This temple is the main tourist spot in Nagano. Many flock there to watch the ordination rites of priests.
The Temple, said to have been built in the early 7th century, has a never-ending line of visitors and is the main tourist spot in Nagano. The main temple has two roofs, both thatched with layers of cypress bark, and the characters for Zenko-ji Temple inscribed on the very front of the San-mon Gate roof are said to contain five hidden doves in the lettering. Further behind the San-mon Gate is the main temple designated as a national treasure. It was rebuilt in 1707 and is the third largest wooden structure in Japan.
In the altar is the standing statue of Amida-Nyorai, which is not shown to the public. Right underneath the altar is a dark tunnel where you can experience going through the ordination platform designed to be used during the ordination rites of the priests. Along the way try to find and touch the key said to be that of paradise. Many deities are enshrined in the temple, including Nure-Botoke, which is said to protect children.
A visit to the snow monkeys is one of the highlights of a visit to Japan.
Located in Jigokudani (translated as Hell's Valley), the snow monkeys are unique that they are the only known monkeys that bathe in hot springs. The park was open in 1964 and since then thousands of visitors have enjoyed seeing the monkeys combatting the winter weather by staying warm in the hot springs.
The hike to the hot-springs takes about 20 to 30 minutes each way from the car park. Please bring sturdy shoes and warm clothing. The park is located about 90mins from Hakuba. Cost: 500yen per person.
April - October 8:30am to 5:00pm November - March 9:00am - 4:00pm
Ski Japan Holidays - Snow Monkey Tours
Ski Japan Holidasy offers guided visits to the Snow Monkeys as well as Obuse, a nearby historical town, and Zenko-Ji Temple (mentioned above). The tour leaves Hakuba at 8:00am every Monday, Wednesday & Friday and arrives back in Hakuba at 5:30pm. Cost : 12,000yen for adults and 10,000yen for children and includes lunch while in Obuse.
Matsumoto Castle (Matsumoto Jo) is one of four castles designated as National Treasures of Japan.
It's construction began in 1592 only a few years after Japan was reunited as a nation after centuries of civil war. It was established to create a castle town, representing the newly re-established central government. Because of the elegant black roof, Matsumoto Castle is sometimes called Crow Castle. Inside the castle are step stairs and low ceilings leading past displays of armour and weapons from the Sengoku period.
The narrow wooden windows, once used by archers and gunmen, provide amazing views of the Japanese Alps, Matsumoto City and the koi and swans circling in the moat below. The easiest way to get to Matsumoto Castle is by train direct from Hakuba Station. Cost: Adults 600yen - Children 300yen
The castle is open from 8:30am - 4:30pm daily. (Except for after Christmas, when it's closed from December 29th until January 3rd)
Ski Japan Holidays - Matsumoto Guided Tours
On the way to Matsumoto this tour stops off at the largest Wasabi (Horseradish) Farm in Japan. Here you can try wasabi foods including wasabi ice cream. At Matsumoto there is a guided tour of the castle as well as lunch. The tours leave at 8:15am and arrive back at Hakuba at 5:00pm. Cost: 10,000yen for adults, 8,000yen for children and includes entry to farm and castle and lunch.
If you are in the resort on January 15th then make sure you don't miss one of the most spectacular snow and fire festivals in Japan.
The fire festival (Dosojin) has been held every year since 1863. The event revolves around a six-storey wooden shrine that becomes the target of fire-bearing villagers. Some 42 year-old men from the village sit atop the shrine on a bed of pine branches looking on as the 25 year-old local men defend the base bare-handed. Traditionally in Japan, these two ages have been considered unlucky and the event is a form of cleansing ritual for them. Eventually, the defenders concede defeat and the shrine is allowed to burn, producing a spectacular fiery display. Nozawa Onsen is approximately a 2 hour drive from Hakuba. Cost: There are a number of tours available taking you to the event priced from around 4000yen to 6000yen per person.