Suwa is a hot spring resort with a 400-year history. Flourishing originally as a castle town, it has many historical sites and remains.
Let’s start at Shimo-Suwa Station! The northern side of Lake Suwa is a place of scenic beauty and retains some of the atmosphere of an old post-station town. Suwa Taisha shrine complex consists of four shrines, and Kamisha (“Upper Shrine” consisting of Harumiya and Akimiya) and Shimosha (“Lower Shrine,” consisting of Honmiya and Maemiya) are located on opposite sides of Lake Suwa. First, go to calm and quiet Harumiya of Shimosha, and then to Akimiya of Shimosha where the number of visitors is the largest among the four shrines of Suwa Taisha. The huge shimenawa, or stylized sacred straw rope, is very impressive. Log pillars (onbashira) of the four corners of the shrine building are hewed from gigantic trees cut during the Onbashira Festival.
From Kami-Suwa Station on the east side of Lake Suwa, go to Lake Suwa. Suwa-ko Kanketsusen Center (Lake Suwa Geyser Center) is near the lake. The geyser that shoots water up to a height of 50 meters every one hour is a must see. You can go round the lake in about 30 minutes by car. There are some unique museums including Kitazawa Museum of Art. And, why not try sake tasting at the shop of Miyasaka Jozo Brewery, which is famous for the “Masumi” brand of sake? Lake Suwa is also famous for fireworks in summer.
An amphibious bus tour around Lake Suwa started in May 2009. A bus which runs on land enters the water without modification, which is quite an experience for the passengers! The scheduled operation is from April to January. (Nihon Suiriku Kanko, 0266-75-2650)
Onbashira Festival is a major festival held once every seven years. Teams of local men drag and slide huge logs down to the village, The logs are cut from gigantic trees on the mountainside and are regarded as “stand-ins” for the gods of the Taisha shrines, and they are set on end at the four corners of the shrines. The exciting spectacle of the large (and dangerous) logs and the men, sometimes riding on the logs, sliding down steep slopes in the dynamic Kiotoshi ceremony attracts many tourists. The festival took place in spring 2010, and next will be held in 2017.
Komiya Onbashira Festivals takes place at many places in Suwa from late summer to autumn in the same year of the Onbashira Festival, and some of them welcome tourists’ participation.
Swan Bus offers a day ticket. (Suwa Bus, 0266-72-7141, and JR Bus Kanto, 0266-27-8673)
Karinchan Bus also offers a day ticket. (Suwa Bus, 0266-72-7141)