About Nagano

Nagano MarkerYou might remember Nagano as host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. That's all I knew about the city when I was offered a job teaching English in Nagano. A little more research revealed a city of 350,000 surrounded by mountains and linked to Tokyo via a 105-minute ride on the Shinkansen.

Nagano was founded around the temple, Zenkoji, for which the city is now famous (see information at right). It's a quiet city, and seen as somewhat culturally conservative by some of its residents. But as capital of Nagano Prefecture, the city is home to one of the more progressive governors in Japan, the famous writer, Yasuo Tanaka.

There are dozens of ski resorts within a two hour drive from the city, and the snow in the region is great. As in most of the rest of Japan, hot springs are everywhere. Most of my days on the slopes were followed by a visit to a public bath.

Life in Nagano was good. It was much cheaper than life in Tokyo would have been, yet the big city was easily accessible. And the easy availability of outdoor recreation offered endless activities.


Panorama Images of Nagano

Downtown Nagano
As with most cities in Japan, Nagano's "downtown" encircles the train station. This view is looking out from the station's east exit.
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Downtown Nagano Night View
A night view from the same vantage point as the panorama above.
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Nagano Skyline
Looking towards downtown, with hills in the background — Mt. Izuna is the tallest. This is a typically hazy summer day.
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Nagano on map of Japan =========================

Zenkoji Temple

zenkoji templeThe temple of Zenkoji has been around for more than 1,300 years, and is well-known throughout Japan as keeper of the first image of Buddha to arrive in the country, around 700 A.D. There are whispers that this golden statue no longer really exists, but most people are content to go along with the notion that it's locked safely away in the temple. Every seven years, a replica of the statue is shown to the public in a month-long event that in 2003 attracted seven million visitors.

Photos of Zenkoji Go-kai-chyou ceremony

Zenkoji is an active temple, and is run by an abbot and an abbess. It is one of the few temples that allowed women to pray during the feudal years of the shoguns.

========================= Nagano Green Hills

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