Local Events and Festivals Calendar:
Mid- February: Iiyama Snow Festival
Mid April: Cherry Blossom Festival in Iiyama and Nakano
Early July: Iiyama Gion Festival
*August 5th: Iiyama Dontokoi
*August 14th: Iiyama Fireworks Festival
*August 16th: Madarao Kogen Fireworks – 8.00pm
*Approximate dates and times only. Please double-check with the local tourist centre.
Jazz Festival in Madarao – This festival is a three day festival held every summer on the beautiful Madarao plateau. It Includes workshops and jam sessions as well as performances by well known local and international performers. Notable artists who have performed at the festival include: Dizzy Gillespie quartet, Spyro Gyra, Masahiko Sato, Stuff, Tania Maria, Toshiyuki Honda, Terumasa Hino, B. B. King, Gary Burton, Dave Brubeck, Woody Herman, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Ritenour, Wayne Shorter, Jackie McLean, Celia Cruz, Sérgio Mendes, Jonathan Butler, Gil Evans, Charmaine Neville, Larry Goldings, Regina Carter, Monday Michiru, Michael Brecker, Dianne Reeves, Ray Barretto, Angélique Kidjo, PE’Z, and many more.
During Golden Week (the beginning of May), the Na-no-hana (Canola Blossom) festival is held in Iiyama. The Na-no-hana park overlooks the river and the plain and is a great spot for some random flower viewing and a picnic!
The Lake Nojiri Triathlon is an increasingly popular event for both contestants and spectators. It held every year around the middle of July. Lake Nojiri Triathlon entry forms can be found here (in Japanese). Competitors came from all over Japan as well as overseas.
Hiking: From Hokuryuko ski area there are several hiking trails that link up to eventually lead to the Inner Shrine of the Kosuge Shrine. It’s a fairly steep slog up hill for forty minutes but the shrine is very pretty and the views back to the plain are great. There is also a freshwater spring next to the shrine to fill your water bottle up at! Lake Hokuryuko is also often used for kayaking.
The Madarao Plateau trekking route, which was selected as one of the “Best 100 walking routes” by the Yomiuri Newspaper, extends for around fifty kilometres in total at an altitude of around 1,000 metres. Other various courses are available to suit all needs, such as the Madarao nature trek as well as wetland and beech forest courses.
Cherry Blossom Viewing: The ruins of Iiyama Castle built by the orders of feudal lord Uesugi Kenshin is one of the very best sakura locations in the region during the Iiyama Joshi Sakura Festival. About 400 someiyoshino blossoms cover the entire mountain in pink, and the cherry blossoms and narcissus blooming during the same season are equally gorgeous. From the castle ruins you can have a grand view of the Chikuma River flowing down along with with the mountainscape of Shiga-Kogen with snow left on its peak.
Fishing: Lake Nozomi is only 5-10 minutes by car from Madarao. It is regarded as a ‘hidden spot’ of bass fishing – but getting more and more popular with each season. Other activities are also available.
Madarao Nature School: Throughout the year one can experience a number of nature-related activities, such as cascade climbing, rock climbing, furniture crafting with driftwood, silver craft, and braid making. Find one that fits your purpose.
Madarao Sports Passport: From 1st July until 30th September visitors can experience any of 20 different activities for only 4,500 yen. These include water skiing, rafting, paragliding, horse back riding, etc., as well as water and highland sports at Lake Nojiri, Lake Kibo and the Chikuma River. See the official Madarao site for more details and map.
There is an inexpensive night bus to Iiyama that departs Madarao at 4pm and returns at 9pm, that can be organised via your accommodation. The night bus stops at the drugstore (a massive supermarket) and at the station where you can “catch” the sushi train, or there are a variety of other cool eateries in town. Alternatively if you want to explore Iiyama during the day, enquire with your accommodation regarding the bus schedule or a taxi.
In nearby Shinanomachi lies the home of the revered Japanese poet, Issa.
Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City is also a popular tourist spot. Catch the Dentetsu line train to Gondo or Zenkoji stations and then walk about 10 minutes.
During late summer, areas of Kurohime Plateau (kurohime kogen) become covered in the new blooms of cosmos flowers – more than a million blooms in every colour of the rainbow. In early summer lavender grows all over an area on the south face of Mount Kurohime.