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09 January 2013

Why not visit Nozawa Onsen Ski and natural hot spring village?

In the beginning of this year, I went to Nozawa Onsen village in Nagano Prefecture.

The below is last year's footage, February 2012.

It is famous ski resort but it is also famous for natural hot spring town. The word, Onsen means natural hot spring in Japanese.

Interestingly enough, the town is not only famous for Japanese skiers but Australians, New Zealanders and other foreigners. A ski resort famous for foreigners I knew was Niseko in Hokkaido. I visited there two years ago. Then I learnt Australians there became more interested in Nozawa Onsen. That was why I visited Nozawa last year and this year.

The place was better than expected. Snow quality was great. The courses were varied. I saw many Australians and other foreigners skiing and snowboarding. Not as many as number I saw in Niseko but I could meet some Aussies every time I got on a lift. I even could meet them attending ski school which only provided Japanese intruction. They told me they learnt it by body language. Wow!!

I saw them outside the ski areas. That is public bath houses. There are 13 community bath houses in the village. It is open early in the morning until late at night. All of them were managed by localies and free of charge for anybody including tourists. The hot water comes from volcano line underneath the village. It smells sulfur and some of them were really hot. I could not imagine foreigners enjoying that. But I saw them quite frequently. 

I spoke with localies. They told me they actually made sales to Australians flying there. However, they never change their village to resort style. They keep the way they have been from the past. You can't find any big hotels and leisure facilities over there. Just small local hotels, bath houses, temples, shrines, small shops, restaurants and bars. No big places except ski slopes. Very much like Japanese traditional village.

Localies seems to be proud of keeping their originality and personality. When I bathed in a community bath, one local man scolded a young boy saying "wash your penis before you get into the bath tub."  That means keep the bath clean and respect the manners.

It is a very mystique place. Real winter wonderland!

20 January 2011

Skiing with Australians on powder snow

Last week I went to Niseko Ski resort in Hokkaido, Northernmost island of Japan.

PIC_3105.JPGThe ski slopes there is famous for powder snow, which skiers can ski very smoothly even in deep new snow. I could ski like this.


The Niseko town also has good hot spring bath (Onsen). Very healthy hot bath water that warms you up after you become cold by skiing or snowboarding.

But the most notable thing for me was that the town was almost occupied by foreigners mainly by Australians. The town has recently become very famous among Australians where the season is opposite, which they want to get away from the heat. It is like Hawaii or Gold Coast for Japanese.

I felt like staying in foreign ski resort like Switzerland or Canada. Thanks! Great experience.

By the way, if you are Australian who plans to visit Niseko, please see the following video which shows my experience in the trip including the scenes from Tokyo and other cities in Hokkaido. You can enjoy great snow views.