12 Best Onsen in Nagano | Onsen Towns to Visit in the Mountains

12 Best Onsen in Nagano | Onsen Towns to Visit in the Mountains

Nagano Prefecture is an area of Japan that overflows (no pun intended) with hot springs. Next to Hokkaido, Nagano has the second most onsen in the country at over 200.

Nagano Prefecture is easily accessible from both Tokyo and Osaka, making it a popular tourist spot for those coming from the big cities.

From stone streets and old-style townscapes to natural onsen where wild monkeys roam, Nagano has many spots to explore.

In this article, we will be introducing some of the best locations for onsen in Nagano. We hope that it comes in handy for your trip.

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Written by Sakura Mobile Blog Team

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Our global editorial team living in Japan will introduce the charms of the country based on what we have actually experienced and felt.

Table of Contents

  1. Kanbayashi Onsen
  2. Shibu Onsen
  3. Yudanaka Onsen
  4. Nozawa Onsen
  5. Bessho Onsen
  6. Hirugami Onsen
  7. Shirahone Onsen
  8. Togura Kamiyamada Onsen
  9. Hakuba Happo Onsen
  10. Asama Onsen
  11. Kamisuwa Onsen
  12. Jigokudani Onsen
  13. Conclusion

Kanbayashi Onsen (上林温泉)

Kanbayashi Onsen (上林温泉)
Photo courtesy of Kambayashi Hotel Senjukaku

Kanbayashi Onsen is a small area in the northern area of Nagano that is home to only five different ryokan. This is the perfect destination if you are looking to relax in an onsen somewhere quiet.

If you are up for a nature walk, the famous Jigokudani Onsen where the wild monkeys bathe is approximately a 30-minute walk from Kanbayashi Onsen. Other wild animals that are native to Japan live around this area, so you are bound to see creatures in their natural habitats.

Kanbayashi Onsen (上林温泉)
Photo courtesy of Kanbayashi Onsen Ryokan Association

A festival held yearly in February to welcome in the spring called the “Sendayaki” is the biggest event in this area, so we recommend visiting around this time if you can.

Next to the onsen town, you will find the Kanbayashi Snowboard Park which was one of the venues for the 1998 Winter Olympics. Until 2007 the facility was open to use but is unfortunately closed.

Places to stay at Kanbayashi Onsen

Kambayashi Hotel Senjukaku (上林ホテル仙壽閣)

Arguably the most popular ryokan in the area. Features an onsen pool along with indoor, outdoor, and rentable baths.

Yuyado Sekiya (湯宿せきや)
A beautiful ryokan that mixes both western and Japanese designs. Rentable baths are free and do not require a reservation (outdoor stone bath, outdoor cypress bath, jacuzzi bath).

Oyado Kotobuki (不動尊の湯 御宿ことぶき)
A true traditional Japanese-style ryokan with a large outdoor bath. You can drink chilled onsen water in your room.

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Shibu Onsen (渋温泉)

Shibu Onsen (渋温泉)
Photo courtesy of Shunran no Yado Sakaeya

Shibu Onsen is a larger-scale onsen town boasting an old-fashioned townscape, giving you a taste of traditional Japan.

Shibu Onsen is so abundant with onsen that it is said that if you dig a hole anywhere in town you will hit a hot spring. The area actually does have a grand total of 37 hot springs and 35 lodges.

Shibu Onsen (渋温泉)
Photo courtesy of Shunran no Yado Sakaeya

Shibu Onsen is highly recommended to those who are looking to try out lots of onsen. Only available to those staying in a hotel or ryokan at Shibu Onsen is the “9 Yu Meguri,” which gives you a chance to visit nine different public baths around town.

All the onsen included in the nine baths have different effects so it is a great opportunity to get the most out of the onsen while also exploring the town. You can collect stamps at each public bath and receive a small completion prize as well.

Places to stay at Shibu Onsen

Tamakyu Ryokan (玉久旅館)
An affordable ryokan with a homely atmosphere. Known for the food, which is home-grown and homemade by the people who run the lodge.

Shunran no Yado Sakaeya (春蘭の宿 さかえや)
The most popular ryokan in the Shibu Onsen area on many large travel websites. Many guests come back for the natural onsen and scenic outdoor bath.

KANAGUYA (歴史の宿 金具屋)
A visually stunning, high-class ryokan. Eight indoor public baths are open from the time you check in until check-out time the next day.

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Yudanaka Onsen (湯田中温泉)

Yudanaka Onsen (湯田中温泉)
Photo courtesy of Kamei no Yu

Yudanaka Onsen is a hot spring said to be discovered 1,350 years ago, giving it a rich history. It is located close to Shibu Onsen, but the town gives off more of a hole-in-the-wall sort of atmosphere.

Immediately after getting off at the train station, you will find “Kaede no Yu,” a public onsen. At this proximity, you could potentially start your trip by getting in the bath immediately.

There are many other public baths dotted around town that are available to only those who are staying at a ryokan in the area. On the 26th of every month, however, the baths are opened up to everyone.

Yudanaka Onsen (湯田中温泉)
Photo courtesy of Shinshu Yudanaka Onsen Association

If you are interested in temples and staying in the Yudanaka Onsen area, you should most definitely check out the “Sekai Heiwa Kannon,” which is a 25-meter-tall world peace buddha statue. It is located at the top of a long staircase at the end of the onsen town.

Places to stay at Yudanaka Onsen

Yudanaka Onsen YORODUYA (信州湯田中温泉 よろづや)
A high-class Japanese-style ryokan. One of the public baths was nominated as one of the top 10 public baths in Japan.

Yudanaka Onsen no Yado Aburaya Tosen (信州湯田中温泉 あぶらや燈千)
A luxury ryokan with a public bath featuring a view of the city. There is a stylish rooftop bar and some guest suites have private onsen attached.

Kamei no Yu (華灯りの宿 加命の湯)
A ryokan with outdoor baths beautifully lit up at night. Each of the six rooms is decorated with flower lanterns made out of Japanese paper and faces a garden.

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Nozawa Onsen (野沢温泉)

Nozawa Onsen (野沢温泉)
Photo courtesy of Kawaichiya Ryokan

Nozawa Onsen is surrounded by nature and is a great spot to visit to view the changing of the seasons. You can visit temples and nearby lakes, along with the multitude of local shops and public baths all filled with natural hot spring water.

This area is also home to the Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort; Nagano Prefecture is also known for being a great spot for skiing, so if you are a skier, staying at Nozawa Onsen might be killing two birds with one stone.

Nozawa Onsen (野沢温泉)
Photo courtesy of Nozawa Onsen Tourism Association

There is a large festival held in January called the “Sae no Kami Festival” where large structures are built the day before and then burned on the night of the festival. As this area is covered in snow during the winter, watching the spectacle of large flames in contrast to the white snow is a sight that is most definitely worth visiting Nozawa Onsen for.

Places to stay at Nozawa Onsen

Kawaichiya Ryokan (河旅一屋館)
12 different types of guest suites, some of which offer private onsen. Serves food with high-quality local ingredients including two kinds of wagyu steak.

  • Price: Starting from 14,500 JPY per person/night
  • Address: 8923-1 Toyosato, Nozawaonsen, Shimotakai District, Nagano 389-2502 (Google MAP)
  • Visit official website

Kiriya Ryokan (桐屋旅館)
Although the baths are not as extensive as other ryokan, this is a place for cat lovers. There are five cats roaming the lodge that you are free to interact with.

  • Price: Starting from 10,500 JPY per person/night
  • Address: 8714-2 Toyosato, Nozawaonsen, Shimotakai District, Nagano 389-2502 (Google MAP)
  • Visit official website

Nozawa Grand Hotel (野沢グランドホテル)
A hotel in name that is closer to a Japanese-style ryokan. There are two types of hot spring water, a rentable onsen, and even an outdoor pool.

  • Price: Starting from 17,600 JPY per person/night
  • Address: 8888 Toyosato, Nozawaonsen, Shimotakai District, Nagano 389-2502 (Google MAP)
  • Visit official website

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Bessho Onsen (別所温泉)

Bessho Onsen (別所温泉)
Photo courtesy of Bessho Onsen Tourism Association

If you are interested in temples and shrines, Bessho Onsen is the place for you to stay during your trip to Nagano. There are around 10 different spots where you can find ancient Japanese structures, some dating back to the 800s.

Bessho Onsen has also been featured in old Japanese movies and dramas. If you are a fan, it would be a treat to walk around the areas where these pieces were filmed while stopping at some of the local shops and restaurants.

Bessho Onsen (別所温泉)
Photo courtesy of Nakamatsuya Ryokan

Bessho Onsen has some of the richest histories around, and the hot springs specifically in the town are not an exception. It is said that women in ancient times would visit Bessho Onsen to get ready before they were to be married because of the positive effects of the water on the skin. You can try this out for yourself by visiting any of the public baths (which cost only 150 JPY) or staying at a ryokan directly in town.

Places to stay at Bessho Onsen

UEMATSUYA (旅宿 上松や)
A luxury ryokan, but also features a variety of rooms for guests on different budgets. There are six baths plus a rentable onsen.

Tamaya Ryokan (玉屋旅館)
A luxury ryokan with the most expensive plans costing over 40,000 JPY per night. Offers sleek Japanese-modern guest suites and a beautiful public bath.

Nakamatsuya Ryokan (旅館中松屋)
A ryokan that encourages guests to stay as a family and is very accommodating to young children. There is a rentable onsen and the outdoor public bath is on the top floor.

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Hirugami Onsen (昼神温泉)

Hirugami Onsen (昼神温泉)
Photo courtesy of Keigetsu

As the birthplace of the god of wisdom in Japanese mythology, Hirugami Onsen has been written about in ancient texts for hundreds of years but was “rediscovered” in 1973. Since then, travelers have continued to visit for its plentiful nature and high-quality hot spring water.

Hirugami Onsen (昼神温泉)
Photo courtesy of Hirugami Onsen Tourism Association

Hirugami Onsen has been named the best location for stargazing in the whole country. You can add a night tour to your hotel plan, giving you a trip up a lift into the mountains to enjoy the stars. The constellations that appear will vary by the season, so you can experience different scenery all year round.

In the spring from the middle of April until the beginning of May, Hirugami is known for the trees bearing pink blossoms called, “hanamomo,” which line many streets and rivers. Many travelers will visit the area just to see the town covered in a sea of pink.

Places to stay at Hirugami Onsen

Hotel HANAYA (ホテルはなや)
Located at the highest altitude out of all the lodges at Hirugami Onsen. There is an outdoor rentable bath that can be used for free as many times as you would like.

Keigetsu (日長庵 桂月)
Has both indoor and outdoor baths; you can also rent a suite with a private onsen. The food is especially delicious, with a different selection of Japanese food each month.

Sekitaitei Ishida (石苔亭いしだ)
Features multiple stone baths indoors and outdoors plus a spacious rentable onsen. There is a stage in the lobby used for nightly shows of Japanese traditional performing arts.

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Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
Photo courtesy of Tsuribashi no Yado Sansuikan Yugawaso

It is said that if you bathe in the waters of Shirahone Onsen for three days, you will be free from catching a cold for three years. Although this may just be an old saying, the hot spring water indeed has qualities to help with afflictions such as digestion problems and nerve pain.

The water of Shirahone Onsen is clear but turns white over time from contact with oxygen. It is safe, if not healthy, to drink the hot spring water as well; you might want to try rice porridge made with the water which is a specialty dish at Shirahone Onsen.

Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
Photo courtesy of Shirahone Onsen Yumoto Saito Ryokan

Aside from the onsen itself, there are many places to visit at Shirahone Onsen if you are looking for a quiet getaway in nature. Some of the best spots include nature walks where you can observe waterfalls and large forests. This area is especially beautiful in the winter when it is covered with snow.

Places to stay at Shirahone Onsen

Shirahone Onsen Yumoto Saito Ryokan (白骨温泉 湯元齋藤旅館)
Indoor, outdoor, and rentable onsen that all pull water from the ryokan’s own spring. The food features seasonal ingredients and the staff are accommodating to most allergies.

Awanoyu (白骨の名湯 泡の湯)
Aside from Thursdays when cleaning is longer, this ryokan has a large public bath open 24 hours (save 30 minutes of cleaning time daily). Features calm Japanese-style rooms.

Tsuribashi no Yado Sansuikan Yugawaso (つり橋の宿 山水観湯川荘)
Has a suspension bridge leading to a quiet forest. There are three outdoor private onsen that are all free to use 24 hours a day without reservation.

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Togura Kamiyamada Onsen (戸倉上山田温泉)

Togura Kamiyamada Onsen (戸倉上山田温泉)
Photo courtesy of Shinshu Chikuma Tourism Association

Togura Kamiyamada Onsen is located between Nagano City and Karuizawa, a popular resort spot in Nagano. The onsen became well-known because it was a spot used by those traveling to “Zenkouji,” a Buddhist temple in Nagano.

The biggest spots for sightseeing in the area are mostly the temples and parks, but Togura Kamiyamada Onsen also has unique buildings that you would not expect to see like a piggy bank museum and a stained-glass shop.

Togura Kamiyamada Onsen (戸倉上山田温泉)
Photo courtesy of Shinshu Chikuma Tourism Association

Although calm during the day, the onsen town becomes much livelier at night when the restaurants and bars come to life. You can try out “shateki,” which is a Japanese shooting game to win small prizes.

You can also participate in many hands-on cultural experiences at Togura Kamiyamada Onsen like tea-making, miso soup-making, and geisha shows. There are in fact around 150 geishas living in the area.

Places to stay at Togura Kamiyamada Onsen

Hotel Marusanso (ホテル圓山荘)
Features six baths (indoor and outdoor) with two types of water. Dinner is a large serving of traditional Japanese cuisine and breakfast is a buffet of all different types of food.

Yushi Chikumakan (遊子 千曲館)
Indoor bath with stained glass windows and an outdoor bath facing a Japanese garden. From the guest rooms, you can see the garden and waterfall which are lit up at night.

Ryokan Kikusui (旬樹庵菊水)
Public bath is open 24 hours as well as three rentable onsen. The food menu changes by season and they even offer some free food at night.

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Hakuba Happo Onsen (白馬八方温泉)

Hakuba Happo Onsen (白馬八方温泉)
Photo courtesy of Hakuba Happo Onsen

Hakuba Happo Onsen is home to hot springs as well as a popular ski resort called Hakuba Happo-one Snow Resort.

Although the onsen town is most popular during the winter, the water itself is known for its beautifying effects on the skin and is said to even help in anti-aging. The pH level sits at 11.5, which is the highest in Japan.

If you are staying at Hakuba Happo Onsen, we recommend trying the onsen foods that are available at the various local restaurants. This includes udon, ramen, eggs, and gyoza which are all cooked using the hot spring water.

Hakuba Happo Onsen (白馬八方温泉)
Photo courtesy of Hakuba Tokyu Hotel

If your main purpose for visiting Hakuba is skiing and the hotel that you are staying at does not have a bath with natural hot spring water, there are multiple public baths that you can find in town. These establishments will let you use the onsen from the afternoon until the early evening for a low price (anywhere from 600 to 800 JPY).

Places to stay at Hakuba Happo Onsen

Hotel Hakuba Hifumi (山の郷ホテル白馬ひふみ)
A luxury ryokan that features a large public bathing area. Many of the guest suites include a private onsen and the rentable onsen is also available for 60 minutes for free.

Hotel Goryukan (ホテル五龍館)
Has an outdoor bath that is beautifully scenic in the winter. Does not serve the usual Japanese course meal; instead, you can eat Italian or local dishes such as deer steak.

Hakuba Tokyu Hotel (白馬東急ホテル)
Has a variety of sizes of suites for all kinds of guests. Offers aromatherapy in addition to the public baths with great views.

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Asama Onsen (浅間温泉)

Asama Onsen (浅間温泉)
Photo courtesy of KAI Matsumoto

Asama Onsen boasts one of the largest amounts of onsen water that flow from the springs, which means that many ryokan can operate their baths all-natural without having to add any extra water or heat.

The onsen town has many local restaurants that you can try out; we recommend going for some handmade soba noodles. At the souvenir shops, you can buy the “onsen manju,” buns steamed in hot spring water with filling (usually red bean). The Asama Onsen manju change fillings depending on the season and if you preorder, you can receive them fresh.

Asama Onsen (浅間温泉)
Photo courtesy of Asama Onsen Ryokan Association

As for sightseeing options, Asama Onsen has beautiful nature spots as well as a few interesting museums such as an art museum that features works by Kusama Yayoi (who was born in Nagano) and a museum for ukiyo-e, a type of Japanese artwork that originates from the 17th century.

Places to stay at Asama Onsen

Kouransou (香蘭荘)
A modest ryokan that feels like spending time in an old-fashioned Japanese home. Pets are allowed for no extra price.

KAI Matsumoto (星野リゾート 界 松本)
Part of the Hoshino Group, which operates luxury hotels all over Japan. Concerts and recitals are held in the lobby and served along with local wines.

Fujinoyu (富士乃湯)
Features an all-natural onsen and some private onsen depending on which guest room you book. The rentable bath is also free to use.

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Kamisuwa Onsen (上諏訪温泉)

Kamisuwa Onsen (上諏訪温泉)
Photo courtesy of Suwako Onsen Ryokan Kumiai

Kamisuwa Onsen is a five-to-ten-minute walk from JR Kami-Suwa Station, which is a convenient location for anyone who is traveling by train. If you are traveling from Tokyo, it will take you a total of about 2 hours and 20 minutes.

The hot spring water is plentiful in Kamisuwa Onsen, so there are many places for you to dip in an onsen. There is even a bath at a rest stop that overlooks the Suwa area for those traveling by car.

Kamisuwa Onsen (上諏訪温泉)
Photo courtesy of Suwako Onsen Ryokan Kumiai

Other tourist spots around Kamisuwa Onsen include temples, various museums, and a tour boat.

A fun activity that you might consider trying in Kamisuwa is sake tasting. Nagano is known for its rice, so the sake is especially delicious. If you find a type that you like you can buy it and take it home.

Places to stay at Kamisuwa Onsen

Aburaya Ryokan (油屋旅館)
Has a bath on the top floor that overlooks the lake (perfect at night for viewing stars). Both dinner and breakfast are buffets.

Hotel Beni Ya (ホテル 紅や)
The indoor bath on the top floor has wide windows that give you a view of the whole town. Choose from rooms that face the lake, the city, or in a separate spa-focused building.

Nunohan (布半)
A ryokan that has been in operation for over 170 years. Enjoy the changing seasons in the Japanese garden from the large outdoor bath.

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Jigokudani Onsen (地獄谷温泉)

Jigokudani Onsen (地獄谷温泉)

Even if you are not familiar with the name at first glance, you will know Jigokudani Onsen for its monkey park, which has been a popular tourist spot for years and continues to attract visitors from all around the world. This is an onsen where wild monkeys bathe and many tourists will come to simply watch them and take pictures.

The name “Jigokudani” literally translates to “valleys of hell” because the area was feared by people in ancient times due to the geysers. The geysers are currently named a natural national monument.

Jigokudani Onsen (地獄谷温泉)
Photo courtesy of Ryokan Suminoyu

Jigokudani Onsen can be visited at all times of the year but is especially scenic in the winter. Although the monkey park is the biggest selling point of Jigokudani Onsen, you can also enjoy the surrounding area by trying some of the handmade soba, visiting the public baths, or just admiring the old-fashioned townscapes.

Places to stay at Jigokudani Onsen

Kourakukan (後楽館)
The ryokan the closest to the monkey park. A very old ryokan that retains the traditional atmosphere.

Ryokan Suminoyu (御宿 炭乃湯)
In Shibu Onsen town, you can walk around the old-style town in a yukata. The outdoor bath is very scenic at night.

Yumoto Ryokan (渋温泉 湯本旅館)
A ryokan that has been in operation for over 400 years. Enjoy the traditional feel of the public indoor and outdoor baths.

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What did you think?

There might have been many more areas for onsen in Nagano than you originally thought.

Although close in proximity, each of these locations has its own unique charms and places to visit and stay.

We hope that this article gave you an idea of what to expect if you were looking for an onsen in Nagano.

Have fun on your trip!

Have you booked your SIM card or pocket WiFi for your trip to Japan yet?

In Japan, you’ll want to be connected without missing out on high speed data and internet!

By reserving online before departing, you can

  • Lower your rental fees
  • Avoid stock shortages at the airport

To learn more about data and WiFi options for your trip, check out our products below.


↑ Go back to the table of contents