Nestled in the central part of Nagano Prefecture is Suwa, a gorgeous city rich in ancient history and nature. Though it is off the beaten path, it is a popular destination among local people and is especially enjoyable during the coldest times of the year. Here are three winter activities you can do in the area!
“Omiwatari” is an ancient tradition in Suwa that usually happens at the end of January. Also known as the “god’s footsteps,” Omiwatari is a natural phenomenon where ice cracks on the frozen Lake Suwa.
People believe that at this time of year, two gods come together from opposite sides of the lake, causing the ice to break once they meet. Once an elevated line of cracked ice appears, it is a sign that the gods have crossed the lake. There are also some who say that the breaking of ice is caused by a dragon crossing the lake.
If the ice is thick enough, a Shinto priest performs a quiet ceremony while walking on the lake. However, the ceremony has been performed less over the years due to the thinning of ice.
Another popular thing to do in Suwa is to watch different kinds of birds such as herons, coots, cormorants, egrets, and many more. Probably the most beautiful bird you can find here is the swan and they cross the ice from time to time. You can also find some ducks which come to the lake earlier and leave later than the swans.
In order to experience more of what Suwa has to offer, you can stay the night (or more) in a hotel with a hot spring to keep warm. One great hot spring hotel you can check out in the area is RAKO Hananoi Hotel.
You can also head to a ski resort such as Fujimi Kougen Resort, which is approximately 40 minutes by car from the downtown area. It provides guests the chance to go skiing and a relaxing haven away from the city bustle.
Suwa is accessible by both express and local trains. If you take the bus from Shinjuku, Tokyo, it will take you around three hours to reach the place. You may also take an overnight bus from Osaka.
Suwa, Nagano is the perfect winter destination! Though blanketed in snow during the cold season, it doesn’t stop offering visitors a plethora of interesting activities.