Where is Nagano?
Nagano is located Northwest of Tokyo. It’s only 1 hour and 30 minutes by JR Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo station.
What is the best way to get to Nagano?
There’s a direct flight from San Diego to Narita daily, operated by Japan Air Lines. If you choose to fly from LAX, keep in mind that there are 2 international airports in Tokyo area, Narita and Haneda.
・From Narita to Nagano
Take Narita Express from the Terminal train station to JR Tokyo train station. From Tokyo, take JR Hokuriku Shinkansen, to Nagano.
・From Haneda to Nagano
Take Monorail from the International Terminal station to JR Hamamatsu train station (13 minutes). From Hamamatsu, take JR Yamanote Line, to Tokyo (6 minutes). From Tokyo, take the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano.
How do I get to the Temple Lodging by Zenkoji?
Once you arrive at Nagano train station, you will use the West exit, also known as Zenkoji exit. Once you step outside, you will take a bus ( 10-15 minutes, about 2 dollars) to get to the Zenkoji entrance gate. You will ride from the bus terminal #1, and all the buses from #1 stops at Zenkoji. Busses leave every 4-10 minutes. Or you may take a taxi (10 minutes and about 15 dollars). From the bus stop, Daimon gate, it is one straight street up to the Zenkoji temple. I will provide a map to get to the temple lodging.
What about renting a car?
You don’t need to rent a car in Tokyo, Nagano, or any other big cities in Japan. Public transportation is safe and dependable.
I want to explore other parts of Japan before or after yoga retreat. What do you recommend?
Arrive a couple of days before retreat to explore Tokyo. It has so much to offer! You will get rid of jet-lag and be ready for the retreat. After the retreat, your options are endless. You can take a bullet train from Nagano to Kanazawa, main hub in North western Japan for JR Shinkansen, to go to Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. Or you can go back to Tokyo and explore more!
There are so many hotels in Tokyo, but I will list several hotels for their convenient location and reasonable price. Located at the Tokyo station, Tokyo Station Hotel, is a historical and newly renovated hotel. Not too far from Tokyo station, MITSUI GARDEN HOTEL KYOBASHI, and HOTEL RYUMEIKAN TOKYO are recommended by my friend who actually stayed there. Shinagawa Prince Hotel is across the street from JR Shinagawa train station, and also recommended by someone who stayed there. Once you arrive at Narita airport and get on the Narita express, Shinagawa is one of the stops before you get to the Tokyo station. Shinagawa is not too far from Shibuya (known for a famous intersection appeared in the movie “Lost in Translation”). Not as expensive as hotels in Shibuya.
Will my cellular phone work in Japan?
Please consult with your cellular phone carrier for the international calls. Extra roaming fees may apply for all the calls.
What about Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is available at many public places in Tokyo and Nagano. However, public Wi-Fi is not dependable and secure. I highly recommend getting a personal Wi-Fi router at the airport; it’s inexpensive and very reliable. If you have Skype, LINE or WhatsApp, you are able to make phone calls to the person in the US using the Wi-Fi.
At Retreat site
What is 宿坊, the temple lodging and what does it offer?
Temple lodging, also known as Shukubo, was originally for the Buddhist monks. The temple lodging became available for ordinary pilgrims around 1,200 years ago during the Heian Period. Shukubo is similar to traditional Japanese inns but at a shukubo you can join in morning prayers with the temple monks and eat shojin cuisine – the special vegetarian meal for monks. The rooms are traditional Japanese rooms with tatami mats. To learn more about Shukubo, here is the link. Shukubo has gender designated bath/shower room with soaking bath for guests.
Onsen, public hot spring bath is 20 minutes walk from the temple lodging. This facility offers restaurants, relaxation room, jacuzzi, dry sauna, wet sauna, body and foot massage, body scrub, and spa treatment. Japanese love to go to onsen and spend hours immersing themselves in a natural hot spring bath. Treat yourself for a spa day at reasonable price. Here is the website.
How do I take a hot spring public bath in Japan?
First and foremost, Japanese hot springs are enjoyed naked. Swimming suits are not allowed. However, it is ok to bring a small towel into the bathing area for your privacy. You can cover your body with the towel while outside of the water. Once you enter the bath tub, please keep the towel out of the water.
Bring the towel, shampoo/conditioner, and a soap to wash. Once you enter the bathing area, secure the wash station with a shallow wash bowl and a bath chair provided. Shower, wash and get cleaned up. If you have long hair, please tie in a knot. Then soak in the bath tub. Note that the bath water can be very hot. Typical temperatures are 40 to 44 degrees Celsius (104-111F). If you are not used to it or it feels too hot, enter very slowly with your feet. There is an outside bathing area in most places. It feels cooler, as the temperature of the outside is a lot colder than inside. Repeat soaking as you please. Before exiting, do not rinse with tap water. Keep the minerals of hot spring water on your body.
Are there places to go during the retreat?
Zenkoji is one of the most visited, popular temples in Japan. More information about this historical temple can be found on this website. The temple offers a guided tour in English as well.
Snow Monkey Park Not only human but monkeys also love taking a natural hot spring bath in Japan, especially during the winter snowy season. It is 50 minutes away by bus from Nagano train station. Once you arrive at the park, be prepared to walk for 30 minutes to see monkeys. There is no guarantee that they will be taking a bath when we go to Nagano in late October, however it is worth while going to see wild monkeys in a mountain. There is an admission fee to the park. You will not get your money back even if you didn’t see monkeys taking a bath. This website has a live streaming camera. Please check out the video before you leave.
Togakushi Shrine is considered to be one of the power spots by many, and is known for its mystical trails leading up to the shrine. Going there is easy by taking a bus, for about 1 hour. Please wear comfortable shoes, as you may walk a lot of stairs. Togakushi Buckwheat noodles are famous.
Matsumoto is1 hour away by JR train from Nagano. The city of Matsumoto is famous for Matsumoto castle, one of five castles designated as ‘National Treasures of Japan’ and the oldest castle donjon remaining in Japan. The Matsumoto castle is about a 15 minute walk from Matsumoto Station. This website of Matsumoto tourism has a lot of information.
Obuse is a small town near Nagano, about 30 minutes by Naganno Railway (not JR). Hokusai Katushika , a renowned woodblock painter during Edo era, spent the later years of his life in Obuse, and there is a Hokusai museum. Obuse is also renowned for its chestnut confectionary. Here is the link for Obuse.
Kanazawa is a capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. It is just 1 hour away by bullet train from Nagano. It will be a great half-day trip. Kanazawa offers many historical attractions such as restored residences and districts, as well as modern museums. But Kanazawa's most popular attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan's "three best landscape gardens” and by many considered the most beautiful of them all. Also, Kanazawa has one of Japan’s top fish markets, with bountiful catches of wild, deep-sea prawns, seabass, and snow crab. Kanazawa offers one of the best sushi spots in Japan.
What type of food is famous in Nagano?
Nagano is known for Shinshu Soba, buckwheat noodles. The most popular style of eating the freshly boiled, slightly “al dente” noodles is to dip in a soy-sauce based broth. Pickled Nozawana greens are also popular. Nozawana is a Japanese leaf vegetable. Each household has their own unique recipe of pickling. It has crisp texture and goes well with rice. In Autumn, apples and mushrooms are harvested. Oyaki is a Japanese dumpling, made with fermented buckwheat dough. It is wrapped with various fillings, and steamed or broiled.
Are there Washers and Dryers?
At the temple lodging, there are no washer or dryer for guests.