Hirayu Onsen

Hirayu Onsen Ski Resort
Hirayu Onsen in a lean season
The ski resort facilities are reasonably no frills
Hirayu Onsen is popular with first timers
The beginner run at Hirayu Onsen
Novices just walk up and down the lower slope
A small public onsen in Hirayu Onsen
The historic area in the upper part of town
Hirayu Onsen Gifu
Foot baths in Hirayu Onsen
Small public onsen in Hirayu Onsen
Hirayu Onsen Gifu
Cafe Mustache is open for breakfast, lunch & dinner
Hirayu No Mori
A cute restaurant at Hodakasou Ryokan
Nakamurakan Ryokan
Hirayu Onsen is a cute historic onsen village
Little ramen restaurant in Hirayu Onsen
Ikkyuan in Hirayu Onsen
Hirayu Onsen

Hirayu Onsen

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Hirayu Onsen

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Hakuba Alpine Powder Tour
The Hirayu Onsen Ski Resort sits on the northern slopes of Mount Norikura. It’s a small locally run ski-jo that packs a punch because the upper slope has some pitch and the steep tree skiing can be gnarly. Hirayu Onsen Ski Resort probably only has enough terrain variety for a day or two of riding, and you could combine it with skiing at nearby Mount Norikura and Hounokidaira. Powder hounds should keep an eye on the snow conditions, and only head to Hirayu Onsen if there’s a good base and fresh snow. Or alternatively if skiing and snowboarding is your second priority, head there if you want full immersion in the real Japan and immersion in lovely onsen.

Both the Hirayu Onsen Ski Resort and the nearby onsen town utilise the pictorial symbol of a monkey. According to old folk lore, the onsen was discovered in the 16th century when wounded soldiers stumbled across an old white monkey licking his wounds in the onsen waters. The soldiers imitated the monkey (no they didn’t lick themselves!) and found that the hot spring water healed their wounds, and the legend surrounding the Hirafu Onsen water was born.

Pros and Cons of Hirafu Onsen Ski Resort

Pros
  • The ski area is incredibly quiet and there should be next to no one there to poach your lines.
  • Hirayu Onsen has good steep tree skiing inside the resort boundaries for those with some route finding nouse, and when there’s lots of snow there are really fun steep sidecountry options.
  • The ski patrollers are pretty relaxed, or maybe they’re just absent?!
  • Snow quality is usually lovely due to high elevation and a reasonable aspect.
  • The nearby town has beautiful onsen including rotenburo (outdoor baths) with nice views.
  • Lift tickets are cheap, especially on weekdays.
Cons
  • The ski resort is very small. Whilst it probably gets the most snow of the Gifu ski resorts, it usually doesn’t get the massive snow volumes that some of the Niigata and Nagano ski resorts are famous for.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • The ski area and town are delightfully unwesternised so expect negligible English, sleeping on a futon (or two if you’re bony), and the full kaiseki Japanese food experience.

Hirayu Onsen Ski and Snowboard Terrain

On paper, Hirayu Onsen sounds very small with only 2 pair lifts and 3 courses (2 groomed, 1 ungroomed). It's also small in reality, well in-bounds anyhow. The ski jo has a beginner slope accessed from the lower lift, whilst the upper lift which runs nearly the full 550 metres of vertical (1,310-1,860m), services 2 steeper runs that hit a maximum gradient of 38 degrees.

The ski resort has some reasonably pitched off-piste, ridiculously steep off-piste, and sidecountry terrain that’s somewhere in between with respect to gradient. See the Hirayu Onsen skiing terrain for more information.

Where is Hirayu Onsen Gifu?

Not to be confused with Hirafu which is part of Niseko in Hokkaido, Hirayu Onsen sits on the Gifu side of Mount Norikura, very close to the western border of the Nagano Prefecture. It is 35km east of Takayama City, 50km west of Matsumoto (in Nagano), and located just off route 158 and the Abo tunnel.

The ski resort is about 1km from the little town of Hirayu Onsen and is part of the broader Ohukida Onsen, a collection of onsen towns.

Hirayu Onsen Accommodation

There is no ski-in lodging at the base of the ski resort and the little town of Hirayu Onsen 1km away has about 20 ryokan and other Japanese inns. It is a classic onsen village with its historic lodging, the aroma of sulphur, and the sounds of gushing water as you wander around the streets. It’s mostly popular with general tourists, rather than those wanting to ski or snowboard.

Many of the ryokan have delightful onsen and offer half board packages with breakfast and dinner.

The Powderhounds have stayed at Nakamurakan, a nice ryokan that was reasonably priced. The ryokan has large outdoor onsen baths (rotenburo), indoor baths, private onsen that can be reserved, and Japanese tatami rooms with ensuite. A couple of the staff spoke a little English.

Hirayu Onsen Accommodation Listings

If you’re also skiing at Mount Norikura, the other option is to stay in Matsumoto (famous for the Matsumoto castle).

Matsumoto City Hotels

Ski Resort Facilities

The ski resort amenities are reasonably low frills and include a cafeteria in the base day lodge, equipment rentals including an abundance of toboggans, and a snowsports school. English speaking instructors are sometimes available for a private lesson if you book ahead.

Activities

A very popular activity at Hirayu Onsen Ski Resort is tobogganing, and plenty of tourists wander up and down a small lower slope whilst taking selfies.

The main attraction in Hirayu Onsen as the name suggests, is the onsen. If you don’t have an onsen at your Hirayu Onsen hotel you can head to Hirayu-no-mori hot spring baths, and entrance is included as part of your lift ticket from that day. This is a large establishment with lots of gender segregated baths to choose from.

Or there is a small public onsen up in the historic section of town that has small outdoor baths. The amenities are simple and there are no showers, just a changing area, and only a small donation is required to use the baths. Or there are foot baths opposite the Nakamurakan ryokan.

Restaurants

There aren’t that many restaurants in Hirayu Onsen for evening dining and many visitors to Hirayu Onsen have dinner at their ryokan which is often a fancy kaiseki meal.

Mustache is a pretty cute café that has a mix of European and Japanese fare. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Hirayu Onsen has a few simple ramen type eateries such as Ikkyuan where you can get a cheap feed – expect to pay cash. The nicest restaurant in town is below the Hodakasou Ryokan. The fare is reasonably simple, yet it has aesthetically lovely décor that’s delightfully Japanese and you can fully get into the Japanese culture by sitting on the floor.
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