Shiojiri City in Nagano Prefecture, is a small mountainside getaway proud of both it’s award winning wineries and Edo-era aesthetics that have been preserved throughout the city’s architecture.

Although not relatively well-known amongst national and international tourists, the area is a hotspot for its rich collection of historical buildings and artifacts and even has one area listed as one of Japan’s three major archeological sites; the Hiraide ruins.
In the city’s Narakawa area, visitors can enjoy walking through the former post-town streets of Narai-juku (a major stop on the ancient Nakasendō route) and can admire the lacquerware produced at the historic kilns in Kisohirazawa.

As part of preserving the city’s historical-era charm, a retro bus (known in japan as a bonnet bus) provides free shuttle tours across Shiojiri’s Narakawa area.
The bus is a big has been a big hit amongst both tourists and residents of Shiojiri. Younger riders have described it as “cute and pretty”, whilst the older generation have stated that it has provided “nostalgic feeling”.

In addition to getting a free tour through the Narakawa area of Shiojiri, users can also receive discounts at the Kiso Living Museum and Narai Kaikan by collecting stamps at stops along the journey. A leaflet for collecting the stamps is available on the bus.
Users can also enter into a lottery to win a bottle of award-winning Shiojiri wine by filling out a questionnaire attached to the leaflet. When completed the questionnaires can be placed in an application box located at the Kiso Living Crafts Museum, Kiso Lacquerware Museum, Narai Station or Narai Kaikan.

The bus tour had been temporarily suspended over the past few months due to COVID-19, but is now resuming on a reduced schedule limited to weekends and holidays from July 11 - November 3, 2020.
As part of anti-virus measures, riders are asked to wear masks when onboard the vehicle and to disinfect their hands with the hand gel provided.

The free shuttle buses run between 10:00am to 16:00pm. One journey takes roughly an hour to complete, but riders are free to get on and off at any of the stations along the route. The bus stops between the two areas are as follows;

Departing from Narai
Gonbei Bridge → Nakamura House → Narai Kaikan → Downtown Marca Koji → Narai Station → Kiso Lacquerware Hall → Hirasawa Station Lower → Nagano Bank → Narakawa Community Center → Kiso Living Craft Museum
*Vice versa for journey’s departing from Kisohirazawa

By - Connie Sceaphierde.