Nagano Alpine Adventure: Truly An Eye-Opener

SIDE STORY: 
*You are excused to skip this and jump to the main story if you are pressed with time.

Japan is next on our family's travel bucketlist. We have been dreaming of a winter vacation for the longest time and a trip to Hokkaido or Tokyo is on the cards, likely first quarter of next year. We actually planned for end of this year but due to time and budget restrictions, we postponed it to a later date. My hubby is rooting for the Hokkaido Winter Festival which falls on the first two weeks of February 2018 whilst I am still undecided if we should do Tokyo Disney Resort instead.

Having divulged our plans, I have to admit Nagano never really crossed our minds as our family's next travel destination. To be honest, whenever we travel with the kids in tow, we tend to do all the touristy stuff which in my opinion can get pretty predictable and non-adventurous in nature. Think theme parks and city tours, it's getting boring for us adults if I must say so.

MAIN STORY:


I was invited to watch the special screening of Nagano Alpine Adventure at Japan Rail Cafe last weekend and it opened my eyes to a totally different world I never imagined considering as our family's first Japan travel experience. The said show is one of NHK WORLD's special series, "A Peak at Nagano" which promotes Nagano tourism.

Photo credit: Go! Nagano
Like I said, watching the show was an eye-opening experience for me. Whenever I come across the words snow capped alps, the first thing that comes to my mind is the world renowned Swiss Alps. I never knew Nagano, Japan also boasts picturesque vistas of alps similar to Switzerland's until I watched Nagano Alpine Adventure.

Nevertheless, if you are not so much of a nature lover, Nagano has so much more to offer apart from being surrounded by breathtaking scenery. The two foreign tour guides in the show who are from India and Italy respectively took us on a virtual bicycle tour through the lush paddy fields of Azumino City and introduced us to Nagano's rich history and culture. The tour is all about why the tour guides decided to make Nagano their home away from home and why you should visit Nagano.

Here are the highlights of the show:

1) CASTLES IN NAGANO

Nagano Alpine Adventure introduced us to some of Nagano's historical castles including Matsumoto Castle, Himeji Castle, Zenkoji Castle and Moto-Zenkoji Castle.

Photo credit: Go! Nagano
Matsumoto Castle, also known as "Crow Castle", is one of Japan's premier historic castles along with Himeji Castle and Kumamoto Castle. It has a black exterior which makes it the extreme opposite of the Himeji Castle which boasts snow-white exterior. Being listed as a National Treasure of Japan, its wooden interior and external stonework are maintained to keep its unique charm.

2) CYCLING TOUR

Photo credit: NHK World Nagano
Like I said earlier, the show took us on a cycling tour in Azumino City. The city is located about 10-20km northwest of Matsumoto City. The area has no route bus so the only way to explore the city is by taxi, rental bicycle or on foot. The tour guide chose to rent a tandem bicycle for him and his son and he brought us on a virtual tour to the beautiful mountain and river views of the city and let us discover where to find the best place to eat soba noodle with special sauce.

3) LOCAL DELICACIES

Nagano Alpine Adventure introduced us to Nagano's local delicacies including a grasshopper dish and soba. Soba is either eaten dipped on a special sauce with wasabi or eaten with soup which has pork, mushroom, mountain vegetables and fried tofu. Grasshoppers on the other hand is flavoured with soy sauce, mirin and sake and has nice crunch. Apparently, Nagano prefecture is also  known for its horse meat and bee larvae. While I am an avid fan of soba and I have had a taste of grasshopper in the Philippines, I don't think I can eat horse meat and bee larvae.

4) CRUISE TRAINS

For a memorable travel experience, sightseeing trains in Nagano meant for tourists also boast luxurious interior, large viewing windows and gourmet food on board. Rokumon train in particular runs between Karuizawa and Nagano stations. According to Mayumi, the event's emcee, the train was actually a recycled one. A very old train was given a new leash of life after giving its exterior and interior a major revamp.

While researching about Rokumon, I found out that it is composed of three carriages with distinct interior features, including a carriage furnished like a traditional Japanese restaurant with private dining cabins separated with sliding rice-paper doors to allow the passengers to enjoy the scenic view of Mt. Asama while savoring the washoku dishes. 

5) SUWA FIREWORKS

I have never seen such mind-boggling fireworks display in my life until I watched Nagano Alpine Adventure which featured Suwa Lake Fireworks Festival. I was wowed just by watching it on screen, watching it in real life is totally unimaginable I may have to pinch myself if it ever happens. 

This particular fireworks festival has double the number of fireworks (40,000 to be exact) compared to the other two popular fireworks festival in Japan which only features 15,000 to 20,000 fireworks. The best part is, this festival is held every 15th of August which coincidentally falls on my husband and my daughter's birthday. Isn't that a good sign?

Source: www.hikyaku.com
Are you convinced now that Nagano is Japan's must visit? I am! Watch the show and you'll be sure to make up your mind considering Nagano as your next travel destination. As seen in the map above, Nagano is actually accessible both from Nagoya and Tokyo.

As I age, I long to do deep travel which involves getting to know the locals more and soaking in the culture, sights, tastes and sounds of a certain city. I now have one big problem! I have to choose Hokkaido, Tokyo or Nagano for our next family travel! Nagano truly captured my heart after watching the show.

Although the programme was aired last week on TV, it is still available online on NHK WORLD's video-on-demand (VOD) page, so make sure to watch it! Besides Nagano Alpine Adventure, there are other Nagano features on programmes like "Journeys in Japan" and "Japan Railway Journal" which you can find on NHK WORLD's VOD too.

For those living in Singapore, you can watch NHK WORLD on TV, via Singtel (Ch. 157) or Starhub (Ch. 812). Alternatively, you can stream programmes LIVE or access tons of awesome programmes via the VOD services which is available on NHK WORLD's official website, as well as the free smartphone app!
NHK WORLD is a 24-hour English TV channel of Japan's only public broadcasting station , NHK. You can catch the latest news and trends from Japan and it has a wide variety of programmes that covers topics like food, travel, culture and many more. 

7 comments:

  1. Gee Japan is one of my dream destinations! Having read this has made me even more curious! I'd love to tour the place riding a bike! πŸ˜€ I am so looking forward to your Japan posts! Love yah and am your number one travel fan!

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  2. A true eye opener adventurous tour

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  3. Love the adventures (and food too) with a nice Mountain backdrop! This trip could be a dream come true for me and family.

    cheers, Andy
    (SengkangBabies.com)

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  4. Visited Nagano many moons back so I have vague memories of it but anywhere in Japan is always a good choice :) Heading back to it this Dec and I seriously cannot wait for the trip!! hehe

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

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  5. Japan has always been one of our fave travel destinations..will definitely KIV Nagano when we're planning to revisit Japan in time to come πŸ˜‰ Thks for your kind sharing!

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  6. Japan is a dream. I am waiting for my kids to grow up a bit more so that we all can equally enjoy the trip. Lovely piece of info here, Cherry!

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  7. Such a shame that we have still not visited Japan and I am super impressed with all Japan photos.

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