Things to Do in Nagano
In the year 642, Zenko-ji Temple was founded when one of the earliest Buddhist statues in Japan, brought over from the Korean Peninsula, was enshrined at the site. Today, the temple is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the country, as well as Japan’s third largest wooden structure, with the entire town of Nagano built up around it.
The structure as it stands today dates back to 1707 and contains a large hall displaying a variety of Buddhist statuary, a main alter and an underground passage beneath the alter where visitors can pass in complete darkness, feeling for a single key on the wall -- the key to paradise -- that’s believed to grand salvation to any who touch it.
Behind the main temple, a newer pagoda houses the Zenko-ji History Museum with its collection of statues of the Buddha and his disciples.
If you’ve been captivated by photos of furry macaques sitting in steaming hot water, surrounded by snow, head to the Jigokudani Monkey Park (Jigokudani Yaen Koen). Located in the Joshinetsu-Kogen National Park, in Nagano Prefecture, this is believed to be the only place in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs
Located at the base of Shiga Kogen, Yudanaka Onsen is a popular hot springs resort with a history dating back more than 1,300 years. Visitors come to this charming, traditional town to soak in a variety of hot spring baths, or onsens. Yudanaka Onsen also offers easy access to the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park.
The Izu Shaboten Zoo is a “free-range” zoo, where animals such as pelicans, squirrel monkeys, and kangaroos roam freely around the park. A highlight is the capybara onsen (hot-spring bath)—definitely an unusual sight. The zoo has five pyramid-style greenhouses where tropical plants are cultivated, especially cacti and succulents.