Hokuryuko is a small artificial lake in the hills below Nozawa Onsen (although it’s technically located in Iiyama). There are boats for hire on the lake from ¥1,000 for 30 minutes. If you want to fish in the lake, you have to pay ¥500 for the day. If you want to fish from a boat, you can rent the boat for a whole day for ¥7,000. So unless you catch a dozen fish, it’s not great value.

In addition to fishing, there are hiking and mountainbiking trails around the lake. Sadly, swimming in the lake seems to be forbidden—presumably so you don’t get sucked into the irrigation system below the lake. Or perhaps it’s so your dirty body juices don’t end up fertilising all that high quality Nagano rice!

Lily pads on Hokuryoku Lake | Photo by Gregory Lane

There is also a camping ground near the northwest corner of the lake with barbecues for grilling your freshly caught fishies. The per night camping fees are ¥800 per adult and ¥500 per child.

You can reach the lake by car (or bicycle if you’re fit enough) from either the valley floor or by turning left when descending from Nozawa Onsen on the main road. Be warned—the route from Nozawa Onsen is barely wide enough for one car, has hair pin bends and sheer unprotected drops to one side. Basically, a normal road in the Japanese mountains.