A prefecture and city on the Honshu island of Japan. Nagano city (population: 360,000) is the prefectural capital; Matsumoto is the other major city in the prefecture. Nagano is one of the largest prefectures in Japan. It is entirely landlocked, mountainous, and heavily forested. Over 60% of the land is either forest or agricultural. Nagano prefecture is bordered by eight other prefectures: to the north is Niigata prefecture; to the east are Gunma, Saitama, and Yamanashi; to the south are Shizuoka and Aichi; to the west are Gifu and Toyama.
Historically, Nagano prefecture was called Shinano; for a short time in the 8th Century, it was divided into two parts, the Shinano and the Suwa. Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen fought over Shinano many times, with the land finally falling under the rule of Shingen and thus becoming part of Kai. After the fall of Shingen, however, the province came under the rule of Ishikawa Kazumasa who was an important retainer of Tokugawa Ieyasu. In 1592, Kazumasa and his son began the construction of Matsumoto Castle, Japan`s oldest five-story castle.
In the 1590s, Sanada Masayuki was daimyo in this region. He was attacked by Tokugawa Hidetaka at Ueda Castle, but successfully resisted and remained lord of the area until he was banished by Tokugawa Ieyasu after the conclusion of the Sekigahara campaign. In the 1750s, the area underwent a serious rice famine, and the peasants staged an uprising known as the Horeki Uprising.
Nagano prefecture is famous for many things. Its shiromiso or white miso is legendary. Also, it boasts 16 mountains over 3000 meters each, along with the record amount of snowfall in Japan (4.34 meters recorded one time back in 1981). As you might expect, Japan`s firstsnowplow was made here (in 1896), and Japan`s first ski lift opened at Maruike Pond in 1946. The world`s second highest geyser is in Suwa city. In 1998, Nagano prefecture hosted the Olympic Winter Games.