Take our user survey here!
Photo By: PIXTA/いつか
Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nagano
Population
2,214,409

Nozawaonsen

A premier ski resort nestled in a secluded corner of central Japan.

By Talisker Scott Hunter

Nozawaonsen is a premier ski resort nestled in a secluded corner of central Japan.  Unlike Japan’s other well-known resorts, Nozawaonsen retains an authentic and traditional atmosphere. It has no shinkansen (bullet train) station, it’s far from any major highways and retains a distinct culture that predates snow sports.

From cherry blossoms in spring to central Nagano’s glorious autumn colors, the valley promises a spellbinding getaway every season. For outdoorsy types, several hiking routes begin and end in Nozawaonsen, with the village overlooking the Shin Etsu Trail: an ancient walkway known to generals, priests and merchants for centuries.

Fire Festival

nozawaonsen

Photo by: PIXTA/ watanabe The festival happens sometime in mid-January.

Nozawaonsen’s plentiful shrines come alive during the community’s annual fire festival, the Dosojin Matsuri. In honor of local gods and months in the making, the festivities culminate in the ritual burning of a shaden (a wooden shrine). The festival, which tends to bring out the whole village accompanied by traditional food, songs, and generous libations of sake, makes for an unforgettable apres ski experience.

Hitting the Slopes

nozawaonsen

Photo by: Talisker Scott Hunter Enjoy over fifty kilometers of trails along an impressive 1,085-meter drop.

This isn’t to say your time sliding across snow will be any less thrilling. Accessible via a network of 18 lifts and two gondolas, Nozawaonsen provides over fifty kilometers of trails along an impressive 1,085-meter drop. Nozawaonsen’s trails offer something for everyone. 30% of the terrain is considered advanced, sporting moguls, tree runs, jumps, rails, boxes, as well as natural bowls, booters and halfpipes. Those seeking a little less adrenaline will find open pistes and a world-class ski school. Nozawaonsen also caters especially well to children; it’s one of the few Japanese ski resorts offering English-language ski lessons and childcare.

Beneath the slopes, Nozawaonsen village barely feels like a resort at all. Despite boasting a wide variety of bars, hotels and restaurants—from Michelin-starred eateries to karaoke parlors—the valley retains a centuries-old tranquility.

This tranquility is best experienced at one of Nozawaonsen’s 13 free public onsen. These range from secluded hole-in-the-wall tubs to vast steaming basins dotted throughout the village. Nozawaonsen’s public onsen, heated by thermal springs under the mountain, are also tattoo-friendly. Though, be sure to brush up on Japan’s onsen etiquette before jumping in.

Where to Stay

nozawaonsen

Photo by: PIXTA/いつか Over 50 options to choose from.

Guests wanting to stay the night in Nozawaonsen have over 50 options to choose from. From luxury hotels to affordable hostels, the village offers myriad options to suit all tastes and budgets, with some offering in-house rental, ski school and lift pass packages.

Those wanting to immerse themselves further in Nozawaonsen’s traditional atmosphere need look no further than Tokiwaya Ryokan, which has hosted visitors for over 350 years. Be warned, however, though Nozawaonsen hosts plenty of hotels, the resort’s popularity means that rooms are regularly fully booked in the winter months. To avoid missing out, be sure to reserve well in advance.

Things To Know

Hours and fees

A 1-day adult lift pass in Nozawaonsen costs ¥6,800, with optional add-ons and deals to be found at the official Nozawa Onsen website.

Rentals in Nozawaonsen vary in cost and availability, with rental shops dotted throughout the village stocked with high-quality gear from across the globe. On average, expect to spend ¥5,000 per day for a simple set of skis, boots and poles.

Nozawaonsen’s slopes are typically open from mid-December to early May, though the exact dates are weather-dependent. You can ski from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., though night skiing until 8 p.m. is also possible if you have the required ticket or pass.

How To Get There

Address

By train

From Tokyo, take the JR Hokuriku-Shinkansen Hakutaka Hakutaka 575 towards Kanazawa, alight at IIyama. 

The Nozawaonsen liner runs directly from Iiyama station every season. Reservation is not required, and tickets can be bought from the vending machine outside the station. The one-way fare is ¥600 for adults and ¥300 for children.

By bus

Day and night buses depart from the Shinjuku bus terminal for Nagano City. From Nagano Station’s east exit, take the express bus to Nozawaonsen. Tickets can’t be reserved in advance. Adults cost ¥2,200 and children are ¥1,100.

By car

Allow 3-4 hours to drive to Nozawaonsen from central Tokyo. 

Where To Stay

Nozawa Onsen Asahiya Ryokan
  • 9501 Toyosato, Shimotakai-gun Nozawaonsen-mura, Nagano, 389-2502 Japan
  • ¥13,475 - ¥42,350
  • 4.17/5 (251 reviews)
  • 1.9 km

Topics: , ,