There are many attractions to be seen and enjoyed in Japan. There are several festivals that honor historical and spiritual events. There are forests and beaches you can go to for the purpose of sightseeing and nature gazing. There are even different kinds of amusement parks that cater to people of all ages. With all these things and activities available to you in Japan, it only makes sense for them to have a place where people can rest and relax. If you are a traveler that is looking for such an experience in Japan, you should head unto Yudanaka which is located in the prefecture of Nagano, specifically in Yamanouchi.
An Overview of Yudanaka
The Yudanaka area, as well as the Shibu area, are areas that you can refer to as hot springs towns. This is because of the number of baths and hot springs that can be found in these areas. In Japan, there are many hot spring towns that you can go to but by going to this particular area of hot spring towns like this, you will get something that you cannot get anywhere else in Japan.
This unique experience has everything to do with the iconic animal or symbol that these areas have embraced which is the Japanese Snow Monkeys that you can find here. To prove that this area has completely embraced the idea of having snow monkeys reside within their space, you need not look further than the things you can see once you get to Yudanaka. Examples of such signs are the train they call the “Snow Monkey” as well as taxis referred to as “Snow Monkey Taxis”.
Since this area is very near Nagano, it’s a given that it also snows in this area. Another obvious sign that this place experiences snow is the presence of the snow monkey that has just been mentioned earlier. The snow comes in the winter time as early as the month of November and lasts throughout the months from December up to late March because these are the months that usually log in temperatures that fall below 0 degrees. After the month of March, you will notice that the temperatures slowly rise until it the temperature of the area reaches an average temperature of 27 degrees Celsius. This average temperature for the hottest months in Yudanaka usually happen during the months of July until September. Afterwards, the temperatures slowly drop back to the average temperatures for the winter season.
The great thing about onsens and ryokans that have onsens and different kinds of baths in them is that you can enjoy them during whatever time or season of the year. The onsens in the Yudanaka Onsen area, found in Yamanouchi-machi, are quite different from the ones you can find in the Shibu Onsen area. This is because of the fact that the area of Yudanaka has been blessed to see more development happen there. This development enabled the area to attain a certain modern atmosphere.
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of onsen establishments as well as hotels with onsens you can go to this the area of Yudanaka. If you want to go to one that has been getting great reviews, you are in luck because there is a particular onsen establishment whose address is located just 2 minutes away from the Yudanaka Station and that is the Yudanaka Seifuso. It has been there since the Meiji era which means that they also have the traditional inner garden that establishments of that era usually had in them.
This establishment happens to be a ryokan that has been passed down for generations and with this being the case, you will see a more traditional version of the ryokan and onsen here. This is not a loss for you as a traveler though because the place is very well maintained and what they lack in modernism, they make up for with their incredible hospitality. A concrete example of this hospitality is from a review of a previous customer that stated that the owners even drove their guests as far as their very own car can go to whichever attractions their guests were planning to go to in the surrounding area.
This place is great for those who can only speak English because the son of the owners of this ryokan is quite fluent in that language. There are 15 guest rooms available in this Japanese inn and all of them are with the traditional tatami mats for that authentic feel. They also have 4 different types of baths for their guests to use for free, depending on the availability. They have one called the Rotenburo which is an outdoor bath made from stones that came from Shiga Kogen. Another bath they have is a retro-themed indoor bath and the reason for its retro theme is that this particular bath was built in the early Showa period. The 2 other baths to be found here are also quite exquisite. One of them even have apples or rose petals put into the waters depending on the season.
If you’re going towards the Jigokudani Monkey Park, you will definitely pass the Shibu Onsen area, and despite its retained traditional atmosphere, the onsens found here are still pretty remarkable. If you will be staying in the Shibu Onsen area for quite a while, something that you should definitely try to do is visiting the nine public bathhouses in this area.
Unfortunately, you can only gain access to 8 of the 9 bathhouses if you are a local or an overnight guest. The only bath open to daytime visitors is the Oyu bath and it is the one found in the center of the town. All the nine baths in this town are believed to cure different ailments. Aside from curing all kinds of sicknesses, completing a visit to each of these baths is said to bring you great fortune. Considering that belief and the relaxation you’ll get from going to all those bathhouses, if you will really be booking a room for more than a couple of nights, you should surely consider getting one in this area.
The Other Things to Do While in and around the Yudanaka Area
Aside from visiting the onsens and baths in these areas as well as the restaurants that will definitely fill your tummy, there are plenty more things you can do to entertain yourself and make use of your time. The snow found in this area makes it a great place to ski if that is an activity you are into. If temples are your thing, you can head unto the Baioiji Temple located in Hirao, Yamanouchi-machi.
If you want to go to a place that sells great souvenirs at a bargain price, you can head to the Kita Shinshu Yamanouchi Michi-no-Eki. It is located just about 1 kilometer or about a little over half a mile away from the Yudanaka station, precisely at 393-2, Yamanouchi. There also happens to be a sake museum here called the Sake Storehouse Art Museum and it is only 1.8 kilometers away from the Yudanaka Station.
These are just some of the different attractions that you can find in this area but the most popular attraction here aside from the onsens is the place where you can see live and wild Japanese monkeys get some rest and relaxation of their own. This place has been mentioned earlier and it is the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park. It is located in Oaza Heion, Yamanouchi-machi and just as its name suggests, this is where people go to see snow monkeys warm themselves up in their very own hot springs.
This is quite a unique site because you will actually see families of monkeys grooming themselves and each other in these hot spring waters. Going here will make you feel like you just stepped into a National Geography documentary and it is just an experience that is one for the books. With this said, it makes perfect sense why this is ranked number 1 out of the 48 things you can do in this area.
Ways to get to the Yudanaka Station from Places like Tokyo and the Nagano Station
If you are coming from Tokyo, all you need to do is getting on a train that will take you to Nagano. These are many train types you can take but the fastest train you can take to get there is the Nagano Shinkansen which will take you to Nagano from Tokyo in only an hour and a half. From there, you can ride the local Nagano Electric Railway train going to Yudanaka. This fare isn’t covered by the JR Pass so bring about 1400 yen to be sure that you have enough money for this ticket. Since this route also passes the Nagano Station, you may opt to follow this route as well if you're coming from the Nagano Station already.
If you are travelling on any other train line, just remember that the goal is to reach the Nagaden Nagano Line from the Nagano Station. The end of the Nagaden Nagano Line will take you straight to the Yudanaka Station. From this station, you can walk or take a taxi to the attractions found in Yudanaka Onsen. If you want to go to Shibu Onsen from this station, you have the option to take a bus that goes from the Yudanaka Station straight to Shibu Onsen. These buses leave every hour and should take you just 5 minutes to finish the trip to Shibu Onsen. A one-way ticket on these buses would cost you just 210 yen. You should note that traveling on a taxi from the Yudanaka Station isn’t advisable because you will have to spend 5 times the amount you spend on the bus ride there and it is just 5 minutes away via bus. You may also opt to walk from the Yudanaka Station to Shibu Onsen if you think you can last walking a distance that is usually traveled on foot within 30 minutes.
With all these details laid out for you, all you really need to worry about is what date or time of the year you would want to enjoy your onsen experience in. Aside from the skiing events which are only available during the times when there is snow, all the other establishments here are open all year round so it shouldn’t be a problem to go here and enjoy at any time of the year. There are a lot of great hiking places around Nagano and if you are going on a hike, you should definitely make a plan that would eventually bring you to this hot spring haven at the end of your tiring hikes. It will surely be worth your time and money considering the variety of rest and relaxation you can avail of in these parts of Japan.