The topography of Japan’s main archipelago of islands is well-known for its mountainous regions, and no prefecture embodies that better than Nagano. Not only is it located in the centre of Japan, the prefecture is surrounded on all four sides by tall mountains, earning itself the nickname of the “Roof of Japan”. Thanks to its terrain, Nagano features world-class snow resorts, and played host to the 1998 Winter Olympics, making it a favourite destination for winter sports enthusiasts.
Blessed with majestic snow-capped mountains, pristine forests, and beautiful lakes, approximately a fifth of Nagano’s area is designated as natural parks. Furthermore, due to the number of natural hot springs in the region, Nagano prides itself on being the king of onsens, as well as having the only place in the world to see wild monkeys bathing in a hot spring at the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park.
While its natural beauty is certainly enticing, Nagano has a number of historic sites that is bound to pique the interest of visitors. The Matsumoto Castle boasts Japan’s oldest 5-storied wooden keep, which was built in the late-1500s and is designated as a national treasure today, and those who want to travel back in time to feudal Japan can head to the town of Tsumago. Regarded as one of Japan’s best-preserved post towns, Tsumago’s restored wooden structures and absence of motorised traffic or overhead utility lines recreates the atmosphere of Japan’s 17th to 19th century Edo Period.
With such a storied past, Nagano is packed with plenty of annual events such as the Nozawa Fire Festival in January, the Ueda Sanada festival in April, the theatrical plays of Takigi Noh at Matsumoto Castle in August, and Tsumago’s feudal procession in November. Nagano is also a major producer of grapes, pears, peaches, as well as prunes, apricots, plums, persimmons, walnuts, blueberries, and most notably apples. Touted as the country’s second-largest producer of apples, particularly the Fuji variety, Nagano’s mascot, Arukuma, is a green cartoon bear who is often pictured wearing an apple hat.
Being a landlocked province, Nagano’s delicacies are notably different from familiar seafood-rich Japanese cuisines. Thanks to its highland regions, which are perfect for cultivating buckwheat and ample supply of fresh mountain water, Nagano is renowned for its soba noodles. Locals will also make buckwheat dough to prepare Oyaki, a type of dumpling stuffed with vegetables – its vegetable stuffing varies with the region with each area having its own local speciality. Another unique delicacy of Nagano is the Gohei Mochi, which uses normal white rice – instead of sticky rice – that is stuck on a skewer, coated in sweet sauce, and cooked over a fire. For protein lovers, the prefecture’s cuisine also features a complement of wild boar and venison, and boiled locusts and bee larvae.
Nagano will be one of five Japanese prefectures to be featured at the Experience Japan 2017 fair. Unlike other prefectures, Nagano will be showcasing their prefecture’s natural and cultural highlights together with those from its neighbouring prefecture, Niigata. Key highlights include food and apple juice sampling. Held in conjunction with the Iron Chef All Stars 2017 charity dinner, the Experience Japan fair will be held on the 2nd and 3rd of August at the Sydney Opera House. The fair will be showcasing the best of Japanese culture and produce, with performances, tasting stations, and limited exclusive Iron Chef show bags on offer for eligible attendees. Book your tickets now at the Sydney Opera House Box Office.