Nagano Prefecture located in the Chubu region has some of the world`s most impressive highland areas. Many visitors to the prefecture come for its mountain resorts and hot springs. However, visitors to Obuse, a town located in the Kamitakai district, are drawn there for quite a different reason.
Located just 150 miles north of Tokyo, Obuse is an artistic town known for its galleries, museums and craft shops. The town was the home of Katsushika Hokusai, a renowned Edo period (1603-1867) woodblock painter, best known for his ukiyo-e woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, who spent the later years of his life here. It is said that Hokusai created many of his finest works while working at his studio in Obuse. A nice selection of Hokusai’s woodblock prints, watercolors, painted manuscripts and two festival floats are on display at the Hokusai Museum (Hokusai-kan), one of three major museums in town.
The other major museums in Obuse include the Obuse Museum and Nakajima Chinami Gallery and the Takai Kozan Memorial Museum. The Obuse Museum was established in 1992 and displays 400 pieces from Japanese painter, Chinami Nakajima. Nakajima is best known for his flower and bird motifs as well as for his very striking wood block prints. Sculpture and metal works by Fuminori Haruyama are also included in the museum’s holdings. The Takai Kozan Memorial Museum is the restored former residence of Takai Kozan, a wealthy local merchant, who sponsored Hokusai to come to Obuse. During the Edo period, his home was known as the cultural salon, drawing countless contemporary intellectuals. Katsushika Hokusai, Sakuma Shozan, Kusaka Genzui, Fujimoto Tetsuseki were all regular visitors to the home. The museum has sketches by Hokusai and houses the Hekiiken studio built specifically for the artist. Takai was also a talented artist in his own right and his sketches and calligraphy are also on display along with brushes and other personal possessions.
For the grownups, Obuse has several sake shops and wineries worth visiting. European grapes, such as Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are produced in Nagano as the region’s climate is very similar to the climate in parts of Europe where these grapes originated. The town’s two major sake breweries are Masuichi and Matsubaya.
Lastly, Obuse is known for its delicious chestnuts and the confections that are created from them. As a matter of fact, the town’s sidewalks were created using the wood from old chestnut trees.
Nagano is accessible from Tokyo Station via the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train). The journey will require 1 hour and 20 minutes. From Nagano City, take the Nagano Dentetsu (local train) to Obuse, which will require an additional 30 minutes.
Web page: http://www.town.obuse.nagano.jp/
Hokusai Museum: http://www.book-navi.com/hokusai/hokusai-e.html
Obuse winery: http://www.obusewinery.com/