Nozawa Onsen is a village in the north of Nagano Prefecture, to the northeast of Nagano City. The village is a year round tourist destination with the scalding hot onsen baths attracting visitors throughout the year, and the enormous Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort attracting 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 go into 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.
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 are souvenir shops selling 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.
Since the opening of Iiyama Station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen in 2015, it has become considerably easier to access the area. From Iiyama Station, you can catch the Nozawaonsen Liner express bus to Nozawa Onsen (¥600 and 25 minutes). You can also catch regular commuter buses from Iiyama Station to Nozawaonsen, but the bus goes via the Iiyama township and Kijimadaira and takes approximately 40 minutes.
Alternatively, you can jump on the JR Iiyama Line from Iiyama Station and head north to Togarinozawa-onsen Station and then catch a taxi. The taxi takes about 20 minutes and the cost is about ¥2,500.
If travelling 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.