Located in a valley at the heart of the Japanese Alps Mountain range, Azumino offers a true escape into Japan’s natural countryside. Azumino’s history, culture and beautiful landscape make it a must-see destination when visiting Matsumoto. With its vital agricultural activity, its strong local identity and picturesque mountains, Azumino is an ideal location in which to sample the best there is!
A worldwide reputation thanks to the local Wasabi
Azumino is best known throughout Japan and around the world for the simple reason, it has some of the best local Wasabi. The city has a unique geographical location that allows for abundant Wasabi cultivation. What sets it apart from other Wasabi-producing regions of the country? Azumino is home to the single largest Wasabi farm in all of Japan!
Another interesting fact: Wasabi is popularly known as a condiment that goes well with sushi, but Nagano Prefecture has no direct access to the sea. So local Wasabi originally was, and still is, designed as an accompaniment for local Soba.
When rice fields transform into pictorial canvases for works of art
Another important aspect of agriculture in Azumino is the large production of rice. The rice fields stretch as far as the eye can see and the rice harvest season is the high point of the local farming centered economy.
Azumino presents its own “Tambo Art”, or “Rice Paddy Art” each year. Throughout the growing season, rice of various shapes and colors is cultivated in order to produce giant art works which represent many local cultural heritage themes. Once completed each artwork can be observed in its entirety from a small platform.
A surprising local specialty: “Shinshu Salmon”
In addition to its rice and Wasabi fields, there is another local specialty which is more unexpected: “Shinshu Salmon” (Nagano Prefecture was once called “Shinshu”). This farmed fish is specific to the region and has a rich and deeply savory flavor.
“Shinshu Salmon” is hard to find outside of the region, which is one of the reasons why it is so popular throughout Japan. Raw or smoked, it’s one more reason to dig into Matsumoto’s unique local food scene. And a perfect combination with local Wasabi!
A strong cultural identity from the valleys to the peaks of Kamikochi
The Hotaka Shinto Shrine is considered the center of renown for the region formerly called “Shinshu”. This shrine is dedicated to the same deity as the Okumiya-Hotaka Shrines on the shores of Myokin Pond in Kamikochi (and at the peak of Mount Oku-Hotaka overlooking Kamikochi National Park.
Tokoji Buddhist Temple is easily recognizable thanks to the “giant orange geta sandals” in front of its wooden gate. The legend goes that if you pray here while wearing geta sandals like these, your wishes will come true.
Another interesting fact, Azumino has the largest concentration of “Dosojin” statues in all of Japan. There are nearly 600 of these statues which are the guardians of the “Shinshu” region.
An ideal location to enjoy the Japanese Alps
Azumino is surrounded by the Japanese Alps and some of the mountains are among the 100 most famous mountains in Japan (Hyakumeizan). Some of these mountains are easily visible like Mt. Jonen and Mt. Yari. These two mountains are also visible from the summit of Mt. Tsubakuro, whose peak reaches 2,763 meters above sea level.
Located near Matsumoto, its many mountains are accessible all year round, making it an ideal stopover on the way to Hakuba. Thus, providing a perfect opportunity to enjoy winter sports or the pleasures of a summer hike!
There is much more to see and do in Azumino. Ride a bike in a rural setting, enjoy a local hot spring Onsen (or explore one of the many museums in the city. The to-do list is immense!
In fact, visiting Azumino and the Japanese Alps is an undeniable asset to making your stay in Matsumoto an unforgettable one! It’s a must-see destination after visiting the historic Matsumoto Castle. So, if you want to learn more about the Azumino Valley, feel free to let us know!
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