5 Faves: Budget Ryokan

In case you missed it, one of this month's posts was a Crash Course on ryokan. The first year I lived in Japan, my husband and I loved to head out from Tokyo and explore the countryside. Not wanting to just have the same humdrum experience time and again of staying in a hotel, we... Continue Reading →

Spotlight: Zenko-ji Temple (Nagano)

There's plenty to do in Nagano. From skiing to snow monkeys to making your own soba, this mountainous prefecture has something for every visitor. But some of my favorite memories come from Nagano City itself, wandering the quiet streets as the light from street lanterns cast eerie shadows and the low hum of voices at... Continue Reading →

Experience: Visiting the Snow Monkeys

Up in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture, you might find someone other than your travel partner sharing the onsen with you. You've probably all seen the iconic pictures, a snow-crusted monkey gazing into a camera lens while he luxuriates in the volcanic waters of a hot spring. With a little planning (and some shoes with excellent traction),... Continue Reading →

Experience: Soba Making (Nagano)

Soba (buckwheat noodles) is everywhere in Japan. If you've been here, you've probably had it at some point - in a sit-down restaurant, at a corner stand, or in a bento on the train. But making it? Not many people can claim to have done that. I was curious about the process behind one of my... Continue Reading →

Spotlight: Togakushi (Nagano)

I love autumn. I blame it on growing up in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, whose oaks and maples had a penchant for cloaking themselves in fabulous colors every October. When I was younger, I couldn’t imagine a moer picturesque place to enjoy the fall. And then I moved to Japan. Autumn... Continue Reading →

Manhole Monday: Nagano

This post is part of a series on artistic manhole covers around Japan. The Olympics are over and I'm sad to say I've missed most of them. It seems that every Olympic year, I'm traveling or have just moved and have no access to a TV (and I'll spare you all the rant on how... Continue Reading →

Spotlight: Matsumoto Castle

The medieval gem of Himeji castle is currently undergoing a multi-year restoration and the remains of Edo Castle (now the Imperial Palace) aren't really all that interesting, in my opinion. So where should a traveler go for a good castle experience in Japan? Head for the hills - of Nagano Prefecture, that is - and... Continue Reading →

Experience: Walking the Nakasendo

On any action-packed itinerary of Japan's megacities, one of the best things you can do to escape the crowds is to take a walk in the woods. One of my favorite rambles just happens to have a bit of history to it as well ... Before Japan was crisscrossed by the shinkansen (bullet train), travel... Continue Reading →

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