25 Things to Do Around Nozawa Onsen & Where to Stay

25 Things to Do Around Nozawa Onsen & Where to Stay


Nozawa Onsen is a historic hot spring town that in recent years has established itself as one of Japan’s most popular ski resorts. Operating from December into the April, Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort draws visitors from all over the world, who come to enjoy its typically fantastic powder, great mix of terrain and lively village. One of Japan’s best resorts for nightlife, Nozawa has it all and is loved by many! On this page you will find the following information:

Where is Nozawa?

25 Best Things to Do In & Around Nozawa

Where to Stay in Nozawa?

Accommodation & Ski Packages in Nozawa

Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort: The Stats & Facts

Japan Ski Resorts: Everything You Need to Know

How to Get to Nozawa

Book With Us! Nagano’s No.1 Tour & Charter Operator

But it’s not just about the snow in Nozawa. With a history dating back around 1300 years, Nozawa is one of the region’s oldest ‘onsen’ (hot spring) towns and offers refuge and relaxation from the stresses of daily life no matter the time of year you plan to visit. Easy to access from Nagano Station and nearby Iiyama Station, Nozawa is less than 60-minutes drive from the Jigokudani Monkey Park and one of our favourite destinations in the region.


Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we are the region’s No.1 tour and charter operator. We offer both group and private tours to popular destinations in and around Nozawa, and we can also arrange private tours and charters to any destination. As a registered travel agent, we can package transport, accommodation and more together so you save and get the most out of your time in Nozawa – scroll to the bottom for details.


Located around 50KM (<1 hour drive) to the northeast of Nagano City and within easy reach of Tokyo – 260KM (<4 hours drive), Nozawa Onsen is a historic hot spring town better known in recent years as one of Japan’s most popular ski resorts. The town lies around 20 to 25-minutes drive from Iiyama Station. As a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Kanazawa via Nagano, Iiyama Station is a convenient hub from where to reach Nozawa by shuttle bus or taxi – a total journey time of around 2 hours from Tokyo. Nozawa’s history as a hot spring town stretches back more than 1000 years but for international visitors, it is best-known for its fantastic ski resort and lively village offering some of Japan’s best apres ski. Outside of winter, Nozawa Onsen is much quieter but developing as an all-year-round destination with some excellent accommodation, dining, outdoor activities, hot springs and a couple of very good breweries enticing you to visit.  


Long before Nozawa Onsen was a snow resort, it was famous for the healing powers of its thermal water and as a place of refuge. With a history stretching back more than 1000 years, Nozawa is one of Japan’s most famous ‘onsen’ (natural hot spring) towns, a legacy that lives on today in its free public hot springs, quaint streets and rural backbone. Here’s our suggestion of 25 things to do around Nozawa:

1 / NOZAWA ONSEN SKI RESORT / December to April


As the centrepiece of the whole town, the officially-named Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort offers everything that one would expect from a world class ski resort. Most commonly called Nozawa Onsen Snow Ski Resort, it served as the venue for the Olympic Biathlon event when Nagano played host to the Winter Games back in 1998. To this day it remains one of the best-loved ski resorts not just in Japan but all across Asia. In total, you will find 36 different ski runs on site. Difficulties range from absolute beginners right up to seasoned skiers. The course breakdown is as follows: beginner level: 40%, Intermediate Level 30% and Expert Level 30%. The high volume of beginner courses available makes this an ideal ski retreat for families or perhaps those just needing to move at their own pace. The season at Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort Runs from Mid-December until early May The resort is around 70-minutes drive from Nagano Station.



Nagano is known across Japan for its harsh winters. Thankfully, each year, on January 15th, there is a festival at Nozawa Onsen Town that will bring a little warmth to even the coldest of winter chills. The Nozawa Onsen Dosojin Matsuri one of Japan’s most famous winter fire festivals. The festival has a long and storied history. It is said to bring good fortune to the village, blessings upon first born children and their families, as well as drive away evil spirits and bad luck. On January 13th and 14th, a towering shrine is erected in the middle of the village. Then, at 7pm on the 15th, the fun begins. In keeping with Japanese traditional numerology, the men of the village of the “unlucky” ages of 25 and 42 guard the shrine, whilst the rest of the villagers attempt to break through and set the shrine alight. The fierce back and forth battle can go on for hours, before the guardians of the shrine finally step aside around 10pm and the shrine is set ablaze, ahead of the festival finally winding down to a conclusion around 11pm.

3 / EXPLORE & ENJOY THE VILLAGE / all year round


For relaxation, recuperation and an escape from the stresses and strains of daily life, there are few things in Japan more enticing than a good long soak in an onsen hot spring bath. At the base of the aforementioned Nozawa Snow Resort, you will find the village of Nozawa Onsen. In total, there are 13 different hot spring baths available to the public and maintained by the local community for more than 150 years.


These baths, known locally as Soto-yu, are free to the public, though a small donation is encouraged to help keep these baths in good order. Dating back to the Edo period, they maintain a simplistic and rustic aesthetic, that, whilst not perhaps the most luxurious, is not without is own endearing sense of charm and style. For those who want something a little more intimate, there are also a variety of Ryokan Inns on offer, some of which offer private baths for couples and families to enjoy. You will also find a variety of restaurants and bars dotted in and around the bathhouses for you to enjoy in-between each dip in the tub.

4 / STAY AT A TRADITIONAL ‘RYOKAN’ / all year round


For those who want to make the most of their time in the onsen town, or perhaps stay for a few days, nothing beats a local ryokan inn for the authentic Japanese experience. Ryokan Inns offer comfortable accommodations in a traditional style. You can relax and unwind in a tatami room, sleep as the Japanese have for centuries on a futon mattress, or maybe snuggle under the kotatsu (a table with a heater and blankets attached underneath). This is especially warm and cosy during Nagano’s long cold winters. At a ryokan you can also sample local, homemade cuisine, and bath in the onsite baths, reserved just for residents, at your leisure. See our ‘Where to Stay When Visiting Nozawa’ below for more information.



Another experience you must try during your time at Nozawa Onsen Town is the outdoor onsen experience. Many ryokans, hotels and even some public baths too offer both an indoor and outdoor hot spring bath. Don’t worry, even though you are outside, you are still positioned behind fencing, away from any prying eyes! The outdoor onsen is a uniquely stimulating experience, particularly in winter. Feeling the hot water ease your muscles as the cold air hits your face and upper body is in equal measures both relaxing and empowering. If you get the chance, I highly recommend taking an outdoor onsen during a snowy period. There’s something truly enchanting about feeling those ice cold snow flakes fall upon you, as you luxuriate in the hot, steaming bath.

6 / OGAMA HOT SPRING / all year round


A short trek up the hill towards the Nozawa Ski Resort, you will find the Ogama Hot spring. This onsen is a focal point of local customs and community life, and as a flashback to simpler times. With temperatures hitting 90 degrees Celsius, the waters of Ogama Onsen are, of course, far too hot for bathing. However, this beautiful monument to nature and local traditions is not without its purpose. To this day, its scalding hot waters are used for cooking and also in the preparation of local crafts. It is a must see on any visit to Nozawa Onsen village.

7 / TRY THE LOCAL FOOD: NOZAWANA & OYAKI / all year round


One of the foods most commonly prepared with the aid of the waters of Ogama hot springs is ‘nozawana’. This green leaf vegetable is a stable of a host of beloved dishes across the region. Perhaps most famously, it is commonly used as a filler for ‘oyaki’ the delicious dumplings which you will find in shops all over Nagano prefecture. As you might expect, nozawana takes its name from the town of Nozawa. Back in 18th century, the master of a Buddhist temple in the town first introduced the vegetable to the village, and so the name was born. In addition to being a popular filler for oyaki, nozawana is often pickled and served in onigiri (rice balls) as well as a side dish.

8 / TRY THE LOCAL FOOD: ONSEN TAMAGO / all year round


Another common usage for the fine, clear waters of Ogama Hot Spring is in the preparation of ‘onsen tamago’ (hot spring eggs). As the name suggests, this is an egg, soft-boiled in the waters of a boiling hot onsen. This heating process gives the egg a unique flavour, texture and consistency. It differs from other eggs in that, whilst the white of the egg takes on a milky, almost custard like consistency, the yolk remains firm and and creamy, as if it were uncooked. To serve onsen tamago, the egg is then removed from its shell and served in a small bowl alongside a broth and optional soy sauce. It may seem unusual to the western palate, but it is a taste experience that deserves to be savoured at least once during your stay in Nagano.

9 / RESTAURANTS & BARS OF NOZAWA / all year round


Of course there’s much more to Nozawa Onsen Town than just hot spring baths and skiing. You’ll also find an eclectic selection of some of the finest food Nagano Prefecture has to offer. Wakagiri, a restaurant and hotel in the heart of the town offers a wide variety of Japanese cuisine, using the finest local ingredients. The restaurant also offers a full English menu. If you want something with a little more spice, then Juntos Mexican Bar and Restaurant is your go-to place for tacos, fajitas and all manner of other fine Mexican foods. Shichirohei coffee is also another highly regarded food and drink option in the area. Among their selection of meals and snacks, you’ll also find a variety of vegetarian and vegan friendly options. As any regular visitor to Japan will know, such options aren’t always easy to come by. Their coffee comes highly recommended too.



Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have dinner in an igloo? Well, every year from the end of January for around one month, the Iiyama Kamakura festival offers you the chance to do just that. Around 20 or so huts are constructed each year from the snow of the surrounding mountains. At night, the huts are illuminated by a string of lanterns, giving the whole area a “winter wonderland” vibe. For dinner, you can enjoy one of the area’s most beloved winter dishes: Noroshinabe. You may be familiar with nabe, the traditional Japanese winter hotpot. However, Noroshinabe is a special, Nagano variant on this classic dish. It is made with a blend of pork, mushrooms, and locally sourced vegetables, all topped off with a special Nagano Miso broth. As you can imagine, this is a popular annual event for both locals and tourists alike, so you will need to book in advance if you plan to go along. Booking information and the latest deals can be found here.

11 / SHIGA KOGEN – JAPAN’S LARGEST SKI RESORT / late-November to May


Just a short ride away from Nozawa Onsen you will find another of Japan’s most popular and indeed largest ski resort – Shiga Kogen. Indeed, so large is the Shiga Kogen resort, that its Central Area alone exceeds the size of most other ski resorts in the area. Again, much like the Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort the 50 ski runs of this central area cater to all levels and abilities on the slopes. 50% of the courses are geared to beginners, but 15% are reserved for advances skiers. Like its Nozawa counterpart Shiga Kogen also played a prominent role in Nagano’s 1998 Winter Olympic Games. Its northern Higashidateyama area played host to the slalom and giant slalom events.

12 / SNOWMOBILING IN SHIGA KOGEN / December to March


Of course, there’s more to Shiga Kogen than just skiing and snowboarding. For those who like their winter sports with a little more speed and power, there is our snow mobile tour. Probably best described as a cross between a snowboard and a motorcycle, the snow mobile is an exhilarating, fun, but also safe way to get experience winter sports in Nagano. Departing from Nagano Station in the morning, our combined snow mobile and snow monkey tour offers a mix of adrenaline soaked thrills and gentle nature. You’ll spend the morning receiving expert instruction in how to use your snow mobile before trying it out for yourself on the mountain course. From there, you’ll then enjoy a delicious lunch at the nearby Hotaru-tei restaurant. Our day is rounded off with a visit to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park. Here, you can get truly up close and personal with this beautiful animals, as they move all around you, in between their frequent dips in the nearby hot spring baths. The Jigokudani Snow Monkeys are only monkeys of this type in the world known to regularly bathe in hot springs in this manner. This is sure to be an experience you will never forget.



The snow monkeys are something of a treasure, not just to the people of Nagano but to all of Japan. These beautiful animals roam freely not just in Jigokudani Monkey Park, but indeed all across rural Nagano. This writer even saw one swaggering along the side of the highway one night on his way home! With their distinctive silvery gray fur, bright red faces and playful nature, these gorgeous creatures really must be seen to be believed. They are perhaps best known however, not for their appearance, but for their love of ‘onsen’ (natural hot springs). The monkeys of Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park love nothing better than a long soak in these natural baths to escape the harsh cold of Nagano’s long winter. In this regard, they are unique. To truly understand the beauty of these animals, once must experience them in person.

14 / HISTORIC OBUSE & HOKUSAI / all year round

The area around Nozawa is known not just for its stunning natural beauty and winter sports, but also its historical and cultural significance too. This is especially prevalent when you visit the historic town of Obuse – home of the Hokusai Museum. Hokusai was a legendary Japanese artist of the 18th and 19th centuries. His Ukiyo-e art style is probably best known for the print ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’, part one of his series of prints titled 36 Views of Mount Fuji. Though that particular print is housed elsewhere, the Hokusai museum does showcase many of his other famous works. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm and admission is 500 yen. However Hokusai’s influence over Obuse goes far beyond just the museum. Even the manhole covers that adorn the town’s sidewalks bear examples of his artwork. Obuse also has a number of charming cafes and souvenir shops, selling various local wares and delicacies. It is conveniently located, just 20 minutes by local train from Nagano Station.



Less than 60-minutes drive from Nozawa Onsen, Yamanouchi is home to Nagano’s hot spring-loving monkeys and several onsen towns including Kanbayashi, Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen. Like Nozawa, Shibu Onsen boasts a 1300-year history as a hot spring town and is home to an assortment of several hot spring baths interspersed with restaurants, bars and hotels. In total, there are 9 different public baths and 35 onsen ryokans in the area. It is not uncommon, even in winter to see people walking down the street in their Yukata robes, hoping from one bath to the next. Also, with the snow monkey park nearby, you may even run into the occasional red-faced mischief maker in search of food!

16 / MAGUSE ONSEN / all year round


Onsen hot springs are a luxurious experience at the best of times but they are especially enchanting when accompanied by a scenic view. There are few views in all of Nagano more spectacular than the panoramic views over Nagano City that can be enjoyed from Maguse Onsen. Situated in a nature park, a 50 minute bus ride from Iiyama station, the onsen offers both indoor and outdoor baths with both city and mountain views. An assortment of cafes and restaurants, as well as a couple of ryokan inns for those wishing to stay overnight are also available in the area.

17 / NAGANO STATION / all year round


Although Iiyama Station is actually closer to Nozawa Onsen, many visitors to the area choose to alight at Nagano Station. As the capital city of the prefecture, Nagano has a lot more to offer in terms of amenities than Iiyama. The large shopping mall Midori is built into the station, The popular Don Quijote store across from the station offers a wide selection of local souvenirs, trendy fashion items and a host of other quirky goods. For higher end items, the Tokyu department store offers the best in fragrances, footwear and other fine fashions.

18 / ENJOY SUMMER IN NOZAWA / June to September

Whilst it may be best known for winter sports, Nozawa Onsen also has a plenty of things to keep the summer traveller occupied too. The hills and mountains around the area offer some fantastic hiking and climbing opportunities. From May until November, cycling is also a great way to see the sights. The road from Nozawa Onsen to Shibu Onsen is highly recommended, as is a ride around the picturesque Hokuryuko Lake. Nozawa Onsen sports park is also a must see in the summer months. It has 500m long dry ski slope, for those who just cant bear to be away from the piste. It is also home to Japan’s longest zip line. A golf driving range is also onsite, and for the more serious golfer, the courses at Mandarao and Iiyama Country Club are within easy reach.



Starting with skiing and snowboarding in winter, Nozawa is a great destination for adventure travel experiences throughout the year. The Nagasaka Gondola operates most of the year and in spring through to autumn, provides access to great mountain-biking, hiking and running trails. Yoga and other holistic activities are also increasingly popular while you’re in easy reach of lots of other great fun and adventure. For tips and suggestions of what’s on offer all over Central Japan, see our ‘Japan Adventure Travel’ main page.

20 / JOSHINETSU KOGEN NATIONAL PARK / best: June to November


Less than 60-minutes drive from Nozawa, Joshinetsu Kogen is Japan’s fourth largest national park. Home to Shiga Kogen Ski Resort – Japan’s largest and highest ski resort – Joshinetsu Kogen can be enjoyed in different ways through the year. For visitors in spring, summer and autumn, the park boasts an expansive and ecologically-important landscape including Shiga Kogen Highlands – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The region is home to a wealth of flora and fauna including many species of alpine plants and animals. Hiking trails span-out across its valleys, forests, wetlands and ascending the multiple mountain peaks that define park. Ascending to around 2500 metres in altitude, many regions of the park enjoy a much cooler climate that the valleys below offering a welcome escape from the heat and humidity of summer.



Each year, in April in Japan, the long winter finally gives way to spring. This is symbolized in Japan with the emergence of the Sakura cherry blossoms. These beautiful bright pink flowers only blossom for a matter of days. As a result, cherry blossom viewing season usually lasts only two or three weeks. As such, this tour is only available for a limited time, in April each year. Our tour combines the opportunity to see these wonderful trees in full bloom with another of Nagano’s natural wonders: the Snow Monkeys! Your journey begins with a 09:35 meetup at Nagano Station, where you will head over to the snow monkey park. After lunch you will then be taken to one of a number of prime cherry blossom viewing sites where you can enjoy the scenery at your leisure.

22 / FRUIT-PICKING IN IIYAMA / July to November

Nagano is known globally for its delicious apples. Even the prefecture’s adorable mascot wears one on his head! So, no trip to Nagano is complete without a visit to a local farm to sample these delicious fruits. Shiozaki Farm, near Iiyama Station, offers 4 different varieties of apple, each with their own unique taste. For just 1200 yen, you can spend as much time as you like walking around the orchard and eating as many apples as you like. For an additional 300 yen you can also pick out 3 additional apples to take home with you.



Each year from May 3rd to May 5th, the Nanohana Flower Festival in Iiyama provides the perfect tonic to the often stressful hustle and bustle of Japan’s Golden Week holidays. Enjoy the tranquil fields of Canola flowers with festival foods and drinks, a parade and various walking tours, traversing the 13 hectares of flowers in full bloom. Admission is free.


As the cherry blossom “Sakura” trees embody Japan’s springtime, its red, brown and golden “koyo” leaves embody Japan’s spirit of Autumn. Nagano has no shortage of great viewing spots for this most elegant of natural phenomena, but few locations can surpass the sweeping views of the Matsukawa Valley. With each year comes new seasonal variations, and much like the aforementioned cherry blossoms timing is crucial to seeing the Koyo leaves at their best.

25 / JOIN THE FESTIVALS OF NAGANO / all year round

Ebisuko Fireworks festival in Nagano

As the vibrant heart at the centre of the prefecture, Nagano City is home to some of the region’s most exciting festivals and events. Chief among these is the Zenkoji Ometsando Illumination. Sharing a name with a popular shopping district in Tokyo, Omotesando (Pilgrim’s Path in Japanese) is a straight road leading from Nagano Station to the city’s most famous Temple, Zenkoji.


In November of each year, this path is illuminated on both sides. This is just the appetizer though, for the main course that comes in mid-December, when the temple itself is illuminated. Another, more recent addition to the Nagano City festive calendar is the Tomyo Fesitval. For this festival, the streets leading up to Zenkoji Temple are adorned with intricately designed paper lanterns. Among those contributing designs are school children, artists and other prominent local figures.


The event starts on the second weekend of February and lasts for one week. Finally, we come to one of the highlights of the year in Nagano, the Ebisu-ko Fireworks Festival. Taking place on November 23rd each year, over the course of the 2 hour event, around 15,000 individual fireworks are detonated, creating a display to rival the world’s best.


Given the time of year, don’t forget to wrap up warm, and perhaps bring some of your own food and drinks with you. Food and drink will be offered on site, but it may be expensive and you could be facing very long queues, with tens of thousands of people attending the event along the Sai River.



Nozawa Onsen is a reasonably-sized village spread-out along the base of ski resort. Accommodation can be found at the base of the ski runs with the majority of hotels and guesthouses found further down the hill in the main area of the village. While you can walk between most areas of the village, when booking your hotel or guesthouse for winter it’s a good idea to be clear on the exact location of your accommodation and how easy it is to access the ski runs while also avoiding unnecessarily long walks over ice and snow when heading-out at night. For detailed information, see our ‘Where to Stay in Nozawa Onsen?’ page.


Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we are a registered travel agent, tour and charter operator offering a full-suite of winter services including ski/snowboard packages, accommodation, lift passes, private charters and a range of tours including both group and private options covering Nozawa Onsen:



Nozawa offers skiers and snowboarders around 300 hectares of terrain accessible via 36 trails and courses. By Japanese standards this makes Nozawa Onsen a medium-sized resort, ideally-suited to snowboarders and skiers who love its powder and lively village which offers plenty of dining and fun at night. Accommodation ranges from high-end to mid-range ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses), Western-style hotels, budget ski lodges and an increasing number of luxury options including self-contained chalets – PLAN & BOOK IN NOZAWA NOW!



Nozawa offers skiers and snowboarders around 300 hectares of terrain accessible via 36 trails and courses. By Japanese standards this makes Nozawa Onsen a medium-sized resort which is easy to move around given a good setup of gondolas and lifts. Ideally-suited to snowboarders who love its powder and youthful atmosphere, Nozawa continues to grow in popularity year-on-year. For all the stats, facts and highlights, see our ‘Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort’ main page.



Did you know that Nozawa Onsen is just one of the more than eighty ski resorts in Nagano and 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.


Located at the northern end of Nagano Prefecture, Nozawa Onsen is easy to reach using public transport or by driving yourself. As a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Kanazawa, Iiyama Station is a convenient hub from where to reach Nozawa by bus or taxi, allowing visitors to head to and from the area quickly and comfortably. For information on just how to get there, see our ‘How to Get to Nozawa Onsen – Nagano Ski Resort Info’ page.



Locally-based and operating all year round, Snow Monkey Resorts is Nagano’s No.1 tour and charter operator. 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.


For guests wanting to access the resorts in the comfort of their own transport, we can arrange a private tour or charter customised to fit your needs, starting and ending at any destination including from/to Nagano Station and any resort in the region. Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations in combination with any activity that suits your schedule.


All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety. We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of that experience and help you discover even more!

Why choose us?

Awarded a 2022 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 and Central Japan.

Got a question about visiting Nozawa Onsen? Contact us and let’s get planning together!


25 Things to Do Around Nozawa Onsen & Where to Stay