Obuse is not in most guide books, however, it’s a beautiful village nestled in the middle of the Japanese Alps that deserves to be visited!

If you are planning a trip to the Nagano prefecture, we highly recommend that you put Obuse on your bucket list.

It is one of the prettiest towns in Japan. Oh yeah, we mean it 🙂

Guide to Obuse in Japan

Key Takeaways from a Visit to Obuse:

– Obuse is beautiful in all seasons, just wander around the town to admire its art and its flowers.
– ​Obuse is also a pretty town, with many gardens and orchards, also known for its delicious chestnuts.
– Hokusai a famous Japanese Painter, and author of the world-famous work “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” made Obuse a place of interest for tourists.


History of Obuse in Japan

It is thanks to this river that Obuse became the economic and cultural center of the province of Shinshû at the time of Edo.

It all began at the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), when Kozan Takai, a Confucian painter traveled to Edo (former Tokyo) and met the already famous artist Hokusaï Katsushika. A few years later, Hokusaï visited Kozan’s house in Obuse.  It’s the beginning of an artistic friendship.

Kozan comes from a wealthy family of sake merchants. He loves art but above all becomes a teacher for artists, especially for Hokusaï. He made him build a workshop in Obuse to allow him to devote himself fully to painting. One of the main things to do in Obuse is to learn more about Hosusaï’s arts. 


From Hokusai Museum

Visit the Hokusai Museum where many of the painter’s work is displayed. It is a beautiful museum worth a visit.

Kozan Takai Museum is also very interesting. You can see his major work exhibited in the museum. It was also the artist’s lounge, where Hokusai’s studio is located.  This is probably the #1 attraction in Obuse. 

Hokusai 3

The most famous Japanese artist of ukiyo-e during the Edo period (1603–1868), Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) is the author of a world-famous work: “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” (1831). Hokusai called himself “the drawing madman”.

He also became famous for his popular erotic or fantastic prints, as well as his important collection of varied patterns and sketches: the Hokusai manga.

Learning more about this unique artist in Obuse is very interesting and part of Japanese culture. We loved it.

Ganshoin Temple in Obuse

This is where you can admire Hokusai’s great work painted on the ceiling, the Dai Hôô Zu, a flaming phoenix left during his last visit to Obuse. The arrival at the temple is mesmerizing with all the trees, mountains and various colors of nature.

This temple, founded over 600 years ago, has been rebuilt three times (the current buildings are “only” 180 years old). 


Take a nice and relaxing stroll in the old town in the center of the city. Enjoy the nicely decorated city, traditional houses, and cute shops, and enjoy some delicious Japanese food.

For lunch or dinner, we highly recommend a place called: 桜井甘精堂 泉石亭 (Senseki). It was suggested by a local friend. The food is outstanding, the place really beautiful with the view of a private garden and the staff really friendly. Check it out here.

Obuse is the city of flowers, the alleys are beautifully decorated with flowers, and maintained by the locals themselves. For fun, visit Obuse’s Floral Garden with its 15,000 m² garden and greenhouse and four-season flowers.

You can also visit the Open Garden project: 128 gardens open to everyone, including private individuals who show you around. While walking through the city you may see some signs in front of the garden entrance which say “OBUSE OPEN GARDEN HOME”. This means you can visit this particular garden.

Obuse is a beautiful city where many people grow their own fruits, and vegetables and have many flowers in Spring and Summer. So visiting one of those open gardens is a unique and charming experience.

Please be respectful of the garden as you are at someone’s place. 

Chestnut Dessert Restaurant in Obuse

Obuse has also been the city of chestnut trees since the time of Muromachi (1338-1573). A wealthy trader which brought back a chestnut from Tamba (near Kyoto). Perfectly suited to the Obuse climate, this tree became the icon of the city.

Take the opportunity to stroll through the alleys with large chestnut trees, especially the kuri no komichi with wooden cobblestones.

Several restaurants and pastries offer their chestnut specialties. Taste the chestnut rice at Chikufûdô, or the Obuse youkan at Sakurai kanseidô.  

This Japanese pastry, usually made from red bean puree, is made here with chestnut puree. Last culinary step: Mont Blanc Suzaku from Obusedô, a real delight!  Every fall the queues overflow into the street for the privilege of tasting this wonder. Super yummy 🙂 

Jokoji Templein Obuse, Japan

This temple was one of our favorites in Japan. It’s a 600 year old temple. The road to the temple has a mysterious feeling, made of stone randomly lined up on the grounds which form some unique stairs.

The stairs invite you to enter the forest, accompanied by a superb alley of cedars. After climbing the stairs you will be rewarded with a beautiful and ancient temple nestled in the forest. A must-see. 

Here, the setting and landscape are beautiful. We really like this atmosphere in Japan where you literally enter another world after a few steps, while the moment before we were still in a residential area. 

We continued the walk by getting a little higher up the hill, through the cemetery. The beautiful morning light created a superb play of shades and lights through the trees: what a magical moment it was! Just for this temple, we were glad we came to Obuse. And Jokoji was only one of the good surprises in this town. 

Sake in Japan

You can go to Masuichi Sake Brewery which was Kouzan Takai’s home or go to Kokuhei. Many Japanese travel to Obuse to buy some famous Sake.

Join a Sake tasting to learn more about this traditional Japanese drink and book a tour to visit the Brewery. You can check out their Instagram here.

Saishoji in Omori - 01

Obuse is a city with many temples. Saishoji is worth a visit for its many paintings and nice surroundings. Saiouji is a more than 500-year-old temple. It is part of the Joudo Jinshuu Honganji sect. On the ceiling of the main temple building you can see a painting of Byodo-in made with beautiful, gentle color usage.


Kurinokomich is a scenic alley paved with chestnut wood. It’s something we’ve never seen before. It makes the street look so beautiful. The alley is also surrounded by traditional Japanese architecture and chestnut trees. It is a great alley for your Instagram shot!


Kyakuden is a beautiful and traditional hotel in Japan as well as a Library. The hotel is part of Obusedo – an amazing restored network of very old buildings run by the Ichimura family, including a sake brewery, several restaurants, chestnut confectioners, a library as well as the hotel. 

The hotel only has a dozen rooms displayed around the traditional building. Inside it feels like a stylish retreat. It is worth a visit while walking around the old town of Obuse. If you stay at Obuse overnight, we highly recommend staying at this hotel, book here

Obuse Japan

Make sure to plan a trip to see the Snow Monkey, Togakushi Forest and Shrines, Zenko-ji Temple in Nagano, and Matsumoto Castle. We wrote another post here about other things to do around Nagano and Hakuba. 

Obuse doesn’t have many options to stay overnight. Most people would stop in Obuse for a day trip on their way to visit the Snow Monkey. However, if you want to enjoy some peaceful time and have the town almost all to yourself, we recommend that you stay at Kyakuden.

There is also an Onsen a bit outside of town, called Ankannon no Yu if you want to relax. But you can’t stay overnight.

You can find more hotel choices in Nagano here.


obuse, nagano

Obuse was such a pleasant surprise. It was recommended by our host while we stayed in Hakuba. We’ve never heard of this place before but fell in love with it right away. We understood why Holusai liked to spend his time here.

Obuse is so beautiful and peaceful. A real hidden gem in Japan.

Check out the detailed guide of Obuse in English here.

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