Hot Springs and Waterfalls in Matsukawa Gorge

June 29th, 2017 by
Category: Information, Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities

The Matsukawa Gorge is especially beautiful during autumn.

The Matsukawa Gorge is a secluded area behind Takayama Village in Northern Nagano, and is a great stop for a day outdoors in nature. The steep walls of the valley hide a number of hot springs and waterfalls that are fed by mountain streams and volcanic activity, and the high altitude keeps the area cool even in summer.
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Enjoying Onsen Hot Springs in Nagano

June 10th, 2016 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs)

An outdoor bath with beautiful views of the Yatsugatake mountain range in Komi city[1].

Japan is one of the most volcanically active countries in the world, blessing it with thousands of naturally heated mineral springs. These hot springs, or Onsen, have served an important role in Japanese daily life for hundreds of years. Locals came to the baths to cleanse themselves and socialize, and others came from far and wide to soak in springs that would cure their ills. Now, soaking in hot springs is an popular pastime attracting visitors from around the world.
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Summer Fun Around Lake Suwa

May 27th, 2016 by
Category: Experience, Information, Onsens (Hot Springs), Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

A view of the lake from the rooftop of the Clasuwa restaurant.

In a land-locked prefecture, the Suwa area is surprisingly blessed with water. The surface of lake Suwa offers beautiful, reflective views of the surrounding mountains and sky. Hot springs bubble up from the grounds of Kami and Shimosuwa and feed over 150 public bathing facilities in the area. And, fresh water from the highlands helps brew Suwa’s many award-winning rice wines.

Visitors to the area have been increasing in advent of the 2016 Onbashira festival, so I thought I’d take a closer look at Suwa’s activities and sights.

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Japanese-Style Illumination Has Started at Asama Hot Spring, Matsumoto

December 26th, 2014 by
Category: Accomodations, Events, Onsens (Hot Springs)

In Japan, the winter is a season of “illumination”. There are some beautiful illumination spots lighted up by LEDs. In Nagano, Karuizawa, Azumino, and Suzaka’s ​illumination events are famous.

This winter, not large but unique illumination has started at Asama Hot Springs in Matsumoto. It is Japanese taste design lighting in front of Hot Plaza Asama, a day trip hot spring​ facility. You can watch the “healing illumination” while soaking your feet in the free foot hot spring.

Japanese-style illumination of origami cranes and Matsumoto temari balls, made and played in the castle in Edo period.

The lights on trees are designed to twinkle by natural wind, like stars in the sky.

Because of the M 6.7 earthquake that occurred on 22nd November and damaged some portions in Hakuba and Northern Nagano, even hotels in Asama Hot Springs suffered from cancellations, even though Matsumoto is in the center of Nagano Prefecture and didn’t have any direct damage.

Now, there are no problems at all sightseeing spots and ski resorts in Nagano, including transportation.

Kick-off ceremony of illumination

People in Asama Onsen hope this beautiful illumination will overcome the quake.​

Asama Hot Spring is located in a convenient place in Matsumoto, Nagano. It is just a ten minute bus ride from Matsumoto Castle. It also has a very long history, 1,300 years or more and feudal lords of the Castle visited there in the Edo period (17th century).

All the lights are LEDs using small amounts of electricity

The illumination​ is shining 5pm to 0am until April 19.

More than twenty traditional Japanese ryokans in Asama Onsen and the illumination​ are wating for you.

“Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna’ Declaration” Report #3: Nozawa Onsen Village

December 30th, 2011 by
Category: Cuisine, Culture Art, Events, Information, Miscellaneous, Onsens (Hot Springs), Report, Sightseeing

— For Japanese translation of this article, click here (authorized link by Nagano Prefecture) — 

oyu3
“Oyu” Public Bath. Nozawa Onsen Village is known for hot springs and has 14 public baths.
 
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Dynamic “Dosojin Festival” is one of the 3 great fire festivals in Japan.

 Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration

This is “Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration” Report #3.  As reported in Report #1, “Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration” was issued in Nozawa Onsen Village by Nagano Prefectural Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry and all of Nagano’s seventy Societies of Commerce and Industry on 24th Oct, 2011. It aims at strengthening ‘Kizuna’, which means bonds or ties, among the tourist destinations in Nagano (Shinshu) and powerfully promoting tourism and business again to cope with the influences of the earthquakes in March.  In Report #2, we focused on “Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort”, which has been fully recovered from the damage of the earthquakes.  In this Report #3, we would like to convey the attractions of Nozawa Onsen Village from various perspectives.

 

The Village of Onsen (Hot Springs) — ‘Sotoyu’ for People and ‘Ogama’ for Food

Nakao-no-yu Public Bath, housed in a beautifu building, boasts large space.

Nakao-no-yu Public Bath, housed in a beautiful building, boasts large space.

Beautiful appearance of Oyu public bath. In front small Buddhist statues are placed.

Beautiful appearance of Oyu Public Bath. Small Buddhist statues are placed in front.

Kamiterayu Public Bath has hot springs not only for humans but also for boiling eggs.

Kamiterayu Public Bath has an area where you can boil your eggs in hot springs.

"Akiha-no-yu" Public Bath has an open atmosphere with large windows.

Akiha-no-yu Public Bath has an open atmosphere with large windows.

Local women are boiling Nozawana Cabbages in hot springs.

Local women are washing Nozawana Cabbages in hot springs.

Ogama hot springs are like Nozawa Onsen Village's kitchen. Water at 90 degrees celcius is spring out.

"Ogama" hot springs is called "Nozawa Onsen's Kitchen". 90 degree-water springs out.

Nozawa Onsen Village is, as its name “onsen” shows, famous for hot springs or onsen in Japanese.  There are 14 public baths called “sotoyu”, including Furusato-no-yu just opened on Dec 14th.  The public baths are common properties of the villagers, but they are opened to visitors thanks to the villagers’ hospitality.  The public baths are the places not only for bathing but also for warm communication among villagers and visitors.  It would be a great experience to stroll about the downtown with atmosphere and enter as many public baths as possible!    

Another interesting thing about hot springs in Nozawa Onsen is that villagers use the hot-spring water to wash or boil food (see the last two photos above).  There is a place called “Ogama” hot springs at the temperature of 90 degrees.  Villagers bring vegetables and eggs there and wash or boil them in the hot-spring water.  Therefore, Ogama is called “Nozawa Onsen’s Kitchen”.  Ogama is not opened to those other than villagers because it’s hot and dangerous.  But you can still try boiling your egg in hot springs.  In “Ashiyu Park Yurari” located near Ogama, you can boil your egg in “egg baths” while you enjoy soaking your feet in the foot bath next.  Some public baths also have special hot springs for eggs.

Tradition — Dosojin Festival, Akebi Handiworks, Nozawana Cabbage Pickles

dosojin_4

Dosojin Festival. On the evening of Jan 15, fire is set to a shrine built for the festival and other dedicated things.

 

A bag and a hatoguruma (a dove on wheels) woven with Akebi vines.

A basket and a hatoguruma (a dove on wheels) woven with Akebi vines.

nozawana_tsukekomi1

Recipes for Nozawana Cabbage Pickles vary depending on each home.

Nozawa Onsen’s attractions are not limited to hot springs and skiing.  On January 15th every year, the village celebrates its famous Dosojin Festival, which is one of Japan’s three great fire festivals.  Dosojin are a pair of male and female gods whose statues are enshrined along roads.  They protect us from bad luck and bring us a chance of marriage and having a baby. The festival is really dynamic.  A special shrine is built by local men for the festival and fire is set to the shrine and other dedicated things on the evening of January 15th.  The next festival is coming soon, so why not come and look yourself?

As for traditional handicrafts of Nozawa Onsen, Akebi vine works are famous.  If you come to the village, you will soon find a “hatoguruma” (a dove on wheels) woven by hand with Akebi vines.  Hatoguruma is a toy for children, but it will be perfect as a souvenir to display on your shelf.  Akebi vines are also used to make practical products such as baskets.  Akebi vines are very strong, so you can use products for a long time.  The above photo of a basket and a hatoguruma made with Akebi vines (second from the last) was taken thanks to the cooperation of an Akebi vine craft shop and studio “Sankyu Kogei”.  Their website is http://www14.plala.or.jp/sankyu39/

Finally, I would like to introduce Nozawana Cabbage Pickles (see the last photo above).  The pickles are enormously popular not only in Nozawa Onsen Village but also all over Nagano Prefecture, but the home of Nozawana Cabbages is Nozawa Onsen Village.  They are simple but tasty and go well with boiled rice.  Nagano people enjoy Nozawana Cabbage Pickles at teatime, too.  You can find the pickles at almost every souvenir shop and grocer’s. 

Nozawa Onsen Village is welcoming domestic and international guests.  Please come and stay in Nozawa Onsen Village this winter and enjoy snow, hot springs and Japanese culture.  Your visit will definately help Nagano and Japan’s recovery!  Thank you for reading.

Name of the facility NOZAWA ONSEN Tourism Association
Description of business Tourism association
Address 9780-4 Toyosato, Nozawaonsen-mura, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano-ken, 389-2502
TEL / FAX
  • TEL: 0269-85-3155 (Japan country code: 81)
  • FAX: 0269-85-3883 (Japan country code: 81)
E-mail info@nozawakanko.jp
URL
Access Refer to http://nozawakanko.jp/english/ (Click “Access”)
Operating dates Open every day from 8:30 to 18:00
Prices
How to contact Fax or e-mail
General information of Nozawa Onsen Village Contact NOZAWA ONSEN Tourism Association as above.

Special thanks to: Nagano Prefectural Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry, The Community of Commerce and Industry of NOZAWA ONSEN, NOZAWA ONSEN Tourism Association, and residents and concerned people of Nozawa Onsen Village.

“Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna’ Declaration” Report #2: Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort

December 12th, 2011 by
Category: Cuisine, Events, Experience, Information, Miscellaneous, Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Report, Seasonal Topics, Shopping, Sightseeing

 — For Japanese translation of this article, click here (authorized link by Nagano Prefecture) — 

yamabiko_top1
The top of Yamabiko Course is the highest point in Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort. Enjoy the great panoramic view.
 
resthouse_yamabiko
Reconstructed “Rest House Yamabiko”. Enjoy food and drink in the cheerful atmosphere. The popular menu is “Nozawana Cabbage Rice Topped with Steak”.

Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration

This is “Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration” Report #2.  As reported in Report #1, “Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration” was issued in Nozawa Onsen Village by Nagano Prefectural Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry and all of Nagano’s seventy Societies of Commerce and Industry on 24th Oct, 2011.  It aims at strengthening ‘Kizuna’, which means bonds or ties, among the tourist destinations in Nagano (Shinshu) and powerfully promoting tourism and business again to cope with the influences of the earthquakes in March.

This Report #2 focuses on “Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort”, which has been fully recovered from the damage of the earthquakes.  At the time of the quake on 12th March, 2011, ceilings of the restaurant “Rest House Yamabiko” on Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort fell to the ground and some of the ski lifts got damaged.  But the ski resort made great efforts to continue its operation until the scheduled end of the previous snow season, May 2011.  Now, with “Rest House Yamabiko” beautifully reconstructed as the photo above and all the skiing facilities fully recovered, Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort is entering the 2011-2012 snow season this month with hope of welcoming many domestic and international guests. 

 

Fully Recovered “Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort” — A Paradise for Skiers and Snowboarders 

Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort is one of the largest skiing and snowboarding resorts in Japan with modern facilities: The longest course or slope boasts a distance of 10,000 meters; The vertical drop is 1,085 meters; The steepest slope is at 39 degrees; The number of courses is as many as 36 in addition to a snow park; Modern and comfortable ski lifts and gondolas are equipped; A variety of restaurants are waiting.  The view from the snow resort is also breath-takingly gorgeous.  When you go down the slopes, you can enjoy a great panoramic view of close and far mountains and the hot-spring downtown before your eyes.  Furthermore, the year 2012 is the 100th anniversary of introducing skiing, so there are various celebrating events.

 

The World’s Precious Combination — Large-Scale Ski Slopes and Traditional Hot-Spring Downtown

With my own experience of skiing and staying in Nozawa Onsen, I can say that this village is very fascinating not only for the Japanese but also for overseas visitors.  One reason is, of course, its perfectness as a skiing and snowboarding resort with large-scale slopes, high-quality snow, the beautiful scenery, and modern facilities.  The other reason is that Nozawa Onsen downtown maintains unchanged Japanese culture.  In other words, the villagers have proudly kept their own lifestyle in the mountains over a long period of time, not accommodating themselves to other cultures.  For example, they have 13 public hot-spring baths called “sotoyu” (the 14th bath will open on 15th Dec, 2011).  The village is blessed with a large amount of hot springs and the public baths are kindly opened to anyone free of charge.  When you go into such a hot-spring bath, a shop, a restaurant or an inn or walk around the streets, you can experience their traditional Japanese lifestyle and will feel human warmth.  Such experience often turns to be the most unforgettable memory of your trip.  I think it is very rare in the world for one village to have such a large-scale ski resort and a genuine traditional hot spring downtown.  Please visit revitalized Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort!

 

This Report #2 mainly introduced Nozawa Onsen’s attraction as a skiing and snowboarding resort.  There is more to follow in “Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration” Report #3.  

skyline_course
On Skyline Course, a 3500-meter super long slope, you can go straight down from the mountaintop with a great view of Hokushin Gogaku mountains and the hot-spring downtown.   
 
ski_ushikubi
Ushikubi Course, looking down the hot-spring downtown, will satisfy advanced skiers and snowboarders.
snow_shoeing3

Snowshoeing is another fun. While walking a snowfield, you may meet wild animals like a serow or a rabbit!

 

oyu3

After skiing, warm yourself in a public hot-spring bath. This "Oyu" bath is well-known among the 13 baths.

 

 

nozawana_osaramoritsuke2

Why not get famous Nozawana-zuke, or Nozawana cabbage pickles, for souvenirs?

Name of the facility NOZAWA ONSEN SNOW RESORT
Description of business Skiing and snowboarding resort
Address 7653 Toyosato, Nozawaonsen-mura, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano-ken, 389-2502
TEL / FAX
  • TEL: 0269-85-3166 (Japan country code: 81)
  • FAX: 0269-85-2201 (Japan country code: 81)
E-mail
URL http://www.nozawaski.com/ (Click English button)
Access
  • If by car, 25 minutes from Toyota Iiyama Interchange of Joshinetsu Expressway.
  • If train (JR Nagano Shinkansen), 1 hour and 15 minutes by bus from Nagano Station.
  • If train (JR Iiyama Line), 20 minutes by bus from Togari Nozawaonsen Station
Operating dates Dec 2011 to 6 May 2012.
Prices of Lifts and Gondolas 1 day pass: Adult JPY4,600, Children (Junior high students or younger) JPY2,100, Senior (over 60) JPY3,500.  Refer to the website for more types of tickets.
How to contact Tel or fax
General information of Nozawa Onsen Village Contact NOZAWA ONSEN Tourism Association. http://nozawakanko.jp/ (Click “English” button.)  FAX: 0269-85-3883   Email: info@nozawakanko.jp  

Special thanks to: Nagano Prefectural Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry, The Community of Commerce and Industry of NOZAWA ONSEN, NOZAWA ONSEN Tourism Association, and residents and concerned people of Nozawa Onsen Village.

How to go to the Snow Monkeys, Winter 2011/12

December 9th, 2011 by
Category: Outdoor Activities

Going to see the world famous snow monkeys soak in their onsen bath at Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park is an enjoyable day trip from Togura Kamiyamada Onsen and/or Nagano City. 

By car, it is an easy 1 hour drive to the trailhead.  But by public transportation, it gets a bit trickier. 

From Nagano Station, do you take the train or bus?  And if train, how do you get from the end of the line (Yudanaka Station) to the monkey park?  And which trailhead is best — Kanbayashi or from the Jigokudani parking lot?

Fortunately for all of you snow monkey fans, I sorted through all of the options and came up with the main connections.  I compiled this train / bus schedule from our local Togura Station changing at Nagano Station to go to the monkey onsen.  It is now updated it for this winter’s bus schedules.

Most of the public transportation options take you to Kanbayashi, from which it is a 30 minute walk to the monkey park.  The trail is relatively flat and goes through a beautiful cedar forest.  The patterns and color of the bark on the trees makes for a very photogenic walk.  And keep your eyes out for serrow and other wildlife (including a stray monkey or two). 

During the winter, Shibu Onsen offers the “Snow Monkey Holiday Minibus” from Yudanaka Station, stopping at Shibu Onsen on the way directly to the otherwise inaccessible Jigokudani Parking Lot.  (Info provided by my main man, Yamada-san from Shibu Hotel.  The Shibu Onsen website hadn’t been updated as of this writing.)  From there, it is only about a 15 minute walk to the Park entrance.  Although shorter in distance than from Kanbayashi, the trail is considerable steeper.

Regardless of which way you go, proper footwear is highly recommended. 

I always suggest to our guests that they take the bus from Nagano to Kanbayashi, enjoy the walk through the cedar trees to the monkey onsen.  Then on the way back, cross the river and walk down past the parking lot down the road to Shibu Onsen and on down to Yudanaka Station from where you can catch a train back to Nagano Station.  Shibu Onsen is a classic onsen resort with narrow, cobblestone streets lined by historical inns.  There’s also a footbath you can soak your frozen (?) feet in, as well as a public bath for day trippers.

Monkeys shouldn’t be the only ones to enjoy an onsen!

My Favorite Sento in Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen

December 2nd, 2011 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs)

Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen in the southern part of Chikuma City has seven public baths. My favorite is the sento known as Zuishou Yunohana Sento. The temperature and texture of the hot baths is just right for me, while the variety of baths, the elegant outdoor bath area, and the general ambience of the place are all positive aspects.

There are separate male and female bath areas. Usually, men enter to the left of the reception desk, while women go in to the right. However, on the 6th, 16th and 26th of each month, these are reversed for the day. Each side has a large indoor bath landscaped with a variety of big, colorful boulders. If you shade your eyes so that you cannot see the tiled upper walls and ceiling, you can imagine that you are in some hotspring deep in the mountains. Also indoors are a sauna, a jet bath with both standing and sitting positions, and a small cold water bath that is usually about 20C. Outdoors on both sides there is a large bath, gracefully landscaped with stones, and covered with a timber roof. Each side also has a shallow stone bath with a number of sitting and lying positions. Another feature is a large stone slab with water trickling across it from the head position, which is perfect for a snooze in the winter sun. Finally there are what I call “cannibal pots”; ceramic pots for a single person to submerge themselves up to their neck. On the left side there are two hot water pots and one cold water pot. The latter is awesome on a hot summer day. On the right hand side there are two hot water pots.

Both sides are nicely landscaped. Even though the sento is situated right downtown, there is a view up to Joyama. Within the outdoor area, there is a range of well kept trees and shrubs, and some bamboo grass around their base. A deciduous vine that turns yellow and red in the autumn creeps over much of the wall. In the corner is an “accessory” room where you can book a massage for the usual kind of prices.

The Front Entrance of Zuisho Yunohana Sento

The Front Entrance of Zuisho Yunohana Sento

Apart from the baths, there is also a “self-service” cafeteria with both Japanese and Western style dining areas. They dish up the usual noodles and curry rice fare, but the serves are quite a bit more generous than most similar places.

Name Zuishou (瑞祥) Yunohana Sento
Description Public baths
Address Chikuma City, Kamiyamada Onsen 2-chome 18-8 (Google Map)
TEL 026 275 4321
URL (Japanese) http://www4.ocn.ne.jp/~zuisyo/kamiyamada.html
Access From Togura Station on the Shinano Railway, take a taxi (10 minutes) or walk (20 minutes)
Operating dates and hours Daily 9am-1am; Weekend/holiday ‘morning bath’ hours 6am-8am. Open only from 5.30 pm on one Tuesday per month
Prices ¥650 for adults (¥500 for morning bath); ¥350 (¥250) for primary school aged children.
General information for Chikuma City Chikuma City Tourism Association and Information Centre, Kamiyamada Onsen 2-12-10; 上山田温泉2-12-10, Tel: 026 276 2241 (fax: 026 275 3678).
Wikitravel site

Hirugami-onsen ~ Onsen of Beautiful Skin

November 28th, 2011 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs)

Hirugami onsen


 


 


 


We visited Hirugamionsen in southern Nagano prefecture(our province).


It is a quiet rural area along the river Achigawa and surrounded by calm mountains.


 


Though I am fond of onsen so much and had known many other hot spring resorts in Nagano as well as other areas in Japan, I can definitely tell you ”Hirugami” is at the top of my list in terms of water quality–alkaline sulfurous of PH 9.6.


The abundant waters of the hot springs are just crystal clear and velvety smooth. You will know what I mean as soon as you scoop some water out of the tub — you may even double-check if you have not any soap on your palms.


It is called ” Onsen of Beautiful Skin”


You will just relax soaking in the water with a slight smell of sulfur.


It is also good for diseases such as rheumatism and diabetes.


 


Here is some additional info on PH —


According to the following page, the highest onsen PH is 11.3 and the lowest 1.2.


Among the lowest are famous Kusatsu (Gunma) and Zao (Yamagata), and HakubaHappo onsen is among the highest.


http://www.joy.hi-ho.ne.jp/ma0011/yurai-5.htm


 


Please refer to the following multi-language page for more info on Hirugami and some other hot springs in Nagano prefecture which are some of my other recommendations in terms its smooth water quality–


.


 


http://hirugamionsen.jp/img/Foreign_language_Pamphlet.pdf


 


Tazawa onsen:  http://www.mountaintrad.co.jp/nagano/tzw/hi0/guide.html,


/?p=1547


 


ToguraKamiyamada onsenhttp://www.kamesei.jp/english/huro.html