Exploring Otaki, Japan: Top Things to Do in and Around Nagano Prefecture 

Nestled in the picturesque Nagano Prefecture, Otaki is a hidden gem that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and outdoor adventures. It is also where our new volunteer programs in Japan are based! Whether you’re an avid hiker, a history buff, or love to unwind in serene surroundings, Otaki has something for everyone. Here’s a guide to the best things to do in and around Otaki in your free time. 

Hiking and Outdoor Activities 

Ontake Kodo Pilgrimage Route 

One of the most revered pilgrimage routes in Japan, the Ontake Kodo, offers hikers a chance to explore the spiritual and natural beauty of Mount Ontake. The trail is dotted with ancient shrines, stunning waterfalls, and lush forests, providing a serene and spiritually enriching experience. 

Otaki Lake 

Otaki Lake is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and the stunning natural landscapes that surround it. The lake is enveloped by dense forests, which provide a beautiful contrast to the blue waters. The reflection of the surrounding mountains on the lake’s surface creates a picturesque scene, especially during sunrise and sunset. 

View onto Otaki lake

Mount Ontake 

Mount Ontake, Japan’s second highest volcano, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The mountain offers various trails for hiking, ranging from beginner to advanced levels. In winter, it transforms into a skiing haven, attracting winter sports lovers from all over the country. 

_Hiking up Mount Ontake

Akazawa Natural Recreation Forest 

A beautiful expanse of lush greenery, the Akazawa Natural Recreation Forest is perfect for a day of relaxation and nature walks. The forest features well-marked trails, picnic spots, and an informative visitor centre where you can learn about the local flora and fauna. 

_Nature hike and learning about local plants

Cultural and Historical Experiences 

Otaki Castle Ruins 

The remnants of Otaki Castle offer a glimpse into the region’s rich history. The site, surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms in spring, is perfect for a leisurely stroll while imagining the feudal era that once thrived here. 

Otaki Castle Ruins

Kiso Ontake Shrine 

A significant spiritual site, the Kiso Ontake Shrine, is dedicated to the deities of Mount Ontake. The shrine complex is serene, with traditional architecture and a tranquil atmosphere, making it a must-visit for those interested in Japanese culture and spirituality. 

_Hiking up Mount Ontake

Seasonal Festivals and Events 

Ontake Opening Festival 

Held in early July, the Ontake Opening Festival marks the beginning of the mountain climbing season. The festival includes traditional rituals, performances, and a vibrant parade, providing a unique cultural experience for visitors. 

Kiso Ontake Fireworks Festival 

This summer festival features a spectacular fireworks display over the Ontake area. It’s a fantastic opportunity to enjoy local food stalls, traditional music, and the stunning visual spectacle of fireworks lighting up the night sky. 

Relaxation and Wellness 

Otaki Onsen 

After a day of hiking or exploring, there’s nothing better than soaking in the healing waters of Otaki Onsen. These hot springs offer a relaxing retreat with scenic views of the surrounding mountains, perfect for unwinding and rejuvenating. 


Local Cuisine 

Nagano Prefecture is known for its delicious local cuisine. Don’t miss trying soba noodles, traditionally prepared with buckwheat from the region, and Gohei mochi, a grilled rice cake covered with sweet miso sauce. Local inns and restaurants offer these specialties, providing a delightful culinary experience, but you’ll also get this at the accommodation!

Sushi Party

Nearby Attractions 


A short drive from Otaki, Narai-juku is a beautifully preserved post town along the historic Nakasendo route. The town features traditional Edo-period architecture, charming shops, and cozy teahouses, making it a perfect day trip destination. 

Narai-juku town

Kiso Valley 

Explore the scenic beauty of the Kiso Valley, with its deep gorges, crystal-clear rivers, and historic villages. The valley is ideal for hiking, river activities, and experiencing the rustic charm of rural Japan. 

Hiking up Mount Ontake - Group photo


Otaki and its surroundings in Nagano Prefecture offer a perfect escape into nature, history, and culture. Whether you are seeking adventure, relaxation, or a deep dive into Japan’s rich heritage, this region has it all. Our volunteer programs in Japan focus on community and gaining a cultural exchange opportunity whilst also helping to give back and assist the local community. This is the chance to really embrace and learn first-hand about a truly unique and wonderful culture.  

View our Japan programs!

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