from rice grown on the famous moon-reflecting rice terraces of Obasute Mountain
- Onsen Manju - a popular sweet bean paste pastry
Benjarong 2 Restaurantaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-16-29; 上山田温泉2-16-29Real Thai food made by real Thai chefs. Choose your spiciness level from 0 to 100%. Everything from the basic curry and pad Thai standards to the exotic.
Cafe Jitenshaaddress: Yashiro 1805 屋代1805Funky Tex-Mex cafe serving drinks and meals, with an English-speaking proprietor who rode his bike across Australia and has the souvenirs to prove it.
Daikokuyaaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-24-1; 上山田温泉2-24-1A local institution. Ramen fans come from far and wide for the noodles. The garlic sauce pork filet "nintare tonkatsu" is a local favourite. The small shop is often crowded, but is worth the wait.
address: Kamitokuma 237-2; 上徳間237-2Family-friendly American-style diner using a lot of local ingredients, with a menu that has most items in English. Enjoy gazing at the great collection of 1950s memorabilia and if you are lucky, Grease will be playing on the big screen.
Hagoromoaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-16-22; 上山田温泉2-16-22Gourmet Japanese cuisine in a traditional setting. Sit at the counter and watch owner/chef Hata-san work his magic, or at one of the kotatsu tables with sunken floors.
Honenyaaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 1-39-5; 上山田温泉1-39-5Soba is Nagano's premier food, and this is Kamiyamada's premier soba shop. The plastic models out the front make for easy selection. Sets include miso, pickles, rice and a small side dish.
Karin Chinese Restaurantaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 3-1-12; 上山田温泉3-2-12Chinese food. Also has meal+bath deals
Kawanaaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 3-8-10; 上山田温泉3-8-1Gourmet Japanese cuisine with reasonable set menu options (sets include salad, udon, pickles, kobachi, fruit and rice). Good selection of wines, beer and sake.
Kayaaddress: Togura 1855-1, 戸倉1855-1Authentic soba noodles in a 250-year-old thatched roof building.
Kohakuaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 1-44-4; 上山田温泉1-44-4Features Kamiyamada Onsen's specialty, "Oshibori Udon", with the udon's dipping sauce made from a local spicy daikon radish. Traditional interior design with cool antiques.
La Foretaddress: Ojima 3121-1; 小島3121-1Atmospheric pizzaria.
address: Kamiyamada Onsen 1-69-3; 上山田温泉 1-69-3Elegant French dining highlighting local ingredients. Extensive wine menu to match. Reservations required.
address: Kamiyamada Onsen 1-70-8; 上山田温泉1-70-8Friendly, family-run shop specializing in service with a smile. Featuring winter and summer seasonal specialties.
address: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-17-5; 上山田温泉2-17-5Mutton from Nagano's sheep capital, Shinshu Shinmachi. Charcoal grilled on a Mongolian-style grill. There are only 2 tables, so reservations are essential.
address: Kamiyamada Onsen 3-7-4; 上山田温泉3-7-4Men's is particular about their ramen, using only locally grown "Sarashina" flour for their hand-made noodles. Take you shoes off and relax in this all non-smoking restaurant. P.S. It's not just for men ... "men" means "noodles" in Japanese.
address: KamiyamadaServes pasta, as well as Japanese and Indian curries. Specialties include Apricot Curry using local fruit. The lunch set is enormous and great value at ¥800.
Pasta & Pudding Cocoroaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 1-54-4; 上山田温泉1-54-4Stylish shop popular with ladies (Friday is Ladies' Night) and decorated with baseball memorabilia. 40 types of spaghetti and their signature pumpkin pudding.
Seiyu Supermarketaddress: Kamiyamada 879-1; 上山田879-1Big range of groceries and general items for the self-caterer. There's another store across the river at Togura 1953-1.
Shichifukuaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 1-56-3; 上山田温泉1-56-3"Oyaki" dumplings are Nagano's soul food. And Shichifuku is Kamiyamada's own little oyaki shop. Take Out is available but it is fun to eat in at this Showa-Retro restaurant.
Shoryuenaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-17-6; 上山田温泉2-17-6Of course the taste is great, but Shoryuen's chef makes tastier than normal Chinese food. In a nightclub-like setting.
Silky Cafeaddress: 928 Inariyama Aramachi 稲荷山荒町928Cosy okonomiyaki joint with a friendly owner who speaks a bit of English. Also serves udon and curry rice.
Steak-1address: Isobe 1349-1; 磯部1349-1Cowpoke style steak and hamburger house with an all you can eat and drink salad and drink bar included with main courses. Plenty of room out the front to park your horse.
Sushi-Heiaddress: KamiyamadaThe real deal.
Yakitori Tomoyaaddress: Sakurado 356-1; 桜堂356-1At Tomoya, the "master" is friendly, funny and loves to have foreign customers.
Cafe Crossroad (Jakumaku)address: Jakumaku 410-1A pleasant coffee shop run by a local non-profit organisation. The menu is all in Japanese but the pictures are mostly obvious. They also sell light meals (e.g. pasta set ¥700) and desserts, as well as a small range of food stuffs made from local agricultural products and recycled materials (e.g. shoulder bags).
Ushiwakaaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 1-44-1; 上山田温泉1-44-1Yakitori and drinks for people serious about yakitori (and drinks). Yo-chan, the man behind the counter, speaks decent English. You can try one of Nagano's specialties, raw horse meat, too (or not).
Yukiaddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-16-8; 山田温泉2-16-8A fashionable izakaya pub featuring "kushi" and "yakitori", various meat and vegetable creations on skewers, including home-made "tsukune" (minced chicken patties with special sauce)
Yakitori Yumi'saddress: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-18-22; 上山田温泉2-18-22Run by an ex-geisha who hasn't lost her ability to entertain. Her English is not so good, but it doesn't get in the way of having a great conversation.
address: Ojima 3151-1Standard business hotel. Non-smoking rooms available. Substantial discounts for early booking.
phone: +81 26-272-1008address: Yawata 3067Japanese style rooms only. Japanese-style breakfast is ¥1050 extra.
phone: +81 26-275-1032address: Kamiyamada Onsen 2-15-1A great place to experience a traditional Japanese inn. There are English speaking staff, beautiful onsen baths, excellent meals, and elegant gardens. Free pick up and drop off at Togura or Obasute stations.
address: Kamiyamada Onsen 1-69-3Splurge on a room with its own private outdoor onsen bath! Or admire the view from the big onsen bath on the 6th floor.
address: Inariyama 571-1 1Western and Japanese style rooms, onsen, sauna, restaurant, internet in the lobby and lounge, free car parking.
- Yamanouchi - home of the famous hot-spring soaking snow monkeys.
- Joshinetsu Kogen National Park - which includes Shiga Kogen, Japan's largest ski resort, host of 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Giant Slalom, with 21 interlinked ski fields and over 70 lifts.
- Matsumoto - home of the famous black castle, whose gardens and views are a delight in spring and autumn
- Kiso Valley - through which winds the historic Nakasendo (Mountain Road) with numerous historic and beautifully restored villages
- Hakuba - some of the best ski fields in Japan and great summer hiking along the spectacular northern alps
- Azumino - Spice up your life with a visit to one of Japan's most famous wasabi farms
- Nagano - Take a pilgrimage to Zenkoji Temple