Nagano Prefecture is a mecca for onsens (hot springs). It has the most day-use onsens of any prefecture in Japan. For everybody in Japan, that is a well-known fact, and there are numerous guide books and websites providing ample information on Nagano onsens … in Japanese.
But Nagano’s onsens could very well be popular with visitors from overseas, too. It’s just that there is hardly any information out there in foreign languages.
Peter Ninnes, an Australian residing near Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen, has set out to fix that. He just published the “Nagano Onsen Guide: The Top 100 Day-Use Hot Springs”, an English guide book to Nagano’s many fantastic onsens.
I assisted Peter in some of his field research and it really opened my eyes to just how many amazing onsens Nagano has. Peter visited over 140 onsens and personally bathed, err, tested every one. Based on a criteria of things like ambience, presence of minerals in the hot spring water, variety of baths and presence of ugly power lines, he came up with a list of the Top 100. As a bonus, he also listed 5 ryokans that don’t allow day-use but would make for a special place to spend the night.
Peter added careful directions to reach each onsen (Japan’s roads are notoriously confusing, and some of the onsens are located in really out-of-the-way places). In addition, he provided details for every onsen on everything from a breakdown of the mineral content to whether or not there are coin lockers. And the book features 100 full color pictures.
I fully believe that Nagano’s onsens are a critical tool to attract foreigners into coming to visit, and Peter’s new book will hopefully be the perfect accessory.