You’ve probably guessed by the name, but one of the best things about Nozawa Onsen is that hot springs pop up all over the village, which means that after a day of hard work on the slopes, there is always a hot spring bath awaiting to ease the tired muscles. My skiing post is here.
Most of the hotels and guest houses have onsen facilities, which means there’s a communal bath and shower room that visitors can use. There are also public onsen, called Soto-Yu, sprinkled around the village, where anyone can pop in and enjoy a soak for free. The thing about the public onsen, however, is that Japanese custom dictates that you’re naked – no swimming attire allowed. They’re separated into male and female baths, so this is ok. But, that ruled out the kids. (Come on, people, you’re ten years old – no one cares!) As for me? When in Japan, right? I set aside my self-consciousness and took a couple of trips to the local baths – and boy were they hot! This one is O-Yu, at the centre of the village.
The good news is there is one spot in town with a big hot spring pool that allows everyone to take a dip together, swimming costumes on, for an entry fee. So, on the day when we took one ski run in the rain and then decided that it wasn’t much fun, we headed up the hill to Nozawa Spa Arena for a relaxing hot bath, looking out at the snow.
As you’d expect, it’s popular with the tourists who aren’t too keen on going nude in the public onsen, so expect a few noisy Australians – not everyone’s scene.
The outside pool is open in summer but not heated in winter, so it was closed and icing over.
There is one public onsen in town where you can sit outdoors in a hot spring -Asagama – but its a naked one, so Phoebs wouldn’t come with me. Ah well… next time.
I loved the village’s draining system – a series of pipes, pools and channels that transport the melting snow downhill through the town. This was just one front yard that was particularly pretty.
Just downhill from the Nagasaka chairlift at the top of the village is a cute little drinking water spring, with cups for anyone’s use.
While the kids and I were skiing, Steve found Ogama, which is a hot spring that bubbles up at almost 100 degrees, which the locals use to cook in – the Nozawa kitchen. It’s villagers-only, but you can buy eggs cooked in the onsen in the village (we didn’t try any).
Kenmei-ji and Yuzawa Shrine on the hill at the north-east of the village are almost mystical in the snow and mist. Looks like a good place for Samurai training.
And this little shrine was nestled a little further up the hill in the snow.
The Dosojin are important in Nozawa – Shinto-Buddhist deities of roads and borders whose role it is to ward off evil spirits. In Nozawa Village, they’re traditionally depicted as a man and a woman, painted wooden totems, and their guardianship extends to marriage and fertility.
In the main street, pork buns are always steaming.
But my favourite is the apple shop.
The restaurants in the village are family run and tiny, so we were lucky our guesthouse made some awesome recommendations for eating, and booked us in around town – not cheap but delicious eats! Hot sake was my favourite drink – warms the soul on a snowy evening.
We missed the fire festival, which happened the week after we left and is a huge local tradition. The villagers celebrate the Dosojin of the area – a huge structure is built and then burned in an extensive ritual.
Otherwise, you can always build a snowman. Ours was a little lame.
Here’s one we found, carrot nose and all!
But the kids’ favourite activity (other than skiing) was making snow angels! Next up, snow monkeys!