Nozawa Onsen: Skiing and Tradition Combined

Nozawa Onsen: Skiing and Tradition Combined

Once a quiet hot spring village, Nozawa Onsen is now a famous ski resort known worldwide. It offers great conditions for all sorts of winter activities. Stroll through its narrow streets lined with shops, or enjoy the thrilling winter fire festival. You don’t need to be a skier to love your time here.


Skiing Nozawa Onsen


Must-Do Activities in Nozawa Onsen

  • Hit the slopes at one of Japan's best ski destinations.

  • Relax in a hot spring bath, rich with minerals, to soothe your muscles.

  • Feel the excitement of the Nozawa Onsen fire festival.

  • Wander through a town that still feels like old Japan.


Traveling to Nozawa Onsen

Traveling to Nozawa Onsen from Tokyo is easy by car or bus. From Narita or Haneda Airport, you can take the Nagano Snow Shuttle, which provides direct service to Nozawa during the ski season (December to March). The journey takes about six hours, and the shuttle also services other ski resorts in Nagano, including Hakuba and Shiga Kogen.

Alternatively, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Iiyama, a trip that lasts around 1 hour and 40 minutes. From there, the Nozawa Onsen Liner bus will take you to Nozawa Onsen in about 25 minutes.

In the winter months, there are also direct bus services from Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagoya to Nozawa Onsen.

Hokuriku Shinkansen

Hokuriku Shinkansen


Fascinating Facts about Nozawa Onsen

  • Legend has it that a wandering Buddhist monk discovered the many hot springs of Nozawa Onsen in the 8th century.

  • Nozawa Onsen hosted the biathlon events during the 1998 Winter Olympics and is home to numerous Japanese Winter Olympians.

A Paradise for Snow Lovers

Nozawa Onsen is famous for its abundant, powdery snow, attracting skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. Skiing began here in 1912, making it one of the first places in Japan to adopt the sport.

The area can receive up to 10 meters of snow each season. With 19 lifts and 44 trails spanning 50 kilometers, there are runs to suit all abilities.


Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort


Explore Skiing History at the Japan Ski Museum

Just north of the village, the Japan Ski Museum offers a treasure trove of winter sports memorabilia. The exhibits cover Olympic history and the development of skiing in Japan, among other fascinating topics.

Relax in Nozawa's Hot Springs

After a day on the slopes, there's nothing like a hot spring bath to unwind. Nozawa Onsen boasts 13 free public onsens, each managed by local community groups and dedicated to a different Buddhist deity. The Oyu bathhouse, a grand wooden building in the village center, is the largest and worth a visit. Be mindful as you enter the baths—they are known for their intense heat.

The spring water here is not only relaxing but also fresh and tasty. You can refill your water bottles at places like the Hachiman Shrine or near the Nagasaka gondola station.


The Oyu Bathhouse


Visit the Snow Monkeys

While in Nozawa, take a trip to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park to see the famous snow monkeys. From December to April, a direct bus departs twice daily, with the journey taking about an hour.


Jigokudani Snow Monkey


Nozawa Fire Festival

The Nozawa Fire Festival is one of Japan's most intense traditional Shinto events, offering an unforgettable spectacle. Held annually on January 15, the festival combines a rite of passage for village men considered unlucky by the traditional calendar with ancient New Year fire rituals.

During the event, villagers with torches made of bundled reeds try to set fire to a temporary shrine, while a group of men defends it. This fiery confrontation is dramatic and electrifying.


Nozawa Fire Festival


Nighttime Fun in Nozawa

Nozawa may not have the lively nightlife of larger resorts like Hakuba, but it still offers plenty to enjoy after dark. The town is dotted with izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) and shops serving buckwheat noodles.

For craft beer lovers, Libushi offers a range of Japanese brews. If you're craving Italian food, head to Kaze no Ie, where the friendly owner serves delicious dishes. Shichirohei, a cozy coffee shop, is also a local favorite and serves meals.

For a quick snack, try oyaki—grilled dumplings with fillings like winter squash and spicy eggplant, sold by street vendors. You can also find onsen-boiled eggs, especially near the main bathhouse, Oyu. In Ogama, an open square nearby, locals cook eggs in naturally hot spring water that stays at a steady 90°C. If you're up early, you can watch them prepare these eggs.

Summer Adventures in Nozawa Onsen

While winter draws most visitors to Nozawa Onsen, summer offers a cool retreat from the heat found elsewhere. There are plenty of activities to enjoy, including mountain biking, hiking, and kayaking. Local businesses also offer yoga classes, Japanese cooking lessons, and art workshops.

A trip to the charming town of Obuse is highly recommended. It's where the famous woodblock print artist Hokusai spent his later years.

If you're traveling by Shinkansen bullet train to Nagano City, take some time to visit the impressive Zenkoji Temple and savor the local soba noodles before continuing to Nozawa Onsen.

Town of Obuse

Town of Obuse