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Overview

Get a glimpse of Japan’s rich traditions with a self-guided tour of Shibu Onsen. Stay in the centre of this 1300-year-old village, within walking distance of nine public onsens. Between soaks, venture away from town to see iconic bathing snow monkeys and to visit historic garden houses in Obuse.

Trip Highlights

Onsen and Monkeys

Explore a traditional hot spring resort

Wander the cobblestone streets of Shibu Onsen, stopping to soak in one of the village’s nine therapeutic public bath houses.

Encounter iconic snow monkeys

Travel 2.5 hours to Jigokudani and see wild snow monkeys soaking in steaming hot springs. 

Admire Obuse’s rich heritage

See Obuse’s well-preserved ancient houses and gardens and visit traditional woodblock and sake factories. 

Itinerary

1

Tokyo – Shibu Onsen

JR Tokyo Station to Yudanaka Station: 2.5 h

Today is a self-guided day.

Depart from Tokyo Station for Nagano via the Hokuriku bullet train, which can reach speeds of up to 260 kph. Upon arriving at Nagano Station, transfer to the limited express train that will run to Yudanaka Station, where a complimentary shuttle bus is provided by the night’s ryokan (traditional Japanese-style inn, available between 15:00 and 18:00.

Kokuya is a traditional Japanese-style hotel (ryokan) with a 400-year history. Its present owner is the 16th generation to run the place. The ryokan has six different, 100% natural hot springs, which are rich in health-giving minerals that benefit your muscles, joints, and skin.

The ryokan is located on the Shibu Onsen “spa street,” which has nine public onsen open for use. Take note of the local people strolling down the street in yukata (light robes) as they head for a soak in one of these hot spring baths.

Dinner tonight will be a kaiseki, or Japanese traditional meal, comprised of nine or more dishes. The meal is made up of seasonal dishes using only the freshest of local Nagano ingredients.

Overnight in Shibu Onsen

2

Shibu Onsen

Kokuya Ryokan to Jigokudani parking lot: 10 min (taxi) Jigokudani parking lot to monkey park: 15 min (on foot)Yudanaka Station to Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop or Kanbayashi Onsen-guchi: 9-15 min (bus) Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop / Kanbayashi Onsen-guchi to monkey park: 30-35 min (on foot)Yudanaka Station to Obuse Station: 45 min

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

This morning, visit the Jigokudani Park, home to the famous Snow Monkeys. Jigokudani literally means “hell’s valley” due to the steam and boiling water that bubble out of small crevices in the frozen ground. It is in these hot spring baths where the resident Japanese Macaques like to soak. Going to the park from the nearest bus stops and parking lot can only be done on foot, which requires around half an hour of trekking. Comfortable footwear is strongly recommended (and warm clothes especially during the colder months).

The monkeys live in large social groups, and it can be quite entertaining to watch their interactions. Accustomed to humans, they can be observed from very close and almost completely ignore their human guests. Although the monkeys live in the area all year round, they are particularly numerous during the colder months (December – April) while less likely to be spotted in Autumn.

In the afternoon, it’s recommended to visit the nearby charming town of Obuse, a small town that features a number of traditional houses and stores. Over 100 houses in the town participate in an ‘Open Garden’ event. If this sign sits in front of a house, it means guests can freely enter the property and enjoy the gardens. A great way to get some insight into Japanese houses.

Obuse is also the home of Hokusai, the famous ukiyo-e (woodblock) painter during the Edo period, and Masuichi-Ichimura, the local sake brewery that produces high quality sake from locally produced rice.

Note: Transportation to/from Jigokudani can only be arranged on spot (at own expense)

Another amazing dinner will be served at the ryokan.

Overnight in Shibu Onsen

3

Shibu Onsen – Tokyo/Kanazawa

The rest of the day is free at leisure until the scheduled departure from Shibu Onsen.

Important Information

Our Services Include:

  • Hotel accommodation with daily breakfast
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • Bullet train tickets to and from Nagano (coming from and going to stated city in the itinerary; reserved seats, ordinary class)
  • Roundtrip limited express train tickets from Nagano Station to Yudanaka Station
  • PASMO Transport Pass with a value of 1,500 JPY on Day 2
  • Self-guide app and customized travel documentation

Our Services Do Not Include:

  • International and domestic flights (quoted separately)
  • Guides and/or entrance fees
  • Local transport other than mentioned above (e.g. bus)
  • Meals other than mentioned above
  • Personal expenses (e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone, and other expenditures of a personal nature)
  • Travel insurance (please see below)
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above

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