Shibu Onsen: Simple & Fun Things To Do In a Traditional Hot Spring Town
Visiting and staying in a traditional ‘onsen’ (hot spring) town is something of a must-do activity when coming to Japan. Making use of Japan’s abundance of natural thermal water, many hot spring towns boasts long histories as place of healing, rest and relaxation. Knowing what to expect is helpful…
One such town is Shibu Onsen. Blessed with countless water sources, Shibu’s history as a hot spring town stretches back 1300 years! Home to numerous guesthouses, Shibu remains most famous for its 9 ‘public’ bathhouses reserved for use by hotel guests and town residents – only Bathhouse No.9 can be used by any visitor to Shibu.
Each bathhouse is said to assist with different ailments while trying all nine, is all said to bring long-life and good fortune. ‘Ashi-yu’ (footbaths) are also dotted through the town for free use by anyone, as they explore or simply wander and unwind.
Strolling the narrow streets and laneways of Shibu Onsen in a ‘yukata’ (light kimono) is a one of the pleasures of any visit – as couples, friends and families do the same and the sound of ‘geta’ (wooden sandals) clip and echo off the paving stones.
Along the way you will discover family-run stores selling traditional onsen snacks including ‘senbei’ (rice crackers), ‘manju’ (steamed buns), ice cream and of course, cold beer and warm sake. Quaint shops offer traditional games including shooting galleries, while restaurants and bars entice you in to sit and meet the locals.
The emphasis is on going slow and doing little. These are the charms of an onsen town and Shibu Onsen is one of Nagano’s most famous!
Varies depending on activity
Price varies with many activities free of charge
Around 5-minutes drive from the Jigokudani Monkey Park
From Nagano Station, take the limited express service on the Nagano Dentetsu (Nagaden) Railway to Yudanaka Station - 45 minutes / JPY1290. Once at Yudanaka, you can walk to Shibu Onsen - around 20-minutes on foot - or take a local bus or taxi - under 5 minutes