Nozawa Onsen’s Snow resort in summer
Nozawa Onsen Sports Park
Summer Ski Slope
Uenotaira Kogen Plateau
Ogama—communal open-air kitchen
Asagama Onsen Park: Furusato no Yu Bath House
Sparena Nozawa Onsen
Dosojin Fire Festival
Wooden Dosojin figures
Japan Ski Museum
Avant-garde artist Taro Okamoto and his relation to Nozawa Onsen
Oborozukiyo no Yakata Museum (Hanzan Bunko)—Tatsuyuki Takano Memorial Hall
Schneider Square and L’atelier Kura
Haus St Anton—Jam Factory & Hotel
Kenmeiji Temple and the Origins of Nozawana
Nozawa Onsen’s Morning Market
Yuzawa Shrine’s Lantern Festival
Akebi Vine Crafts
Tsutsujiyama Park and the Tsutsujiyama 100 Kannon Pilgrimage
Hokuriku Shinkansen & Shuttle Bus
Skiing is said to be introduced to Japan in 1911, and records in Nozawa Onsen show that the skiing was enjoyed on the Nozawa Onsen slope in the very next year. Nozawa Onsen opened as a ski resort in 1924 and is one of the oldest ski resorts in Japan. For the Nagano Olympics in 1998, Nozawa Onsen hosted the Biathlon event.
The slope is 1085m in altitude measuring from the top of Mt. Kenashi (1650m) to the foot of the mountain and its vast total area covers 297 hectares. Its profound history and divine snow quality pushes Nozawa Onsen to a top ranking ski resort in Japan. This No.1 quality snow in Japan falls abundantly in Nozawa Onsen and is 100% natural. St. Anton in Austria and Nozawa Onsen are sister cities; both villages breath traditions and offer a unique skiing culture. In 1930, Hannes Schneider cultivated the ski culture in the Nozawa ski resort by teaching the Arlberg Technique.
English maps, leaflets and signs make it easy to access for visitors from overseas, and helps Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort become an international resort. Nestled at the foot of the ski slope, the Nozawa Onsen village provides a convenient environment for skiers and snowboarders, however at the same time, makes every effort to preserve the ambience of a traditional Japanese Onsen resort.
Ever evolving, Nozawa Onsen has been metamorphosing into an all seasons resort. The Sports Park was opened in the summer of 2017, featuring new activities: the ‘Zip Sky Ride’ where you can travel for 652m and over a height difference of 122m at the Hikage ski slope, the ‘Summer Gelände’ 500m in length and 30m in width, and the family oriented ‘Nasky Park’ with outdoor obstacle courses.
The 297-hectare-wide ski area, blessed with plenty of natural powder snow, comprises thirty-six different slopes, perfect for both beginners and advanced skiers. If you are new to skiing and snowboarding, or are visiting with your family, then the wide, gentle slopes of the Uenotaira area, accessible via the Hikage and the Nagasaka gondola, is for you.
The Yamabiko area is home to the Skyline Course, a 3,500-meter long powder snow run stretching from the summit to the base area along the ridge of the mountain. Advanced skiers and snowboarders might want to take on the Schneider course, a steep and bumpy powder snow run that’s not for the faint-hearted. If you’re not quite at that level yet, take the moving walkway Yu Road to the Hikage Base, which houses a ski and snowboard school, as well as a children’s park that has several playgrounds and fun activities. For a calmer winter adventure, the resort organizes a range of entertaining non-skiing activities. Board a snowcat and venture out to untouched areas—breathtaking views guaranteed—or put your snowshoes on and tramp through fairytale-like white forests. Whether you’re into the serene scenery or the high-octane winter sports, after a day out in the ski resort, nothing beats heading down to the Nozawa Onsen village and unwinding in the hot springs.
This futuristic moving walkway connects the hot springs of Nozawa Onsen with the ski resort’s Hikage Base. Entering the tube-shaped design, built in 1994, is a little like stepping inside a particle accelerator, though it will move you along at a much more comfortable speed. It’s an elegant way to start your winter-sports adventure, and in contrast to the ski lifts, the Yu Road is free of charge, and offers some unique photo opportunities.
In Nozawa Onsen, snowcats are so much more than machines for shoveling snow drifts out of the way. At the ski resort you can board these giant vehicles and explore untouched mountain plateaus, which are usually inaccessible during winter season. It’s a great way to discover the beautiful, snow-white landscapes during this non-skiing activity. While the snowcat moves through the forest, look out for wild animals, such as Japanese serows and rabbits. The ride takes about forty-five minutes and the vehicle has space for sixteen passengers—perfect for families and large groups.
The Nozawa Onsen Sports Park with its many fun activities is located at the foot of the Hikage Slope and directly accessible via Nozawa Onsen’s walkway escalator Yu Road.
Ready to take flight? Whizz through the air on the zipline, which stretches over 650 meters above the Hikage slope and reaches a top speed of 70 km/h. Flap your wings and enjoy fabulous views in this one-of-a-kind setting while hurtling downhill.
If you thought skiing outdoors was only possible in the winter, then Nozawa Onsen is here to prove you wrong. Grab your sunglasses and head into the lush green mountains where the Hikage run offers an exciting summer ski slope, where you can practice your maneuvers year-round. The slope is covered with a 500-meter long white mat, with a surface that offers a surprisingly lifelike impression of real snow, making even carving turns and ground tricks possible. On-site ski and snowboard rental are available.
Kids love hanging out at this park at the base of Hikage slope. Named after Naski, Nozawa Onsen’s quirky green mascot in the shape of Nozawana, a local leaf vegetable, the park boasts a large variety of activities to keep kids entertained. There’s a white mountain-like trampoline, a kid-friendly zipline, tubing rides on a snow-like surface, and a whole host of other family-friendly attractions.
The Nozawa Onsen Sports Park is open from July to November.
Venture out to the Uenotaira Kogen Plateau directly from Nagasaka station; you can reach it via the Nagasaka gondola. From here you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of Nozawa Onsen and its unique mountainous landscape, while walking trails through lush, virgin beech forests let you experience the area’s abundant nature. Remember to dress a bit warmer since you are at an altitude of 1,400 meters, where it often gets chilly. From early July to late August, nature lovers can camp next to Lake Sutaka’s shore at an altitude of 1,300 meters. You can sleep in wooden, raised floor-type bungalows for groups up to eight, in permanent tents for up to five people, or you can bring your own tent. Kitchen spaces, coin showers, and toilets are available on site, as well as blanket and cooking apparatus rental. Cyclists mustn’t miss the thrilling mountain bike courses around the camp.
Nozawa Onsen village doesn’t have any towering hotels since the village was not formed under the purpose of making a ski resort. Embraced by its unique onsen culture, all accommodations at the village are traditional Japanese inns, Japanese-style bed and breakfasts and small western hotels. Japanese style rooms are the norm and are quite common in Nozawa Onsen. To immerse yourself in Japanese culture, the Japanese inns are the perfect choice. You can experience traditional Japanese culture with tatami floors and futon beddings.
One of Nozawa Onsen’s must-see spots is Ogama, the village’s charming communal open-air kitchen, which is named after the hottest spring among the thirty sources of Nozawa Onsen and located on top of a slope. Villagers use Ogama’s five pools, through which 90-degrees Celsius steaming-hot mineral water endlessly flows, for washing and boiling vegetables and eggs. And you can see why they continue to flock to this community hub—the mineral-rich hot spring water gives the food its extraordinary, delicious taste, especially the area’s signature leaf vegetable Nozawana. But don’t start dreaming up your own onsen-enhanced culinary creations just yet. Since access to Ogama is restricted to community members, and also for safety reasons, visitors are not allowed to go near the pools, but you can still observe the spectacle from a close-enough distance—with the best views in the morning. And there’s no need to miss out on the food. To get a taste of legendary onsen eggs, walk down the alleyway that connects Ogama with Yurari, a terrace-like open space, housing one of the public foot-baths as well as a tub for boiling prepurchased eggs (available at one of the souvenir shops along the alleyway). The eggs may need about twenty minutes until they are ready to eat, but a relaxing foot-bath combined with a superb view of Nozawa Onsen definitely makes it worth the wait.
Nozawa Onsen flourished as a hot spring town during the Edo period (1603–1868), when drinking from and soaking in the alkaline mineral-rich water was said to heal various illnesses. The town is particularly proud of its Soto Yu, thirteen communal bath houses dotted around the neighborhood and run by local families of the “Yunakama” community. Easily recognizable due to their wooden structures, which resemble architectural designs from the Edo period, the baths are located within walking distance. Facilities combine a calm atmosphere with rustic, simple structures; there’s one room for each gender, containing a bathtub with space for about ten people and a changing area. All the baths are served by a hot spring whose water flows continuously from its local natural source (ranging between 40–90 degrees Celsius) called gensen kakenagashi; the water in the bathtubs is typically 45–49 degrees Celsius. For first-timers the hot water can be a challenge, but it’s a challenge worth accepting because your body will profit from the silk-like, mineral-rich liquid, which boasts anti-aging effects and smoothens your skin. If it’s too hot, don’t worry—you can add cold water to adjust the temperature, but do check with other guests that they are comfortable with the change. Some like it hot. Keep in mind that swimwear is not common in onsen facilities, and before you enter the bath you have to wash while seated as to not disturb other visitors (don’t forget to bring a towel and soap). There is no entrance fee to the thirteen Soto Yu, but contributions towards its upkeep are appreciated. Donation boxes are placed next to the entrance of each bath. You may also encounter single indoor pools next to some Soto Yu facilities. These are used by villagers for daily tasks such as laundry or vegetable washing.
To give your onsen-hopping even more of a local flavor, wander around this picturesque, nostalgic town dressed in a yukata (light cotton kimono), and explore the many narrow lanes with their tiny canals. Even if you may not feel comfortable entering a Soto Yu, it is worth visiting each of them. Gaze at their unique architecture, or collect stamps at the checkpoints in front of each bath. Hours: May–Nov 5am–11pm, Dec–Mar 6am–11pm
Located at the heart of the onsen street, O-yu is a quintessential symbol of Nozawa Onsen. Its architecture is exquisite, conveying the Edo period atmosphere till today. Although soto-yu (public baths) are free of charge, donation boxes are set at the entrance. If you enjoyed the onsen hot spring, some change as a token of thanks would be appreciated.
Ashiyu (foot bath) is installed in front of O-yu, as well as at the entrances of 5 inns and are available for everyone to use.
In addition to the thirteen public onsen, Nozawa Onsen has an unofficial (since an admission fee applies) “fourteenth” Soto Yu bath house: the Furusato no Yu. Located on the slope up to Ogama, this traditional, wooden building blends in perfectly with the little town’s atmosphere and history. It’s considered to be a gensen kakenagashi bath, whose natural hot spring water flows continuously from its original source. Compared to the other Soto Yu, this modern hot spring facility (it was built in 2011) is more spacious, including one outdoor bath and two indoor baths with different temperatures—an atsuyu (between 44 and 45 degrees Celsius) and a nuruyu (between 42 and 43 degrees Celsius)—for each gender. Basic amenities such as soap, shampoo and shower booths, are available as well.
Boasting an outdoor facility with a gensen kakenagashi—a hot spring whose water flows endlessly from its original source—the spa complex of Sparena Nozawa Onsen is a place to unwind with your friends, family or partner in the town’s mineral-rich, hot spring water. The spa is equipped with indoor and outdoor pools, especially recommended for onsen first-timers, since the water temperatures are lower compared to Nozawa Onsen’s communal bath houses.
During peak season, from December to March, many visitors use Sparena as a base camp for a one-day visit to Nozawa Onsen. The spa opens at 6.30 am, so you can enjoy breakfast before starting your snowy adventure in the mountains. Stash your belongings in the lockers and head out to the ski resort, or unwind in the relaxation room equipped with reclining chairs, until the bathing area opens around 1 pm (you can rent swimwear and towels from the spa). Sparena’s restaurant serves local delicacies, some of them prepared with the area’s popular Nozawana leaf vegetable. And if you plan to drop by during summer, expect an outdoor pool adorned with a waterfall and fountain, especially popular with children, while the terrace turns into a fancy beer garden.
A fixture since 1863 and held annually on January 15th, Nozawa Onsen’s Dosojin Fire Festival is one of the three biggest such spectacles in Japan. During the celebrations, prayers are offered up to the deity Dosojin.
Dosojin protects villages and its inhabitants from harm and is also the god of fertility, happy marriages, and healthy children. The tradition in Nozawa Onsen is for villagers to anonymously exchange carved wooden figurines of Dosojin while the fire festival takes place. Besides connecting members of the community in this way, the Dosojin Fire Festival provides another local service: bringing fortune to those men of Nozawa Onsen who are currently at the “unlucky” ages of 25 and 42.
These two “unlucky” age groups play an essential role as organizers for this event, selecting the five sacred beech trees from which the festival’s shaden—a large wooden shrine—is built on January 13th, two days before the main event. After its construction, a priest from a nearby shrine holds a special ceremony to endow it with the spirit of Dosojin.
On the evening of January 15th the festival starts in earnest, as male villagers light torches from a bonfire and stage an assault on the shaden. The “unlucky” 42-year-olds sit on top of the shrine defending its roof while singing and chanting, and the 25-year-olds protect the wooden structure at its base, using pine branches to put out the torchbearers’ fires. Once the excitement of battle is over—and all participants have withdrawn to a safe distance—the shaden is ceremonially burned, together with large decorated lanterns on poles that are carefully made by families to bring good health and fortune to the children.
You can see a replica of one of these large, beautifully decorated poles in the Oborozukiyo no Yakata Museum.
Dosojin is a guardian deity in Shinto, and usually to be found near roads, village boundaries, and mountain passes, protecting travelers and towns from harm. Generally, it’s a human-like figure carved into small stones, but Nozawa Onsen has its own interpretation of Dosojin. It comes in pairs, hand-carved from two matching cylindrical pieces of wood, and painted to resemble a married couple; local custom celebrates them as the deity of fertility, happy marriages, and healthy children. Legend has it that the couple the figures are based on were not particularly attractive, but decided to get married and were blessed with a baby boy. Walking through Nozawa Onsen, you can’t miss these adorable wooden Dosojin, which come in a variety of sizes and designs. Locals often have small versions of these figures enshrined at home, but sometimes you can spot them outside their front doors. During the annual Dosojin Fire Festival, which takes place on January 15th, people bring their Dosojin in pairs to the festival site, place them in a big basket, and pick up somebody else’s set to take home with them in the morning. The idea is that the adopted figurines will then help their new owners find a partner for life. If you need some friendly assistance in that area, you can pick up your own Dosojin set at the many souvenir shops sprinkled around town.
A trip to the Japan Ski Museum, with its church-like design surrounded by typical European mountain lodges, is like stepping into an Austrian village. Once inside you can gaze at ancient skiing equipment from various parts of Asia, learn about the development and changing fashions of skiing, pore over historical documents and see plenty of memorabilia such as posters and medals won by local stars of bygone Winter Olympics. Even a pair of skis once owned by Imperial Prince Takamatsu are on display. For ski enthusiasts, the Japan Ski Museum offers unparalleled insight into the history of the sport—from its introduction to Japan in 1911 (when it was brought to Nagano’s neighboring prefecture Niigata by a former Austro-Hungarian army officer), through the adoption of the classic Arlberg skiing technique two decades later, to its development as a modern, elegant sport. And Nozawa Onsen has a special place in that history: in 1930 the Austrian creator of the Arlberg technique, Hannes Schneider, was invited to Japan by the Imperial Prince Yasuhito to explain the new style he had been popularizing across the world. Schneider held a demonstration of his method at Nozawa Onsen in front of hundreds of Japanese skiers—a moment that would become a major milestone in the development of professional Alpine skiing in Japan.
A frequent visitor to Nozawa Onsen was the internationally famous avant-garde artist Taro Okamoto (1911–1996), best known for his giant installation Tower of the Sun (1970) in Osaka. In 1974 Okamoto was commissioned to create a large-scale monument for Nozawa Onsen in celebration of the village being linked with the town of St Anton in Austria. This work resembles his own, former design of the official commemorative medal for the Sapporo Winter Olympics in 1972, and was placed next to a bronze bust of ski professional Hannes Schneider, who brought modern skiing to the village. While attending festivities for the monument’s inauguration, he developed a love for this small, tranquil town and became a regular winter visitor. He enjoyed skiing, the healing effects of the hot spring water, and the Dosojin Fire Festival. In turn, Okamoto was loved by the locals, leading to his nomination as the town’s first honorary citizen in 1991. While strolling through the streets of Nozawa Onsen, Taro Okamoto’s work can be found everywhere. His presence is even evident in the signage for the tourism association, which uses his handwritten character for hot water—湯 (yu)—as a logo, perfectly capturing the town’s hot spring culture.
The Oborozukiyo no Yakata Museum is dedicated to Tatsuyuki Takano (1876–1947), a popular Japanese lyricist and literature scholar, who was active during the first half of the twentieth century. He composed the lyrics for several children’s song books used in elementary schools across the country, which popularized songs that have been passed down through generations and are still firm favorites for Japanese parents and children alike. The first floor of the museum houses the Tatsuyuki Takano Memorial Hall, a permanent exhibition showcasing a large number of his works, such as writings, diaries, and letters, as well as other personal items alongside a life-size diorama of his office. Takano had a special relationship with Nozawa Onsen, having spent about twelve years living in the little onsen town. From 1934 onward he stayed each year at his summer residence, Taiun Sanso, near Ogama, before moving to Nozawa Onsen year round in 1943. While making your way to the second floor, which hosts regular changing exhibitions, keep an eye out for the large window in the hallway with elaborate colored glass, depicting fields of the town’s popular leaf vegetable Nozawana. On the third floor you’ll find a replica of one of the giant, colorful lanterns used during the annual Dosojin Fire Festival. Pick up a souvenir in the shop on the first floor, and for refreshments head to the adjoining café.
Schneider Square, named in honor of Hannes Schneider, and the café and art gallery L’atelier Kura form by far the best introduction to the village; both are centrally located near Nozawa Onsen’s tourist information office and bus terminal. In Schneider Square you’ll find a large monument commemorating two personalities who contributed to the town’s growth and reputation: the blue tile-covered wall features a pair of wooden skis and poles, as well as a bronze bust of Hannes Schneider, while the large, round sculpture next to them—which resembles an Olympic medal—was designed by the late Taro Okamoto, the famous avant-garde artist who was a regular visitor to Nozawa Onsen. Nearby L’atelier Kura, meanwhile, is another local institution, which occupies an old, renovated warehouse (kura in Japanese) and renowned for its homemade bread specialties. Don’t leave without tasting their “Nozawana Mayopan,” a sandwich filled with a paste made from pickled local vegetable leaf Nozawana and mayonnaise. It’s not the only masterpiece on offer, though. Head up to the second floor and you’ll find a free art gallery.
Strolling down Oyu-dori, Nozawa Onsen’s central shopping street, you can’t miss Haus St Anton. Incorporating a hotel, jam factory, restaurant, and café, its architectural design resembles typical structures found in Austrian villages—hence the name (St Anton is the village in Austria that Hannes Schneider hailed from, and is a sister city to Nozawa Onsen). All thirteen hotel rooms feature distinctive interiors, combining a cozy ambience with a modern style, similar to European mountain lodges. Even if you’re not a guest at Haus St Anton, it’s well worth dining in its restaurant. Here, Kensaku Katagiri, a former ski champion and trainee at Ritz-Carlton Osaka’s La Baie restaurant, turns fresh, local produce and carefully selected international ingredients into creative dishes based on French cuisine and combined with Japanese traditional cooking techniques. Order an osusume (chef’s recommendation) course, and savor Nozawa Onsen’s nostalgic charm fused with the modern vibes of urban Japan. The jam factory, meanwhile, with its cozy café space, is the perfect place to take an indulgent moment for yourself. If you’re craving a snack, go for Nagano’s specialty, oyaki buns. Made from fermented flour dough, Nozawa Onsen’s version is filled with a juicy mix of vegetables including local favorite leaf vegetable Nozawana. They also have different types of bread, ice cream made from local fruits, and plenty of coffee options. Don’t hold back when it comes to sampling all the delicious, additive-free homemade jams and seasonal juices on offer at the tasting table. They make perfect souvenirs or gifts for loved ones back home—if they make it that far.
Oyaki, vegetables flavored with miso paste or soy sauce stuffed in flour dough and grilled, is a traditional food of Nagano. The stuffing varies depending on the area, but the most popular stuffing in Nozawa Onsen is Nozawana green pickles.
‘Nozawana’ greens, a Nozawa Onsen local specialty, are harvested all over the village from early to mid-November. Then, the ‘Ona-arai (washing greens in the hot spring water)’, an intrinsic part of Nozawa Onsen life, begins. Sometimes the event receives the first snow of the season, but is always held at soto-yu (public baths). The women of Nozawa Onsen attentively wash the Nozawana greens which are approximately one meter in length and chat at the same time. The thoroughly washed Nozawana greens are pickled in huge barrels. After entering the new year, when the village welcomes the ‘Dosojin Fire Festival’, the delicious nozawana green pickles are ready to be eaten.
Climbing the steep stone stairs leading to the temple grounds will take your breath away, as will this mystical and picturesque building, which is surrounded by towering conifers. This ancient temple of the Soto School of Zen Buddhism, founded more than four centuries ago, is said to be the place of origin of the locally grown leaf vegetable Nozawana. Nozawana pickles, beloved for their slightly salty taste and crunchy texture, are rich in vitamin C. In 1756, the eighth head priest of Kenmeiji temple returned from Kyoto with Tennoji Kabura (a type of turnip) seeds. When the seeds were planted in Nozawa Onsen, they sprouted much bigger leaves and stems than their original variety did. Within the temple grounds there are still Nozawana fields left, and teradane (temple seeds) can be purchased as well.
If you are visiting Nozawa Onsen between May and October, make sure you don’t miss out on the town’s weekly morning market—though you’ll have to get up early, as it’s held every Sunday from 6 am to 7.30 am. Super-early risers should bear in mind that all thirteen public onsen facilities open at 5 am, so your market visit could easily turn into a pleasant morning stroll following a dip in the hot spring. The market is on the town’s main drag of Oyu-dori, and offers local and seasonal produce—grapes and apples from surrounding orchards in late summer, mountain vegetables during spring, mushrooms in autumn. Look out for Nozawa Onsen’s specialty, Nozawana (Japanese leaf vegetable) pickles, which are in high demand among locals and tourists alike. The farmers market also sells Akebi vine crafts, folk toys, woodwork, souvenirs, homemade jam and more. A handful of food stalls provide culinary specialties, including onsen manju (buns filled with red bean paste), Nozawana croquettes, sasa zushi (sushi spread out on a bamboo leaf), and healthy smoothies. Be warned: it’ll be hard to resist grabbing a snack while exploring the market stalls.
For many, a good craft beer is the perfect follow-up to a soak in a hot spring. With the Oyu bath house right across the street, this brewpub has cornered the market in post-onsen pints. Run by an English-Japanese couple, Microbrewery Libushi’s taproom provides space for twenty hop-happy individuals and as a small standing bar, it’s a great place to mingle with other tourists and locals. The brewery uses natural local spring water, as well as the finest local and international organic ingredients to create their unique brews—the staff are known for experimenting with different yeast strains to come up with new concoctions on a regular basis. You’re best off with their beer tasting set, which lets you choose four samples from the extensive menu. Pair your pints with some snacks, while any non-drinkers can look forward to homemade juices made by Haus St Anton from local produce.
The sky is lit up with glowing orange bulbs when Yuzawa Jinja, the shrine located next to Kenmeiji temple, holds its annual lantern festival on September 8th and 9th. For locals, who believe the event’s origins date to the mid- or late-Edo period (1603–1868), this is one of the most eagerly awaited religious occasions of the year.
It can, however, be a little baffling for the uninitiated. The huge two-day event is conducted only by 42-year-old men, whose age (along with 25) is considered unlucky. While a committee—which consists only of men residing in Nozawa Onsen aged between 40 and 42—collectively called sanyako—takes charge of all the preparations, the spiritual dances, such as the Sarutahiko (Shinto god) Dance, the Lion Dance and the Dance of the thirty-six kasen (great poets), are conducted by an association of Yuzawa Shrine, which handles the preservation of bugaku, imperial court music and dance.
The colorful festivities start on the first day at around 7.30 pm with a fireworks display, followed by the lantern procession, which features the lamps attached on large poles and carried through the streets from the public bath house Juodo no Yu to Yuzawa Shrine via Oyu-dori Street. Don’t miss the performance of Sarutohiko no Mikoto, a Shinto deity who carries out a purifying ritual known as shimekiri. The deity rhythmically swings a large lit torch before cutting a ceremonial rope with a katana sword. Since this unique spectacle usually lasts until midnight, stay sated with some tasty local snacks, which are sold at stalls along the street.
The following day, September 9th, features a morning children’s parade before a large float of omikoshi (portable shrines) makes it way through town.
The natural water sprung from the foot of Mt. Mizuo in Nozawa Onsen is the essence of the local Japanese sake ‘Mizuo’. The name ‘Mizuo’ is said to portray the meaning of ‘water source’. As its name describes itself, the ever-flowing abundant water throughout the year is the best natural water with a sweet and pure flavor. Taking advantage of these qual- ities, the Japanese sake ‘Mizuo’ offers a refined aroma and flavor.
TANAKAYA BREWING COMPANY,LTD TEL :(+81)-269-62-2057
In Nozawa Onsen you can’t miss the traditional products made from the beautiful purple flowering plant Akebi vine (Akebia quinata), sometimes called chocolate vine or five-leaf akebia. Particularly famous are the woven little baskets used for boiling onsen eggs, or the area’s charmingly cute folk toy “Hatoguruma,” a dainty pigeon-shaped craftwork. Akebi vine grows between spring and autumn in Okushinano, a nearby mountain region at a height of 500–800 meters. In October and November, the few remaining local craftspeople harvest the vines by hand, picking each branch before soaking them for about twenty minutes in the town’s hot spring water to make them more flexible and easier to weave. This classical handicraft dates back to the Edo period, when the vine branches were found to be perfect for making back-carried baskets and flower baskets. At Sankyu Kogei you can purchase a wide range of Akebi vine products, as well as participate in workshops to create your personal souvenir. There are two types of Akebi vine products: the red items are still in possession of their outer bark; the light brown ones were woven after having their bark peeled off, giving them a smoother texture.
In the north of Nozawa Onsen, you’ll find the picturesque Tsutsujiyama hill, an especially captivating sight in June when it’s in bloom with around 5,000 azaleas that color the slopes bright red. From the park at the top of the hill, which is also home to the tiny Hyakuban (100) Kannondo temple, you have great views of the village, the ski area, the Northern Alps, and the five peaks of the Hokushin Gogaku mountain range. The outlook is a 25-minute walk up a narrow, winding path lined with 100 Kannon monuments. Kannon is Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, and these 100 Kannon statues are used by the locals in ceremonies to pray for their ancestors and for people’s safety. The Kannon lend a spiritual ambience to a short nature trail surrounded by lush greenery: the perfect getaway to refresh your mind.
Walking along this winding path lined with Kannon monuments is considered to be the equivalent of visiting the trio of pilgrimage tracks that make up “Japan’s 100 Kannon”—the Saigoku 33 Kannon in the Kansai area, the Bando 33 Kannon in the Kanto area, and the Chichibu 34 Kannon in Saitama prefecture. That’s because legend has it that the Kannon monuments, built by villagers between 1839 and 1849, are placed on soil that was brought back from these three sacred pilgrimages.
With the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen on March 14, 2015, access from Tokyo to Nozawa Onsen has become convenient. The nearest station to Nozawa Onsen is Iiyama Station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. From Iiyama Station, you can take the direct bus “Nozawa Onsen Liner”. About 25 minutes from Iiyama Station to Nozawa Onsen.