WHAT TO SEE IN OBUSE? IS OBUSE WORTH A VISIT? WHERE TO STAY IN OBUSE IN JAPAN?
Obuse is not in most guide books, however it’s a beautiful village nestled in the middle of the Japanese Alps which deserves to be visited!
If you are planning a trip in the Nagano prefecture, we highly recommend that you put Obuse on your bucket list.
It is one of the prettiest town in Japan. Oh yeah, we mean it 🙂
Obuse is beautiful in all seasons, just wander around the town to admire its art and its flowers. The village extends from the north of Nagano prefecture to the edge of the Chikuma river. 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 main thing to do in Obuse is to learn more about Hosusaï’s arts.
Obuse is also a pretty town, with many gardens and orchards, also known for its delicious chestnuts. Here is a glimpse of what to expect in Obuse:
So here is our top 10 things to do in Obuse:
1. Learn more about the famous Hokusai
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.
Learn more about Hokusai
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 with 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.
2. Visit the magnificent Ganshô-In Buddhist temple
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 the nature.
This temple, founded over 600 years ago, has been rebuilt three times (the current buildings are “only” 180 years old).
3. Wander through the old town
Take a nice and relaxing stroll in the old town at the center of the city. Enjoy the nicely decorated city, traditional houses, cute shops, and enjoy some delicious Japanese food.
For lunch of 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 on a private garden and the staff really friendly. Check it out here.
4. Admire the beautiful flowers in the city
Obuse is the city of flowers, the alleys are beautifully decorated with flowers, 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 says “OBUSE OPEN GARDEN HOME”. This means you can visit this particular garden.
Obuse is a beautiful city where many people grow their own fruits, vegetables and have many flowers in Spring and Summer. So visiting one of those open garden is a unique and charming experience.
Please be respectful of the garden as you are at someone’s place.
5. Enjoy chestnuts’ dessert of all kinds
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.
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 🙂
6. Go back in time at Jokoji Temple
This temple was one of our favorite in Japan. It’s a 600 years 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.
7. Enjoy some Sake at one of Obuse’s Sake Breweries
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 testing to learn more about this traditional japanese drink and book a tour to visit the Brewery. You can check out their instagram here.
8. Visit Saishoji Temple
Obuse is a city with many temple. Saishoji is worth a visit for its many paintings and nice surroundings. Saiouji is 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.
9. Stroll through Kurinokomichi aka the Chestnut Alley
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 architectures and chestnut trees. It is a great alley for your instagram shot !
10. A visit to Kyakuden is a must while in Obuse
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 of 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 to stay at this hotel, book here.
Things to do outside Obuse:
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.
Where to stay in Obuse?
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 on 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.
In conclusion about the best things to see in Obuse
Obuse was such a pleasant surprise. It was recommended by our host in 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.
15 BEST THINGS TO SEE IN HAKONE NEAR MT. FUJI: here
10 BEST THINGS TO SEE IN MATSUMOTO: here
15 INCREDIBLE THINGS TO SEE AT LAKE KAWAGUCHI: here
30 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN SAPPORO: here
10 BEST THINGS TO SEE IN MONZEN-NAKACHO IN TOKYO: here
EXPLORE KAGURAZAKA, THE THE LITTLE PARIS OF TOKYO: here
VISIT NARAI-JUKU ALONG NAKASENDO: here
DISCOVER JOZANKEI ONSEN IN HOKKAIDO: here
BEST THINGS TO SEE IN KYOTO: here
20 BEST THINGS TO SEE IN OTARU, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN: here
VISITING FURANO IN HOKKAIDO DURING WINTER: here
WHAT TO DO IN NISEKO, HOKKAIDO: here
OBUSE, A BEAUTIFUL TOWN IN JAPAN WORTH A VISIT: here
FULL GUIDE FOR VISITING HAKUBA IN JAPAN: here
12 AWESOME THINGS TO SEE IN LAKE TOYA, HOKKAIDO: here