Otaki is a relaxed village that lies in the Kiso region of Nagano prefecture, central Japan. The turquoise waters of the Otaki River flow through the village, along with dozens of smaller tributaries. Over 95% of the village area is covered in forest, and wildlife abounds, including bear, boar, fox, and serow (kamoshika). With a population of less than 800, Otaki’s environment is home to more monkeys than people and troupes of them roaming the countryside are a common site.
The pristine environment makes it an ideal location for a variety of outdoor sports. Otaki hosts trail running and cycling events from spring through fall; skiing and snow boarding at the Ontake 2240 resort comes to the fore in winter. Kayaking on Lake Shizenko and Lake Ontake are both popular in the warmer weather.
Traditionally Otaki has been an entry point for pilgrimage on sacred Mt. Ontake, and the mystical traditions that developed around it are still alive today. Visitors can get a taste of them at one of the sacred waterfalls used for purification, or by hiking the Ontake-kodo, a historic trail used by mountain ascetics.
Otaki’s existence is inseparable from Mt. Ontake and the surrounding forests. The quiet landscape provides ample opportunity for shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), visiting power-spots, quiet hikes, and peaceful contemplation.
Otaki is most easily accessed from Nagoya to the south or Matsumoto to the north via the historic Nakasendo post town of Kiso-fukushima.
There are no highways in Otaki—there’s not even a stoplight. Even some villagers say there’s “nothing here,” and if “nothing” means no crime, noise, traffic, and pollution, then it’s true. One former resident has called it “The most peaceful place on Earth.”
Make the journey and experience Otaki for yourself.
About the site author ・本サイトについて
Chris W. Gladden is a Kiso based freelance translator and writer providing Japanese to English translation, editing and revision services, and Japan travel content creation.
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