Nozawa Onsen Activities

Nozawa Onsen Activities

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Nozawa Onsen Activities

Thousands of tourists head to Nozawa Onsen in winter and don’t go there to ski or snowboard. This provides a bit of an indication of the lure of off-slope activities in Nozawa Onsen.

Just wandering around the charming cobblestone streets of Nozawa Onsen is an interesting activity in itself. Check out the architecture of the ryokans and browse through the various souvenir shops.


The focus of tourism in Nozawa Onsen is related to the hot springs, and the town is considered to be one of the best onsen resort towns in Japan. Reap the therapeutic benefits of soaking in the mineral rich waters, which is particularly great if your body is aching from skiing or snowboarding. And unlike some onsen towns where the stench of sulphur is over-powering, thankfully Nozawa Onsen is easy on the nose.

The town has more than 30 natural hot springs. Many of these are located within the ryokans, and some have delightful outdoor onsens.

Nozawa Onsen has 13 sotoyu which are indoor public baths that are free to use. Most of these are contained within wooden buildings that have architecture typical of the Edo period. All of the onsens are different with regards to temperature, mineral content and ambience, so try out as many as you can. If you have access to a yukata (an informal cotton kimono), make sure you wear this to strut down the street to the local onsen. This is all part of the culture of Nozawa Onsen! See our overview of onsen etiquette for tips on what to do when you visit a Japanese onsen.

Oyu, located in the heart of the village, is the most famous of the public baths. This is a reasonably hot onsen and due to its popularity, there’s the potential that you’ll be packed in like a sardine whilst being boiled like a lobster.

The sotoyu have very basic amenities and you generally pre-wash with a bucket. If you want more facilities and a rotenburo (outdoor bath), head to Asagama Onsen Koen Furusatono Yu which attracts a small fee.

The hottest of the onsens is the Ogama Onsen which is approximately 90 degrees Celsius. Obviously this onsen isn’t for humans to cook themselves, but the locals use the hot pools to cook eggs and vegetables. For safety reasons non-villagers have to remain behind a small fence, but this is still a good vantage point to watch the locals in action.

For those who are a bit shy of getting naked with strangers, the Sparena at Nozawa is a hot spring facility that has an outdoor pool that is unisex where swimwear is required. The indoor baths are the more common type ie gender segregated and no swimwear.

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Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival

Held annually on the 15th January, the Dosojin Matsuri (Dousoujiin) Festival is an exciting event with fireworks and lots of sake. Dosojin is held to pray for a plentiful harvest, health and good fortune for the year, whilst powder hounds can use it to pray for more snow. The fire festival is also a bit of a manhood test for 25 and 42 year old men (unlucky ages). The 42 year olds have to chant atop a wooden shrine whilst the 25 year olds sit below. The tradition then includes a battle whereby the villagers attack the shrine with burning torches. The fire battle is a great spectacular and the whole festival is lots of fun. Don’t wear flammable clothing, and if you’re a 25 or 42 year old bloke, lie about your age!

If you can’t make the Nozawa fire festival, in early March there are tour buses that depart to head to the Naked Man Stampede Festival where you can run in the raw to honour the Buddhist god of war and wealth!!! I’m not quite sure what the chicks do?

Nozawa Ski Tours and Activities

A small number of cross country trails are located near the Karasawa slopes. There is a small fee to use the course.

There are a few guiding services that offer sidecountry and backcountry tours of Nozawa Onsen.

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Other Activities at or near Nozawa

Visiting the Jigokudani snow monkeys seems like a compulsory part of any Nagano ski holiday. The Jigokudani Monkey Park has more than 300 monkeys that seek refuge from the cold winters by hanging out in the hot springs of the park. It’s a great place to get some insight into the evolution of human beings! A visit to the snow monkeys can be combined with a visit to the little Shibu Onsen village.

Other leisure activities include exploring the traditional Shinto shrines of Nozawa or otherwise head into the town of Iiyama to see the temples, or head into Nagano City.

Alternatively check out the Japan Ski Museum which displays historic skis and exhibits the history of skiing in Japan.

The resort offers a few other snow activities such as snowshoeing tours run by the ski school. There is also a zipline course that runs from the top of the Hikage ski course down to the kids park.

Nozawa Massage

If your body is crying out for some pampering, massage is available with Nozawa Massage.