Shibu Onsen Guide: Japanese Snow Monkey and Skiing Included

Last Updated: April 10,2024

Shibu Onsen is a charming hot spring town and even one of the best Onsen Towns in Japan that is located in the Nagano Prefecture. This historic onsen resort is renowned for its traditional atmosphere, picturesque setting, and cultural significance. Shibu Onsen Nagano has been a popular destination for centuries, drawing visitors seeking relaxation and rejuvenation in its therapeutic hot springs.

Table of Contents

1. Visit the Shibu Onsen 9 Baths

2. Shibu Onsen Ryokan Accommodation

3. What to Do in Shibu Onsen

3.1 Visit the Snow Monkey Park

3.2 Go Skiing at Ski Resorts Near Shibu Onsen

4. How to Get to Shibu Onsen

Shibu Onsen

1. Experience the 9 Public Bathhouses for a Unique Shibu Onsen Tour

How about strolling through the streets to visit multiple bathhouses while wearing yukata (cotton robes)? One of the distinctive features of Shibu Onsen Japan is its stamp collection of nine public bathhouses, known as "soto-yu," each with its own unique charm and therapeutic qualities. Visitors to Shibu Onsen can embark on a rejuvenating journey, wandering through the narrow cobblestone streets to experience the healing properties of these hot springs. The practice of "soto-yu meguri" or bathhouse hopping is a beloved tradition, allowing guests to explore the different atmospheres and enjoy the diverse mineral-rich waters.

Hatsu-yu: Known as the "First Bath," Hatsu-yu is often the initial bath that visitors to Shibu Onsen experience. It sets the tone for the onsen tour and is considered a starting point for relaxation.

Sasa-no-yu: Sasa-no-yu is named after the bamboo grass (sasa) that grows abundantly in the region. This bathhouse offers a tranquil and natural setting for visitors to enjoy the soothing hot spring waters.

Wata-no-yu: This bathhouse, "Cotton Bath," is believed to have healing properties for skin conditions. The mineral-rich waters are said to be beneficial for the skin, providing a rejuvenating experience.

Take-no-yu: "Bamboo Bath" takes its name from the bamboo groves in the area. The bath is known for its calming atmosphere, surrounded by the beauty of bamboo, providing a serene environment for bathers.

Matsu-no-yu: Named after the pine trees (matsu) that adorn the surroundings, Matsu-no-yu offers a peaceful and traditional onsen experience. The scent of pine adds to the sensory experience of this bathhouse.

Mearai-no-yu: This bathhouse is recognized for its close proximity to the Jigokudani Monkey Park. Visitors can enjoy the hot springs while taking in views of the surrounding mountains and perhaps catching a glimpse of the famous snow monkeys.

Nanakuri-no-yu: "Seven Chestnuts Bath" is known for its connection to the Nanakuri family. The bathhouse has a charming and historic ambiance, providing a glimpse into the cultural heritage of Shibu Onsen.

Shinmeidaki-no-yu: This bathhouse is associated with the local shrine, Shinmei-daki, and offers a spiritual and serene setting. Bathers can enjoy the therapeutic waters while embracing the cultural significance of the area.

O-yu: As the largest bathhouse in Shibu Onsen, O-yu is a communal bath where villagers traditionally gather. It has a long history and continues to be a central part of the onsen experience in the town.

Each of these bathhouses in the Nagano Shibu Onsen has its own unique features, architecture, atmosphere, and cultural richness, contributing to the diverse onsen experience that Shibu Onsen offers to visitors, making it one of the best Onsen in Japan.

2. Recommended Shibu Onsen Ryokan

Apart from its hot springs, Shibu Onsen is also famous for its traditional ryokans (Japanese inns) that exude an authentic and historical charm. Many of these ryokans have been in operation for generations, providing guests with a glimpse into the timeless beauty of Japanese hospitality. The town's architecture reflects a blend of Edo period aesthetics and contemporary comforts, creating an immersive experience that transports visitors to a bygone era. Which Ryokan in Shibu Onsen is the most popular among tourists?

Shibu Onsen Ryokan

2.1 Rekishi no Yado Kanaguya

As the most famous Shibu Onsen ryokan, "Kanaguya" in Shibu Onsen is rumored to be the original building of the Oil House in "Spirited Away". Kanaguya Ryokan is an old hotel that has been in business for 250 years. The building itself is like a museum. The exterior and interior are very retro, and it's like traveling back to the early Showa era. The wooden four-story accommodation building "Saigetsuro" has been certified as a national tangible cultural property. There are five Kanaguya Shibu Onsen in total, including the hot springs inside the hotel and the outdoor hot springs. Each hot spring pool of Kanaguya onsen has very significant effects, and all Onsens here are 100% original hot springs. Any tourist can find one that suits you to enjoy the Shibu Onsen Nagano.

Address: 2202 Hirao, Yamanochi, Shimotakai District, Nagano 381-0401, Japan

Phone: +81 269-33-3131

2.2 Kokuya Ryokan Shibu Onsen

The façade of Shibu Onsen Kokuya Ryokan may look inconspicuous, but there’s something magical inside. The wooden structure of the Kokuya Ryokan has twists and turns inside, like a maze. The walls are based on stone and wood and are simple and rough. On the hot spring street of Shibu Onsen Japan, Kokuya Ryokan Nagano is not only ancient but also unique in having 6 natural springs with different spring qualities, which is the only one in Shibu Onsen Town. According to the shopkeeper, Kokuya Ryokan was built based on the rock formations of underground springs. Two of these sources of hot springs gush out from beneath the hotel. On the floor of a corridor in the Kokuya Ryokan Shibu Onsen, there is a 50 cm square piece of strengthened glass. Through the glass of the Shibu Onsen Kokuya Hotel, springs can be seen gushing out from below. Six springs supply warm water to the ryokan, which is transported with the flow and is not recycled.

Address: 2200 Hirao, Yamanochi, Shimotakai District, Nagano 381-0401, Japan

Phone: +81 269-33-2511

2.3 Sakaeya Ryokan

Sakaeya Ryokan seamlessly blends modern comforts with traditional charm, providing an exquisite experience highlighted by exceptional onsen facilities and a delectable kaiseki meal. The private onsen room is thoughtfully equipped with premium bathroom amenities, complimentary drinks, a rejuvenating sauna, and invigorating hot and cold pools. Additionally, a generously spacious area is provided for relaxation. And it is a great choice for those doing a day trip! The ryokan is conveniently located near nine public bathhouses, making it a fantastic choice for those seeking to collect onsen stamps to indulge in nine distinct onsen baths at no additional cost beyond the hotel's own exquisite onsen. This unique experience sets the hotel apart, allowing guests to explore a variety of onsen baths in the surrounding area. Renowned for its personalized service and intimate ambiance, this Shibu Onsen Hotel evokes a sense of exclusivity. The outdoor onsen at the hotel captivates with its breathtaking beauty, providing a serene and rejuvenating backdrop.

Address: 2171 Hirao, Yamanochi, Shimotakai District, Nagano 381-0401, Japan

Phone: +81 269-33-2531

2.4 Senshinkan Matsuya

Senshinkan Matsuya offers Japanese-style accommodation in a traditional building in the center of Shibu Onsen town. Guests can enjoy the hotel's public hot spring baths or bathe in the other 9 hot spring baths in the area free of charge. The Matsuya Ryokan Shibu Onsen is only a 5-minute drive from the Yudanaka Train Station. Each room in this Shibu onsen hotel is equipped with a TV, safe, and refrigerator, and some rooms have Wi-Fi access. Guests can enjoy drinks from the minibar or make green tea by using the electric kettle. Bathroom and toilet facilities are shared in the hotel.

Address: 2222 Hirao, Yamanochi, Shimotakai District, Nagano 381-0401, Japan

Phone: +81 0269333181

Apart from these 4 Shibu Onsen hotels recommended here, there is another Shibu Onsen Ryokan for you to enjoy the private Onsen Shibu, such as the Shibu Onsen Koishiya Ryokan. Which one do you think is the best ryokan in Shibu Onsen? Which Shibu Onsen Hotel would you like to stay at for your Shibu Onsen Trip? Let Us Know so that we can arrange the accommodation for your tailor-made Japan Tour to Shibu.

3. Things to Do During Shibu Onsen Trip

What to do in Shibu Onsen? Beyond the soothing waters and historic accommodations, Shibu Onsen is strategically located near other attractions, including the famous Jigokudani Monkey Park, where wild snow monkeys can be observed bathing in natural hot springs during the winter months. The town is also a gateway to the nearby ski resorts, making it a popular destination for those seeking both relaxation and outdoor adventures.

3.1 Visit the Snow Monkey Park

One of the unique features that set Nagano Shibu Onsen apart is its association with the nearby Jigokudani Monkey Park, where wild snow monkeys can be observed enjoying the warm waters during the winter months.

Snow Monkey Park

Nestled in the scenic mountains of Nagano, Japan, Jigokudani Monkey Park stands as a unique and captivating destination. Known as the "Hell Valley Monkey Park," it is renowned for its resident Japanese macaques, also known as snow monkeys, who find sanctuary in the park's natural hot springs during the winter months. Visitors can witness these endearing primates frolicking in the steaming waters, creating a picturesque and heartwarming spectacle against the snow-blanketed landscape. Featuring a harmonious blend of nature and wildlife, Jigokudani Monkey Park offers a rare opportunity to observe these playful creatures in their natural habitat, making it a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Address: 6845 Hirao, Yamanochi, Shimotakai District, Nagano 381-0401, Japan

How to get to Snow Monkey Park (Jigokudani Yaen Koen) from Shibu Onsen: You can take a bus from Shibu Onsen to the Jigokudani Monkey Park. Buses operate from Yudanaka Station, which is the nearest train station to Shibu Onsen in Nagano. The ride takes around 15-20 minutes.

3.2 Go Skiing at Ski Resorts Near Shibu Onsen

Shibu Onsen's appeal extends beyond its hot springs and historical charm; it also serves as a gateway to excellent winter sports opportunities, including skiing. Situated in the mountainous Nagano Prefecture, the region boasts a snowy landscape and access to several ski resorts, making it a sought-after destination for winter enthusiasts.

●Shiga Kogen: the Closest Ski Resort only about 12 km away from Shibu Onsen

One notable nearby ski destination is the Shiga Kogen Ski Resort, which is one of the largest ski areas in Japan. Shiga Kogen offers a diverse range of slopes suitable for all skill levels, from beginners to advanced skiers and snowboarders. The resort's interconnected slopes and multiple ski areas provide a vast playground for winter sports enthusiasts. After a day on the slopes, visitors can unwind in Shibu Onsen's rejuvenating hot springs, soothing tired muscles and preparing for another day of winter sports.

Address: 7148 Hirao, Yamanochi, Shimotakai District, Nagano 381-0401, Japan

Hours: Closed at 5:00 PM

Phone: +81 269-34-2404

How to get to Shiga Kogen: From Tokyo by Train and Bus:

Take the Shinkansen to Nagano Station: From Tokyo Station, you can catch the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano Station. The journey takes around 1.5 to 2 hours.

Transfer to the Nagaden Express Bus: From Nagano Station, take the Nagaden Express Bus to Shiga Kogen. The bus ride takes about 70-90 minutes, and it will bring you to various points within the Shiga Kogen area.

Ryuoo Ski Park: 12km North of Shibu Onsen

Ryuoo Ski Park is another prominent ski destination in the vicinity of Shibu Onsen, enhancing the region's appeal for winter sports enthusiasts. Located near Yamanouchi Town, Ryuoo Ski Park offers a diverse range of skiing and snowboarding experiences against the stunning backdrop of the Japanese Alps. Visitors to Shibu Onsen in Nagano can easily access Ryuoo Ski Park Nagano, which is approximately a 30-minute drive away. The park is known for its impressive vertical drop, varied terrain, and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. With slopes catering to different skill levels, from beginners to advanced riders, Ryuoo Ski Park provides a well-rounded winter sports experience for everyone. After a thrilling day on the slopes, visitors can return to Nagano Shibu Onsen to indulge in the town's famous hot springs.

Address: 11700 Yomase, Yamanochi, Shimotakai District, Nagano 381-0405, Japan

Hours: Closed at 5:00 PM

Phone: +81 269-33-7131

Kijimadaira: 16km North of Shibu Onsen

Kijimadaira ski resort is another noteworthy ski destination near Shibu Onsen. Situated in Nagano Prefecture, Kijimadaira is known for its pristine powder snow, expansive slopes, and panoramic mountain views. Accessible from Shibu Onsen Japan, Kijimadaira Ski Resort provides a unique and less crowded alternative for those seeking a diverse skiing experience. The resort features a range of slopes suitable for various skill levels, making it an excellent choice for both beginners and seasoned skiers alike. The wide-open spaces and well-groomed runs contribute to a memorable skiing adventure against the backdrop of the picturesque Japanese landscape.

Madarao Mountain Resort: 28km Northwest of Shibu Onsen

Madarao Mountain Resort is known for its excellent powder snow, tree runs, and a welcoming atmosphere. Accessible from Shibu Onsen Nagano Japan, Madarao offers a unique skiing experience with its tree-lined slopes and off-piste areas, attracting both intermediate and advanced skiers seeking a bit of adventure. The resort's terrain parks and varied courses cater to different skill levels, making it a well-rounded destination for winter sports enthusiasts.

Address: Madaraokogen, Iiyama, Nagano 389-2257, Japan

Hours: Closed at 4:30 PM

Phone: +81 269-64-3214

Myoko Kogen: Approx 41km Northwest of Shibu Onsen

Myoko Kogen is a renowned ski destination known for its abundant snowfall, varied terrain, and stunning alpine landscapes. Accessible from Shibu Onsen, Myoko Kogen Ski provides an extensive array of ski resorts, each with its unique character. The resorts in the area, including Akakura Onsen, Ikenotaira Onsen, and Suginohara, offer a diverse range of slopes catering to skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. Visitors to Shibu Onsen Nagano can easily explore the various ski areas within the Myoko Kogen Ski Resort region, adding a new dimension to their winter sports adventure.

Address: Taguchi, Myoko, Niigata 949-2106, Japan

Hours: Closed at 5:00 PM

Phone: +81 255-86-3911

With the accessibility to multiple renowned ski resorts, including Ryuoo Ski Park, Shiga Kogen, Kijimadaira, and Myoko Kogen, Shibu Onsen solidifies its reputation as a versatile and central base for exploring diverse winter sports opportunities in the Nagano and Niigata regions. The rich blend of cultural experiences, natural beauty, and thrilling outdoor activities makes Shibu Onsen an ideal destination for those seeking an immersive and memorable winter getaway.

4. How to Get to Shibu Onsen

Shibu Onsen is conveniently located in the town of Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Getting to Shibu Onsen typically involves a combination of train and bus travel. Here's a general guide on how to get to Shibu Onsen:

4.1 Shibu Onsen from Tokyo

●Tokyo to Shibu Onsen By Train and Bus: Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano

From Tokyo Station, board the Hokuriku Shinkansen bound for Nagano. The journey takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.

Transfer to the Nagaden Express Bus: Upon arriving at Nagano Station, take the Nagaden Express Bus to Shibu Onsen. The bus ride takes about 45-60 minutes.

By Car: Rent a Car

Renting a car is an option if you prefer flexibility and want to explore the surrounding areas. The drive from Tokyo to Shibu Onsen takes around 3.5 to 4 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions.

4.2 Shibu Onsen From Kyoto/Osaka

By Train and Bus: Take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya:

If you are in Osaka or Kyoto, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya.

Transfer to the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano: From Nagoya, transfer to the Hokuriku Shinkansen bound for Nagano.

Continue with Nagaden Express Bus: Upon arriving at Nagano Station, take the Nagaden Express Bus to Shibu Onsen.

By Car: Rent a Car

Renting a car is also an option for travelers from Osaka/Kyoto. The drive from Osaka to Shibu Onsen takes around 5 to 6 hours, while from Kyoto, it takes approximately 4.5 to 5 hours.

4.3 Local Transportation in Shibu Onsen

Once you arrive in Shibu Onsen, the town is compact and easily navigable on foot. Many of the ryokans and attractions are within walking distance from each other. Additionally, there are local buses and taxis available to explore nearby attractions, such as the Jigokudani Monkey Park or nearby ski resorts.


Shibu Onsen is a place with a history of more than a thousand years. The historic ambiance of Shibu Onsen Japan is further enhanced by its traditional architecture, including ryokans with wooden facades, lantern-lit paths, and the overall sense of stepping back in time. Beyond the soothing baths in the best onsen in Shibu onsen, visitors can not only explore the town's serene surroundings, including nearby hiking trails, beautiful landscapes, and seasonal attractions but also pay a visit to the famous Snow Monkey Park and enjoy skiing at the nearby ski resorts. Start planning your private Shibu Onsen Tour now.

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