Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Obuse – The Chestnut Town that All Sweet Tooths Must Visit

Obuse (小布施) is a lovely town in Nagano Prefecture, famous for its delicious chestnuts and ukiyo-e artist, Katsushika Hokusai from the 16th century. Apart from the super sweet chestnuts, the best thing about this town is that it isn’t filled with tourists (*’▽’). You are guaranteed that you won’t be pushed around while exploring the natural and cultural attractions in town. Because Obuse is on the train line to Jigokudani Monkey Park, you can stay at Obuse for a night, so your visit to Nagano won’t be too rushed!

Obuse is a town surrounded by the blessing of nature. You will be able to experience the version of Japan before the boom of the tourism industry. There are also a variety of cultural and historical attractions in well-preserved historical buildings.

After visiting the local art museums, temples, sake breweries, and restaurants located close to Obuse Station, you will have a pretty good understanding of Japanese culture.

Tip: One thing that is really unique to Obuse is that you can visit the locals’ private garden without seeking the owners’ permission if there is a sign that says, ‘Welcome to My Garden, OBUSE Open-Garden HOME ‘ displayed at the property (^^)/.

With fertile soil and cool weather, you will be able to find the best-tasting fruits (especially apples) and chestnuts (of course) being sold here and there throughout the 20 square km town.

Apple trees are just everywhere in the town. We were really tempted to pick some from the trees on the side of the road…They were all so red and big (*´ω`).

The apple season at Obuse is in autumn. This photo was taken when we were there at the end of October.

Roasted Chestnuts in Autumn

During the chestnut season, you will also be able to get some freshly roasted chestnuts!

The chestnuts there are BIG. Compared to the chestnuts we get in Australia, the size is twice as big on average (‘ω’)ノ.

And what is even better is that they are as sweet as a lolly, and they are easy to peel (≧▽≦).

How to Get to Obuse

To get to Obuse, you will need to take a train from Nagano Electric Railway (長野電鉄)’s Nagano Station. It is just next to the JR Nagano Station (長野駅), so it shouldn’t be hard to find.

From there, it is approximately a 30-minute train ride to the Obuse Station (小布施駅).

Transport Options in Obuse

Bike Rental at Obuse

There are a few bike rental options at Obuse. If you are planning to catch the train to Obuse and only spend a couple of hours in town, the most convenient option is to rent a bike from the Obuse Information Center (小布施総合案内所) inside Obuse Station (小布施駅).

  • Bicycle rental service is available between 9 am and 3:30 pm from April to November
  • The cost is
    • 600 yen for a normal bike for 2 hours and 300 yen for each additional hour afterward
    • 1,000 yen for an electric-assisted bike for 2 hours and 500 yen for each additional hour afterward

maaru Nagano Obuse Sports Bike Rental Cafe

Another preferred option is maaru Nagano Obuse Sports Bike Rental Cafe. The bike rental shop has high-quality hybrid, road bikes, and electric-assisted bikes at a good rental price with a couple of discount options.

The shops’ bikes are great for those who not only want to explore Obuse’s town center but go further up into the mountains, such as the picturesque Yamada Onsen Village.

Moreover, the shop’s second floor is an Airbnb. Discounts on bike rental fees are available for those who stay overnight at the shop.

For more information, please refer to our article on maaru Nagano Obuse Sports Bike Rental Cafe!

Shuttle Bus – Obuse Roman-gō (おぶせロマン号)

Obuse’s sightseeing bus, Obuse Roman-gō, stops at the major attractions in town from Friday to Sunday and on public holidays from early April to late November.

  • In 2022, the bus’s operating period is from the 9th of April to the 23rd of November.
  • The cost of the 1-Day Bus Pass is
    • 500 yen for adults
    • 300 yen for elementary school students
    • You can purchase the ticket from a couple of places in Obuse, including the Obuse Information Center inside Obuse Station (小布施駅)
  • HERE is Obuse Roman-gō’s timetable. As it is only in Japanese, please read it with the attraction’s Japanese name that we have specified with each of the attractions in this article
    • On most weekends in May, June, September, and October, there are two shuttle buses operating. HERE is the timetable for the other shuttle bus

Tip: If you have a valid Nagaden Railway and Bus 1-Day Free Ticket or Nagaden Railway and Bus 2-Day Free Ticket, it is free to board Obuse Roman-gō.

Cherry Blossom at Obuse

If you are sick of the crowds during the cherry blossom season, Obuse is a great place to admire the pink flowers!

The sakura at the 4 km Chikuma River Embankment (千曲川堤防) blossoms each year from the end of April to the beginning of May. Whether you want a picnic or just to relax under the trees full of flowers, you will be able to do it (=゚ω゚)ノ.

A List of attractions in Obuse

Obuse’s Chestnuts Alley (小布施栗の小径)

Obuse's Chestnuts Path/alley
photo-ac.com

You will find this chestnut alley in the photo at the back of all the shops and restaurants.

The pavements are actually made of old chestnut trees’ trunks, which were really comfy to walk on barefooted (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Also, if you notice the big tree in the photo, that is a chestnut tree that was planted relatively recently. Based on the overwhelming requests for chestnut tree planting, this large tree was planted to make the alley even more “chestnutty”!

Click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Obuse.

Kōtai Shrine (皇大神社) and Chestnut Festival at Obuse (おぶせ栗祭り)

Each year on the last weekend of October, to show people’s appreciation of a good chestnut harvest, the Obuse Chestnut Festival is held at the Kōtai Shrine (皇大神社).

We were just lucky that we got to participate in the festival because we actually only knew about the festival when we saw all the festival posters as we arrived!

Festival coupons were sold at most local facilities, including restaurants, sweets shops, museums, etc. And the reason that you will want to buy some coupons is that a coupon that is worth 1,200 yen will only cost you 1,000 yen!

Therefore, we advise that you pre-calculate how much you plan to spend during your time at Obuse and get the coupons accordingly.

Important: a few popular shops might not be participating in the event, meaning you can’t use the coupon at those places (when we were there, we couldn’t use the coupon at Chikufūdō). You will find a list of participating shops at the back of the brochure that will be distributed around the town.

The Shinto Ritual takes place on the Sunday of the 2-days festival.

5 of the local shops’ representatives will be offering the freshly picked chestnuts to God.

If you have time, watch how this is done, as this is not something that happens every day!

After the chestnuts are offered to God, the sweet shops participating in the festival give away free chestnut soup with rice cake (we all know about red bean soup, which is the chestnut version).

So make sure while you watch the ritual, save yourself a spot in the queue (which wasn’t too long when we went)!

Tip: The soup doesn’t come with any cutleries, so it might be a good idea to bring your own spoon or fork…(=゚ω゚)ノ

Click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Obuse.

Obusedō (小布施堂)

If you are coming to Obuse for chestnut sweets, don’t miss out on Obusedō!

 Its famous chestnut sweet – Suzaku is so famous that the Japanese around the country come to Obuse for it. This is especially the case during the chestnut season in autumn.

For more information, please refer to our article on Obusedō!

Chikufūdō (竹風堂)

One of the most famous sweets sold in Chikufūdō is called Hosun (方寸). It is a dry type of Japanese sweet made of chestnut powders and top-class sugar.

To us, the best thing about this sweet is that the best before date is only one year, but it still tastes the same even after two years! We didn’t do it on purpose, though, it is just we bought too many of them…(≧▽≦).

You can see photos of other sweets sold at Chikufūdō HERE (note the website is in Japanese). You will see what Hosun (方寸) looks like as well!

On the 2nd floor of Chikufūdō, there is a café serving Teishoku (set menu) and various traditional desserts.

As vegetarians, we chose the vegetarian Teishoku called Kuriokowa Yamazato (栗おこわ 山里定食). The chestnut rice had lots of chestnuts, which made the rice taste even sweeter than usual. If you aren’t a big fan of sweet food, we highly recommend having the sweet rice with the side dishes because it balances your meal out perfectly (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Please note that if you are strict with your vegetarian diet, you will want to leave the miso soup out as it contains bonito broth.

Refer to HERE for photos of Teishoku & desserts served at the cafe.

Chikufūdō’s Access Information and Business Hours

  • 1F sweets shop: 8 am – 6 pm
  • 2F Cafe: 10 am – 6 pm
    • The last order is taken 30 minutes before the cafe’s closing time of the day
  • Chikufūdō is closed on the 1st of January
  • From Nagano Dentetsu’s Obuse Station, it is an 8-minute walk to Chikufūdō

Click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Obuse.

Hokusai Museum (北斎館)

Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese art that flourished from the 17th through 19th centuries. And Obuse is a town famous for the type of art because one of the most well-known Ukiyo-e artists used to live in Obuse!

So if you are interested in Ukiyo-e, make sure you visit the Hokusai Museum.

The museum is all about the renowned Ukiyo-e artist, Hokusai Katsushika. You will find some of his rare 3D work in this museum, together with masterpieces such as the famous series of Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji, the Great Wave, and the ceilings of 2 festival floats.

Strolling through the museum and watching the two information-rich short films will give you a deeper understanding of Hokusai and his many beautiful works. You will also learn how different colors are added to a woodblock print.

While English notations are sporadic in the museum, you will still be able to enjoy the visit because the artworks and the videos help paint the big picture!

For more information bout the Hokusai Museu, please refer HERE.

Hokusai Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Hokusai Museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm
    • The last admission at 4:30 pm
    • On New Year’s Day, the museum is only open between 10 am and 3 pm
    • The museum is closed on the 31st of December
  • The admission fee is
    • 1,000 yen for adults
    • 500 yen for senior high school students
    • 300 yen for elementary and junior high school students

The price may differ if there is a special exhibition.

Click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Obuse.

Ganshoin Temple (岩松院)

If you are a Ukio-e fan, then the Hokusai museum and Ganshoin Temple go hand in hand. Ganshoin Temple is just a 30 minutes walk from the museum. And there, you will find Hokusai’s elaborate ceiling mural, one of his final large-scale installations.

Even if you aren’t into artwork, Ganshoin Temple is still high on our recommended places to visit in Obuse (=゚ω゚)ノ.

It is a quiet spot with a beautiful and attractive setting (especially during spring with cherry blossoms in the background).

In summer, you will find the pond in the temple is filled with frogs singing in harmony (*´ω`).

Tip: Don’t miss out on the scenic view of Obuse town from a hilltop behind the temple. It is just a 10-minute climb, and you won’t regret making an effort!

Note: the path up the hill is narrow and steep, so proper footwear is recommended.

Ganshoin Temple’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Ganshoin is open from
    • 9 am to 4:30 pm between April to October
    • 9 am to 4 pm in November
    • 9:30 am to 3:30 pm between December to March
    • Please also check HERE for their event calendar to make sure the temple is opened to the public on the day you plan to visit
  • The admission fee is
    • 500 yen for adults
    • 200 yen for elementary and junior high school students:

Click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Obuse.

Jōkōji Temple (浄光寺)

Jōkōji Temple was originally erected in the 14th century. It is a temple that depicts how you would picture an old mountain temple to be (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Jokoji temple in obuse
photo-ac.com

The temple is popular for curing cancer and finding you a great partner. One of the temple’s mysteries for pilgrims making their regular visit is that even though the main temple was damaged by fire several times in the past, the Buddha statue was never destroyed.

pilgrimage path of Jokoin temple in Obuse
photo-ac.com

From the temple’s front gate at the foot of the mountain, it is a 5-minute climb through a rugged staircase before you can make your wishes to the Buddha.

Similar to most parts of Obuse, you will be able to enjoy some peacefulness at the main temple without being disturbed by other tourists.

Close to this beautiful temple, this lovely restaurant serves a delicious and cheap tofu set menu. Even people who don’t normally like tofu cuisine love it!

Click HERE to find out more about the restaurant (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Obuse.

Floral Garden Obuse (フローラルガーデンおぶせ)

Floral Garden Obuse is a 15,000-square-meter garden that has seasonal flowers for its visitors to enjoy. The flowers in the garden are changed regularly, so you’re assured that your visit to the garden will never be a disappointment!

There is also a restaurant that overlooks the garden for its visitors to dine in. And next to the restaurant, a small shop sells floral products, seeds, and gardening goods (‘ω’)ノ.

Floral Garden Obuse’s Opening Hours and Admission Fees

  • Floral Garden Obuse is open from 9 am – 4:30 pm daily except Thursdays in the winter months
    • The last admission is at 4 pm
    • From the end of December to the beginning of January, the garden is closed
  • The admission fee is
    • 200 yen for adults
    • 100 yen for high school students
    • Free otherwise

Tip: If you are lucky like us, the admission fees are waived when they are changing the flowers in the garden. It was still a great garden to visit, as they were just replacing the flowers on the flower beds here and there. The majority of the plants in the garden remain unchanged.

Click HERE to get back to the list of attractions in Obuse.

Vegetarian-Friendly Dining at Obuse

Apart from the Chikufūdō (竹風堂) that we mentioned above, below are another two delicious options for you to consider!

Nagano Donabe Ramen Takesan (長野土鍋ラーメンたけさん)

Takesan-Donabe-Ramen-Obuse-Nagano-Japan
Find out how to get to the restaurant that serves this delicious ramen by clicking the photo!

Introducing you to the super delicious Miso Vegan Ramen at Obuse in Nagano Prefecture! At the restaurant, you will also be able to make some risotto out of your ramen!

Check out our Nagano Donabe Ramen Takesen article for more information!

Sabo Mameya (茶房まめ家)

When people speak about tofu dishes, they talk about bean curd or deep-fried tofu. At Sabo Mameya, you will be blown away by the various tofu menus. From appetizer to dessert, you will find a soybean product in each dish!

Even if you are not a big fan of tofu, we are sure you will still enjoy the food here because Sabo Mameya brought tofu to the extreme that you can hardly tell it is tofu that you are eating!

Sabo Mameya Obuse Nagano Vegetarian Dining
Find out how to get to the restaurant that serves this delicious course menu by clicking the photo!

Check out our Sabo Mameya article to find out more information about the restaurant (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Discover the Awesomeness of Zenkōji Temple and the Surrounding Attractions around Nagano Station

Zenko-ji-Nakamisedori-Street-Nagano-Japan
Click the photo for more information about the attractions around Nagano Station!

Before you arrive at Obuse, you will surely reach Nagano Station first. If you have time, we strongly recommend you to explore the attractions around the station, especially around Zenkōji Temple.

For more information, refer to our article on Zenkōji Temple!

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