Straight after visiting Jigokudani park I came to Nagano for the day. This was my final stop in Japan so I took it easy. I couldn’t find much information about Nagano, despite its history being traced back to the Stone Age. Calm and peaceful, Nagano is located in the centre of Japan and surrounded on all four sides by 3km high mountains, earning it the nickname of the “Roof of Japan”. Thanks to its location between the Kanto and Kansai regions, it developed under the influence of the cultures of both eastern and western Japan.

Old man feeding pigeons at the station.

The hills in the central part of the prefecture are directly connected to the 3km high Japanese Alps and three volcanic mountains, one of which is Mt. Fuji, to the west.

Rooftop view over Nagano and surrounding mountains.
Rooftop view over Nagano city.
Car park.

Nagano is famous for the 1998 Winter Olympics and soba noodles, made from buckwheat or wheat flour.

Local graffiti.
Shopping street leading up to Zenkō-ji temple. Zenkō-ji is one of the most important and popular temples in Japan. It was founded in the 7th century and houses the first Buddhist statue ever to be brought to Japan when Buddhism was first introduced in the 6th century.

When I was at Fushimi Inari in Kyoto I noticed a strange tradition of placing red-coloured bibs on animal statues, particularly fox statues. This practice applies to statues in memory of children too.

Meet Jizo.

This happy stone midget monk statue is believed to be a guardian of lost babies’ souls. Local women usually take care of Jizo statues, providing them with hand-knitted hats and hand-sewn bibs. According to Japanese folklore, red is the colour for expelling demons and illness. The Japanese believe that the practice of dressing Jizo statues allows them to accrue merit for the afterlife. Jizo is special to pregnant women and to those whose children have died. Grieving parents place toys and other offerings beside the child-monk statue to invoke his protection for their dead child. Offerings are also made by parents to thank stone statues for saving their children from a serious illness 

Childrens' shoes hanging from the shrine.