Achi Village in Nagano: Hot Springs and Japan’s Most Beautiful Night Sky
There’s a little corner of Japan we’d like to let you in on, one we’re sure you’ll want to visit. It’s not widely-known, not even in Japan. We’re going to tell you about this hidden destination together with four things you should do while there, so if we pique your interest, be sure to stick them on your to-do list!
Achi Village is a tiny little town in Nagano, one of sixty settlements located in the mountainous region that ranges from 410 to 2,191 m. In 2006, the Ministry of the Environment formally recognized Achi Village as being number one in Japan for starshine. This is owing to both how mountains of the Japanese Alps surround it on all sides, cutting off excess light, and how the surrounding nature cleans and purifies the air, allowing you to see the stars all the better.
To-do #1: Stay at an Amazing Hot Springs Ryokan
In this village hidden off in the mountains, you’ll find the Hirugami Hot Springs, whose “beauty waters” make skin silky smooth. Around the hot spring area are a number of excellent traditional Japanese inns (or “ryokan”) where you’ll enjoy the very heights of Japanese hospitality.
A list of recommended ryokan: http://hirugamionsen.jp/hotel/
Owing to rural revitalization efforts in Achi, the town also holds a wide variety of events. For example, because the gods are said to protect the Hirugami area, every year for three months from December, interesting works that depict the shape of the gods are placed in front of each ryokan. They represents the belief that the gods grant us leave to bathe in the hot springs, taking away the fatigue of the year. If you’re there in winter, this event is one of the local highlights. Information: Map
To-do #2: Don a Yukata and Explore the Hirugami Onsen Streets
The rural towns of Japan suit yukata (light-weight kimono) far more than the bustling cities do. Put one on with a set of wooden sandals and let them echo before you as you stroll the streets. It’s sure to add extra savor to the gorgeous scenery you’ll find on your walk.
To-do #3: Visit Kojo-in Temple
Set away in an almost-untouched area, the grounds of Kojo-in have a mystery and spirituality you won’t find at just any temple. With a torch that’s been burning for 1,200 years, this temple is a must-see. Information: Map
To-do #4: Gaze Up at the Best Starry Sky in Japan
Take the gondola up to the 1,400 m mark and gaze up at a sky full of hundreds of millions of stars. That sense, like you’re being pulled upwards into the sky, isn’t an experience that you would ever be able to savor in Tokyo.
Perhaps you understand now why we’ve decided to let you in on this wonderful little secret—Achi Village, with a full complement of ryokan, hot springs, temples, nature, and starry skies.