Come to Nagano for world-class outdoor sports, and stay for townscapes from the samurai era, vibrant festivals and abundant hot springs
Host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano is an outdoor sports mecca particularly famous for skiing and snowboarding. Often called the “roof of Japan,” it boasts the highest mountain ranges in the country. Enclaves of rural culture continue much as they have for centuries, with the villages of Tsumago and Narai appearing as if they were plucked straight from a samurai film. Raucous festivals and the stately black walls of Matsumoto Castle also survive intact, as do rustic onsen villages with their relaxing mountain ambiance. Karuizawa has a casual cosmopolitan atmosphere, with plenty of quirky pensions.