Kokuya Hotel Nagano is not only a prominent part of the traditional Japanese village of Shibu Onsen, it’s also a gateway into real Japan. Surrounded by mountains, either lush green or brilliant white, depending on the time of year you visit, Shibu Onsen has been a destination for people in search of the healing powers of onsens for well over 1000 years. For the past 400 years and over 16 generations, the Onezawa Ichizaemon family have welcomed guests to Kokuya Hotel. The current owner, who bears the family name handed down, draws upon those centuries of unrivalled Japanese hospitality to provide an authentic stay at a traditional treasure.
Kokuya Hotel is a ryokan, a traditional Japanese style hotel but with modern additions for comfort. Retained is the nation’s famous attention to detail in culinary matters, the hotel’s multi-course kaiseki dinner made with fresh, local ingredients is a highlight. So too, is the fact that Kokuya Hotel is the only accommodation in town to feature six different 100% natural hot springs, 8baths and 10 rooms with an open-air bath. Hot spring baths, or onsens, have long been known within Japan for their rejuvenating and regenerative powers, only recently has the West started to become aware of the health-giving minerals, which benefit muscles, joints, and skin.
Beyond the welcoming walls of Kokuya Hotel and out into the quaint village of Shibu Onsen, the traditional immersion continues. The architecture, pretty narrow streets, and people wandering around in kimono and yukata, all conspire to transport visitors to a time gone by. It’s a relaxing and inspiring atmosphere, regardless of the season. As part of the name suggests, Shibu Onsen houses its own public onsens, nine in total, with O-yu onsen the focal point of these. Walking the streets of Shibu Onsen and bathing in its waters is the perfect Japanese experience.
For many, however, the real stars of the show in this area are the snow monkeys. Of course, during the warmer months, there is no snow but it’s still the only place you can witness the planet’s northern-most primate bathing in a natural hot spring bath. What sets Shibu Onsen apart from other villages in Nagano, and indeed Japan is the fact that while most have to make the drive, guests can walk from town to the Jigokudani Monkey Park, in under twenty minutes. A 1.6-kilometre stroll along the beautiful Yumich nature trail is where guests will find these enchanting and curious creatures bathing in the natural hot springs without a care in the world. It’s truly a remarkable experience and one which brings extra fame to this little area of the world.
Although the monkey park is connected to Shibu Onsen by road, owing to heavy snowfall during the colder months, the trail becomes the only way to visit the monkeys during winter. Buses will take guests to the trail-head at Kanbayashi Onsen in under fifteen minutes. Unlike some monkeys in other parts of the world, the Japanese macaques at Jigokudani Monkey Park are not fed by the public, so as to keep them as “wild” as possible, however, the park does provide them with a balanced, small and supplemental amount of food to ensure their health. Essentially, this makes sure that humans are no threat to them and likewise, the monkeys pose no threat to the safety of visitors.
Kokuya Hotel Nagano looks forward to welcoming guests from Australia to extend their traditional Japanese hospitality, as they have been for four centuries, allowing guests to relax, immerse themselves within a traditional Japanese environment, and even see some cute little monkeys!
Kokuya Hotel Nagano
Shibu Onsen street, Yamanouchi-machi, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano