Best Onsen (Hot Springs) Near the Snow Monkey Park
If you’re head to the monkey park then there’s a good chance that you’re aware of Japan’s legendary ‘onsen’ (natural hot springs) and just might be in the mood to find one for yourself. Located in the hot spring village of Kanbayashi Onsen, the monkey park is surrounded by great options when it comes to enjoying a long, relaxing soak. On this page you will find the following information:
It’s important to note that while there are plenty of hot springs nearby the park, most are within hotels and guesthouses and are for the exclusive use of guests. As detailed below, nearby Shibu Onsen has nine ‘public’ onsen but all but one of those is reserved for use by guests staying in town overnight and local residents. We’ve provided details of a couple that are truly open to the public but the point is, if you want to enjoy an onsen while visiting the park, your best option is to book a local hotel or guesthouse and enjoy the full hot spring experience. For suggestions of what else is on offer in the area and where to stay, see our ’25 Things to Do Around the Jigokudani Monkey Park and Where to Stay’ page. We hope the following information is helpful in planning your visit to the park.
BEST ONSEN NEAR THE MONKEY PARK
The Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in the broad region called Yamanouchi – an area consisting of multiple hot spring towns, abundant farmlands and the open expanses of Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. A true all-year-round destination, each season in Yamanouchi and at the park offers its own reasons to visit but no matter what time of year that you’re headed there, enjoying an onsen is something of a must-do activity. Here’s where you’ll find the best hot springs nearby the monkey park:
The monkey park is located at the top of a small hot spring village called Kanbayashi Onsen. As such, any visitor to the park will walk past the hotels and guesthouses of the village, each of which have their own hot spring inside. Water feeding the guesthouses is piped-down from its source inside the park itself, meaning that the water enjoyed throughout the village is from the same source that feeds into the monkey’s bath.
There are no public facilities that can be used by day visitors in Kanbayashi. If you want to enjoy an onsen while at the park, you will therefore need to stay at a guesthouse in the village. There are several to choose from but our recommendation is Hotel Senjukaku. Senjukaku is the finest guesthouse in the area, known for its indulgent onsen, traditional comforts and renowned ‘kaiseki’ (multi-course) meal service. As mentioned, its baths are fed by the same water source as the monkeys onsen – said to be the most abundant source of thermal water in Nagano. There is in fact so much water that it streams down the wall of the indoor pool at Senjukaku, like a waterfall, and overflows the bath into the shower section. In a single minute as much as 720 litres of hot water rushes into the onsen, continuously filling the baths with fresh, clean water as the overflow drains out.
Senjukaku has both indoor and outdoor pools for the enjoyment of guests. Another indulgent feature of Senjukaku is the ability to have a private onsen, without the communal sharing of most hot springs. Guest have the option – whether they be single, a couple or family – of booking one of two private onsen for one hour (for a small additional fee). Senjukaku also has rooms with their own indoor and outdoor hot springs. Not all rooms have this feature so please ensure that you request a room with a private onsen upon booking.
Down the hill from the monkey park and Kanbayashi Onsen – around a 30-minute walk or 5-minute drive – Shibu Onsen is one of Nagano’s most historic hot spring towns. Its history as a hot spring destination stretches back around 1300 years, with numerous water sources feeding the town’s many guesthouses and baths. Most famously, Shibu is home to nine ‘public’ onsen. Dotted through the town, these can be used by anyone staying at a local guesthouse. Upon check-in, guesthouses in Shibu Onsen will provide a key that opens all nine baths and any stay in Shibu is not complete without trying (or at least attempting to) each onsen.
Bathhouse No.9 or the ‘O-yu’ is the only hot spring facility in Shibu Onsen which you can enter if you’re not staying at a guesthouse overnight. Conveniently located in the center of town, you can access the onsen by walking down the short staircase or inclined path either side of the bathhouse. The doors to the male – 男 – and female – 女 – baths are located on opposite sides of the building.
The O-yu is an indoor bath with no outdoor pool. Unlike most onsens it does not have a shower area for washing yourself before soaking in the bath. Simply grab a bucket, fill it with hot spring water and rinse yourself before taking a dip. This is a very traditional type of onsen and a great experience if you’re looking to experience an authentic hot spring experience. The O-yu also has an outdoor footbath – one of several in Shibu Onsen – that anyone can use for free. It’s particularly enjoyable in winter when its notably hot water feels great as snow falls around you. It’s the perfect place to stop for 5 to 10 minutes, whip-off your shoes and socks, pop your feet in, and sit down for a chat.
To use the O-yu, first head to the Shibu Onsen Visitor Center, pay JPY500 and they’ll provide you with a key. The Visitor Center is open daily from 10:00 to 16:00. The O-yu and all public onsen can be used by visitors staying overnight in Shibu. You’ll be given a key and instructions upon check-in.
Yudanaka Onsen is another historic hot spring town located next to Shibu Onsen. If you’re headed to the area by train, you will come through Yudanaka as the town spans-out around Yudanaka Station, the nearest station to the monkey park. Much like Shibu Onsen, Yudanaka has a long history as a hot spring destination, stretching back centuries. While development hasn’t been as kind to the town and it lacks the character of Shibu Onsen, it is home to some good hotels and guesthouses most of which have their own hot springs. Don’t let first impressions fool you. Step inside some hotels and you’ll find some truly fantastic onsen.
There’s plenty of accommodation to choose from, ranging from high-end to budget and everything in-between. Many guesthouses are family-run so expect a warm welcome should you choose to stay there. You’ll find some indulgent hot springs, homely rooms and good food across the town – see ‘Where to Stay When Visiting the Park?’ below for accommodation listings in Yudanaka Onsen.
For visitors passing through Yudanaka and looking for a public onsen, believe it or not there is a hot spring inside the station. ‘Onsen Kaede-no-Yu’ is open daily from 10:00 to 21:00. Named after the large ‘momiji’ (maple tree) located outside, this is a decent and convenient little onsen. You can access by walking around the small station to the side without access to the platform. Immediately outside the entrance you will also find a large ‘ashi-yu’ (foot onsen) that can be used free of charge. So even if you don’t have the time or energy to head in for an onsen while waiting for your train, you can take of your shoes, roll up your pants and pop your feet in the thermal water – a much nicer and truly relaxing way to wait.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN VISITING THE PARK?
Visitors the monkey park are spoiled for choice when it comes to nearby accommodation. Located in the small hot spring village of Kanbayashi Onsen and a short drive from the larger Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka Onsen, the park can be enjoyed while staying at one of the area’s many guesthouses, many of which have their own hot springs, or further afield in Shiga Kogen or Nagano City. Our ‘Where To Stay Around The Jigokudani Monkey Park’ page lists the best areas to stay, our recommendations and accommodation listings.
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!
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Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we are a registered travel agent and the region’s No.1-rated tour and charter operator. We have the expertise and experience to help you get the most out of your time in the region including any destination or activity listed above starting, of course, with the monkeys! We offer a range of group tours with the option of booking a private tour to the monkeys. As a registered travel agent, we can package your trip to Nagano and Central Japan including group and private tours, ski packages, accommodation, private charters, restaurants, ticketing and more!
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 interests and 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.
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. 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 – whichever works best for you!
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