7 recommended spots to enjoy the ninja town Togakushi!
Among all the ninja villages in Japan, one of the most hidden is Togakushi, in Nagano. It takes about 3 hours to get there by shinkansen and train from Tokyo. There are many interesting areas that have nothing to do with ninjas as well.
Mar 09 2016 (Sep 09 2020)
1. Ninpo Shinryokan
This used to be a mansion of a wealthy farmer that was relocated, and in it you can learn about the history of Togakure-ryu ninja history as well as photos and examples of ninja tools. Nearby, there is a place where you can try using shuriken. Try to see if you can properly hit the enemies! There is also the Karakuri Yashiki, a trick house where you can try using escape routes during an ambush so you can experience the true life of a ninja!
HP: ninja-togakushi.net/info.html (Japanese Only)
Address: 3688-12 Koshimizu Togakushi, Nagano-shi, Nagano-ken (Google Map)
2. Chibikko Ninja Village
Children up to high school age will definitely fall in love with this place. There are facilities of various sizes, a trick house, a slalom, a place to try shruriken and blowguns, as well as field athletics that will let you understand the physical level necessary to be a ninja. There is a kids' room for kids day-care age as well. They even have a show where they exhibit ninja techniques used by Togakure-ryu ninjas.
Address: 3193 Togakushi, Nagano-shi, Nagano-ken (Google Map)
3. Togakushi Shrine
It's said that Togakushi Shrine was built more than 2000 years ago. There are five shrines: the Okusha (upper shrine), Chusha (middle shrine), Hokosha, Hinomikosha, and Kuzuryusha. It's said that Amaterasu, the sun goddess, hid herself in a cave, and this shrine worships the deity that threw away the door to the cave where she was hiding to let the sun back out. That door landed in the Togakushi mountain range, and gave the mountains and the shrine its name - Togakushi means "hiding door". It became a place where mountaineering ascetics came to train their mind and body. During the Edo Period, Tokugawa Ieyasu received great care when he went to solicit there. Out of all the shrines there, the one that you should definitely visit is the Okusha. You have to walk down a 1.9km road that is completely surrounded by trees to get there, and it feels very stately and solemn.
HP: togakushi-jinja.jp/shrine/index.html (Japanese Only)
Address: Togakushi, Nagano-shi, Nagano-ken (there are 5 shrines dotted around the area) (Google Map)
4. Togakushi Soba
While you can eat soba throughout Japan, the soba that comes out of Togakushi has certain characteristics. It's bocchimori soba, where the noodles are piled in small spirals on top of a round draining basket. You eat it with spicy grated daikon and tsuyu broth. Also, the tempura soba is made with plenty of regional vegetables that you may not find tempura of in other parts of the country. There are many soba restaurants in the area, but at Yamaguchiya, you can experience making your own soba (reservations necessary).
Address: Togakushi Soba Yamaguchiya 3423 Chusha, Togakushi, Nagano-shi, Nagano (Google Map)
5. Shukubou Egokui
A shukubou is is where believers who went to the shrines and temples on pilgrimage stayed. Nowadays, many of them have become lodging for tourists who come to the shrine just to sightsee. There are many of them in Togakushi, but this particular one, Egokui, was built in 1815 and has been registered as a national tangible cultural property. The thatched roof makes it a beautiful building. For dinner, you can have a type of meal called "shoujin," a vegetarian style of cooking created from the dietary restrictions of Buddhist monks. Most of the rooms are Japanese-style, but they do have Western-style rooms (complete with bath and toilet).
HP: www.egokui.com/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 3354 Togakushi, Nagano-shi, Nagano-ken (Google Map)
6. Togakushi Campground
This is one of the only campgrounds in the country that offers spaces of various sizes. There are places for 350 tents, rental cottages and cabins for 6 people, small bungalows, and more buildings that add up to 67 available. A small river runs through the campgrounds, so children can play in the water. There is also a farm towards the back of the campgrounds, so you can meet horses, cows, and mountain sheet. There aren't any restaurants or convenience stores in the area, so you can enjoy your quiet tent or cottage completely away from the trappings of modern life.
HP: www.togakusi.com/camp/index.php (Japanese Only)
Address: 3694 Togakushi, Nagano-shi, Nagano-ken (Google Map)
7. Mountain Climbing
The Togakushi mountain range is split up into 3 areas: the Mt. Takatsuma/Mt. Ototsuma area, Mt. Togakushi area, and the Nishidake area. An impenetrable rock wall runs from Mt. Togakushi to Nishidake, so climbing this ridge is meant for experts. Mt. Kenashiyama is 1549 meters high and the climbing course takes about 3 and a half hours. Depending on the season different wild flowers and grasses bloom throughout the Togakushi ski resort's trekking course. From Mt. Kenashiyama, you can gaze out over Togakushi and the northern Japanese alps. The course to Mt. Togakushi starts from Togakushi Shrine's Okusha, goes up 1904m high, and returns you around the farm in the campground. It takes about 6 hours. There is also a course to the Togakushi Ridge's tallest peak, Mt. Takatsuma. It takes about 8 hours. In Japan, before you climb tall mountains like that, you must submit a climbing plan. Also, people who have very little experience in climbing Japanese mountains should go with a guide.
HP: www.togakushi-21.jp/sp/climbing.php (Japanese Only)
Address: Togakushi Sightseeing Association, 1554 Togakushi, Nagano-shi, Nagano-ken (Google Map)
There are many unique sights to see and food to eat in this remote area of Togakushi. You can also have fun skiing and bird-watching here! Don't just stay in Tokyo and Osaka, make your way over for a different experience.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.