Thursday, December 29, 2016

Shinano: Western Access to Nagano Prefecture

EMU JR Central 383 series, limited express "Shinano", travels on the Chuo Main Line

Nagano is an inland prefecture surrounded by steep mountains. It is a large province having precious tourism resources, but the access route to the prefecture had been a problem, because the mountains blocked potential tourists to the prefecture.

The major breakthrough was realized in 1998, when the Nagano Shinkansen (present Hokuriku Shinkansen) was opened as an eastern access route. It takes only 90 minutes from Tokyo by super-express train, "Kagayaki (brilliance)". On the other hand, a limited express train, "Shinano (an old name of Nagano Prefecture)" is the fastest access means from the west. It takes three hours from Nagoya, the largest city in the central part of Japan. Shinano is currently operated between Nagoya and Nagano stations as regular trains. It was once operated between Osaka and Nagano as Japan's longest daytime express train, but was shortened from March last year, because the number of passengers had decreased.

In the meantime, one of the must-see sightseeing spots in Nagano Prefecture is ex-Kaichi Elementary School. It was constructed by a Japanese carpenter, Tateishi Kiyoshige, in 1876, as the first Western style building in Matsumoto City. Surprisingly, he designed this building himself just imitating the pictures of Western style buildings, since he didn't know about Western architecture in detail. As a result, it has become a quite unique building. Kaichi Elementary school was designated as an important cultural property by the Japanese Government in 1961. The building is currently utilized as a museum.

Ex-Kaichi Elementary School near Matsumoto Station