Shinanomachi was the first town in Japan to conduct medical research on the mental and physical healing effects of forest environments, and is widely known as a leader in forest therapy. Conducted in partnership with doctors and universities, this research confirmed that forest therapy has a number of medical benefits such as lowering blood pressure, reducing stress hormones, and increasing immune activity. The healing power of the forest can bring back “time lost” to today’s stress-filled society. Welcome to Iyashi no Mori Healing Forest, Japan’s highlands resort!
Formed when volcanic debris from Mt. Kurohime created a dam, Lake Nojiri is designated a special area within the Myoko–Togakushi Renzan National Park and still offers outstanding lake scenery. Lake Nojiri is also well known as a summer retreat for residents of Japan from overseas, a tradition that began in 1922 when missionary Daniel Norman left Karuizawa, which he felt had become too famous, in search of a climate similar to his native Canada. Learning of refreshing Lake Nojiri and its mountainous, forested surroundings, he established a retreat for foreign residents in the Kamiyama area along the lake’s southwest shores. Because local residents have always prioritized conservation, Lake Nojiri avoided the over-development of Japan’s “leisure boom” years and remains a beautiful spot. Uga Shrine, founded in 730, stands on Biwa Island (also known as Benten Island). The shrine’s current main sanctuary was built in 1655. The island and shrine can be reached by pleasure cruiser, canoe, or rowboat, and many people come from far away to pray.
Part of a national park, Mt.Kurohime is sometimes called the Mt. Fuji of the Shinano region because of its conical shape. The Kurohime Kogen highlands spread out at the mountain’s eastern foot. Local ski resorts offer 100% natural powder snow in the winter while summer brings beautiful cosmos flowers and autumn colorful foliage. There are many small hotels, pensions, and rental cottages in the area where you can stay and relax in whatever style suits you, whether you prefer the cool, refreshing summers or the magical snowy winters.
Shinanomachi has many individualistic and homey accommodation facilities including highlands pensions, large-scale resort hotels, cozy inns, and lakeside guesthouses.
These small accommodation facilities, usually family run, typically offer a night’s lodging together with dinner and breakfast. Each pension has its own personality—whether preparing meals using vegetables from its own garden, offering guided nature tours by the owner, or the opportunity to stay in a detached log house—so you are sure to find one that suits you.
Guesthouses offer basic lodging with a minimum of amenities and no meals, usually with shared, dormitory-style rooms and the opportunity to interact with other travelers in a living room or common space. There are guesthouses connected to outdoor schools and to restaurants and bars, making it easy to enjoy outdoor activities throughout the year as well as the company of fellow travelers.
Distinctive hotels can be found dotting each of Shinanomachi’s three areas: Kurohime, Lake Nojiri, and Madarao. In addition to location, facilities, and meals, also be sure to check the building’s atmosphere, interior furnishings, and the activities available so you can find the one that best suits your tastes and you travel style.