Travel, Travel Journal

Going SOLO in NAGANO part 1

Hello everyone! Welcome to Autumn in Japan blog series.

Last week, I found out about a bus company called Willer Express and decided to take a bus ride to Nagano city.

It was only 3,800JPY for a roundtrip bus ticket from Shinjuku to Nagano. It was really cheap because of the roundtrip discount! Plus, the seat is for women only and looked really comfortable.

They have other types of seats but I am planning to try them out for my future blog post.

Then I went on booking.com and found Hotel Sunroute offering their non-smoking double room for only 8,300JPY. I didn’t mind not having any meals for my stay, it’s right across the Nagano station so I have plenty of options.

Now that I booked everything, I was still nervous about this solo trip. It was my FIRST solo travel to Nagano and frankly, I was expecting the worst.

Why did I do it anyway? Honestly, I wanted something new on my blog. I always blog about my travels with my husband or my friends and that we usually do a road trip or take the bullet train.

Here I am doing a solo bus ride off to another prefecture, a city surrounded by mountains. It reminds me of my hometown, Marikina city. Just like Marikina city, Nagano city is a Valley or a basin.

They call it the Zenkoji basin where most of its local residents live. The city’s center is the Zenkoji Temple surrounded by mountains covered by trees. Hence, I fell in love with the city surrounded by the mountain’s Autumn foliage.

Willer express has their own bus stop in front of the Nagano Station EAST exit. It was very convenient for me because the Hotel Sunroute Higashiguchi is right across the street. I arrived there around 10am so it was still early to check-in. I visited the Tourist Information center inside the Nagano station instead.

I recommend this to anyone since the information is updated and has everything you need to know about sightseeing.

The English Nagano Magazine gave clear instructions on how to use the local bus but it also made me realize that I cannot explore Nagano city in two days, not if I am using the local bus.

So I focused on what’s a walkable distance from the station and that’s the Zenkoji Omotesando.

Omotesando literally means “the road in front of the Temple/Shrine.” Just like Tokyo’s Omotesando which leads up to Meiji Jingu Shrine.

For the record, I took 20,900 steps that day. Aside from intentionally getting lost, winding up in front of the prefecture office and stumbling upon Himawari park’s vibrant Autumn colors, I was able to conquer the main streets of Zenkoji Omotesando.

I was almost considering to live there, but of course, winter will be colder than Tokyo.

Anyway, along the road, you will see stone guideposts starting across Nagano Station Zenkoji exit. I initially ignored it but I found my way back and saw there were also stone lanterns along the way. By the time I reached Daimon, I think the road started to get noisy as cars pass by.

Turns out, this is where the stone-paved street starts and it’s all the way up to the Temple entrance. It was mentioned that they use 7,777 stones to cover 450m road.

It also got a bit busier when I entered the Zenkoji Nakamise-dori. I would’ve bought some souvenirs there since it was lined by shops but there are also souvenir shops inside the station.

When I reached the Sanmon gate, I zoomed in my camera lens to try and spot the birds they incorporated on the Kanji character. I was told by my mother-in-law that it represents peace. And there it was, the first 2 strokes of the first character for “Zenkoji” looks like 2 birds perched on top of it.

I did not explore the inner temples or anything that requires an admission fee because the main attraction of this season is outside! Zenkoji’s autumn foliage is nothing but spectacular. The temple grounds were covered in gradient fall colors against the mountains’ autumn foliage, I just couldn’t be inside.

After getting enough footage for my travel vlog, I went out of the temple grounds and ended up at Joyama park. From there I rode the bus back to the station and finally checked-in at the hotel.

I was super happy with the room because it’s at the corner and on the 8th floor. I have a lot of space and can view Nagano city’s skyline against the mountains. The bed was clean and comfortable. The bathroom wasn’t modern but still clean and served its purpose.

So my first day in Nagano was amazing and I can’t wait to share with you guys. I will be posting it next weekend!

That’s it for now, everyone! Have a beautiful day!

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