Visit Nozawa Onsen Now
If you are planning a trip to Japan, a little escape to the Japanese mountain town is not to be missed. One of the best kept secrets in Japan is a small village in Nagano Prefecture called Nozawa Onsen.
Here’s a list of just a few of the many reasons you should be booking your stay in Nozawa NOW:
The mountain village has 13 indoor onsens (hot springs) scattered throughout, in addition to onsens located within the town’s hotels. Why not take a plunge and get naked with complete strangers in Nozawa? The local bath houses are open from 6am until 11pm everyday and are available for public use, free of charge, though a small donation is appreciated. Remember to bring your own towel and wash cloth, and to read up a bit about the etiquette of bathing at an onsen in Japan. If you are feeling a bit bashful, the lovely tradition inn, Ryokan SAKAYA, has a private onsen for you to reserve if you are a guest there.
Ryokan SAKAYA in Nozawa Onsen has been operating for 18 generations. The beautiful property was originally a sake brewery that housed an onsen and a few guest rooms reserved for feudal lords and superiors. After a fire about 130 years ago, the family decided to rebuild as a ryokan in 1871. The ryokan has won numerous awards and has been named, “Japan’s Best Ski Boutique Hotel.” Currently, SAKAYA has a modern feel with traditional details. The inn serves amazingly fresh and seasonal cuisine for breakfast and dinner. SAKAYA also features onsite onsens and the entire inn wraps around a stunning garden that features a koi pond and waterfalls.
If you don’t fancy getting naked with strangers, there are various foot baths scattered throughout town for relaxing and unwinding. Grab a drink or a cup of corn soup from a vending machine and enjoy the sunset after a day of sightseeing.
4. Mountain Views Galore
Walk up a hill, you’ll see a mountain. Turn the corner, you’ll see a mountain. Everywhere you go, you will be blessed with gorgeous mountain views. Mountain lovers unite and plan a trip immediately to Nozawa Onsen Village!
Perhaps Nozawa’s most famous event, it’s held every year on January 15th. Parades, ceremonies and free sake are just the beginning of this unusual annual festival. After the opening festivities, all of the 42 year olds in town will climb up a wooden structure made specially for the ceremony and attempt to burn it down. It’s definitely an event for an adventurous soul and probably the perfect birthday trip for any 42 year old.
A traditional festival held each year over two days in early September. Lanterns are illuminated and strung throughout town, vendors line the street, locals wear traditional costumes and portable shrines are carried throughout the village. Nozawa’s Autumn Festival is not as famous as the Fire Festival but worth the visit if Japanese history and quiet mountain towns tickle your fancy.
The tiny town is actually home to 14 Olympian skiers, rumored to be the highest amount of Olympians per capita in the world. Of a population of only 3600 people, that’s a good hint to the quality of the slopes in the area. Nozawa is a world class skiing resort and still quite under the radar to anyone not from Japan or Australia. You can ski from December until May. In May you can ski down the slopes and see the cherry blossoms, all in the same day.
8. The Sound Of Trickling Water
Though not advised, if you dig a hole anywhere in the town you will find water and have your very own onsen, so it’s only natural that the town has various channels for the excess water to make it’s way down the mountain. The result is the beautiful trickling or gushing of water everywhere you go, many times overlapping and creating a symphony of water sounds.
Nozawana is the most famous traditional food from Nozawa Onsen. It’s a leafy green vegetable, similar to mustard greens and often found pickled. Originally the root of the vegetable was pickled in other parts of Japan. Sometime around 1750 a master from a Buddhist temple in Nozawa visited Kyoto and brought back the plant. The different growing conditions in the area caused the roots to lack growth but the greens were abundant, so they pickled the greens instead and continue doing so until this day. There will be many chances to sample this delicacy if you are visiting the village during the winter season. If you are staying at a ryokan or visiting a restaurant that serves traditional food during that time, it will most likely be included in your meal.
If you visit outside of the winter season, there are plenty of opportunities to sample other local cuisines. The area is also famous for growing fruit, you can sample many varieties, as well as locally made juices and fruit based alcoholic beverages. If you are staying at a ryokan, please reserve the inn’s kaiseki plan while making your reservation. Kaiseki is a multi-course Japanese dinner that serves many different types of unique cuisine.
The town has roots that go back almost 1000 years, officially appearing as “Yuyama Village” in 1272. Although, legend has it, the town was said to have been founded in the 8th century when a hunter discovered a bear healing his wounds in a local hot spring. The area quickly became a famous retreat for people looking to healing various ailments. In the early 1900’s the ski club was founded and Nozawa’s fate as a major ski destination was solidified. Over the next several decades the small town developed to meet the demand, adding Nozawa’s first ski lift in 1950, followed by several others and the opening of the ski resort in 1958. The town is sister cities with St Anton in Austria, regularly hosting cultural exchanges and inviting ski instructors from Austria to visit. As such, you are sure to notice a definite Austrian influence while walking through the historic Japanese town. It remains one of the few ski resort towns in Japan that still holds on to its historic charm.
If you are planning a trip to Japan, it is definitely worth the journey to visit Nozawa Onsen while you are there.
Here’s a few of our favorite things to pack for a trip to Nozawa:
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