Just a short car ride away from Nagano, is Obuse, home to chestnuts, the famous Japanese artist Hokusai and many beautiful floral gardens. We visited during Thanksgiving weekend which coincided with their annual Fuji apple harvest and we were delighted to try the Japanese version of apple pie, chestnut ice cream, fresh roasted chestnuts, chestnut mochi and local sake. We visited the Hokusai Museum which costs ¥500 per adult, ¥300 kids. It contains many beautiful pieces of Hokusai artwork and the signs were in English. The gift shop has copies of his artwork that are reasonably priced and less expensive than the copies sold at the YCC lobby or at one of the bazaars.
Obuse is also home to several wineries, one of which is St Cousair. They offer free samples of their locally made wine, jams, spreads and cheeses. If you are interested in touring the winery, it is a 30 minute trip away in Iizuna. There you can find an upscale restaurant, acres of flowers, a chapel, the winery and its packaging/processing factory.
Overall, Obuse was a quaint little town perfect as a side trip to Nagano. It had just enough to do for an enjoyable afternoon. If you go, make sure you visit the Tourist Information office which doubles as a café. They give free Fuji apples to good little boys and girls and the tourist representative/barista speaks English. GPS coordinates to town center36.697535,138.311985. – Anna S. November 2012.