Why Nozawa Onsen?
Nozawa Onsen is a well-kept secret - a quaint, traditional village, it has all the charm and character that you would want on a trip to Japan, with the added bonus of excellent ski terrain as one of the largest single ski areas in Japan. The village is nestled at the bottom of the mountain with easy access to the lifts from most hotels.
The newly completed bullet train extension to Kanazawa means that there is now a direct train from Tokyo Station to Iiyama, which is then only a 20 minute bus or taxi ride into the resort.
Beginners usually head to the middle of the mountain where there are some great green runs. Intermediate to advanced skiers head right to the top Yamabiko area for a bigger selection of red runs and fantastic tree runs which end up back at the lift. It is a great destination for powder seekers as it is one of the more relaxed ski areas for off-piste skiing. Highlights include the Skyline course, a 10km long run and a real thigh-burner.
Off the Slopes
The ‘Onsen’ part of the town name means hot spring, which is what the village is also famous for. There are 13 public bathing houses in town which all have their water sourced directly from the mountain geysers and are simple and rustic. Each hotel in Nozawa has their own luxurious baths, and a soak in these at the end of the day is a great way to alleviate any aches and pains from skiing or snowboarding. There is a special cooking area called Ogama by the source, where locals will cook their vegetables and eggs in the naturally heated water.
Eating out in Nozawa is a real highlight – with a huge variety of restaurants to choose from; sushi, tempura, soba, yakitori, teppanyaki, sukiyaki, okonomiyaki and more. Western cuisine is also available with two great Italian restaurants and a few others that offer a selection of western dishes.
We recommend day trips to see the snow monkeys or to visit the Zenkoji Temple in Nagano city. If you happen to plan your trip around 15 January you’ll catch the famous Dosojin Fire Festival, the highlight of the year in the village and one of the most famous, iconic festivals in Japan.
There isn’t any true ski-in ski-out accommodation in the area due to the layout of the village but you can choose options that are pretty close to the three base areas. You will also find a good range of properties to choose from including more budget hotels through to luxury traditional ryokan which are a great way to get the full Japanese experience.
As one of the bigger ski areas in Japan, Nozawa Onsen is a great option all by itself but it can be easily combined with a number of other ski resorts on one of our Ski Safaris. Take a few days in Nozawa and the head over to Hakuba and ski a number of the 11 resorts to be found there on the Nagano Safari. Or if you really want to get a feel for this incredible country why not make the short hop over to Hokkaido and ski Niseko as well on the Ultimate Japan Safari. Both options can include some time in the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto and are guaranteed to be a holiday you never forget.