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Shirahone Onsen

Located in Chubusangaku National Park, its unique milky waters and beautiful scenery are worth the trip.  

By Elizabeth Sok

Shirahone Onsen is located in the quiet and peaceful Chubusangaku National Park in Nagano Prefecture. This hot spring resort in the northern Japanese Alps may be small, but its unique milky waters rich in calcium and magnesium and beautiful scenery are worth a special trip.

While the village of Shirahone has a four centuries-long history, it is thought that the hot springs have been in use since the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Because of the special milky-white waters, villagers in the area noticed that the hot springs were effective at treating ailments, such as sore muscles. By the mid-nineteenth century, as the Edo period (1603-1867) drew to a close, farmers from nearby municipalities, like Matsumoto, were soaking in the onsen.

The Baths

Shirahone Onsen

Photo by: PIXTA/ わおん The waters are considered safe for children and the elderly to enjoy

The milky and silky water of the baths comes from the mineral sediments of magnesium and calcium which turns the water an almost opaque white color. While white waters are usually highly acidic, those here contain high amounts of carbonic acid and sulfur and are considered mild and safe for the skin of children and the elderly to enjoy. As locals long suspected, the springs are said to be effective at combating gastrointestinal problems, stress and muscle tension. They are also wonderful for warming the body. It is even recommended to drink the onsen water to help with digestion! Look around for bamboo water spouts around the village for a taste.

Things to See and Do

Shirahone Onsen

Photo by: PIXTA/ Bull For day visitors, the outdoor baths and baths of some ryokan are open to try.

Now, the remote village of Shirahone Onsen has 11 hot spring ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) where visitors can enjoy the waters. For day visitors, the outdoor baths and baths of some ryokan are open to try. Stay over at one of the inns here to immerse yourself in the traditional experience with Japanese tatami and futon beds. Local specialties are also central to the elaborate and beautiful meals prepared for overnight visitors. Get ready to try mountain vegetables from the region and salmon-trout sashimi as well as a special okayu (rice porridge) made from the waters of the onsen itself.

While in the village, don’t miss the Ryujin no Taki Waterfall which is only a few minutes walk from the visitor center. The waterfall emerges from a natural limestone cave made from millennia of water erosion. In the warmer months, take in the calming sight of the smaller streams trickling off the larger waterfall on a mossy mountain. In the colder months, the waterfall freezes and icicles hang off the falls, making for a wintery display.

Things To Know


Hours and prices depend on the establishment.

How To Get There


By car

Take the Matsumoto IC and continue onto National Route 158. Follow signs toward Shirahone Onsen.

Where To Stay

Shirahone Onsen Oyado Tsuruya
  • 4202-6 Azumi (Shirahone), Matsumoto-shi, Nagano, 390-1515 Japan
  • ¥25,300 - ¥29,700
  • 4.47/5 (509 reviews)
  • 0.3 km
Keiryuso Shiorie
  • 4170-4 Azumi, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano, 390-1520 Japan
  • ¥28,300 - ¥28,300
  • 5/5 (469 reviews)
  • 2.6 km
Norikura Kogen Inn Irodori
  • 4085-36 Azumi, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano, 390-1520 Japan
  • ¥18,400 - ¥18,400
  • 3.3 km
Nakanoyu Onsen Ryokan
  • 4467 Azumi (Kamikochi), Matsumoto-shi, Nagano, 390-1516 Japan
  • ¥19,600 - ¥22,620
  • 4.72/5 (410 reviews)
  • 6.4 km
Okuhida Hirayu Onsen Hiratakan
  • 2-3 Okuhidaonsengo Hirayu, Takayama-shi, Gifu, 506-1433 Japan
  • ¥11,330 - ¥25,630
  • 4.56/5 (319 reviews)
  • 8.1 km

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