I went to Nagano twice with my wife this summer. The second time was a bit shorter and we only stayed one night at a minshuku. But we got some good hiking in on the second day. We encountered less traffic but more rain, so it sort of balanced out.
The minshuku was nice and the services were standard. The staff was the real prize. The lady of the house was a hilarious and really sweet woman who made us happy we chose to stay with her. During dinner as all of the guests were drinking beer with our set meals, the owner brought some bottles of her homemade plum and grape juice. Funny story, she made some with alcohol (umeshu) and some without, but her grandson peeled off the labels and she did not know which was which. So she asked us to sample and tell her. No one complained about that offer!
The second day we drove to the mountains and began our trek. We hiked 8km from Magome-juku to Tsumago-juku. That was a moderate hike that had us crossing some roads but was mainly over some well-maintained trails. There were a few others hikers but we generally had some privacy most of the way, giving us a chance to commune with nature. My wife broke on her new walking shoes and did a great job keeping up with me. We planned for a three-hour hike and I think we finished at the 2:50 mark. Got some sun but Nagano is noticeably cooler than the rest of Japan so it was a comfortable hike.
Magome-juku feautures a traditional town that has been turned into a nifty tourist spot. A former post town, it nows serves as the beginning (or end) of a trail that was used for centuries by Japanese travelling through one of the more mountainous regions of Japan.
We are rapidly approaching fall and the weather is finally cooling off, but I plan to keep hiking around Japan. Stay tuned, folks!