• Trip Ideas
  • Romantic Snow Huts and Snow Activities Around Iiyama

Romantic Snow Huts and Snow Activities Around Iiyama

Nagano’s snow country is waiting for you!


Host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano is known around the world for its plentiful snow and ski resorts. But skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only ways to experience winter in Nagano—there is plenty of picturesque snowy scenery and activities for everyone to enjoy.

In the city of Iiyama in the north of Nagano, you can enjoy winter to your heart’s content. Dine in kamakura snow huts, go snowshoeing in the highlands, ride snowcats and snow rafts, take a trip to the snow monkeys of Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park and more.

Nagano’s snow country is waiting for you!

The Romantic Snow Huts of Kamakura no Sato

Kamakura at night

Imagine yourself holding a steaming bowl of soup as you gaze out into a star-filled sky from the comfort of a kamakura snow hut, illuminated by warm lamplight. It is a dream-like experience sought after by many travelers. If you find yourself in Nagano during the winter, don't miss out on Kamakura no Sato in Iiyama.

Looking in on a kamakura

Iiyama City, located in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture, is covered with snow for nearly a third of the year, with an average snowfall of 1.5 meters. Every year, from late January to late February, residents of Iiyama City open Restaurant Kamakura Village for one month only. If you want to spend some time in a kamakura, there are two options to choose from (reservations are required).

1. Meal plan
(groups of two or more)
Enjoy Noroshi Nabe (hotpot) and onigiri (rice balls) made from Iiyama-grown Koshihikari rice. Lunch and dinner courses are available. Choose the dinner course if you want to see the lights at night.

2. Snack plan
(weekdays only, groups of two or more)
Have a cup of sweet sake or soup in a kamakura and a snowmobile ride.

These plans are from the 2022 season and are subject to change in the future. Please see the Shinshu-Iiyama Tourism Bureau website for the latest information.

Pick the dinner meal plan to get the most out of your time in a kamakura. You can also choose an overnight plan that includes transportation from the ryokan or a hotel to Kamakura no Sato. It is a convenient option if you do not plan to rent a car.

See Iiyama Restaurant Kamakura Village’s English page for more information.

Dining in a Kamakura

Kamakura lights at night

When you arrive at Kamakura no Sato, you will see 20 snow huts lined up on the snow, with warm yellow light shining through their entrances. The path between the snow huts, lit by snow lanterns, creates a captivating atmosphere as you walk to the kamakura shrine.

The average entrance height

Once you get your pots and cutlery for the evening meal plan, follow the path to your numbered kamakura. The entrance is about waist-high, so you’ll have to crouch low to get in.

Plenty of room inside

The inside is furnished with a wooden table and benches that can accommodate five to six people. As you begin cooking the interior will warm up and you might forget you are surrounded by walls of snow.

Noroshi-nabe is a local dish of Iiyama

Now it's time to try out Iiyama’s steamy local hot pot known as Noroshi-nabe. It is a hearty soup loaded with vegetables such as mushrooms, burdock root, daikon radish, and canola blossoms, as well pork and starchy kneaded mashed potatoes. A seasoning of miso brings out the sweetness of the vegetables. Rice balls and pickles are also included on the side to fill you up.

Going back for seconds
Hot pot tastes even better in a kamakura
Kamakura in daylight

If you go in the day, brisk weather and views of the distant mountains greet you. At night, enjoy the dazzling contrast of the dark evening skies and the lit-up kamakura. Whichever you choose, its sure to be a fun and memorable experience.

Exploring a World of Snow

Trying out snowshoes

If you feel the call of the great outdoors, why not try out snowshoeing? Wearing a pair of snowshoes, you can explore nature by walking on top of deep snow and reaching places you'd otherwise miss. They require little practice and you will get used to them almost as soon as you put them on.

Snowshoeing can be enjoyed by all ages

The two-hour snowshoe tour is available for beginners and comes with a professional guide at Mori no Ie in Iiyama City, Nagano Prefecture. (English and Japanese tours are available. Reservations required.)

Mori no Ie: https://nabekura.net/en/

The guide explains the pods on the trees

On this particular outing, we were walking on three meters of snow. It had covered most of the shrubbery and trees, exposing only the treetops. While forests like this are usually too dense to walk through during summer, the deep carpet of snow allowed us to explore freely.

Walking on three-meter-deep snow

Observing local wildlife

Was this a fox?

Snowshoe treks will also give you a chance to catch a glimpse of winter wildlife. As animals cannot hide their tracks in fresh snow, you’ll likely find some on your trek. Your guide will explain how to identify the trails of local animals such as foxes, rabbits and squirrels. You can learn other information from observing these tracks too, like if they were walking or running from a predator just by the size of their stride.

Afternoon tea in the snow

A simple desk and chair made of snow

While the snowshoes do most of the work, walking on snow can be rather tiring. Partway through the tour, your guide will dig out a small area (a makeshift snow bench and table) for you to take a tea break. A refreshing cup of tea surrounded by the vast stillness of nature is a highlight of the hike.

Taking a break surrounded by the great outdoors
Warm up with some tea

Playing in the Snow

A taste of snow

The snowshoe walk also has plenty of opportunities for you to enjoy the snow. Rediscover your inner child and build a snowman, lie down and spread your wings as you make snow angels, or dig deep for a taste of snow. Your guide is there to help, so let them know what you would like to try out.

Making snow angels
An angry snowman

Other Snow Activities

A snowcat

Are you still searching for more thrills? There are many other snow-related activities you can try out. Snowcat rides and snow rafting each provide unique experiences.

Snowcat rides

Climbing the drifts in a snowcat

If you want to get off your feet, then hop on a snowcat and enjoy the winter in comfort. Snowcats are for transporting people and goods and can drive on rough roads and snowy slopes. Kamakura no Sato offers various snow activities such as riding in a snowcat or snow rafting between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm for as little as ¥500.

Take the snowcat to new places to see magnificent scenery.

From the seat of the snowcat, pure white plains of snow surround you. The ride takes you deep into the countryside, reaching places people can no longer walk to once the deep snows of winter have settled.

Snow rafting

Snow rafting

Want to glide across the snow at high speeds? Then jump in a rubber raft and get ready to be pulled across the snow by snowmobile. The snow rafting course is full of sharp turns, and the thrill of being pulled over the snow at high speeds will excite both adults and children. Snow rafting costs as little as ¥500 per ride.

Nearby Activities

The snow monkeys of Jigokudani

Are you looking for something extra to do? Why not check out the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park. Many people associate a typical winter scene in Japan with monkeys soaking in hot springs with their heads covered in powdered snow. It is the only place to see wild monkeys soaking in hot springs, and better yet, it is close to Kamakura-no-Sato and Mori-no-Ie.

Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park: https://www.go-nagano.net/en/theme/id=17978

Conclusion: Nagano’s Winters are For More than Just Skiing

There are lots of ways to enjoy the snow while out and about in Nagano!

When planning a winter trip to Nagano, there is more to do than just skiing. Nagano, the Land of Snow, has something for everyone. You have many options to choose from, whether you prefer the warmth of a small kamakura, the adventure of snowshoeing, or a thrilling snow rafting ride. The next time you visit Japan in the winter try out the many possibilities.