Only two and a half hours from Tokyo, Nozawa Onsen is a snow resort like no other.
Whether visiting one of the thirteen public bathhouses (Onsen), hitting the uncrowded slopes for some pristine powder, or joining the locals forsake and soba, Nozawa offers a unique and charming Japanese village experience:
7.00 AM – RISE & SHINE
After a good nights sleep at one of the village’s many traditional ryokans or guesthouses, join the locals for an early morning onsen before searching out a breakfast spot to fuel up for the day and study the piste map.
If you are staying at a ryokan you will usually have local style breakfast included, for those after something closer to home head to Tanuki, serving french toast, eggs benedict and a great flat white!
Need to hire gear? Kawatatsu in the village is reasonably priced (from ¥5,000 all gear, per day), otherwise, avoid trekking with your gear and visit one of the hire shops on the mountain, such as Shirakaba (from ¥6,800 all gear, per day).
8.00 AM – PICK YOUR PISTE
You don’t want to miss first lift at 8:30 am, so it’s time to get your lift pass (¥4,800 per day). Access to the mountain is quick and easy with two gondolas (Nagasaka and Hikage) and 18 chairlifts.
With over 50km of slopes, beginners can choose from 16 green ‘easier’ runs, while those in search of something more challenging can check out the 15 orange ‘more difficult’ runs or the 13 ‘most difficult’ black runs.
10.30 AM – IT’S COFFEE TIME
Who knew that some of the best coffee in Japan can be found on the Nozawa slopes? St. Aton, named for Nozawa’s sister mountain in Austria, serves up steaming Allpress coffee at the base of the Hikage Gondola, to provide your mid-morning energy boost.
1.00 PM – REFUEL WITH KATSU CURRY
Improve your PB from the top to the bottom of Mount Kenashi? Survive the Schneider moguls? What better way to celebrate and refuel then with a steaming hot katsu curry of breaded chicken or pork. A great spot to check out is Panorama Buna House where you can watch skiers ride by while enjoying your meal.
4.00 PM – APRÉS SKI
It’s time to regroup with your buddies to share your shred stories, over a well deserved Kirin, at one of the mountains bars. The Schneider Hotel offers a great spot to watch the sun go down – just make sure you don’t miss the travelator which closes around 5:00 pm or else you’ll be trooping down in the snow!
5.00 PM – THE CALL OF THE ONSEN
As music pours into the streets every evening at 5:00 pm, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to the mountains of Austria. This daily music actually signals the end of the workday and the perfect time for an onsen! A must-try is Oyu Onsen, the biggest bathhouse in the village. Don’t miss our guide on Onsen Etiquette.
7.00 PM – DINNER TIME
After a day ripping it up on the slopes you’ll be ready to indulge in some local specialties. Nozawa has something for everyone, try gyoza, ramen and sake in a box at Izakaya Sakai, amazing burgers and steaks at The Corner Steakhouse, and udon and soba noodles made from local spring water at Soba-dokoro Daemon.
Don’t let a closed door put you off trying small local establishments, a lit lantern outside the restaurant indicates it’s open.
9.30 PM – SAKE SESSIONS
Unlike many Japanese ski resorts (Niseko excluded), Nozawa has some nightlife. If you’re still standing after a full day on the slopes and a hearty meal, partake in a favourite national pastime with some karaoke at Heaven…Whitney anyone?!
11.00 PM – HIT THE HAY
It’s time to head home to rest your weary bones…ready to repeat it all again tomorrow!
What would you do with 24 hours in Japan?
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