Modern Nagano prefecture is a landlocked prefecture located in central Honshu. A mountainous region, it is home to the Japanese Alps, a series of mountain ranges that bisect the main island, and a total of nine of Japan’s twelve highest peaks. The region has long been a popular destination for travelers seeking the beauties of mountain landscapes and the pleasures of hot springs. The city of Nagano, formerly in Shinano Province, has been renowned for its temples for over 1,000 years and hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
Ono Waterfall on the Kisokaidō from the series A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces by Katsushika Hokusai, Meiji period reproduction, late 19c (Original c. 1831-1834)
Ono Falls is near the town of Agematsu in Nagano Prefecture and during the Edo period was located on the Kisokaidō, the roadway linking Kyoto and Edo (modern Tokyo) through the central mountains. At 320 miles long, the route was roughly the same length as the Tōkaidō and had a total of sixty-nine stations for travelers to stop, but it was more mountainous so was more challenging and less traveled. On a rocky promontory near the falls stands a small shrine, dedicated to the kami, or god, of the waterfall. Many religious adepts performed ritual purifications under such waterfalls, especially during winter, when the water was particularly icy. The travelers here, however, are merely enjoying the spectacular view.
Moon Viewing over Sarashina Rice Fields by Yōshū Chikanobu, 1891
Chikanobu depicts the fascinating phenomenon of the full moon reflected on flooded rice fields in Shinano Province (modern Nagano Prefecture). Hiroshige illustrated this famous view, well-known to travelers, in a print from 1853. In Chikanobu’s image, almost 40 years later, four kimono-clad women are enjoying the view of the fields from a rustic pavilion where tea and sweets are served. In the distance, a mountain appears to be cradling the moon.
Nagano Outdoor Activity
#ASMR Japan | Jigokudani Monkey Park
Off the beaten path in a valley situated in the northern part of Nagano prefecture, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is home to bands of Japanese macaque monkeys who roam the steep cliffs but come down in the winter to soak in natural hot springs, offering visitors the unique experience of seeing these wild creatures up close. More commonly known as Snow Monkeys, the macaques enjoy spending time by the hot springs, soaking in the warmth of the waters and enjoying food served by park attendants.
Explore Each Region
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Nature: The Beauty of the Japanese Landscape
Main Exhibition & Virtual Tour
*Note: Japanese names in this exhibition are written in the traditional Japanese order, with the family name first and personal name last. However, if an artist has come to be known by a single name, (e.g., Hokusai and Kunisada) that name will be used for subsequent mentions.