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?!?!?!?!?)
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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You really made my day Joyce. I got awestruct with that 9 baths. They’re all unique, interesting and inviting as well. Thank you for bringing me there by simply reading your blog.
Aw, thank you, Lai ???? only a pleasure ????
A fantastic photographic and written detail of the whole Shibu Onsen experience. Interesting that number 9 was the most popular, lots of tourists? In my trips to Japan I was always amazed at how so many Ryokan had their own onsen and how segregation did not always seem to matter, ( much to the excitement of some of my male students on Miyajima once ). You really have a better travellers guide to Japan on your blog than any guide books I have seen.
Thank you, Denis 😀 You’re the most kind with that comment. I will continue to write in no-frill style 😀
The older ryokan were mostly built for mixed baths or just for man. So I guess segregation is not really their priority? *LOL* Lovely that your male students found it exciting. 😛
50+ degrees celcius water? OUCH! That’s like slowly boiling…
9 baths in a day… it sounds kind of like bar hopping but with bath houses instead! 😆
Yup, it was slow cooking *LOL* I felt more trashed that bar hopping wahahah
Really interesting post and beautiful pictures!
Thank you for the kind comment ????
Your posts give me such wanderlust for Japan, It’s definitely becoming a considered leg for our honeymoon!
😀 It’s such an exciting time for you, Rachael! Wahaha, definitely, I think Japan will be an excellent choice. You saw Stashy’s haul in Japan as well. No need to convince you 😉 Great incentive~
Yeah we were thinking maybe Hong Kong,
Singapore or Vietnam also. So many places I want to go!
Anniversary trips? A whole life ahead for the 2 of you ????
I like your thinking!
Wow, succession of nine baths sounds very interesting! I can only imagine how relaxed you were in the end. Meanwhile I still haven’t been to one, waiting for cold winter days 🙂 xoxo, nano | http://www.travelwithnanob.com
It will be beautiful in winter! That’s supposed to be the best season~~ Thank you for reading, NanoB 😉 Look forward to reading your next Japanese trip 😀
I loved this place, I want to go back! We stayed in the monkey park, but I want to go back and next time just to stay in this town since we only spent the day at Shibu onsen. At some of the onsen in this area the water was so crazy hot… I would probably pass out trying to take all 9 in one day (I maxed out at 4 I think). But next time I will challenge for all the stamps.
Me too! I loved it. That’s so cool that you stayed up in the monkey park!!! Did you get any ‘visitors’? 😉 I agree, the water was CRAZY hot. You did better than me *LOL* I almost fainted by my 3rd bath wahaha.
Lol, yes it was pretty awesome, monkeys visited during dinner and in the outdoor bath (plus you could sneak over to the park early in the morning before opening). The indoor bath at the ryokan was so hot I barely bathed the first day, I was so shocked. The outdoor bath was less scary hot.
How lovely!!! Dinner guests haha ja, I think cooking oneself in an onsen is an acquired skill *LOL*
Why to take bath 9 times,I am curious?
Hi Crystal, thank you for reading. I have no idea actually. I only know that there are 9 numbered bath houses, each has its own name. The stamp rally is based on these 9 bath houses + a shrine. In total, there are 10 stamps to be collected.
Hmm may be something related to cleanliness of body and mind,very interesting post:)
You’re probably right about that 😉 Japanese LOVES cleaniness. Their word for clean is synonymous with the word beautiful.
Ya,then may be that,cant do more than 2 ,after 9 bath we will become really tired I guess.