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Nozawa Onsen village has a very long history and is thought to have been founded by a Buddhist monk in 724 during the period of the Emperor Shomu. Ongoing occupation prior to this has also been recorded suggesting a much longer history. The ruins of Stone-Age dwellings and pottery dating back at least 3000 years have recently been uncovered in the village.

As far back as 1250 AD, during the Kamakura period, Nozawa Onsen was already being recorded as being a popular travel destination.

The first private Bathhouse was constructed in the Edo period, when a regional lord visited one of the local onsen. The Bathhouse was built as a gift to his sage. This construction resulted in a set of rules (called Sodai) being put in place to manage the onsen that are still in use today. This includes the banning of boring for onsen springs which has resulted in all Nozawa Onsen spring sources being completely natural. They are also run and managed by the town members and not by external parties.

There are 13 free public onsen in Nozawa that are available to visitors. Kiriya has its own private onsens fed from a private spring. This geothermaly heated spring water feeds directly onto our onsen which uses an overflow system. In other words, no filtration is required as the mineral rich water is constantly being replaced by new water directly from the spring.


Nozawa Onsen is also home to the annual Dosojin, or Fire Festival. This famous event revolves around a six-storey wooden shrine that becomes the target of fire-bearing villagers. 42 year old villager males sit a top the shrine atop a bed of pine branches looking on as the 25 year old local men defend the base bare handed. Traditionally in Japan, these two ages have been considered unlucky and the event is a form of cleansing ritual for them. Eventually, the defenders concede defeat and the shrine is allowed to burn, producing a spectacular fiery display.

Nozawa Onsen has a variety of traditional Japanese eating establishments ranging from lively Izakiya (Restaurant/bar), noodle houses, all the way through to fine Kiaseki dining.

When you arrive, please feel free to ask for recommendations.

Area information

Area information

The World of Snow Monkeys (40min by Car~20min on foot)
The World of Snow Monkeys (40min by Car~20min on foot)

The Jigokudani Yaen-koen (altitude 850 meters) is located in the Valley of Yokoyu River sourced from Shiga-Kogen of the
Joshinetsu-Kogen National Park in northern part of Nagano
prefecture. Because of the very steep cliffs, steams and the
abundance of springs, ancient people called this valley
‘Jigokudani (Hell valley)'. Also it is buried in snow almost one third
of the year. Even this kind of severe environment is a paradise on
earth for the monkeys. The troops of wild Japanese macaque
(popularly known as snow monkeys) have inhabited the region
naturally throughout the ages. The Japanese macaques found in
the Shimokita peninsula, the northern area of the Honshu Island,
are famous for being the northernmost non-human primates in the
world (the northernmost monkeys).
Since the establishment in 1964, Jigokudani Yaen-koen has been
a worldwide attraction for watching the bathing monkeys and an
ecological observation resource for researchers or photographers.

Zenkoji Temple (60min by Car)
Zenkoji Temple (60min by Car)

The history of Zenkoji temple started in 642, when Yoshimitsu
Honda enshrined a Buddhist Image at the present site.
The main image was created in India and introduced into Japan
with Buddhism via Paekche in the Korean Peninsula in 552. It is
called "The Image of Sangoku Denrai" in Japanese.
The image has been believed to lead all the people to the Buddhist
Pure Land regardless of their status, gender or creed. It has been
earnestly worshipped by many people, ranging from those in power,
to the common people.
The main image was completely hidden from the people in 654,
and since then no one has ever been allowed to see it.
The temple name "Zenkoji" literally means "Yoshimitsu' s temple".
It is read as "Zenkoji" due to a different Interpretation of the
orriginal Chinese characters.

Obuse (50min by Car)
Obuse (50min by Car)

Chestnut sweets are popular in Obuse, where they have been
manufactured traditionally over the years. The delicacy became
widely-known during the Edo period and was even used in
offerings to shoguns, makin“g Obuse Chestnuts”a national brand.
Obuse found itself prospering as a town of wealthy merchants and
became an area where Japanese culture thrived?the painter
Katsushika Hokusai, who was based in the capital of Edo, was
invited here. Traces of that period can still be seen in the present,
one can take a stroll and see the many flowers, temples, shrines
and art museums the area has to offer, and experience a hearty
dose of Japanese culture.
The rich soil that gave birth to chestnuts is also optimal for fruit
tree production. For this reason, the town is known for its sake
manufactures and wineries, which provide a rich culinary

Matsumoto castle (from Nagano, Express 40min)
Matsumoto castle (from Nagano, Express 40min)

Matsumoto Castle is one of four castles designated as 'National
Treasures of Japan' and the oldest castle donjon remaining in
Japan. Construction began in 1592 of the elegant black and white
structure with its three turrets. Because of the elegant black walls,
Matsumoto Castle is sometimes called 'Crow Castle'. Inside the
castle are steep stairs and low ceilings leading past displays of
armor and weapons from the Sengoku period ("Warring-States")
when the castle was built. The narrow wooden windows, once
used by archers and gunmen, provide amazing views of the
Japanese Alps, Matsumoto City and the koi and swans circling in
the moat below.

Kanazawa (from Iiyama/Hokuriku-Shinkansen 50min)

Photo courtesy of Kanazawa

Along with Kairaku-en in Mito and Koraku-en in Okayama,
Kenroku-en stands as one of the three most beautiful gardens in
Japan. During the Edo period (1603 - 1868), Kenroku-en was
founded and extended over generations by the feudal lords of Kaga
(current southern part of Ishikawa) as a typical Daimyo (feudal
lord) garden. Located in the heart of Kanazawa, it has been
appreciated by both citizens and tourists from all over the world as
a landscape garden that shows a different flavor in each season.

Omi-cho Market
Photo courtesy of Kanazawa

The Omi-cho Market was established about the middle of the 18th century. Since then, it has been supporting the gastronomic culture of Kanazawa for more than 280 years. There are as many as 170 stores including a large number of fish stores that sell fresh fish and seafood caught in the Sea of Japan, vegetable stores that sell unique Kaga vegetables, fruit stores, dried food and marine product stores, grocery stores, and clothing stores besides restaurants.
Crabs, yellowtail, and small shrimp from the Sea of Japan that are sold around November, in particular, are highly evaluated in Japan. The market is crowded with residents and tourists during the season.
More than 10 tenants including restaurants and drugstores are in operation in the redevelopment building named Omi-cho Ichibakan.

Higashi Chaya District
Photo courtesy of Kanazawa

Chaya is a traditional place of feasts and entertainment, where
geisha (traditional female Japanese entertainers) have been
entertaining people by performing dances and playing Japanese
traditional musical instruments since the Edo period. The central
part of Kanazawa was dotted with a number of chaya houses in
the past. These chaya houses were moved into four districts
distant from the central part in 1820. The largest one of the chaya
districts in Kanazawa is the Higashi Chaya district.
The construction of two-story houses except chaya houses was
prohibited in the Edo period. A chaya house is characterized with a
beautiful lattice called "kimusuko" on the outer side of the first floor
and Japanese-style guestrooms located on the second floor. When
you enter back streets, you will soon find a maze of continuous
alleys. The historical rows of this teahouse town have been
designated as Japan's cultural assets alongside Kyoto's Gion and
Kanazawa's Kazue-machi . There are no other chaya districts
designated as Japan's cultural assets. The district includes
facilities where you can see the interior of a chaya house dating
back 180 years. Besides, quite a few old buildings have been
renewed into restaurants, teahouses, and souvenir shops. It takes
three minutes on foot to the bank of the Asano River from the
Higashi Chaya district. The Higashi Chaya district and Asano river
area are places where you can enjoy strolling and become
acquainted with Japanese history and culture. Kanazawa City
Tourism Association holds a geisha performance show in the three
chaya districts of the city every Saturday.

Naga-machi Buke Yashiki District
Photo courtesy of Kanazawa

Kanazawa was a castle town of the Kaga Clan governed by the
Maeda family until 1868 (about 280 years) after Maeda Toshiie
moved to Kanazawa Castle in 1583. The residences of two of the
eight chief retainers of the Kaga Clan were located in the
Naga-machi area, where top- and middle-class samurais (members
of a feudal powerful military class) lived. With the arrival of the
modern age, the appearances of the houses changed. The alleys
and the mud walls of nagayamon gates (row house gates),
however, still maintain the sight of the old days. A mud wall is
made with stones and mud put into a mold and hardened. The roof
is covered with thin wooden plates. Although mud walls up to 100
years old still remain, most of the mud walls in the area are
restored. There is a large quantity of snow in winter in Kanazawa.
In order to prevent damage to the mud walls due to the spring
thaw, straw mats called "komo" are used to protect the structures
every year from early in December to middle of March. The Onosho
canal, which flows around the area, is the oldest canal of
Kanazawa, which was an important waterway that carried goods
from the harbor to the castle town.

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