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Nozawa Onsen: A premier ski resort nestled in a secluded corner of central Japan

By Talisker Scott Hunter

Nozawa Onsen is a premier ski resort nestled in a secluded corner of central Japan. Unlike Japan’s other well-known resorts, Nozawa Onsen retains an authentic and traditional atmosphere. It has no shinkansen (bullet train) station, it’s far from any major highways and retains a distinct culture that predates snow sports.

From cherry blossoms in spring to central Nagano’s glorious autumn colors, the valley promises a spellbinding getaway every season. For outdoorsy types, several hiking routes begin and end in Nozawa Onsen, with the village overlooking the Shin Etsu Trail: an ancient walkway known to generals, priests and merchants for centuries.

Hitting the Slopes

Enjoy over 50 kilometers of trails along an impressive 1,085-meter drop. Image: Talisker Scott Hunter

This isn’t to say your time sliding across snow will be any less thrilling. Accessible via a network of 18 lifts and two gondolas, Nozawa Onsen provides over fifty kilometers of trails along an impressive 1,085-meter drop. Nozawa Onsen’s trails offer something for everyone. 30% of the terrain is considered advanced, sporting moguls, tree runs, jumps, rails, boxes, as well as natural bowls, booters and halfpipes. Those seeking a little less adrenaline will find open pistes and a world-class ski school. Nozawa Onsen also caters especially well to children; it’s one of the few Japanese ski resorts offering English-language ski lessons and childcare.

Beneath the slopes, Nozawa Onsen village barely feels like a resort at all. Despite boasting a wide variety of bars, hotels and restaurants—from Michelin-starred eateries to karaoke parlors—the valley retains a centuries-old tranquility.

This tranquility is best experienced at one of Nozawa Onsen’s 13 free public onsen. These range from secluded hole-in-the-wall tubs to vast steaming basins dotted throughout the village. Nozawa Onsen’s public onsen, heated by thermal springs under the mountain, are also tattoo-friendly. Though, be sure to brush up on Japan’s onsen etiquette before jumping in.

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© GaijinPot

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Is this one word "Nozawaonsen" some new official form of branding for inbound tourist sama? For years, it has been known as "Nozawa Onsen", like "Kusatsu Onsen", "Arima Onsen", "Zao Onsen" ....

All of the accommodation listed in the article is named "Nozawa Onsen something something".

Moderator: It has been corrected. Thanks for pointing that out.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Nozawa Onsen was great before the shinkansen extension. Now it's ruined.

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