Jigokudani, home of the world-famous snow monkeys, is around a 1 hour bus or car ride from Nozawa Onsen. Japanese macaque monkeys inhabit the area. Despite the harsh conditions (snow-covered for one-third of the year) and the rough cliffs (hence the Jigokudani “Hell’s Valley” name), the area is a paradise for the monkeys. One amusing reason is that the monkeys enjoy lounging in the hot spring water that collects in pools. This provides an excellent opportunity for visitors to observe the macaque’s fascinating behaviour up close and personal. If you’re interested in visiting the snow monkeys, you can book through IXSM Travel.
SUBLIME SOAKS–NOZAWA’S ONSENS
After a day on the slopes, nothing can compare to the experience of coming out of the cold, and climbing into a hot spring bath. Feel your aches and pains (and your mind) melt away. For 400 years, visitors have made the journey to Nozawa Onsen to be reinvigorated in its renowned hot springs.
There are 13 free public hot spring baths in the village, the most prominent being the enchanting wooden Edo-style O-yu in the center of town. Take an early evening stroll through the streets of Nozawa Onsen and you’ll see bustling villagers (some in light kimonos and clogs) carrying shampoo, soap and a towel, off to soak themselves and chatter with friends. We invite you to experience this sublime soak, but wish to point out that Japan’s public bathhouses have a strict code of etiquette and ask all our guests to respect this. You can read more here about the do’s and don’ts.
Want to enjoy the hot springs but prefer to keep your bathers on? Perhaps enjoy it with your family? No problem! Nozawa Onsen has Sparena. At Sparena, you can enjoy the hot spring experience, with your family and with your swimmers on! Sparena is an easy walk – only 600 metres up the road.
There are also private or family onsens available for use, however, advance reservation for these are highly recommended as there is a very limited number in the village.
NOZAWA’S FAMOUS FIRE FESTIVAL
In a snow-locked village high in the Japanese Alps, a towering wooden shrine is about to be burned down in an act of collective hysteria. It is defended by determined young men – each one exactly 25 years of age – against wave after wave of attackers wielding burning branches.
Welcome to the Dosojin Matsuri Fire Festival. Nozawa Onsen is famous for this annual fire festival, an unforgettable experience and one of the ‘big three’ fire festivals in Japan. If you are lucky enough to be in Nozawa Onsen on 15th January, this is an event not to be missed, but be warned, it’s not for the faint-hearted!
TOUMYO MATSURI – WINTER LANTERN FESTIVAL
In early March, the Winter Lantern Festival is celebrated during the evening at the Hikage Ski Area. A magical flare run will light up the ski slope. There will be entertainers, live music and fireworks to commemorate the occasion. Kids will enjoy seeing Naski make an appearance.
Channel your inner yogi. Start the day with an invigorating yoga session. Led by a qualified and experienced yoga instructor, feel those body aches melt away and limber up for your next ski/snowboard session. For those staying in the penthouse of Kenashi, our traditional Japanese tatami room makes the perfect venue for your yoga moves while sunlight streams in amongst scenic views of the snowy mountains. Private sessions in your luxury accommodation or group classes are on offer.
On warm days off-season, we may offer yoga in different nature spots such as the lush forest, spiritual temple grounds or the beautiful lake nearby. This unique yoga experience will ensure a truly memorable yoga practice while soaking up the natural and cultural beauty of Nozawa.
OGAMA COOKING ONSEN
Ogama is the oldest and arguably the most beautiful part of Nozawa Onsen village. A certified national natural monument, Ogama is one of the very unique sights around Nozawa Onsen. Ogama (Japanese translation: “hemp pot”) is nowadays known as Nozawa Onsen’s kitchen, as village residents use this hot water daily to wash nozawana and cook vegetables and eggs.
While visitors aren’t allowed to enter this area, you can watch local people washing and cooking vegetables from outside the rail. It’s worth a look because this scenery is unique to Nozawa Onsen, where onsen intertwine with people’s daily lives. You can try onsen-boiled eggs and bamboo leaf dumplings cooked in Ogama, available at nearby stores. You’ll be surprised to see how the onsen eggs are different from regular eggs. The five hot-water pools have different temperatures, and villagers use them according to their needs. The Ogama cooking onsen is located immediately beneath the base of the moving walkway to Hikage (Yu Road).
NOZAWA’S FOOT ONSENS
In front of O-Yu Onsen in the center of Nozawa Village there is an old traditional footbath – the Ashiyu Footbath. The Ashiyu is believed to provide relief for poor blood circulation, swollen legs and painful migraine headaches. It’s very easy to use, simply roll up the bottoms of your trousers and soak your feet. In the Ashiyu, you can enjoy the hot spring water while sitting and chatting to your friends. For Ashiyu, the most effective water temperature is 42 to 43 degrees Celsius, slightly hotter than an ordinary bath, so very relaxing.
If you’re looking for something a bit more social, there’s a newly established foot onsen immediately outside Shiro Bar and Cafe, at the Shiro Nozawa Apartments. Sit and soak your feet while sipping on your favourite coffee….or cocktail. Re-order the next round without having to move a foot from the onsen!! Sit and watch the world go by. If you decide to kick on to the real thing, Kenashi and Karasawa guests enjoy exclusive use of Shiro’s full private onsen bath.
It’s official! Nagano prefecture has been voted one of the best places in Japan to cycle. Be it a long weekend from Hong Kong, or a week-long tour from Australia, there are so many cycle options when using Nozawa Onsen as a base.
Nozawa Onsen village and Letz Nozawa’s lodges will cater for family cycle groups right through to biking or triathlon clubs. Cycle tours can be tailored to meet group or individual needs with local guides, support vehicles and route mapping. The roads around Nozawa and the prefecture are very quiet, ensuring a peaceful ride and allowing you to take in the beautiful scenery.
It’s also a great opportunity to cycle to neighbouring ski resorts like Madarao, Myoko Kogen, Shiga Kogen, or small Japanese towns and villages that surround Nozawa. There is even a route that will take you to the Japan Sea and coastline. For those in a more relaxed frame of mind, take a cycle onsen tour!
Nozawa Onsen is an absolutely wonderful place for mountain biking in the summer. There are trails prepared all over the mountain for all levels of cyclists, from beginner to expert. A course map is provided for those only doing the downhill trails, so there is never any problem with choosing the right level trail for you. There is even a small grassy trail for children as young as two, to practice on. Mountain patrols are constantly descending the mountain for safety purposes to ensure trails are not blocked.
The Nagasaka Gondola is open from mid-July to the end of August every year (9:00am to 4:00pm every day) and provides quick transport to the top of the mountain for cyclists and their bikes, and thereby, access to all the downhill routes.
Top-quality rental mountain bikes are also available at the foot of Nagasaka Gondola at Compass House, so there are no logistical difficulties.
Simply roll up, hire a bike and gear, load the gondola (super simple), and return it at the end of the day. Alternatively, hire for the week and cycle downhill back to Kenashi or Karasawa Lodges after a hard day of cycling.
HIKING AND RUNNING
Hiking or running in the mountains in Nozawa is breathtaking. Trails have all been made by the village and a map is available so that you can choose your level of hike or run. You’ll come across waterfalls, streams with wooden bridges, deep forests, open fields and awe-inspiring views. It really is unique.There is even the occasional wildlife to be seen. You can hike straight out of the door of Kenashi or Karasawa Lodges as trails are all inter-linked. In July the Nozawa Onsen Trail Run is an annual competition ran over the Nozawa trails and right past the door of Kenashi and Karasawa Lodges!
This is a really beautiful temple in Nozawa. It’s a good few steps to get there, but anyone who has ventured the journey, comes back with a sense of amazement. The buildings have the spectacularly carved wooden eaves. You’ll sense immediately something extremely special ahead as you walk through mind-blowingly enormous trees and forest flanking the arched gate to the temple. The Temple is located right next to the base station of the Moving Walkway (Yu Road) to the Hikage Gondola. Take your time walking through this enchanting shrine and absorb the sheer serenity of the location.
This mysterious lake is filled with spring water and melted snow water. The lake is heart shaped, it’s also known as a popular destination for couples. Located in north-eastern Iiyama, this mysterious lake is surrounded by mountainous terrain. It is a favourite location for photographers because of its spectacular scenery and vegetation. The periphery of the lake is an easy walk and the lake can also be crossed by boat. On the far shore, statues honour the 7 Deities of Good Luck. During the August fireworks festival, fireworks are launched from boats on the water and explosions echo in the surrounding mountain ranges. On the shores of the lake, the Bunka Hokuryukan facilities include hot springs baths, a collection of artefacts from late Edo Period nobility and the Keyaki Cafe. The lake is only a short taxi, car or bus ride from Kenashi or Karasawa Lodges. Alternatively, it’s a moderate 16km cycle with a variety of ups and downs, for the more adventurous. Stand-up paddling group tours can also be arranged through one of the experienced Nozawa Onsen locals. Take a picnic on the lake!
Kosuge no Sato
Known as one of the top three spots in Japan for practitioners of the Buddhist way of ‘Shugendo’, the path to the Kosuge Okusha shrine is lined with towering ancient Japanese cedars, said to be 300 years old, and large moss covered boulders. The village of Kosuge has many temples and shrines and the trail to the Kosuge shrine is easy to find at the edge of the village. The path has poor footing in some areas so proper footwear and hiking experience is recommended. The hike, although magnificent, can be anywhere from 40 minutes to 1 hour. Kosuge Village is only a short bus ride, then walk from Iiyama Station, or you can take a taxi.
Kayaking, Rafting and Stand-up Paddle Boarding
Kayaking, rafting or stand-up paddle boarding can be arranged for the adventurous, on the Chikuma River or one of the magnificent lakes nearby. A guide can also be arranged by advance notice if needed. The lakes are also known for the fishing!
Schneider Square is located next to the Nozawa Onsen Tourist Information Centre. The café and free art gallery, L’atelier Kura, form a good introduction to the village. The café is renowned for its homemade bread specialties. A large monument commemorates two personalities who contributed to the town’s growth and reputation. Pop into the cosy Libushi Pub to sample some locally brewed craft beer.