Discovered by a monk (as legend has it), Nozawa Onsen is the hot spring town crossed with a ski resort you’ve been dreaming of.

Nozawa Onsen
Photo by Nakamura

In the northern part of Nagano Prefecture is a skiing/hot spring paradise called Nozawa Onsen. Combining the two best Japanese winter pastimes—snowy skiing and warming hot springs—the town is a popular destination as soon as the seasons change. Whether you love one or both of these activities, the place has a small-town, local feel which makes it the perfect getaway from Tokyo.

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Relaxing hot spring options

nozawa public onsen
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Local legend says a monk discovered the hot springs in the eighth century, and the town has been famous for them since the Edo period. The offerings include 13 public baths (called sotoyu in the town), which are open to anyone and everyone, free of charge. Donations are appreciated, though, and you can put them in the marked boxes outside the bathhouses.

Hitting the slopes in Nozawa Onsen

nozawa onsen
Photo by Nakamura

Nozawa Onsen is said to be one of the areas where the sport of skiing kicked off in Japan. It was also the area used for the biathlon events during Nagano’s 1998 Winter Olympics. It’s a place that combines the best of winter sports with traditional Japan—and it’s accessible to foreign visitors thanks to English maps, menus and so on.

Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort: Info and pricing

skiers at nozawa
Photo by Nakamura

It may be the only resort in Nozawa Onsen, but without a doubt, it’s an impressive establishment. Even though it was opened in 1924 (making it one of Japan’s oldest ski resorts), it has modern lifts and gondolas. It has a good balance of terrain for all levels of experience. There is also a chance to get a view of the Northern Japan Alps and the Sea of Japan.

The ski and snowboarding season typically runs from late November to early May.

  • A one-day lift pass is ¥5,200 for adults, ¥2,900 for kids, and ¥4,200 for seniors.
  • Half-day passes (4 hours) are ¥4,400, ¥2,500, and ¥3,500, respectively.
  • Night skiing is also available until 8pm for adults (¥1,900) and for kids (¥1,050).
  • See the official site for a full price list for 2-day, 3-day and seasonal passes and more.

Pro tip: Agoda offers a range of very decent Nozawa Onsen hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns).

Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival

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We highly recommend going in mid-January if at all possible, as that is when you can experience the Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival, one of the biggest fire festivals in Japan. The event honors a type of deity known as Dōsojin and is held to celebrate boys born in the past year, to dispel evil spirits, and to pray for happy marriages.

Important note: The festival takes place every 15th of January. However, due to COVID-19 measures, many events have been canceled. Always check the official site for full details regarding the 2021 event.

Traveling from Tokyo to Nozawa Onsen

The Hokuriku Shinkansen’s Hakutaka is the only bullet train to get from Tokyo to Iiyama, the closest station to Nozawa Onsen. It’s a little under two hours and around ¥8,570 one-way. From there, you can take the Nozawa Onsen Liner Bus for ¥600. There is also a taxi service available.

Looking for other places to hit the slopes this winter? The mega ski resort of Shiga Kogen is also in Nagano. See our guide for powderhounds coming from Tokyo for more ideas.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published January 2018. Last updated October 2020.

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