Best Onsen Ski Resorts in Nagano
One of the true pleasures of skiing and snowboarding in Japan is enjoying an ‘onsen’ (natural hot spring) at the end of long, cold day on the mountain. But when it comes to onsen, not all resorts are created equal! On this page you will find the following information:
For lots of great information about the best ski resorts in Japan and where to find the most historic, popular and unique hot springs, make sure to checkout the information below. While Nagano is our home and blessed with some of Japan’s best ski resorts and onsen, there’s no shortage of other great options spread throughout the country.
BEST ONSEN SKI RESORTS IN NAGANO
Nagano is home to more than eighty ski resorts and some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Asia. Within easy reach of Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka, the resorts of Nagano can lay claim to being Japan’s premier winter destination. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to world-class snow and fantastic resorts when headed this direction but when it comes to ‘onsen’ (natural hot springs), some resorts are better setup, or you might say, more blessed than others. Many if not most resorts in Nagano will have at least one onsen nearby, so if you have you’re eye on a particular resort, just search for hot springs in the area. This goes for the resorts of Hakuba. There’s no onsen village as such but there are hot springs dotted about the valley and around most of the resorts. But for skiers and snowboarders looking for resorts but lots of choice when it comes to finding a hot spring to soak in, these are our three recommendations:
When it comes to ski resorts in Japan with the best onsen setup, then there’s no looking past Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort. Located around 50km to the north-east of Nagano City, Nozawa Onsen is one of the most popular and highly-rated ski resorts in Japan. The resort is reasonably large by Japanese standards, covering 300 hectares and serviced by 2 gondolas and 19 lifts. The mix of terrain is excellent with something for everyone along with a reputation for fantastic powder. Serviced by a lively village offering plenty of good accommodation, restaurants and bars, Nozawa Onsen’s popularity is growing by the year, fueled by the allure of great skiing and snowboarding, a fun village and lots of onsen.
Long before Nozawa developed its ski fields, it was one of the region’s most renowned hot spring towns with a history stretching back more than one thousand years. The town and surrounding area are blessed with numerous sources of thermal water, that feed the many bathhouses and guesthouses dotted through the village. In total, there are thirteen public onsen that can be used by any visitor free of charge along with many hotels and guesthouses with their own baths, for the exclusive use of guests. You’ll also find ‘ashi-yu’ (foot onsen) throughout the town, which can also be used by anyone free of charge. The village is at its most lively on January 15th each year as it hosts one of Japan’s great fire festivals – the Nozawa Onsen Dosojin. Raucous, hectic and great fun, the festival attracts thousands of visitors with accommodation in the village selling-out months before.
Nozawa Onsen is easy to reach from Tokyo- taking between 100 to 110-minutes – using the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Iiyama Station. Once at Iiyama, the Nozawa Onsen Liner Bus departs frequently for the resort, taking around 25-minutes. For more information about the resort including where to stay, see our ‘Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort’ main page.
Shiga Kogen Ski Resort lies 45km to the east of Nagano City and can lay claim to being the largest and highest ski resort in Japan. Shiga boasts over 600 hectares of terrain serviced by 5 gondolas and 43 lifts. Including Japan’s highest chair-lifted ski run at 2307 metres, Shiga’s inland position, elevation, natural topography protect the snow from the wind and warmer temperatures of lower areas, blessing it with Nagano’s longest season. The highest areas of the resort can open as early as mid-November and, in a good year, stay open as late as May. Expect the full resort to be open from mid-December until mid-April and while there, look-out for the Olympic courses that hosted events in 1998. They are clearly marked and an enticing challenge for upper-intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders.
Unlike the resorts listed above, Shiga’s immense size means that doesn’t have a single central village. Accommodation is dotted across its ski fields with the greatest concentration found in the Ichinose area. Among those, several hotels and areas are also blessed with hot springs. Skiers and snowboarders looking for a large resort with multiple onsen should consider Shiga Kogen, which outside of weekends and holidays is likely to be quiet – certainly much quieter than Nozawa.
While Shiga Kogen has multiple hot springs, there is no onsen village as such. However for guests wanting to stay in a traditional hot spring village while hitting-up Shiga’s expansive ski fields, nearby Kanbayashi Onsen, Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen are within 30-minutes drive of the resort’s lower ski fields. Kanbyashi Onsen is home to the Jigokudani Monkey Park and some excellent guesthouses, while Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen have long histories as onsen towns, with Shibu in particular being particularly charismatic. There are numerous onsen guesthouses spread through the two towns, with Shibu Onsen also boasting nine public onsen that can be used by any guest staying at a local hotel or guesthouse.
To reach Shiga Kogen from Tokyo, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano Station and then transfer to the Nagaden Snow Monkey / Shiga Kogen Express Bus. This bus service also stops at Kanbayashi Onsen, while local buses run from all three villages – Yudanaka, Shibu and Kanbayashi – onto the ski resort. Taxis are also available while for visitors driving themselves, the journey between the towns to the resort is quick, easy and well worth it for the change to enjoy the largest ski resort in the country in combination with some of its best hot spring villages. For more information about the resort including where to stay, see our ‘Shiga Kogen Ski Resort’ main page.
AKAKURA ONSEN / AKAKURA KANKO*
Lying 35km to the north of Nagnao City, the joint resorts of Akakura Onsen Ski Area and Akakura Kanko Ski Resort are the largest ski fields in Myoko Kogen. In total, the joint resort offers 27 ski runs serviced by 1 gondola and 20 lifts but more importantly, some of the deepest powder anywhere in Japan. Similar to the other resorts of Myoko, Akakura Onsen and Kanko haven’t yet seen the influx of international visitors or, in some cases, much needed investment and development. Yet they offer some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Japan thanks to the huge amounts of snow they receive each winter. The location of Myoko near the north coast ensures it receives the first dumps of snow as the winter moves in from the Sea of Japan. Combine that with an open approach to backcountry, Myoko attracts advanced skiers and snowboarders looking to get off-piste and into the trees and some truly epic powder.
The village of Akakura Onsen services the resort and offers the largest concentration of accommodation and dining in Myoko Kogen and, as the name suggests, natural hot springs. Many guesthouses in the area have in-house onsen with other public onsen also dotted around the resorts of Myoko. The village itself is showing its age and doesn’t offer the lively atmosphere or range of options that you’ll find in Nozawa however if your interest is finding some awesome powder and then indulging in a hot spring at night, then Akakura Onsen might just be for you. For more information about the resort including where to stay, see our ‘Myoko Kogen Ski Resorts’ main page.
*The resorts of Myoko Kogen are not actually in Nagano. They in fact in Niigata. However given their close proximity to Nozawa and other resorts in Nagano, and their distance from the other major resorts of Niigata, when planning your winter visit to Japan its best to group them with the resorts of Nagano – especially when traveling by train which will bring you to Nagano Station enroute to Myoko. From Tokyo, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano Station and then switch to the Kita-Shinano Line to Myoko-Kogen Station. From there, shuttle buses run to the resorts.
JAPAN SKI RESORTS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Did you know that Nozawa, Shiga Kogen and the resorts of Myoko Kogen are just some of the more than five hundred in Japan? Needless to say, when you choose Nagano for your winter getaway you are spoiled for choice! Our ‘Japan Ski Resorts’ page has everything you need to know to start planning your ski and snowboard adventure including: LATEST NEWS & DEALS, THE BEST RESORTS IN NAGANO & JAPAN, FAQs and of course OUR SKI PACKAGES, ACCOMMODATION, TRANSPORT & TOURS.
ONSEN’ IN JAPAN: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Japan boasts more than 25,000 hot springs and over 3000 designated ‘onsen’ areas making it something of a must-do activity when visiting this beautiful country. Our ‘Onsen in Japan’ main page has everything you need to know starting with the important question of what qualifies as an ‘onsen’, how to identify one, onsen etiquette, where to find some great ones and more! One of the most enjoyable aspects of life in Japan, we recommend trying it for yourself – you’ll probably fall in love with it!
BOOK WITH US! WINTER DEALS IN NAGANO
Based in Nagano, we are a registered travel agent and the region’s No.1 tour and charter operator. We can arrange accommodation, transport, ski passes, rental, lessons and more at Nagnao’s most popular resorts or package it all together for you with the option of our group or private tours. Our ‘Winter Deals in Nagano’ page is a great place to start when planning for getaway from the coming season. We have the local knowledge of where and when to go, to help you discover and enjoy the region’s many ski resorts and other fantastic destinations and activities.
Why choose us?
Awarded a 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for our 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – recognised as one of the Top 10 Experiences in Japan – we have the local knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your time in Nagano.
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