Incredible skiing, mountains of summer fun, 13 relaxing onsen and some of Japan's most promising real-estate opportunities.
A rich history, a bright future
Steeped in ancient Japanese tradition and boasting centuries of history, to merely say that Nozawa Onsen is an 'up-and-coming' tourist destination would be simply selling it short!
Hot springs discovered as far back as the 8th century make Nozawa Onsen legendary for onsen travel, with thousands upon thousands of Japanese tourists visiting each year to unwind in the 13 public onsen and the many ryokan with private onsen in town.
Uniquely, almost all of the public onsen in town are open to visitors free of charge and kept in pristine condition by a cohort of local volunteers. Donations are, of course, welcome!
With onsen the original driver of tourism in Nozawa, development of the town as a winter ski and summer adventure destination has increased it's popularity and set it up to become a lucrative destination for hospitality investors looking to get in on a resort town with boundless potential for growth.
Just 3 hours and 10,000 yen by train from central Tokyo, Nozawa Onsen served as a venue for the 1998 Winter Games and is now a popular destination for city-based skiers and snowboarders, as well as a welcome relief from the heat for those visiting in the summer months.
And increasingly, visitors from abroad are discovering this gem, returning each year to revel in upwards of 12m of annual winter snow and to immerse themselves in a distinctly Japanese resort town, complete with only-found-in-Japan style, quirky narrow streets and a ton of authentic culture.
Steep and Deep - Nozawa Onsen in Winter
More than 1km of vertical and more than 12 metres of annual snowfall create a recipe for good times in Nozawa Onsen should you be visiting in winter. The peak of the season runs between December and March, with best skiing conditions during January and February. Two high-speed gondolas and 19 chairlifts deliver access to over 300 hectares of terrain and over 45km of groomed ski runs.
Nozawa Onsen has two significant selling points which other resorts in Japan often struggle to offer. Firstly, it is one, single ski area. Therefore access to everything is available on one lift pass and one system of lifts. There is no need to take a bus or interrupt your ski trip to travel elsewhere (though nearby Madarao and Togari Onsen are worth a day trip!). And secondly, unlike other single ski areas, it is large enough to keep even the most experienced skiers entertained and finding new adventure on the mountain throughout a one-week-plus ski trip.
As many powder hounds will know, off-piste skiing in Japan can often be disallowed by ski resorts who force their customers to ride only the piste. In Nozawa Onsen however, there are a few in-bounds, ungroomed areas with good quality snow and enough pitch for fun free skiing in the sidecountry.
There are great backcountry areas nearby for those looking to push the boundaries a little. Take a local guide, of course.
For beginners and the little ones, Nozawa Onsen ski schools offer ski and snowboard tuition in both Japanese and English. Best to book in advance though to make sure you get an instructor who speaks your language, particularly in 'COVID times'.
By most judge's measure, approximately half of the Nozawa Onsen ski area is appropriate for beginners, with the other 50% being better suited to intermediate and advanced skiers and riders.
Other on snow activities such as cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing are available. Off the snow, Nozawa Onsen is famous for it's 'matsuri' (local festivals) so if you can plan your trip around visiting one of these, they are simply not to be missed. In particular, the annual Dousoujin Fire Festival in January draws a big crowd and is super spectacular.
Or make a visit to Nagano to see the world-famous snow monkeys hanging out by the (hot) pool!
Hike and Bike, Wine and Dine - Summer in Nozawa Onsen
Japan's obsession with hiking is catered for superbly in Nozawa Onsen with a range of hikes starting from, ending at, or running through the town, ranging in difficulty from easy-peasy to strap-a-tent-to-your-back-and-head-off-for-days!
The Shin-Etsu Hiking Trail, well-known in Japan, is an 80km route trapezing the Nagano/Niigata border through stunning beech tree forests with breathtaking views throughout. The trail has recently been extended and many Shin-Etsu hikers use Nozawa as their base.
Downhill mountain biking is a natural alter-ego for a ski resort, as the winters white ski runs transform into brown and green bike trails for the summer. Nozawa boasts a number of mountain bike trails ranging in difficulty and mountain biking tours are available.
For those looking to explore on two wheels, but-on-a-nice-flat-surface-please, road cycling is another popular pursuit in Nozawa Onsen. e-Bikes are available for rent, too.
Nozawa Onsen's food scene continues to improve and it's reputation as a destination for a foodie-trip alone is growing. Local produce and expert craftsmanship combine in many terrific restaurants all-year-round with Japanese food, obviously, available in abundance. An ever-growing range of international options mean there is something for everyone, no matter the palate.
For wine-lovers, Nagano prefecture contains many of Japan's best vineyards. Day-trippers can visit cellar doors for tastings of course, and many local restaurants proudly serve local wines too. The wine trend is quickly gathering pace here too, with Wine & Wellness Retreats in Nozawa Onsen now becoming available during the summer.
Buying and Owning in Nozawa Onsen
Most resort properties in Nozawa Onsen are very Japanese in architecture, design and service with futons on tatami mat flooring commonplace as the only bedding option in many accommodations.
However, the upcoming Kawamotoya development is set to raise the standard to an exceptional new level. Boasting studio, one and two bedroom options, this new, full-service hotel next to the great Kumanotearai-no-yu Onsen adds the first truly luxurious, Western-style-with-a-Japanese-touch condo stay option to the Nozawa landscape.
Throw in an on-site cafe and rooftop-deck-come-BBQ-space (pictured below), and you can see why this particular development is attracting significant attention from not just potential holiday-makers, but from investors both within Japan and abroad too.
Scheduled for completion in early 2022, expressions of buyer interest are being gathered by the developer, Singapore-based, GFIA Travel, now.
Properties for sale in Nozawa Onsen
Kawamotoya - Level 2 Two Bedroom Apartment
- 87 sqm
Kawamotoya - Level 2 Studio Apartment
- 36 sqm
Kawamotoya - Level 3 One Bedroom Apartment
- 1 +
- 51 sqm
Kawamotoya - Level 3 Studio Apartment
- 36 sqm