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How To Spend Three Days In Nozawa Onsen (Winter Itinerary)

Nozawa Onsen is one of the most popular winter destinations in Japan. The town is an ideal weekend getaway, especially since it is just 3 hours by train and bus from Shibuya Station.

In addition to the great mountain runs for snowboarding or skiing, Nozawa Onsen has a unique charm that makes the time out of the snow just as enjoyable as the time in it.

As the name suggests, Nozawa Onsen is famous for its many onsens (communal bathhouses). Relaxing in an onsen after a long day of skiing or snowboarding is the perfect way to recover – the heat and mineralized water of onsens have a lot of health benefits.

Another reason Nozawa Onsen is my favorite winter destination in Japan is that the town has a great selection of restaurants and other activities. Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, you can still enjoy this snow destination.

In this guide, I’ll share my favorite way to spend three days in Nozawa Onsen in the winter.

How should you spend three days in Nozawa Onsen?

Where To Stay

Most recently, I stayed at Aigakuso, a simple and clean hotel run by a wonderful mother-daughter duo. I recommend booking their fantastic breakfast as well!

The impressive breakfast spread at Aigakuso


As long as you stay in Nozawa Onsen proper (as opposed to Iiyama or a neighboring area), there are many conveniently-located accommodations. Some ideas:

Day 1: Arrival and Onsen

How To Get To Nozawa Onsen

It takes about 3 hours door-to-door from Shibuya Station to Nozawa Onsen by train or by car.

By train from Shibuya Station, head north to Omiya Station before transferring to the Shinkansen to Iiyama Station. From Iiyama station, there is a direct bus to Nozawa Onsen. You can buy the bus tickets at a vending machine outside of Iiyama Station. The bus ticket costs ¥600 (~USD$4) one-way for an adult and must be paid by cash.

If you travel with more than four people and are comfortable driving in Japan, it’s likely more economical to rent a car from Tokyo and drive (the Shinkansen tickets are around USD$80 per person one-way).

If you get to Nozawa Onsen early enough, you can ski or snowboard on your first day. Otherwise, check-in to your accommodation, grab some dinner, and visit an onsen.

Onsens

Nozawa Onsen is famous for its many public onsens (communal bathhouses) – visiting at least one is a must-do activity for the weekend. Be aware that the onsens in Nozawa Onsen are very hot, so be careful when entering.

The public onsens are free to use, but, like all onsens, have etiquette requirements (mainly: bathe fully nude; bring your own shampoo, soap, and towels; wash yourself before entering the bath; don’t speak too loudly).

I recommend these public onsens:

  1. Ōyu Hot Spring

  2. Kumanotearayu Hot Spring

  3. Nakao-no-yu

If you need a break from the scalding waters of the public onsens, try the private onsen Furusato-no-yu that costs ¥500 (~USD$3). This onsen provides shampoo and soap and has a lovely outdoor section.

Sparena is another private onsen. It has a cafeteria and massage chairs so is a good way to spend a few hours. Sparena is a simple, no-frills facility and costs ¥700 (~USD$5) to visit.

Dinner

Nozawa Onsen has a lot of great restaurant options for such a small town.

For your first dinner, try my favorite Japanese restaurants in the area:

  1. Tsukushinbo (Izakaya – Japanese pub food)

  2. Sakai (Izakaya – Japanese pub food)

  3. Libushi (beer only)

Particularly on weekends, make a dinner reservation in advance.

Day 2: Ski/Snowboard, Yoga, and Onsen

Breakfast

If possible, I suggest booking the breakfast option at your accommodation so that you can get an early start on the day.

Otherwise, some of my favorite spots are:

  1. tanuki cafe & dining (American-style coffee shop and cafe)

  2. Shizen Cafe (health-focused cafe) – unaffiliated with this website

An affogato from tanuki cafe


Where To Ski/Snowboard and Rent Gear

There are several popular starting points to begin a day snowboarding or skiing. Two of the main ones are Nagasaka or Hikage (you can travel between them either via a free snowmobile shuttle or by riding up the gondolas and snowboarding/skiing over).

A free shuttle bus loops around Nozawa Onsen. You can ride it as an easy way to get to Nagasaka or Hikage. Ask your accommodation for a copy of the shuttle schedule or refer to the time table here.

There are several gear rental stores in Nagasaka. I recommend that you book rentals in advance, especially for weekends. I typically rent from Sports Thanx Nagakasa.

Lunch

lunch at Panorama House Buna in Nozawa Onsen

A break for lunch at Panorama House Buna


For lunch, have a midday break in the middle of the slopes! There is nothing better than a ski-in, ski-out restaurant to stay in your rhythm.

I suggest:

  1. Panorama House Buna (Japanese curry)

  2. Hakugin (ramen)

Yoga

I always try to catch at least one yoga class when I go to Nozawa-onsen. There are two studios I recommend:

Shizen Collective has larger group classes while Snow Crystal Yoga offers mostly private classes. The teachers for both studios are wonderful and the classes are well-priced.

Dinner

Trattoria Bivacco in Nozawa Onsen

Dinner at Trattoria Bivacco


Surprisingly for such a compact town, Nozawa Onsen has a good selection of non-Japanese restaurants. For your second night’s dinner, I recommend:

Particularly on weekends, make a dinner reservation in advance.

Wrap up your evening with another session at an onsen.

Day 3: Snow Monkey Tour, Ski/Snowboard, and Onsen

Breakfast

Same deal as Day 2 – if you’re able to, book the breakfast option at your accommodation for convenience. Otherwise, try the options I gave for Day 2 or:

  1. Akari House Swiss Bakery (bakery and cafe)

  2. You Bakery & Coffee (bakery and coffee shop)

Snow Monkey Tour

Visiting the snow monkeys in Nagano is a Japan highlight that I highly recommend while you’re in Nozawa Onsen.

There are several tour companies that can bring you to the snow monkeys for either a half-day or full-day excursion:

Ski/Snowboard and Après-Ski

If you take a half day Snow Monkey Tour or choose to skip it all together, you can spend a few more hours enjoying the slopes of Nozawa Onsen.

Try the following places for an après-ski scene:

  1. Haus St Anton (famous for their apple buns and jams)

  2. Nozawa Onsen Distillery (gin distillery)

  3. Winterland Lodge & Taproom (brewery)

  4. Libushi (brewery)

Visit again in the green season!

Whether you partook in the snow sports or just enjoyed the town’s onsens and restaurants, I hope that you enjoyed your time in Nozawa Onsen.

Nozawa Onsen is one of my favorite towns in Japan no matter the season, so I suggest that you return in the warmer months as well. You’ll be able to hike, paddle board, cycle, and do many other amazing outdoor activities.

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