Nozawa Onsen is a stunning Japanese ski resort within easy reach of Tokyo. This ski resort is a perfect choice if you want to experience Japanese culture, a village feel, excellent snow conditions, and want the gondolas/lifts within walking distance from your accommodation. This snow resort is suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all levels and has some amazing long wide runs. My favorite run was the Rinkan course, which is a 5km long tree-lined run that snakes its way down the mountain – highly recommended for beginners and intermediates. Download the full trail map here.
Having been to Nozawa Onsen during the snow season, I can provide some simple tips to hopefully help you to book your snow trip the easy way and make a good snow trip into an epic one.
1. Secure cheap flights early with Skyscanner
The best time to secure the cheapest flights to Japan is around May the year before – basically seven to eight months before your snow trip. I’ve been there three times so far and this trick has never let me down. Skyscanner will make it easy to suss out the best deals from where ever you are flying from – switch to Whole month view to quickly see the cheap flights.
Check out my travel easy hack if you are flying out from Canberra, Australia.
2. Book your accommodation early with Nozawa Holidays
Don’t fall for the early bird specials from random travel agents unless you want to pay more. Nozawa Holidays make it easier to secure your Nozawa Onsen accommodation the cheap and easy way. Simply email your dates and details of your trip and they’ll come to you with accommodation options. I recommend doing this even before the early bird deals come out, which is around 7 to 8 months before your snow trip.
Nozawa Onsen mainly has lodge-style accommodation with shared bathrooms and you’ll be paying higher prices if you want a private bathroom. Don’t expect luxury accommodation unless you’re willing to pay the big bucks. We had an amazing stay at Mitsubachi Maya Lodge which was located within easy walking distance from the town and the Nagasaka gondola.
3. Time your trip for the best snow conditions
From my recent trips, the best time to experience the best snow conditions is between mid-January to late February. If you are traveling alone, with your partner or with friends I recommend booking your trip in February to avoid the school holiday crowds. You will also save money on your flights and accommodation.
4. Get luggage delivered to your accommodation
Get your snow luggage delivered from the airport to your Nozawa Onsen accommodation using the Ta-Q-Bin service. Read here for this simple travel hack.
5. Stop by the Neo Bar
We tried a few cafes in Nozawa but the best by far in terms of great coffee, food and a drink after a day at the slopes was the Neo Bar, located next to the main Gongala. The Neo Bar is of great value and has a cozy and casual atmosphere suitable for everyone. Get there before the end of the day crowds rock up at 4 pm to get a couch, then enjoy the chilled out vibe with your favorite beverage and yummy crepes – you’ll be in heaven, my perfect way to end a day at the slopes.
6. Ride in for lunch at Lodge Hakugin
One of my best experiences in Japan was stopping by for lunch at Lodge Hakugin (located around the middle of Paradise Slope) during a snow storm. It felt great being greeted by the friendly staff and enjoying a hot Ramen while taking in the backdrop of the mountain and snow falling outside. This became our regular lunchtime slop and I tried the other dishes like Tonkatsu deep-fried pork and Chicken teriyaki which was all delicious. The stunning Japanese architecture inside and warm and cozy fireplace kept us there for an extra-long lunch on most days.
7. Go with the local vibe
Nozawa Onsen has many traditional restaurants and bars to try to immerse yourself in Japanese vibes. The best from my experience was Hamacho sushi bar (probably the best sashimi and sushi I’ve ever had) and Sobadokoro Daimon which is a small bar that we stumbled upon late at night. Sobadokoro Daimon had a chilled-out local vibe and served tasty tempura which went with the local beer and hot sake.
Download the full Nozawa Onsen the restaurant and bar guide here.
Check out this Nozawa Onsen crashes video from 2014 just for laughs.