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English guide to hot springs in Nagano


Australian expat and Nagano Prefecture resident Peter Ninnes has published “Nagano Onsen Guide: The Top 100 Day-Use Hot Springs,” providing detailed reviews and information in English on a wide variety of hot spring establishments.

Using local publications and web sites, and information from local residents and friends, Ninnes researched hundreds of hot springs. Over a 15-month period, he visited more than 140 establishments catering for day visitors, and tried out most of the baths. He then compiled his top 100, based on a range of criteria, including setting, architecture, water quality, history, remoteness, or uniqueness.

Some hot springs are in hotels and inns that only allow overnight guests to use their onsen baths. In a bonus final chapter, Ninnes details five elegant accommodation establishments that provide an unforgettable overnight onsen experience.

"Nagano is less than two hours from Tokyo by train so it is very accessible for weekends or day trips," Ninnes says. "It has some of Japan’s best winter sports facilities and summer hiking, which can be complemented with onsen-hopping for relaxation and recuperation."

In addition to location maps, high-quality color photographs and detailed English descriptions, the book includes the name of each establishment in Japanese, addresses and telephone numbers, entry prices, opening hours, directions by car and public transport, GPS coordinates, descriptions of the types of baths and water qualities, and information about other facilities provided such as restaurants, lockers, and vending machines. For the uninitiated, there is also a guide to how to use a Japanese bath.

The book has been published on the Createspace Independent Publishing Platform and also is available from Amazon.

About the author

Originally from Adelaide, South Australia, Ninnes has lived in a diverse range of countries including the U.S., Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and East Timor. He has lived in Japan since 2007, and during that time he has soaked in more than 220 hot springs, climbed about 70 mountains, visited or passed through every prefecture, forgotten almost as many kanji as he has learned, and eaten all sorts of amazing delicacies. He also has traveled extensively in North America, Southeast Asia, Europe, Australia and the Pacific. He has worked as a science teacher in four different countries, and as a university professor, and he now does educational consultancy work in between writing travel books.

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It's good to have a critical guidebook on onsens in English, but only day trips? I can't see myself going all the way out to Nagano and then back again on a day trip.

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Thanks, Jeff, for that feedback. The book does contain a bonus chapter with five very nice places for overnight (or longer) stays. Otherwise the purpose of the book is to provide guidance for people living in or near Nagano, or visiting Nagano for winter sports, summer hiking, and so on. People can make their own accommodation arrangements, and visit 2 or 3 day-use onsens as part of their trip.

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Thanks for responding, Peter, and good luck with the book. Nagano does have some amazing natural features.

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Great work ! Really could have used something like this during the 1998 Winter Olympics!

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Sounds like an awesome book. The photos would be relaxing in themselves I'm sure.

It's good to have a critical guidebook on onsens in English, but only day trips? I can't see myself going all the way out to Nagano and then back again on a day trip.

This wouldn't have to mean necessarily coming from afar and heading back within the day. If you're in the area for a while, living or otherwise, you can easily pop in to some of these places and use their baths at a fraction of the price of staying there (staying does of course involve a whole lot of other niceties).

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I love Nagano. It has some of the best scenery in all of Japan and is also very accessible by car. At night or in early morning, you can easily get to Karuizawa in about three to four hours from the Yokohama area. Lots of reasonably priced Japanese inns and business hotels with good onsen in convenient locations. The great hot springs in Kusatsu aren't too far away either.

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