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Nozawa Onsen
Pic: Gregory Lane

Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen is a village in northern Nagano Prefecture, to the northeast of Nagano City. The village is a year-round tourist destination: the scalding hot onsen baths attract visitors throughout the year while the enormous Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort draws hordes of skiers and snowboarders during the winter months.

Nozawa Onsen is a little unique in that there are 13 free onsen scattered around the village. They are easy to spot as you can enter either the men’s side or the women’s side right from the street. Be warned though: the waters are notoriously hot. They won’t actually burn you, but you might find them too hot to sit in comfortably.

The symbol of Nozawa Onsen is the traditional architecture of Ōyu Onsen. This is just one of the 13 free bathing spots and it makes for a particularly beautiful scene in the snow.

Nozawa Onsen source | Photo by Gregory Lane

The village is well worth a wander. If you head up the hill from the tourist information center, you’ll eventually come across the onsen source — the spring from which all the baths get their water.

Around the spring souvenir shops sell onsen tamago — eggs boiled in the mineral rich hot springs — as well as pickles made from nozawana, a leafy mountain vegetable named for the area.

Getting to Nozawa Onsen from Tokyo

Thanks to the Hokuriku Shinkansen, getting to Nagano is pretty easy. Take the bullet train to Iiyama Station (100 minutes, ¥600). You can also catch regular commuter buses from Iiyama Station to Nozawa Onsen, but the bus goes via Iiyama township and Kijimadaira and takes approximately 40 minutes.

The Nozawa Onsen Liner delivers you to a spot opposite the tourist information center. | Photo by Gregory Lane

Alternatively, you can jump on the JR Iiyama Line from Iiyama Station and head north to Togari-Nozawaonsen Station and then catch a taxi. The taxi takes about 20 minutes and should cost about ¥2,500.

If traveling by car, make sure you know where you’re going to leave your car. Closer to the ski lifts, there is plenty of parking, but in the village, there’s not a lot of space. So if you’re driving to your accommodation, let the hotel or lodge know in advance.

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