Stay in Yamanouchi: Area Descriptions
Yamanouchi is home to many excellent guesthouses including large hotels, traditional ‘ryokan’ and family-run ‘minshuku’. The four areas making-up Yamanouchi – Kanbayashi Onsen, Yudanaka Onsen, Shibu Onsen, Shiga Kogen and Kita-Shiga Kogen – each have many accommodation options, with the largest concentrations being in Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen.
Each distinct area within Yamanouchi has its own character and range of accommodation including:
KANBAYASHI ONSEN AREA / distance to the park: immediate access
The small hot spring village of Kanbayashi Onsen is home to a small number of excellent ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses) within walking distance of the Jigokudani Monkey Park. These are the closest guesthouses to the park and most, if not all, offer free pick-up and drop-off at Yudanaka Station. During the winter peak season, Kanbayashi will be busy during the day as visitors move to and from the park, but come evening and all other times of year, the village is quiet and tranquil to walk around.
Staying in Kanbayashi allows guests to enjoy early and late visits to the monkey park while also savouring the lush surroundings of the forest. Day-time restaurants include Enza Café and Hotarutei, there are few dining options at night. All guesthouses offer dinner and breakfast – a great way to totally relax, unwind and enjoy your time with the monkeys.
Accommodation listings and directions to Kanbayashi can be found through our ‘Yudanaka & Shibu Onsen’ hotel page.
YUDANAKA ONSEN AREA / distance to the park: 5 to 7-minutes drive
As the immediate area around Yudanaka Station, staying in Yudanaka is a convenient option for visitors using the train to and from Nagano. Yudanaka itself is somewhat unassuming but holds an interesting history and some great lunch and dinner options including Japanese Dining GOEN, directly across from the station.
The town is unassuming and first impressions somewhat belie its long history as a hot spring destination. Wandering around Yudanaka and onto nearby Shibu Onsen reveals quaint alleyways and hints of long history, best enjoyed during the blossoms of spring, festivals of summer and changing leaves of autumn.
Being in close proximity of the station, guests staying in Yudanaka can take advantage of public buses running to nearby Shibu Onsen, the monkey park and ski resorts of Shiga Kogen and Kita-Shiga Kogen.
Accommodation listings and directions to Yudanaka can be found through our ‘Yudanaka & Shibu Onsen’ hotel page.
SHIBU ONSEN AREA / distance to the park: under 5-minutes by car or 20 to 30-minutes on-foot
Located between Yudanaka and the monkey park., Shibu Onsen boasts at 1300-year history and numerous guesthouses. Most have their own in-house onsen and many even have their own source, making their water and claimed healing properties unique to that guesthouse. While Shibu is also showing its age, its small laneways, historic buildings and nine ‘public’ bathhouses imbue the town with loads of charm.
While most guesthouse also offer both dinner and breakfast, Shibu Onsen has some excellent restaurants and a couple of welcoming bars. As one of Central Japan’s oldest and most historic hot spring towns, Shibu has long been popular with Japanese and is becoming increasingly well-known for international visitors. Like many such towns in Japan, Shibu is showing its age but seems on the verge of being revitalised with new businesses popping-up and younger Japanese now seeking out the retro-atmosphere and quaint traditions of towns like Shibu Onsen.
From Shibu Onsen, the monkey park can be reached by local bus in around 5 minutes or on-foot in around 20 minutes. Local buses also connect Shibu to Shiga Kogen – Japan’s largest ski resort.
Accommodation listings and directions to Shibu can be found through our ‘Shibu Onsen Area’ hotel page.
SHIGA KOGEN AREA / distance from park: 30 to 60-minutes drive in winter (depending on where you stay in the resorts)
Nestled in the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, Shiga Kogen is Japan’s largest and highest ski resort. Also lay claiming to Nagano’s longest season – which in a good year runs from late-November into May – Shiga offers numerous accommodation options ranging from budget to high-end, with many smaller hotels being family-run. Shiga Kogen boasts an unmatched expanse of interconnected terrain with courses suitable for all levels. As a host venue of events during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Shiga Kogen’s winter pedigree speaks for itself – let’s just say, there’s plenty to do in Shiga Kogen!
Given the size of the resort, deciding where to stay in Shiga can be confusing for first-timers. The central areas of Higashidateyama, Takamagahara and Ichinose have the greatest concentration of accommodation, restaurants and bars. Away from the central areas, Yakebitaiyama and Okushiga boast some of the best powder in the resort, while even more distant Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama are the only ski fields not connected to the others however lay claim to Japan’s highest chair-lifted ski run at 2307 metres.
Not to be confused with the larger resort of Shiga Kogen, the resorts of Kita-Shiga Kogen are notably smaller and not connected. Accessible by bus from Yudanaka Station, there are several resorts in the area, the largest and most popular of which is Ryuoo Ski Park.
Ryuoo has only 15 courses but a substantial 1080 metres of vertical (850-1930). Popular with locals and young Tokyo-ites, Ryuoo has a youthful atmosphere and is dominated by snowboarders. The Skyland Express Ropeway ascends to the top of the resort at 1770 metres and the Sora Terrace Café – a popular destination in both winter and late-spring to autumn.
Outside of winter, both Shiga and nearby Kita-Shiga offer fantastic hiking and nature photography along with a range of spring, summer and autumn activities.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS
As a traditional hot spring area, you will find many ‘ryokan’ and ‘minshuku’ in Yamanouchi. These traditional guesthouses offer Japanese-style comforts such as ‘futon’ on-flooring bedding, ‘tatami’ (straw-mat) rooms, ‘shoji’ (sliding timber and paper) doors and windows and of course ‘onsen’ – natural hot springs.
Staying at a ryokan or a minshuku is the best way to fully relax and indulge in an onsen, with many guesthouses also offering private hot spring or in-room onsen (for higher-end ryokan).
Most guesthouses will also offer traditional ‘kaiseki’ (multicourse) meal service, highlighting the best seasonal produce of Yamanouchi and nearby areas.
Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen also boast larger hotels with Western-style amenities, something that visitors will find a lot of in the ski resorts of Shiga Kogen and Kita-Shiga Kogen. Both areas offer a range of accommodation, spread-out across the ski fields and highlands.
Accommodation varies greatly, from high-end hotels to family-run ski lodges and budget pensions with some guesthouses offering shuttle services to and from Yudanaka Station, the Jigokudani Monkey Park and other nearby destinations.
For a breakdown of accommodation types in Japan – including the difference between a ryokan, minshuku and pension – please refer to our ‘Choosing Your Accommodation’ page.