Travel Japan: Shiga Kogen, Nagano-ken

After living in Japan for a few years now, I am still adding to my list of ‘must do’ in Japan, and attempting to cross a few things off too. During February’s three day weekend, I was happy to finally visit the snow monkeys in Nagano-ken while also enjoying some snowboarding in some amazing powdery snow.

Jigokudani wild monkey park in Yokoyugawa river valley is where about 3,000 wild monkeys live and come to bathe in the natural onsen waters. It was amazing to see so many monkeys in the wild taking a bath – they were so cute, and definitely the highlight of the trip.

There are onsens in this area for humans too, and those are about 500 yen to visit. Unfortunately some aren’t open on holidays or to people who aren’t staying at the attached hotel or ryokan. We were lucky to find an onsen near the bus station which had a rotemburo (outdoor bath), which was amazing since it was snowing.

Shiga Kogen is one of the largest ski resorts in Japan, with about 21 ski fields. It is about 60 km from Nagano. The 1998 Nagano winter Olympics were held here, and you can visit the ski fields used in the Olympics.

We stayed in Hotel New Shiga in Shiga Kogen. It was convenient, and we shared a huge tatami room and used the hotel onsen, as there was no shower in our room. Most hotels range from about 8,000 yen a night, depending on the season. This should include breakfast, but it is definitely worth paying a little more and having dinner included too, since there aren’t many restaurants in the area.

For snowboarding, we went to Ichinose where there are a variety of slopes, including many for beginners. The following day, since we only had the morning, we walked across the street to the Maruike slope, which also had a few beginner slopes. Our hotel also had ski wear for rent, which was convenient and inexpensive, as they gave us a discount.

Famous foods of Nagano-ken are soba and oyaki (a type of dumpling with various fillings). Definitely worth trying!

In Nagano city, the main tourist attraction is Zenkoji, a famous temple which has artifacts dating from the 7th century, and is the third largest wooden structure in Japan.

Obuse is a small town only 30 min from Nagano by train. The main attraction here is the Hokkusai gallery (famous Japanese woodblock print artist). There is also an outdoor onsen here.

How to get to Nagano

Overnight and day buses leave from Shin-Osaka station to Shiga Kogen, and are about 8,000 yen each way. Trains take about 4 hours from Shin-Osaka to Nagano Station and cost about 12,000 yen each way.

How to get to the Jigokudani Monkey Park

Catch the Shiga Kogen ski shuttle service bound for Yudanaka town train station. Buses depart hourly and will take you to the Kambayashi Onsen bus stop. From the Kambayashi Onsen Bus Stop, follow the monkey signs along a winding path to the Jigokudani Yaen Koen entrance. The path is over 2km long, but it is an easy walk.

Entrance fee: 500 yen
Open hours: 09:00-16:00
Feeding time: 15:00

How to get to Shiga Kogen

Buses from Nagano JR station cost 1900 yen one way and take about an hour and 10 min to get to Shiga Kogen.

When to visit Shiga Kogen

For snowboarding and skiing, late November to April is a good time to visit, sometimes even Golden week has a good amount of snow. From April 1st, discounts apply. The peak time is Christmas and New Year’s, which means it is very busy on the slopes.

Lift Passes

Lift Passes include ski lifts, gondola lifts, as well as ropeways and shuttle buses to all ski fields in the Shiga Kogen area. They cost 4800 yen for a day, 8000 yen for 1.5 days and 9000 yen for 2 days. There is also night skiing on some slopes.

More Information


This site has a lot of information in English and also a downloadable English brochure.

Bus tour packages are available – ours included a bus from Shin-Osaka to Shiga Kogen return, 2 nights at Hotel New Shiga, dinner and breakfast, and 2 days lift pass for 36,000 yen.

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One Comment

  1. I agree. This is definitely one of the “must-see” things in Japan!
    It’s still one of my highlights!
    I went there in early January when it was very cold, but still I stayed with the monkeys for many hours. I was tempted to hop into the onsen as well. *g*

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