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Onsen Culture

13 Free Public Onsen Bathhouses

Onsen Culture


The most famous of all the bathhouses located in the centre of town. It is the symbol of Nozawa Onsen and the pride of the local community.

Apart from being known as one of the major ski resorts of Japan Nozawa Onsen, is also famous for its abundance of natural hot springs and rich (magnificent) bathing culture. After a long day skiing out in the cold there is nothing more refreshing than warming up your body and relaxing in one of the 13 traditional onsen bathhouses, so-called “Soto-Yu” found all around the village. Enhance your Japan-holydays with this wonderful experience combining wellness with an insight into traditional Japanese culture.

For many local people visiting the onsen is an important part of everyday life. As such the local community takes great pride in its onsen culture and renovating the bathhouses is given a lot of care. Visiting the bathhouses is free of charge and they are open from the early morning until 11 pm every day. It is definitely worth the time to check out all of the bathhouses to get a glimpse of their unique architecture and design. The interiors of the bathhouses have a rustic look through their simple wooden structure which is kept in the traditional style of the Edo period.

All of the water that fills the bathtubs comes from nearby hot springs and as such is rich in minerals from the nearby mountains. According to local beliefs bathing in these mineral-rich waters will increase the smoothness of your skin, help the natural self-defence of the body and will even slow down the aging process. At 45-49 degrees Celsius getting into the water and feeling comfortable can be quite though the first time. If you can’t get adjusted to the high temperatures just yet, don’t worry too much about it, as there is the possibility of adding cold water to the bath. Consider other guest’s preferences however, if you do so, since many of the locals enjoy the hot temperatures.

Apart from being the source for the bathhouses, the hot springs have many other applications in local life, such as being used for laundry or vegetable washing. Oogama, the hottest of the many springs in town is even used for cooking, and you might even see villagers preparing food in the hot spring if you go there around the morning. You might also want to try an “Onsen-Tamago”, a hardboiled egg, cooked using the water from the hot springs. To do so, buy an egg and net in the local store and place it in one of the boxes located in front of the hot springs, wait for around 20 minutes and enjoy.    

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Snow & Powder

A Ski Town Once Held 1998's Winter Olympic

Enjoy Snow & Powder

Located in the northeast of Nagano Prefecture, near the Japanese Alps, Nozawa Onsen is one of the oldest ski resorts in Japan. However, this is not to mean that it’s outdated, the ski resort has modern high-speed lifts, two gondola systems and some of the longest and fastest runs in Japan. With a total slope area of around 297 hectares, it is one of the largest resorts found in Japan.

Due to its position close to the Japanese Sea Nozawa Onsen is blessed with intense and frequent snowfalls and some of the finest powder snow found in Asia. Its specific geographical location allows winter sports enthusiast to enjoy riding the slopes well into early May.  

During peak season most slopes are opened until half to five in the afternoon and there is also the option to go night skiing up until eight in the evening.

The ski resort features run for all skill levels, starting from gentle slopes perfect for fresh starters, up to very steep fast runs beloved amongst professionals. It also has a half-pipe and an exciting Snow Park.

All of the winter sports areas and the close by the village is easily accessible by foreigners and information in English is available almost everywhere.

Apart from steep slopes for adrenaline junkies, Nozawa Onsen also features Snowshoe hiking tours for people more into hiking and nature. During a snowshoe walk, you can not only work on your stamina but also learn about the history and explore the rich natural beauty of the area. While hiking through a birch forest more than 200 years old and over a frozen lake you can gaze at the panoramic view of the Nagano-Alps.

Famous for hosting the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, Nozawa Onsen is also the home of a skiing museum, showcasing the history of the sport.

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Natural Wonders

Explore Breathtaking Nature & Culture within Reach

Many Natural Wonders Nearby


Home to a famous shrine, a ninja village and dense forests.