Nagano Prefecture (長野県) is located in central Honshū and borders the prefectures of Niigata, Gunma, Saitama, Yamanashi, Shizuoka, Aichi, Gifu, and Toyama. Nagano is one of only eight landlocked prefectures. The terrain is mostly mountainous. The principal ranges include the Hida (飛騨山脈), the Kiso (木曽山脈), and Akaishi (赤石山脈), as well as the Mikuni (三国山) mountains. The principal rivers are the Shinanogawa (信濃川), the Himegawa (姫川), the Kisogawa (木曽川), and the Tenryūgawa (天竜川). Due to the mountainous terrain and its distance from the sea, the climate is generally drier and cooler than in the surrounding prefectures. The northern and southern part of Nagano Prefecture receives slightly more precipitation.


After the Taika Reforms of 645, Nagano was known as Shinano Province (信濃国 Shinano no kuni) or Shinshū (信州) and was crossed by several highways linking eastern and western Japan, most notably the Nakasendō (中山道), which was also known as Kisokaidō (木曾街道) or Tōsandō (東山道). Stretching over 500 kilometres, the Nakasendō connected Edo with Kyōto through the mountainous central part of Japan, as opposed to the Tōkaidō (東海道), which followed the seashore.

The province was under the rule of various clans of warlords, such as the Uesugi (上杉) and the Takeda (武田), during the Sengoku Period and was later split into small domains during the Edo Period (1600-1868). Nagano Prefecture was established in 1871; the current boundaries were set in 1876. Agriculture is still the primary occupation, while other industries include tourism, electrics and electronics, machinery, and food products.

Nagano Facts

  • 2,078,645 residents (May 2017)
  • 13,562.23 square kilometres
  • Population density: 153 inhabitants per square kilometre


  • Matsumoto: Matsumoto Castle, one of the most famous flatland castles, the former Kaichi School, Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, Matsumoto City Museum, Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum, Nawate-dōri (a picturesque shopping lane), and the Daio Wasabi Farm
  • Suwa (諏訪): Lake Suwa and its geysers in the winter (御神渡り o-miwatari, "The God's Crossing"), the Suwa Grand Shrine (諏訪大社 Suwa Taisha)
  • Nagano City (長野市): Zenkōji (善光寺), a Buddhist temple dating back to the seventh century that holds what is said to be the first Buddha statue of Japan; a replica is displayed in public every six years, the original is hidden even from the priests.
  • Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park: a paradise for Japanese macaques soaking in hot springs.
  • Ueda (上田): Ueda Castle, home of the Sanada clan
  • Karuizawa (軽井沢): famous summer resort with a popular shopping mall and historical boulevards; it is said that Empress Michiko met the emperor during a tennis game in Karuizawa.
  • Ski resorts and outdoors in the Japanese Alps: Shiga Kogen, Hakuba, Madarao Highlands, Tenryū-kyō Valley (white water rafting)
  • Onsen (hot springs): Nagano is famous for its scenic hot springs, such as Kanbayashi Onsen, Hirugami Onsen, Nozawa Onsen, Shibu Yudanaka Onsen, etc.

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