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Meet The Snow Monkeys At Shibu Onsen, Nagano! Access, Inns And More

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Shibu Onsen is located in Yamanouchi, Nagano prefecture, and is best known for its numerous wooden inns and of course for its famous sightseeing spots like the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where snow monkeys relax in the springs.

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What is Shibu Onsen?


Photo courtesy of: Nagano Prefecture Tourism Organization
Shibu Onsen is a hot spring town located in Yamanouchi, Nagano prefecture, said to have been founded years ago by the priest Gyoki, who discovered the spring.

This hot spring town is lined with wooden inns and has a nice, rustic atmosphere to it. If you come here, you just might feel like you've slipped back in time to another era in Japanese history!

Shibu Onsen has 37 sources and each hot spring facility has a slightly different spring quality. There are 35 inns and nine open-air baths as well. When visiting, it is a lot of fun to try out the various springs available and compare their effects.

Nearby the hot springs is Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park, which is an internationally famous spot thanks to the many snow monkeys that enter the springs here. Today, we will take a tour around Shibu Onsen and visit some of our most recommended bathing facilities.

For more information on Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park, please take a look at: Views Exclusive To Japan! Japanese Heritage And Culture - With Video!.

The Characteristics and Effects of Shibu Onsen

The two main types of springs at Shibu Onsen are simple hot springs and chloride hot springs.

Simple hot springs have clear water and are said to help relieve both fatigue and stress, while chloride springs have salty water, which warms you up right away, and helps to improve metabolism, dermatological problems, and aids those with sensitivity to cold.

Other hot springs are known to help lighten nerve pain, rheumatism, gastrointestinal diseases, and gynecological problems. For more information on the effects of each spring, please check the website of the facility.

** The effects vary by facility.

How to get to Shibu Onsen from Tokyo

To get to Shibu Onsen, take the Asama Hokuriku shinkansen departing from Tokyo Station and get off at Nagano station. This will take about forty minutes and cost 7690 yen.

At Nagano Station, you will need to transfer to the Shinshu Nagano line bound for Shinshu Nagano and stay on until the last stop. At Shinshu Nagano you will need to transfer to the Yudanaka line, bound for Yudanaka, and stay on until the last stop. This will take about an hour and ten minutes, and cost 1160 yen.

Then, you will need to take the Nagano Bus/Shimabayashi line bus (Nagano1) from Yudanaka Station and get off at the Shibu Onsen bus stop. It takes about ten minutes and costs 210 yen.

For more information on how to get to Nagano from Tokyo, please take a look at this article What’s The Most Convenient Fare?! How To Get To Nagano From Tokyo.

Day Trip Spots at Shibu Onsen

Now let's look at bathing spots that you can enjoy on a day trip to Shibu Onsen.

Kubanyu Oyu

【長野県】スノーモンキーもいる! レトロな雰囲気の渋温泉〜アクセス・旅館など〜

Photo courtesy of: Nagano Prefecture Tourism Organization

Out of the nine open-air baths at Shibu Onsen, eight of them can only be used free of charge by the town residents and those staying at one of the inns. Kubanyu Shibuoyu is the one open-air bath that is open to tourists not staying at an inn. Buy a bathing ticket from either the Shibu Onsen Inn Association Office or the Shibu Onsen parking lot. The water here is said to be good for rheumatism and nerve pain.

Address: Nagano, Shimotakai-gun, Yamanouchi, Hirao 2115
Entrance fee: 1 person 500 yen (tax, bathing tax included)


This is a free-flowing hot spring, known for its stacked rock wall and cave-like bath setting. The waters here are said to be good for nerve pain and gastrointestinal problems. Light meals such as curry, beef stew, spaghetti, and more are offered within the facilities too, so you can spend your time relaxing after taking a bath here as well.

Address: Nagano, Shimotakai-gun, Yamanouchi Shibu Onsen
Entrance fee: 1 person 500 yen (tax, bathing tax included)

Recommended Inns at Shibu Onsen

Now let's look at some recommended hot spring inns at Shibu Onsen.

Gensenkan Yumoto Inn

This history-rich inn is said to house the origin of Shibu Onsen. A three-story wooden building, it has a nostalgic rustic appearance too. There are two hot springs within the facilities; an indoor bath and an open-air bath that you can rent out. For dinner, you can order meals that feature plenty of mountain vegetables from Shinshu. Rooms here are all Japanese style.

Address: Nagano, Shimotakai-gun, Yamanouchi, , Hirao 2218
Website: (Japanese)


This inn is very well-established, having first opened in 1758. There are a total of eight baths with seven of them being open-air baths here.

The highlight of this inn is the gorgeous interior that became the model for the hot spring inn featured in Studio Ghibli's movie "Spirited Away". A portion of the building has been registered as one of Japan's Tangible Cultural Assets.

Address: Nagano, Shimotakai-gun, Yamanouchi, Hirao 2202

Shibu Hotel

This hotel has an old-style all-cypress built indoor bath and an open-air bath surrounded by a bamboo fence. With a blend of three different hot springs, they are proud of the effects the waters here are said to have on the skin. They have baths that may be rented for use by families as well. For dinner, you can request banquet style courses that use fresh Shinshu salmon and beef from the Shinshu Alps. You can choose between Japanese style or Western style rooms.

Address: Nagano, Shimotakai-gun, Yamanouchi, Hirao 2173

How to enjoy Shibu Onsen (Touring Kubanyu, Seeing Snow Monkeys)


Photo courtesy of: Nagano Prefecture Tourism Organization

At Shibu Onsen, with its various bathing facilities, we recommend staying at a local inn and touring the hot springs. You can buy a special hand towel (300 yen) and go on a Kubanyu tour, where you tour around the nine open-air baths while getting your ticket stamped. After you finish touring all nine hot springs, head to the Shibu Takayakushi (Shibu medical specialist). It's said that after visiting and receiving a seal stamp, your nine troubles will be washed away and a wish will come true.

You can't miss a sightseeing spot like Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park either, especially as it is located near Shibu Onsen and has a convenient mini-bus to take guests from Shibu Onsen to Jigokudani. The buses are only available on weekends and require reservations in advance. Information on the bus is here.

It is also only a two-hour trip from Matsumoto to Shibu Onsen as well, so why not visit central Nagano and see Matsumoto Castle and Senkoji Temple too during your stay?

For more information on how to enter a hot spring, take a look at: What You Should Know About Bath Culture In Japan.

** All data included in this article is based on information provided by Websites and is accurate as of March 2017. This information is subject to change.

Written by

Previous experience as an editor at a women's media company in Japan. I lived in Australia for a while and joined MATCHA after returning to Japan. In charge of editing, promoting sponsored content, and creative direction. I love watching Western TV series.
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