Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa is a hot spring and ski resort village near Nagano, and the village is certainly the highlight of the area, offering a unique Japanese cultural experience. We recommend visiting the many onsens (in fact there are 13 free hotsprings, maintained by volunteers, many dating back to the 8th century.) With hotspring steam emerging from the cobblestoned village streets, it is certainly worth exploring all of the sights and sounds of Nozawa, and the entire town can be explored by foot. The ski resort itself is also well serviced, and often said to be the biggest single ski resort (excluding interconnected resorts such as Niseko) in Japan.

 

“Nozawa is a delightful 1000 year old village, complete with cobblestone alleyways and steaming onsens. Not only a great ski destination, this place is perfect for those wishing to experience authentic Japanese culture.”

NOZAWA RESORT STATS

Season: November – May
Altitude: 1650m
Terrain: Beginner 40% / Intermediate 30% / Advanced 30%
Lift system: 25 lifts including 2 gondolas
Vertical: 1085m
Longest run: 10km
Average Snowfall: 12m+
Terrain Parks: Pipe, jumps, rails, boxes

The Nozawa Fire Festival is one the three great fire festivals of Japan. This is the most popular and one of the most unique festivals during the winter season (although the naked man festival is pretty close). It is also the easiest to access for guests looking to add some Japanese festival excitement to their trip. Taking place on January 15th in Nozawa Onsen guests can stay at Nozawa or transport can be arranged from Hakuba and Myoko Kogen.

The festival consists of a huge wooden pavilion being constructed on the 13th of January which is then blessed by monks to imbue the pavilion with Dosojin (deities or gods to ward off trouble on the road – especially helpful for travellers).

The festival originally was to invoke a good harvest, good health and good fortune but now includes a good snow season too!

The Battle begins around 8:30 PM on the 15th of Jan with 25 year olds lighting torches from the sacred fire and charging the wooden pavilion which is defended by 42 years olds (Both ages considered unlucky). The defenders fight off the flames with nothing but their bare hands, and taunt the attackers with jeers and songs (much courage is gained from the free flowing Sake at the event). The festival finishes with the pavilion being set alight (after a hasty retreat by the defenders). This creates a magnificent bonfire that burns long into the night.

Nozawa Books out up to a year in advance se best to get in quick to book your accommodation or arrange transfer from a different resort.

 

For information on other winter festivals in Japan see Kiedo’s blog post here.

Got more than a week? If so we recommend visiting a few resorts to make the most of your time in Nagano-Niigata. Depending on the resort we would recommend anywhere from 3 nights to a week. The below resorts are all within a few hours of Nozawa Onsen which makes it easy to transfer between the two without losing any on snow time.

 

Resorts near Nozawa Onsen:

  • Madarao-Tangram
  • Myoko Kogen
  • Shiga Kogen
  • Hakuba

All resorts are about 2 1/4 ~ 2 1/2 hrs drive with Nagano Snow Shuttle Inter-Resort Transfer. See ‘GETTING THERE’ tab for more information on travel to/from Tokyo and Nozawa Onsen.

  • BOOK EARLY! Nozawa is one of Japan’s most popular ski resorts and books up very quickly especially from late December ~ end of January. If you want central village and higher end accommodation we advise booking around March/April, this is when bookings usually open.
  • Stay at one of Nozawa’s traditional accommodations, this is a great place to experience some of Japan’s best hospitality and traditional Ryokans. Sleep on futons, onsen daily, have delicious Japanese meals and enjoy the charm of this 400 year old village.
  • Onsen! Many accommodations have their own for you to try, however, you should make sure you try the local traditional bath houses as well. These are dotted around the village – ask your accommodation for a guide map so you can find them. Some are on the main streets and others are tucked away further from the centre of the village (these are often quieter and filled with locals). Make sure you bring your own towel and soap and leave a donation on entry. These are very hot so make sure you test the water before fully entering! Another tip is to try some of the onsen in the luxurious hotels as they are often very scenic, some even allow you to rent out smaller private onsen for mixed gender groups of couples, families or friends. You’ll also find foot onsen – great for your ski/snowboard weary feet!
  • Try many different Japanese foods – although western options are becoming more popular in Nozawa the majority of restaurants there are Japanese. This is great as you can sample all the best foods Japan and the region have on offer during your time there. Get a list from your hotel and be sure to check with them if reservations are required (this is often the case in peak season). Many accommodation have their own restaurant that offer non-guests traditional set evening meals for around ¥4,000~¥6,000 per person, this is a great way to have a try of many traditional smaller dishes as the meal often comprises of multiple courses. If you require western food check with our team when booking and we can give you the best recommendations for where to stay with western breakfast and where to eat in the evenings.
  • Store your skis on mountain – Haus St Anton offers ski storage at the top of the Yu-Road (free if you hire from them / small fee if you have your own gear). This is the best way to save you lugging your skis up/down the mountain each day.

Train & taxi

  • You will need to take the bullet train to Iiyama St, from there the local line to Togari Nozawa Onsen and from there a taxi.
  • Alternatively you can take the Nozawa Onsen Liner bus from Iiyama to Nozawa. See further information here.
  • About 1 1/2hrs from Tokyo St – be careful to plan your route in advance so as to have the best connections possible.

Nagano Snow Shuttle

  • Direct services from Haneda and Narita Airports to Nozawa Onsen and return daily.
  • On your return you can get off in Shinjuku (Tokyo Central) or return to either Airport.
  • Be sure to check with your consultant if the bus timetable lines up well with your flight.
  • About 6hrs.

Share Taxi Transfer

  • This is a great option for those whose flights don’t line up well with the Nagano Snow Shuttle. You are transferred in a mini-van with others going to the Nagano-Niigata resorts who have arrived on the same flight or at a similar time.
  • About 6hrs.

Notes:

  • For the bus and share taxi transfer you may have to change vehicles at Nagano St.
  • The roads in Nozawa Onsen are very small so you may not be able to be dropped at the door of your accommodation, ask your consultant the best way to get to your accommodation.
  • See www.hyperdia.com for train timetables and best routes.

Whiteroom recommends: taking the bus or share taxi transfer if you have a lot of luggage or if this is your first time in Japan. Although the train and taxi/bus is quicker it can be hard to navigate with big ski/snowboard bags. On top of this it can be a little overwhelming if it’s your first time in Japan. If you’re up for an adventure the train and bus is a great option and the public transport staff in Japan are very kind and willing to help where needed. Your consultant will also make sure you have all the required journey information and timetables in advance.