Nozawa Onsen Hot Springs
A Japan Onsen Guide
Nozawa Onsen is about an hour’s drive from Nagano City or about 90 minutes by train/bus. It is located in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture – a rustic onsen (hot spring) village at the foot of Mount Kenashi and home to around 4,000 people. Nozawa Onsen is reputed to date back to 8th century but has been renowned for it’s hot springs and traditional inns since the Edo period. In recent times Nozawa Onsen has also forged a reputation as a ski area with a great range of terrain and powder snow that’s hard to match. Check the Nozawa Onsen map here and here.
Public onsen (Soto-yu)
Throughout the village there are about thirty different type of hot springs and fourteen public hot spring baths. Whilst these baths are usually free of charge, there is a box outside each one for visitors to provide a donation for upkeep. You will also need to take your own towel and soap. Take care as some of the waters can be VERY hot. Make sure to test before plunging in. The baths are open from 6am to 11pm every day. These are managed by the local Yunkama (hot spring association) which is a residents’ autonomous organisation dating from the Edo period.
Oyu, located at the centre of Nozawa Onsen village, is regarded one of it’s most recognisable landmarks. It is a beautiful bath house with an atmosphere reminiscent of the Edo period that was once a feudal retreat.
This bath house symbolises Nozawa Onsen and is the largest and grandest bathhouse building among the Soto-yu. A ‘must try’ onsen for visitors to Nozawa Onsen. See map
Ogama is the hottest of the springs in Nozawa with the water temperature reaching about 90 degrees Celsius. This type of hot spring is rare in Japan and thus has been designated as a natural monument of national importance. Ogama has become the “kitchen” of the village as it is used to boil eggs and vegetables (see photo at top).
Please note that cooking use is for villagers only. Nearby is a small bath house that is open to everyone. See map
Matsuba is just a short walk off the main shopping street of Oyu-dori (see map) and only a few doors off the main street. The foundation of the building is made of stone but the bath building itself upstairs has been designed to look like a temple.
The inside is quite small but can comfortably hold a small group. Out the front there is a small cooking onsen that visitors can access to cook onsen tamago (eggs).
Spa Arena Onsen
Nozawa Spa Arena is a large spa facility where visitors can buy day passes to bathe and relax in the famous hot spring waters of the region. This facility features open-air baths, private baths, conference rooms, a “Relax Room” for unwinding after a soak and restaurants. The renovated Arena now also features a new style of onsen bathing — brand new outdoor baths for soaking while wearing bathing suits, plus a waterfall pool next to the new outdoor baths and a kiddy pool. Admission is 700 yen for adults and 500 yen for kids. See map.
The Akiha bathhouse (also called Akiba) is located a short distance away from the centre of the onsen district (see map). The construction is solid and traditional with the floor of the bathtub tiled.
Here the water is slightly milky and is constantly replaced as it flows from the spring. The Akiha-no-
Asagama-no-yu Onsen will suit those who don’t enjoy the usual very hot temperatures of the Nozawa Onsen soto-no-yu. This bath house is a bit older & tired but still much loved by the locals. The thin white hot water has some yunohana particles.
Don’t forget to take a peek at the communal laundry just behind the building (see map).
Jyuodo-no-yu Onsen (also known as Juodo-no-yu) is housed in a more modern building of concrete construction. Here the baths are segregated by floor with the ground floor for women and the upper floor for men. The water is a milky bluish colour with a strong sulphur smell. See map.
Furusato-no-yu opened in December 2011. Whilst it isn’t free like the other public bathhouses, it does offer basic amenities like soap and shampoo and also features a variety of baths. At Furusato no Yu both the mens and womens sides have a regular bath (very hot) but also one with a cooler temperature, as well as an outdoor bath. See map.
Kamitera-no-yu uses water issued from Asagama that is slightly bluish green and quite hot. The building was rebuilt in the mid 1990’s. Nozawa Onsen locals consider that the waters here are especially good for cuts, burns, and boils. You can reach this bath house by walking west downhill from Shin Yu (see map).
Kawahara-no-yu bath house is quite near to Oyu (see map) just down the hill. It is new but typical style bathhouse with a traditional atmosphere and bathing area made from a stone. The character of hot water has much the same feel as Oyu with the temperature reaching nearly sixty degrees and is said to be good for skin diseases.
Kuma-notearai is a an old bathhouse that is said to have been the first hot spring in Nozawa Onsen. The legend goes that it discovered by a bear (kuma) and that it was shown to a hunter by an injured bear. The temperature here is about 43 degrees (see map).
Nakao-no-yu Onsen bath house can fit larger groups then any others making it clearly the largest of all the soto-yu in Nozawa Onsen. The building of this communal bathhouse is constructed like many others in a temple style. The water is very hot – around 65 degrees. See map.
Japan Onsen Tours
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Shinden-no-yu is another bath house with a slightly more mild temperature. The water appears to be transparent as it emerges from the spring head but is actually somewhat milky once inside the bath. The bathrooms here are quite small with a maximum of about 5-6 guests. See map.
Shinyu was rebuilt and opened in December 2006. This small bath house is known for it’s milder “five colours water” which change colour depending on the season and climate. The waters here are recommended for rheumatic diseases, diabetes, acne, etc. The water temperature is around 55 degrees. Your skin is meant to resemble that of a peach after bathing here. See map.
Taki-no-yu is the highest bath house of the hot springs in Nozawa Onsen (see map). The water, emanating from a calcium sodium-chloride sulfur spring, is very hot (around 78 degrees!) with a green color is green & small yunohana fragments. The waters here are considered particularly good for those recovering from serious illnesses.
The colourless waters of the Yokoichi-no-yu bathhouse are reputedly good for various skin diseases. It is unusually located in a basement underneath the Yokoichi traffic lights with a bath made of solid granite. See map.
Ashi no yu (foot onsen)
Ashi no yu means hot spring foot bath. There are a few of these located around Nozawa Onsen with the most famous being opposite Oyu in the centre of the village.
Nozawa Onsen – Soto-no-yu video
The following is a video made (in Japanese) of a group doing a tour of the soto-no-yu hot springs in Nozawa Onsen. Some nudity!
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