Shibu onsen is a ‘suburb’ within the mega onsen town, Yudanaka. Yudanaka is famed for its bath loving snow monkeys and natural hot springs. The peak season is winter. As I am a value seeking tourist, I went in the off peak season of course 😛
Shibu did not kid around with their onsen saga. The top attraction in this area was serial bathing; this was a sport in Japan, they actually had (have) ‘belts title’ for this type of thing. The stamp rally was serious too. Think every 3 min walk there’s an onsen? Try taking 9 baths in a day. I was SOOO cooked and relaxed by round 3 that I had to lay down to pass out. Below are the photos from bath 1 to bath 9. Please excuse the photo quality. They progressively get worse. *LOL* I was quite dizzy from all that bathing.
Some of the baths were at 50+ degrees celcius. I couldn’t even put my foot in. In the meantime, there’s these ladies that would just casually walk into the bath and stay there (how?!?!?!?!?)
The most popular was bath #9. It was always busy. It was largest amongst the 9 and had a 2 part bath. Plain old school wooden bath. I couldn’t describe it and obviously no photo to show (full of nude people and no phones allowed). Interesting point: bath #9 separates men and women via a sliding glass door that was NOT locked and NOT labelled. Guess what happened? Wahahaha
Besides #9, bath #1 to #8 were all quite dead. I was alone most of the time. These baths were ran by the local shibu communities. These 9 baths were maintained by its nearest neighbour (i.e. it could be a housewife, a salon, hotel etc). Anybody. Considering that none of the keepers was an onsen professional, all 9 bath houses were well looked after. Amazing what diligence could achieve.
The secret to success of this trip? Clothing is optional. What I mean is, just wear the yukata sans bra / underwear. Otherwise the striping down and dressing up will wear you down. There are 9 Shibu onsen + whatever onsen you have at your own ryokan. Convenience and quick strip down is the essence here.
Where was I?
Japan, 〒381-0401 Nagano Prefecture, Shimotakai District 山ノ内町平穏
Official website: http://www.shibuonsen.net/english/
If you stay at any of the accomodations in Shibu area, the access to all 9 baths are included. If you do not stay there over night, you’ll need to buy the bath pass. Just stay, it was impossible to lift a finger after onsen.
How to get here?
Taxi from the Yudanaka station (2 km all uphill). Taxi is the way to go my friends 😉
Largest train station nearby is JR Nagano station. It takes 50min by train from Nagano to Yudanaka. This train is NOT covered by JR. The regular train is JPY1160. For the express, pay an extra JPY100
If you don’t take the express, you’ll land up having to switch train at Shinjunakano. There are NO elevator at this station. If you have large luggage, just pay the extra and use the Snow Monkey Express. It is a direct painless train.
There are day passes available at Nagano station (the private rail side). For the most updated information, please visit their site. Snow Monkey Pass (official website)
The day passes are available at: Nagano Dentetsu Nagano Stn./Gondo Stn./Suzaka Stn./Obuse Stn.
In my notes, I paid for a 2 day pass for JPY3200 at the Nagano station. I couldn’t find it on their official site. Perhaps it is no longer available? It covered the usual unlimited train ride + snow monkey park ticket. Good value for money.
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