Togakushi Shrine and the avenue of trees
Togakushi Shrine (戸隠神社, Togakushi Jinja) consists of a lower, a middle and an upper shrine in the forested mountains northwest of Nagano's city center.Zuishinmon GateIs the entrance to the upper shrine and avenue of trees. A two kilometers uphill walk from the parking lot and bus stop starts the walk, which is lined by over 300 tall cryptomeria trees, dated approx. 400 years of age. The approach to the shrine passes the thatched-roof Zuishinmon Gate and ends with a series of stone steps. The shrine's main hall spectacularly stands in the steep mountainside of Mount Togakushi with the mountain peaks towering above.The shrines are related to an important story in Japanese mythology in which the Sun Goddess hid herself in a cave in present day Takachiho on Kyushu, after her brother had misbehaved, thereby bringing darkness to the world. In order to get the sunlight back, the other deities tried to lure the Sun Goddess out of the cave by performing spectacular dance performances in front of it. As the Sun Goddess took a peek out, one of the deities grabbed the cave's stone door and threw it away to prevent her from hiding again. The stone door flew all the way to Togakushi in Nagano Prefecture, which is also how the area got its name: Togakushi literally means "hiding door".This is an amazing day outing and in winter a great snowshoe adventure. Lunch can be found in the beautiful shrine town featuring soba, tea ice-cream and local Sake. Venturing down the street you will discover artesian basket weavers, synonymous to the area.