The town of Shinano in Nagano Prefecture has a rich agricultural heritage, but is also home to ski resorts, hot springs, and the idyllic Lake Nojiri. The lake offers numerous recreational activities perfectly suited for the summer, fall, and spring seasons. Well-equipped for tourists, the lakeside is dotted with numerous vacation homes, rental properties, and lodges that offer guided tours and equipment to help visitors fully enjoy the area.
Everything you need in one place: Guesthouse Lamp
One such facility is Guesthouse Lamp, a multi-functional lodge, restaurant, and tour-organizer situated right on the edge of the lake. Guesthouse Lamp is replete with kayaks, canoes, standup paddleboards, and all the necessary gear to make for a smooth, prep-free adventure. It also operates a lodge consisting of shared and separate rooms, joined by a common bathing and bathroom area.
There's a trendy on-site restaurant, so you can easily enjoy a day or weekend on the lake without having to drive into town or worry about stocking up on food. For 5,500 yen, travelers can enjoy a guided, half-day kayak tour of the lake. The package includes the cost of the lesson, rental gear, shower (if needed), and insurance.
With two-person kayaks also available, the tour can easily be enjoyed by couples and small children. For an easy half-day trip, consider taking a mid-morning tour of the lake, followed by a picnic-style lunch outside.
Kayaking novice learns the ropes
Experienced kayaker Takaaki Kobayashi works as a tour guide at Guesthouse Lamp. He gives a detailed rundown on the dos and don'ts of a successful trip. All you need is some light clothing (preferably swimming trunks or some other fabric that can dry quickly), a pair of wet shoes, and a lifejacket (the latter two items are available at the guesthouse). The trip is tailored specifically for beginners, so anyone can enjoy a day out on the lake.
Then, the adventure begins. Getting in and out of the kayak inevitably results in a handful of water entering the vessel, and despite Takaaki's careful instruction, navigation still proves rather tricky. Inexperienced kayakers may notice that the vessel has a tendency to veer off in one direction, before suddenly veering off back into the other. However, this has minimal impact on the general enjoyment of the experience; keeping the kayak straight simply becomes a fun challenge throughout the journey.
The kayak glides over the surface of the water, which, given the relatively small number of people out on the lake, is completely smooth. Perhaps the most striking part of the experience is the change in acoustics. The sounds of rustling leaves, cars, and adjacent travelers completely disappear.
All that remains is the lone pitter-patter of the paddle entering and exiting the water. Combined with the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, kayaking on the lake proves to be a serene activity.
In the distance, a group of young women learns how to use a standup paddleboard, a popular recreation activity in which one stands on a long board and uses an oar to paddle around. Presumably, it's harder than it looks, as one of the women falls in, and the voices of giggling girls begin to resonate across the water.
A well-earned burger break
After over an hour or so on the water, it's time for lunch. Guesthouse Lamp prepares burgers and delivers them to a nearby picnic table overlooking the lake. They also make their own lemon squash - a refreshing, tangy beverage that complements the savory burger and French fries (for which separate fess apply). This is the perfect way to relax after a workout.
The banks of the lake are lined with vacation homes and piers. While the season is wrapping up, the area bustles with visitors throughout the summer. A nearby community of vacation homes even caters to international residents of Japan, adding an extra dimension of cultural exchange to this otherwise secluded scenic area.
Given Nagano's close proximity to Tokyo - about two hours by shinkansen - it's clear that many of these facilities cater to city folks looking to enjoy a weekend getaway. The lodge is well maintained and trendy, stocking a wide selection of craft beers, and serving everything from lamb to pizza in the evenings. There's even an on-site log-cabin sauna, which looks like something pulled straight out of the nineteenth century.
While Guesthouse Lamp's lakeside location makes it an optimal destination for water sports and recreation, the facility offers a wide range of other fun activities suitable for all seasons. This includes everything from mushroom-gathering, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and hiking. A quick look at the facility's monthly calendar also reveals several regular events, from yoga sessions to live music, and cutting firewood.
- Address 379-2 Nojiri, Shinano, Kamiminochi-gun, Nagano
- Phone Number 026-258-2978
Operation:Varies depending on program
Fees:5,500 yen per person for half-day (tax included);10,500 yen for full day, with lunch (tax included)
Requirements:Reservations required; kayak wear rental from 300 yen (tax included)
Language available:Japanese/Basic English
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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