When it comes to a ski holiday, you can go anytime of the year and anywhere around the world….So NOW is always the right time to start planning.
We chose somewhere we had never heard of- Nozawa Onsen.
Simply because our 19 year old daughter was working there for the winter (Australian summer) and it was a case of two birds with one flight.
Before that we had only considered Niseko, Hakuba and Sapporo as the Aussie go-to ski resorts in Japan.
But just as you see prams and babies everywhere when you are pregnant, as soon as we had booked Nozawa Onsen it seemed everyone who was off to the land of the rising sun for a hit of snow, had already awoken to this ski field and was heading there.
And it’s little wonder.
The resort is a fast train ride and short, slow bus trip from Tokyo and offers all the great skiing and snowboarding you would want from a snow holiday, including fabulous dining and inviting bars but with the added attraction of an authentic Japanese cultural experience.
Nozawa Onsen is renowned for “onsening,” which is simply public bathing in boiling, natural hot springs, and of course how the town got its name, and it is an experience you must add to the travel bucket-list.
So, where we stayed:
We chose two different type of accomodation and got a glimpse of a few other options, which gave us a full appreciation of this super-cute, cultural town.
We loved this.
Every room on every floor is colour coded. We stayed in the green room on floor three, (the middle floor), and it made it pretty easy to find our room after a big apres-ski evening.
The bed was western-style, but only because we pushed the two single beds together. If you don’t like your husband that much you can keep them apart.
It had a mini kitchenette that staff stocked every day with eggs, yoghurt, weird little sausages, thick white bread, apple jam, espresso coffee and apples or oranges. It was particularly amusing that regardless of whether we had eaten anything, it was completely re-stocked daily. So by the end of our five day stay we had only consumed five or six pieces of bread between us but had a line up of five full loaves sitting on the bench.
It is located centrally to everything; coffee shops, great little bars including the one my daughter worked at, “Stay”, which was named after the famous Jackson Browne song, and a stroll up the hill to the ski lifts.
Although I must admit by the end of the five days the stroll seemed more of a slog, despite the daily, therapeutic public bathing in boiling, natural hot springs to soak tired ski muscles. Muscles which of course we also needed to activate to stroll to the public onsens.
This hotel has its own guests-only onsen, which is great but not as boiling hot or natural as the public ones of which there are 13 around town. Think pub crawl but in bath robes.
This is one of the nicest hotels in the village and also one of the more traditional Japanese styles of accomodation. When we checked in for the final 2 nights of our stay in Nozawa, we were shown to our room by one of the staff, who didn’t speak much English.
The room was large and very clean and had a wonderful view of the mountains and slopes.
“Where do we sleep?” we asked the lady guide.
She kept pointing to the floor where the table was set on a hard floor. I know because I bent down to feel it. Then miming sleeping with my hands prayer-like under my head asked again. “Where is the bed, sleep, sleep?” I acted out, starting to feel a bit anxious that I was going to be lying on the flooring that was basically a tightly-woven mat and more rigid than firm.
Thankfully my Japanese thespian skills were above average and she understood, directing us to a large cupboard jam-packed with mattresses and blankets and pillows that felt like wheat heats.
Staff made up our Japanese beds on the floor each night, moving the table to the side. It was very comfortable. Unfortunately we just couldn’t get the room heating right and I woke up alternatively, sweating hot then shivering with chill.
Other than the view and fabulous staff, the main attraction in this hotel are the onsens. There is a private one that my husband I booked each day. The public guest-only is also probably the nicest we experienced and it flowed through to the open-air onsen. So it was similar to a hot-cold sauna, spa beauty treatment.
We didn’t stay here but were able to check out a number of rooms, as my daughter scored a week free accomodation thanks to another friend that cancelled just 24hrs before arriving and couldn’t access a refund. These rooms were basic, but clean and tidy and located just across the road from Address Nozawa, so again in a very central-to-everything spot.
This would be perfect for young people or couples that just wanted a room to crash without the use of any other facilities, such as cooking or sitting for a drink with friends. This hotel is attached to one of the most popular coffee shops in the village.
Snow-wise; Nozawa Onsen offers every type of slope and degree of difficulty you would hope for in a ski holiday, comfortable gondolier chair lifts and great on-ski field eating options.
We would go and stay and ski again.
Even if we didn’t have a daughter to visit.
(PS: Would highly recommend our travel agent for all things Japan: Tracy-Ann O’Sullivan, MTA Travel. Email Ta@mtatravel.com.au)