Last year, Japan’s most popular anime movie of all time, Your Name, had a town called Itomori — a rural village where the main character lived. Itomori was described as a small village located around a big lake, that became an iconic part of the film. While the town is fictional, viewers believe that the lake was inspired by an actual one in Suwa, Nagano.
Suwa Lake, has 3 cities around it; Suwa, Shimo Suwa, and Okaya. It has a surface area of around 13 km2, it takes about 30 minutes to go around the whole place by car. The closest stations near the lake are; Kami-Suwa Station and Okaya Station. If you’re from Tokyo, you can take the train from Chuo Line that goes to Matsumoto from Takao Station or Otsuki Station in Yamanashi. There are several hotels you can spend the night in that have a view of Suwa Lake from their rooms.
How To Enjoy Suwa Lake
The first thing to enjoy at Suwa Lake is it's beautiful view. After that, you might want to go to Tateishi Kouen (Tateishi Park) located about 2.5 kms from the Kami Suwa Station. There are two options to get there: either walking, which takes about 30-40 minutes, or taking a cab for ¥1000 – ¥1500. Located 933m above Suwa Lake's surface, Tateishi Park gives a panoramic view to the three cities located on the shore of Suwa Lake. There is also a playground for kids, and the park is definitely suitable for picnics.
There are many tourism attractions near Suwa Lake. One of them is a big Turtle Ship or Swan Ship that will take you around the lake for about 30 minutes. Once you buy a ticket, right beside the ticket booth, you can find a stall that sells soft-serve ice cream. The flavors are quite extraordinary, which include grasshopper and deep fried eel ice cream. Because Nagano doesn’t have ocean nearby, the locals take protein meals from grasshoppers and eel as a substitute for meat. For those who haven't (or wouldn't have) eaten grasshopper or deep fried eel, the taste wasn’t that noticeable around the ice cream. The grasshopper actually tastes better with sweet and sour sauce.
There is also a small park right on the shore of the lake, which is usually used for watching hanabi taikai (fireworks festival) that is usually held every year in summer. There is also a unique festival held once every 6 years near the lake named ‘Onbashira’ Festival. This festival is quite unique and dangerous, because the way they do the festival is by riding a big log that has been purified by rituals, then pull it down from the hill into the lake, and there is also the possibility that the people who ride the log could die because they are given no safety equipment while riding on it. But because of the locals high enthusiasm towards this festival, and how the locals honor those people who have been brave enough to ride the holy log, there are always participants for this log ride. The last festival was held in the year 2016. The next Onbashira Festival will be held in 2022.
After a long day, you can end your Suwa Lake trip on the shore near the park. The winds that blows, makes the water splash onto you, bringing the sensations just like sitting by the beach. Not only in summer, you can enjoy the beauty of Suwa Lake when its cherry blossoms bloom in spring and foliage in fall.