Only 100 minutes away from Tokyo on the Hokuriku shinkansen line, Iiyama embodies the Japanese image of furusato, or hometown. Nestled in the foothills of northern Nagano prefecture with the Chikuma River flowing through its center, this picturesque area was originally established as a trade route between the Japan Sea and the inland mountains. With the establishment of warlord Uesugi Kenshin’s castle in 1564, it expanded into a bustling temple town, developing a culture of craftsmanship that remains today in the form of confectioneries and traditional handicrafts. Iiyama’s rich soil and ideal environmental conditions were further enhanced by technological advances in the Edo period, and today Iiyama’s produce (especially rice and asparagus) are nationally renowned for their high quality.
Escape the daily grind and the crush of the city and breathe freely. Delve into the untamed beech, birch and cedar forests with a yoga retreat, or go on a hike, or a run on the 80km Shin-etsu Trail. Cherry blossoms bloom here 2-3 weeks after Tokyo, which often make them a little-known but perfect coincidence with the Easter Holidays. Summer offers invigorating greenery, and you can enjoy canoeing on the Chikuma River, and seeing fireflies and fireworks. Autumn brings not only glorious colors but a bountiful harvest, and traditional festivals and food events to celebrate. Enjoy the finest powder snow in one of the snowiest regions in the world with some skis, snowboard, sled or visit the Restaurant Kamakura Village, a winter-limited event where you can dine inside a snow hut.
Try farming for yourself! Just two hours away from Tokyo, here you can enjoy a unique opportunity to stay with a local farm family and enjoy a relaxing sojourn in rural Japan.
The Nabekura Kogen is a plateau that experiences the heaviest snowfall in Iiyama. In winter, this means that there are plenty of fun snow-related activities to take part in, including snow-shoeing! Mori no Ie at Nabekura Kogen is an adorable cottage style accommodation that can be booked for both long and short term stays.
Wander through the temple gardens and spend a reflective afternoon in Zen meditation. Learn about the history and construction of Iiyama Buddhist altars, a 400 year old tradition that brings together the techniques of seven specialty craftspersons. Peek into the workshops, or try out the ornamental metal carving techniques to make your own bookmark. There is a studio dedicated to Uchiyama washi, a hardy traditional paper, if you’d like to try your hand at that art form too.
The Mayumi Takahashi Museum of Doll Art features adorable dioramas of life in Iiyama, made by a local artist. These dolls are a beautiful example of traditional Japanese country life, and help cultivate an appreciation for everyday life in rural Japan in visitors too.
The Shin-etsu Trail is another great way to get in touch with nature and experience local culture. Extending over 80km, it is the first maintained long-distance trail created in Japan. The trail is broken into six sections, each of which can be done as single hikes and are great walks by themselves too. The trail is stunning, with expansive beech forests and 13 mountain passes with breathtaking views to see. You can also talk to a guide about the area’s long history as a trade route!
While staying overnight at a local Japanese-style bed and breakfast, you can experience rural Japanese culture and nature.
Kosuge is a traditional village with a long history, and was originally built as a Shugen Buddhism settlement. The path up to the inner shrine is lined with cedar trees, and many shrines and old ruins remain in the village today, creating a unique, ancient atmosphere that provides an ideal setting for stroll.
Explore Iiyama’s food culture and fresh produce by checking out the farmers markets, taking a cooking class for local specialties such as Sasazushi, or experiencing field-to-table home cooking at our Minshuku family-run B&Bs. Warm up over a nabe hotpot dish in the unique setting of a kamakura snow hut at Restaurant Kamakura Village. Indulge in sake tasting, a local point of pride honed over generations, made using only best quality local rice and snow-melt water.
Iiyama City offers all of this, and more. Your next adventure awaits.