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Shirahone Hot Springs In Nagano: Access And Accommodation

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Shirahone Onsen is a historical hot spring located in Matsumoto city in Nagano. Many Japanese people are fans of the milky white waters that are said to cure illnesses. Find out how to get there and where to stay during your visit.

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What Kind of Place Is Shirahone Onsen?

Shirahone Onsen is located in Matsumoto city in Nagano prefecture. On the eastern side of the Norikuradake mountains of the Northern Japanese Alps, this hot spring is said to have over 600 years of history. Thanks to the combination of the minerals mixing into the hot waters, the springs turned into a creamy white color, giving this spring the name ”Shirahone Onsen” or the ”white bone hot spring”.

Legends say that ”if you bathe for three days here, you won't catch a cold for three years”. The Shirahone hot springs have always been known to be good for one's health and many have visited to cure their illnesses and injuries here over the centuries.

As a milky white hot spring surrounded by nature, there are plenty of fans of the Shirahone hot springs. In this article, we will feature access routes, the effects of the springs, as well as recommended bathing facilities found in this hot spring area.

Traits and Effects of the Shirahone Hot Springs

Shirahone Hot Springs

Photo courtesy of Nagano Sightseeing Information Center
The Shirahone hot springs are known for their white, milky waters. The water itself that springs up is actually clear, but once the hot water comes in contact with oxygen, the hydrogen sulfide and calcium dissolved in it react turning the waters white. Therefore, depending on the time and weather of the day, the color of the hot springs vary.

The spring quality is that of a simple hydrogen sulfide spring as it contains sulfur and carbon. Therefore, when you bathe in the slightly acidic waters, you will feel yourself warm up instantly. The spring is said to relieve chronic fatigue, stress, stomach problems and gynecological issues.

In certain locations, you are able to drink the hot spring water as well. It is also said that the waters from this spring will help digestion and improve constipation.

Getting to Shirahone Hot Springs from Tokyo

In order to get to Shirahone Onsen, first, you would need to board the Asama train of the Hokuriku shinkansen at Tokyo Station and travel to Nagano Station. From Nagano Station, transfer to the JR Special Express train, the Wide View Shinano, bound for Nagoya and get off at Matsumoto Station. It will take about two hours and fifty minutes and cost 5080 yen.

From Matsumoto Station, you will need to transfer to the Matsumoto railway Kamikochi line bound for Shinshimashima. It will take around 20 minutes to reach Shinshimashima and cost 700 yen.

Upon arriving at Shinshimashima Station, you can take either the bus or taxi to Shirahone Hot Springs. The bus costs 1450 yen one way and 2350 yen round trip and takes around 70 minutes. By taxi, it will take around 50-60 minutes and costs around 10,000 yen.

For more details on traveling from Tokyo to Nagano, please read What’s The Most Convenient Fare?! How To Get To Nagano From Tokyo.

Go From Matsumoto Station by Bus

You can reach Shirahone Hot Springs from Matsumoto Station by bus. The one-way bus ride is about an hour and 40 minutes long and costs 1950 yen (3500 yen round trip).

One-Day Bathing Facilities in Shirahone Onsen

Here, we will introduce you to one-day bathing facilities found at Shirahone hot springs.

Shirahone Hot Springs Kokyo Notenburo

Shirahone Hot Springs

Photo courtesy of Nagano Sightseeing Information Center

This is an open-air bath located near the Shirahone Tourist Center. You can take a relaxing dip in the springs while gazing at the river and valley filled with trees. During the autumn, this location gets quite crowded with people bathing among the foliage. The hot spring is separated by gender.

Bathing fee: Adults: 500 yen (with tax and bathing tax)
Address: Nagano, Matsumoto, Azumi, Shirahone Onsen

Shirafune-so Shintaku Ryokan

A hot spring inn where the hot water comes straight from the source. Compared to other inns, the water here contains more carbon, which means you feel warmer faster after entering the bath. The view of the Japanese Northern Alps is a must see when bathing in this open air bath.

Bathing fee: Adults 700 yen, children 350 yen (with tax and bathing tax)
Address: Nagano, Matsumoto, Azumi, Shirahone Onsen
Website: Shirafune-so Shintaku Ryokan (Japanese)

Recommended Inns at Shirahone Hot Springs

Let us introduce you to some great hot spring inns in the Nasu area.

Awa no Yu Ryokan

Shirahone Hot Springs

Photo courtesy of Nagano Sightseeing Information Center

A famous hot spring inn with a grand open-air bath that is 230 meters squared. During the autumn, the view of the foliage from this bath is wonderful. Please note that this is a mixed bath (*1).
For customers staying at this inn that would like a private moment, they are able to rent the ”Awa no Yu Gairai Yu” hot springs in the annex for 40 minutes for 2160 yen (tax included). Rooms are either Japanese style or a mixed style with a bed in a room with a tatami mat.

*1 Mixed bath: A bath that can be used by men and women at the same time. Common in suburban areas.

Address: Nagano, Matsumoto, Azumi 4181
Website: Awa no Yu Ryokan

Konashi no Yu Sasaya

With an irori fireplace, this is a small inn established in a renovated traditional Japanese house with only ten rooms.

Customers of the inn may enjoy bathing in the open air bath privately for 30 minutes for free. When entering, you will hang a wooden sign, notifying the occupancy. When there is no sign hanging, you may bathe as many times as you wish. This is a perfect inn for those who wish to relax in the springs.

Address: Nagano, Matsumoto, Azumi, Shirahone 4182-1
Website: Konashi no Yu Sasaya (Japanese)

Shirafune Grand Hotel

This hotel has open-air baths separated by gender, an observatory bath, sauna, and family bath. You may pick from a Japanese-style, Western-style or mixed style with a bed on a tatami matted room. The Shirafune Nabe stew, which is made using soy milk, is their specialty dish. Otherwise, you may also be able to try the Shinshu beef, Shinshu salmon, Azumino herbal chicken, and other local delicacies.

Address: Nagano, Matsumoto, Azumi 4203
Website: Shirafune Grand Hotel (Japanese)

Enjoying Shirahone Onsen

The Shirahone hot springs are located deep in the mountains of Nagano prefecture. During the winter, some springs will be closed due to the snow. Checking the websites of each location along with the Shirahone hot springs official website for information before going is advisable in the winter.

It is also a good idea to check the weather in Nagano before going. There are times when it can get chilly even in the summer and you may want to bring a shawl or a light jacket. During the winter, you will definitely need a down coat, gloves, hat and you should be overall prepared for the cold.

For more information on how to bathe in the hot springs, please read What You Should Know About Bath Culture In Japan.

** Travel times and expenses are based on publicly available information and are current as of February 2017. They may be subject to change.

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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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