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Yet another gate in Togakushi.

22 Days in Japan, Day 18: Exploring Togakushi

February 12, 2012 in Featured, Travel

It’s a dark, cloudy day. The sun is nowhere to be found in Nagano.

Since the ryokan (Japanese inn) that I’m currently staying in isn’t close to Togura station (about a 25 minute walk), Tyler the innkeeper gives me a lift, getting there just as the train is coming in.

This entry is part of a series, 22 Days in Japan: A Series»

Yet again, I find myself rushing to catch a train that I’m pretty sure will zoom away while I attempt to chase it down – you know, like in the movies. But karma’s on my side today, because I actually make the train, thanks to a system they have here – if you don’t have time to buy a ticket, the clerk at the desk gives you a slip of paper that allows you to pay at your ending station. And they don’t charge you some stupid surcharge like NJ Transit.

Nagano City is kind of like Nagoya, minus the mountains in the distance.

It's Nagano City!

It's Nagano City!

The train station is a sort of two-leveled strip mall of sorts, and there’s a variety of restaurants, convenience stores, and the ubiquitous Yenshop. There’s a shopping mall close by the station with a nice selection of eateries in the basement.

A view of the statue in front of the Nagano City train station.

A view of the statue in front of the Nagano City train station.

For now, I’m off to take a bus (bus stops are located right in front of the station) to the fabled land known as Togakushi. I’ve since learned that the roads in Togakushi are as bad – or worse – as you’ve heard about Japanese mountain roads. Ever heard of Initial D? It’s a famous anime series/live-action movie that stars a kid who tears down mountain roads at blinding speeds. My version is called Initial C, and it’s about a guy in a large bus tearing through mountain roads at 2 mph.

By the time I get to Togakushi, the rain is coming down nicely. I’m ready with a pair of rain boots that was graciously lent to me by the innkeeper. that are, quite unfortunately, at least 3 sizes too large. Maybe more. So I came up with this brilliant idea of stuffing my boxers (as in boxer shorts) into them so they could fit. Okay, it was actually a terrible idea and I’m now walking around Togakushi with MY BOXERS IN MY BOOTS. This is beyond embarrassing.

The entrance to Togakushi: take the straight 2km path, or wind around the botanical gardens.

The entrance to Togakushi: take the straight 2km path, or wind around the botanical gardens.

The main attraction in Togakushi is the shrine, and the 2km path that precedes it. You can either take the direct path, or take a stroll through the botanical gardens on the side. I opt for the latter, and slosh around in the mud (thank goodness for oversized rain boots, I guess) for an hour before I make it to the shrine entrance.

A map of Togakushi forest preceding the gate.

A map of Togakushi forest preceding the gate.

The gateway leading to the shrine is kind of, really, seriously deceptive. After the long trek, you’ve finally arrived at the shrine, where you can pay your respects and all that jazz, right? Noooo-pe! The actual shrine is further up, way up, through a long path that slowly gets steeper and more treacherous as you get closer to the top. By treacherous I mean lots of medium-sized rocks and rock stairs on the path digging into your feet and making the ground completely uneven. You do get treated to some views of giant trees, like the redwoods in California, and some great viewing spots/picture-taking areas by a stream running parallel to the path.

Gigantic trees line the sides of the main path up to the shrine.

Gigantic trees line the sides of the main path up to the shrine.

I'm a sucker for cool-looking bridges and streams.

I'm a sucker for cool-looking bridges and streams.

A set of stairs venturing deeper int o Togakushi forest.

A set of stairs venturing deeper int o Togakushi forest.

For what it’s worth, the shrine is pretty lame. But it’s more about the trip there and back.

Here's your reward for climbing to the top of the Togakushi path: a shrine.

Here's your reward for climbing to the top of the Togakushi path: a shrine.

There are other notable spots in the Togakushi area, like a Ninja museum for kids (tourist trap warning?), random ice cream stores, and a ski resort. I can’t vouch for the quality of any of these, however.

I spend my afternoon traipsing about Nagano City, going through various nooks and crannies. Among one of my sadder findings:

The Olympic closing ceremony stuff strewn around a parking lot.

You can visit the place (I think?) where the Olympics' closing ceremonies were held. It's been reduced to a rusted parking lot, merely a shadow of its former self.

***

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Pam
4/1/2012
7:57 am

kyoto use to be japan former iptcaal. Now everyone know is tokyo. Hope u enjoy ur trip n more sharing pls as i once stay there for couple years. Miss all this places. JTB.. Ha ha very familiar tour agent i had work side by side.

 


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