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Japan Trip 2023 - Day 2, Nagano Kami-Suwa, Your Name Itomori Lake

Japan Trip

Japan Trip 2023 - Day 2, Nagano Kami-Suwa, Your Name Itomori Lake

Off to the Your Name, Tateishi Park today.

Early morning so I could have more time to explore the place. Got up at half 5 to head to the station.

Early half 5 in the morning. Streets completely empty.

The Azusa Limited Express is only available from Shinjuku so wanted to get there before rush hour.

No one at station either. Usually packed.

Despite being the first train of the day, there was actually quite a lot of people.

There are quite a few stops. The person sitting next to you might be someone else by the next stop.

Azusa limited express at Shinjuku Station.

Think there was a nice view of Mount Fuji along the way but didn't manage to capture it in time. Especially when I didn't have a window seat. Then again, I've seen it a lot during this trip so far.

Inside the Azusa train.

Just grabbed myself a sandwich because the Ekiben (station meal boxes) stalls weren't open yet and wouldn't have had much time to explore Kami-suwa if I waited until the hotel breakfast buffet was available.

Sandwiches for breakfast.

Takes just over 2 hours to get to Kami-suwa from Shinjuku Station. A bunch of souvenirs on sale featuring their official mascot, Princess Suwa AKA Suwa Hime.

Suwa Hime the official mascot.

There's a bus you can take up to Tateishi Park on the west side of the station which is the side without the Tsuraya supermarket. You'd probably have to walk up the bridge to get to that side.

Cross the bridge to the west side.

Then it's the number 5 Karin-chan bus which stops near the park but it's very low frequency though.

Local Karin-chan bus.

You could take a taxi which would cost you just over 1500 Yen or, you could walk which takes 30 minutes or so. It was an hour until the next bus when I got there so I decided to walk.

If you do decide to take up the challenge of walking uphill, remember you'll most likely be walking back down too because there aren't any taxis at the park. There is also the infrequent bus back down too of course.

And our walk up to the park begins.

The official walking route on the site is quite a detour as you stick to the main winding road up.

There's a different route up that lets you cut the corners but a lot of stair climbing. It's fairly much the same as what Google Map will show you I think. I ended up just following the unofficial route by making screenshots of the key points on Google Street View.

You get plenty of nice views as you make your way up already.

You get some nice views already as you go up.

If you've ever wondered how small Japanese homes can get, you'll find some videos on YouTube showcasing them. Often apartments in Anime are of the single en suite room "1K (1 room with kitchen)" but just look at how narrow this place is... Probably just enough room to fit a single bed in although a Futon will probably be more likely.

Narrow house.

While on my way up, I confirmed I was going the right way with a local old lady.

A lot of elderly folk and old buildings around.

There was a stray cat while going up. Might have been why the location was chosen since Shinkai loves cats.

And maybe it was showing the way since it was meowing and looking back as I walked towards it making my way up, haha.

Hello, stray cat.

There actually aren't many signs while following the unofficial route up. Lots of stairs but if you've done any hiking like the Wilson's Trail Section 2 in Hong Kong, this is shorter and easier so you would manage fine.

I see a sign...

All sorts of houses as you make your way up.

Eventually you need to hug the side of the winding road to reach the park.

All sorts of houses.

Almost there once you reach this French restaurant.

Fancy some French food?

Et voila!

Took me an hour to walk up but would take less if you're not taking photos and video like I did.

Plotting the GPS path in Google Earth really gives you a different perspective on the 1.5km trek up. We're around 930m in altitude according to the park signs.

Walk up to Tateishi Park visualised on Google Earth.

This wasn't the highest point though. There is a sun dial platform you can go up too but more stairs.

Want to go higher? There's a sundial platform.

There's plenty of people who seem to drive up to walk their dogs. No children playing but probably because it's a weekday morning.

One of the many play areas.

I don't think you'll spend much time sitting there admiring the view unless you brought lunch with you or something. I left after sitting down to rest my legs.

Was going to take a timelapse here but no clouds so wouldn't have much action in it. Decided not to in the end.

Time to walk back down.

Heading back down was quicker since I recognise most of the way back.

Japan really likes to decorate their manholes.

Decorative manhole.

Issue was some paths maybe blocked by workmen due to manholes being set right in the middle of the paths but, as long as the detour leads back to the winding road you're fine.

Manholes mean workmen can end up blocking paths.

Took me 30 mins to get back to the station where I picked up some snacks from the nearby Family Mart.

Chicken skewer and wedges from Familymart really salty...

Some snacks from Family Mart.

Off towards Takashima Castle next.

Lack of bins mean you'll most likely end up carrying a bag of rubbish. I suggest keeping your conbini bag then there will be a bin on the express train back.

Off to Takashima Castle.

Rural looking Kami-suwa's been seemingly innocent so far but as you follow Google Maps to the castle the place is dotted with night clubs and "snack bars"although I'm not sure if they're the sexual services kind.

Night club not so innocent looking.

So many visible as far as the eye could see but most were looking run down and abandoned. Probably run out-of-business by the bigger night clubs.

Snack bars. Not just for food...

Anyway, next to these places on the main road were baskets that looked like they were used for collecting the fallen autumn leaves but they were actually recycling bins.

There were a lot of signs introducing the local plants too.

Fallen leaf baskets? Nope, for recycling trash.

A lot of traditional buildings along the way including this sauce manufacturing building.

Traditional sauce making building.

Vintage post boxes too.

Vintage post box.

Sewer duct covers never neglected by aesthetics.

Aesthetics not neglected for sewer covers.

Little fountains around the place.

Little fountain and bridges.

Takashima feels like the kind of castle you see in Kyoto with its own big garden.

At the gates of Takashima Castle.

Garden itself was free to enter like a park. I almost walked into a giant spider dangling down in the middle of a path from a tree!

There's a nasty stench around the place which I thought was because of all the ducks and their droppings but then I overheard someone say it's because of a certain plant from the trees.

Big garden with ducks.

Place had its own shrine too.

Had its own shrine too.

This Takashima Castle Turtle Stone was shifted out of the castle back in 1875 before being returned 300 years later. It's supposed to have come alive like a turtle when water was poured onto it and granted wishes.

Turtle Stone

Castle itself cost 300 yen. Used to be known as the "floating castle" when Lake Suwa was bigger.

Takashima Castle and a sculpture.

You're expected to scrub your shoes off the mat before entering. Once inside you can grab a leaflet and get a stamp of Suwa Hime but careful! The leaflet's glossy so too much ink and you'd end up with it all over your hands like I did!

Suwa Hime, the official mascot.

I thought the castle was pretty cool considering its size.


Second floor is the only place where no photos were allowed and had more relics on display.

Then you get to the top where once again, you can can see Mount Fuji on one side and not so much of Lake Suwa on the other.

Up to see Mount Fuji again.

Picked up some souvenirs on the way out.

After the castle I was planning to go see the Manji Statue which has quite a story behind it.

It was a stone that was meant to be carved into a Torii gate but when the sculptor hit it while trying to kill a fly, the stone bled so it was abandoned for a few years before it was carved into the current form. Now it's a wishing statue.

Takashima Castle souvenirs.

Unfortunately my legs were starting to ache so I decided to make my way back slowly to the station instead...

Passed by a block of empty apartments but can't imagine living here. Most English teaching foreigners seem to live in rural areas though it seems.

For rent.

This maternity ward suuure gives off a vibe. It looked rundown but still in service.

Interesting looking maternity ward...

Skewered horse meat anyone...?

Skewered horse meat anyone...?

I reeeally don't see how all those posters would attract ladies to get their hair done here...

Hair salon and other services.

I had an hour free until the next train so ended up visiting the lake park nearby. Less chance of missing the train instead of making a push for the Manji statue.

Came by a souvenir shop along the way that was dedicated to Kami-suwa goods including a scale figure of mascot Suwa Hime. I saw a mini banquet version of her figure but there weren't any in stock unfortunately.

More Suwa Hime.

Wasn't long before I reached the park but phew, the wind was really cold! Had to put my light down hood up!

They really like sundials in this town.

Suwa Lakeside Park

Again, the buildings along the road feel like they had character. Plenty of inns.

Lots of inns near the lake.

The park was lined with statues of characters from plays but the main statue of Yaegaki Hime on the lake had some really strong aura about it. She's yet another character, a Kabuki play where she borrows the power of a fox to cross the lake and save her lover.

Hatsushima Shrine is visible in the distance, dedicated to the god Takeminakata for safe born babies.

Hatsujima Shrine in the background.

While taking photos some kids shouted, "Kimi no namae wa!? What's your name!?" Not good dealing with mischievous kids but they didn't do much after I didn't react so I guess they just wanted to mingle instead of mess around.

Station waiting room was nice and warm compared to outside as the sun set.

Products originating from Suwa exhibited in the waiting room.

Had some fun souvenir gachas but don't know why Jack Frost from the MegaTen and Persona games is part of the Kami-suwa merch.

Gachas at the station.

I got a window seat but ended up on the last carriage. The train arrived on the dot so almost left immediately. It was still fairly full on the way back to Shinjuku.

Heading back to Shinjuku.

Got back around 20:00 which meant some shops were still open in Akiba.

Outside Rajiokan, Electric City Exit.

Was meaning to drop by on the night I arrived so I thought, let's pop by.

Atre had some Idolmaster posters up on their window display.

Most stores were closed by 20:00.

Akihabara central street at night.

Arcades still running til late of course. Sega arcades acquired by Gigo now.

Gigo arcades still open.

Managed to browse a few second hand figure stores before heading back to the hotel. Second hand but marked as "unopened" some of them and amongst them was a Pokemon Red Figma which is still selling for a fortune.

The conbini I visited tonight had a fun ramp.

Ramp with smilies.

And bento for the night.

Bento for the night.

What a day trip it was today.


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