Nozawa Onsen


This year for our Christmas break, rather than heading back to Australia, we met up with some family at Nozawa Onsen in Nagano, Japan for our first White Christmas! It was amazing, and easily one of, if not, the best trip we've had in Japan so far.

I don't know that i'd ever heard of Nozawa Onsen before my sister mentioned they were wanting to go there for Christmas, but after reading some reviews online I was sold. Honestly, I was a bit concerned that it would be just another ski village in Japan overrun with Aussies, but that is actually one of the things that I think made it so great (more on that later).

We headed up to Tokyo the day before, then the next morning, caught the Shinkansen out to Iiyama station before getting a bus to Nozawa Onsen. I stupidly left booking train tickets to the last minute, which meant there were no reserved seats left. We had to get non-reserved seats and arrived at Tokyo station a good hour or more before the Shinkansen we wanted to get. The station was chaos because it was a national holiday and I think everyone was heading away for the long weekend! If possible, I definitely recommend securing Shinkansen tickets in advance if you're travelling towards Nagano during peak ski season!

National holiday madness for the Shinkansen
Lucky we managed to get seats on the train, and once we arrived to Iiyama station we headed to the supermarket next to the station to pick up some snacks before our bus left for Nozawa Onsen. This is a great idea because although there are a lot of places to eat in Nozawa onsen, there aren't really any convenience stores if you're looking to buy snacks or drinks between meals.

The day we arrived, there was actually minimal snow and I was a little worried we wouldn't get our white Christmas. We decided to stay at Lodge Nagano, which was pretty central to everything including the town and the ski areas. When we arrived we were welcomed by the friendliest Australian staff and shown around the place before being taken to our room, which was actually ready before check in time.

Giant Asahi and a lil' gulp

Lodge Nagano in Nozawa Onsen was a fantastic place to stay, with incredibly friendly staff and a different hot breakfast every morning.
Lodge Nagano

We headed out for an early dinner (travelling with kids!) at Wakagiri, a little izakaya in town. The sashimi was delicious and super fresh and they even had kids meals and toys for the kids to keep entertained! During the ski season, the restaurants in Nozawa Onsen get full quickly, so it's a good idea to book some places when you arrive at your hotel (the staff were really happy to help as well as give recommendations).

Nozawa Onsen village
The village
The next morning we woke to a snow covered winter wonderland and we were SO EXCITED! This was my first real snow experience, and it was lovely. Lodge Nagano offers a different cooked breakfast every morning and we got to eat our omelettes in the communal kitchen while watching the snow fall outside.
Nozawa Onsen, view from our room at Lodge Nagano
The view outside our room window

The village
Seeing as we were going on a tour to see the snow monkeys that afternoon, we headed up to the Hikage kids park area for the morning for some snow play! I was honestly so surprised to see how much fun stuff there was to do for free. You can borrow sleds and snow bikes for free from the information centre (which we did!) and we spent a good couple of hours playing with these as well as building snow men and having snow fights.

It was the perfect way to spend our first morning in the snow! After our trip to the snow monkeys we went to a new Mexican place in town called Juntas that had only opened the day before, but was fantastic and run by an Australian girl. After just one day in Nozawa Onsen, I could see why there are people that endlessly chase the ski seasons around the world. All the people we met working in the lodge, cafes and restaurants seemed so happy with their lives! I think this is one of the reasons that being surrounded by Australians even though I was in Japan didn't bother me at all because everyone was so happy. Another thing I really think the Aussies added to the place was the standard of the food. I honestly ate some of the best food i've had in Japan while I was in Nozawa Onsen, and this was because most of these places were run by Australians. Anyway, of course the Village is not completely overrun by Aussies, and it is actually just like a small Japanese village with people going about their normal days, and pretty shrines and traditional shops scattered around. All in all, a great experience and a good option for first-timers to Japan.

We booked our accommodations through Nozawa Holidays, and they were extremely helpful and kind! This post is not sponsered in any way, I just wanted to give a shout out to the awesome service we received from them.

Part 2, Christmas Day in Nozawa Onsen is still to come.....

Snowball stack

The most fun i've had in a long time :)

This christmasy person was handing out candy on Christmas eve

Lovely snow-covered shrine on the way to see the snow monkeys
Dinner at Wakagiri on our first night in Nozawa
My tips for staying in Nozawa Onsen

  • Try to book your Shinkansen tickets in advance if you're going at peak season
  • Book restaurants for dinner when you get to your accommodation to avoid disappointment (and wandering the streets trying to decide where to eat)
  • Go and see the snow monkeys! They're only an hour away
  • If you want to use the free snow sleds and bikes, get to the Hikage information centre early (before 10am) and they're all taken
  • Stock up on snacks and drinks at the supermarket next to Iiyama station before you get the bus to Nozawa Onsen
If you've got any other tips, be sure to comment below

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  1. This looks soooo cool! I wish we were going to be here another winter and i would totally add this to my list. awesome!

    1. Yeah, it was seriously the most fun we've had on holiday in ages! LOVED it!