• Photo: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock


Rimmed by mountains, Nagano has been a temple town since the founding of Zenko-ji in the 7th century. In time for the 1998 Winter Olympics, a new Shinkansen line was built connecting Tokyo and Nagano, and new highways were added to handle the car and bus traffic. Suddenly the fairly inaccessible Alps region was opened to visitors. Tourism peaks in winter when the fresh powder on Nagano's ski hills and its abundant natural hot spring baths draw crowds, but a second boom follows in summer when the mountains open for alpine hiking.

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