Nakanosawa Onsen Numajiri Minowa Aizu snow secrets

snow action team 21.01.2020

Nakanosawa Onsen is a peaceful little town in the historic mountain heartland of Aizu surrounded by mountains, lakes and historic sites just a short drive to numerous ski areas – Numajiri (see below) is just up the road, Minowa is only 11km further, and the likes of Inawashiro, Nekoma 26km, Gran Deco 27km and Alts Bandai are only 30 – 50 minutes drive.

Busting snow ghosts Grandeco © Owain Price

A group of 12 local ryokan and hotels have grouped together to offer a special international ski package for 3 nights/3 ski days at 4 ski areas with breakfasts daily and one dinner included from just $AUD 520pp twin share. The hotels will also include pick up/drop off from the JR station at Inawashiro with the package, and can organise local transport to the ski areas.

More on that below. First check out Nakanosawa ..

Snowy morning in Nakanosawa Onsen, Aizu
Snowy morning in Nakanosawa

Relax here and take your pick daily according to snow conditions and your inclination. It is simplest to self-drive, with some great Aizu rental deals available picked up from JR Station rental locations in the area. But you can use buses also, just check times, or the participating hotels in the special ski package will organise transport to/from the station.

Aizu generally gets a lot of snow, less than northern Tohoku or Hokkaido, but not bad at all, more the further into the range/higher you go.

Ridegline pow at Nekoma

Nakanosawa’s local option Numajiri averages 6m snowfall a season, while the next closest Minowa 11km further away and a bit higher on Mt Adatara gets over 8m. That and the top altitude of 1500m there is enough for some of the famous ‘Snow Monsters’ to form. You also get snow monsters at the top of Grandeco. Hiking above the lifts opens open some awesome freeride opportunities too.

Set between Mt Adatara and Mt Bandai, Nakanosawa’s onsen are reckoned among the best in Japan for water quality and purity thanks to the massive volume of hot spring water.

Nakanosawa Onsen source in a high valley
The source of the Nakanosawa onsen allows natural bathing in the river

The source of the onsen was discovered 380 years ago at 1250m above sea level. With a flow of 13,400 litres per minute, according to research done by the Aizu Insurance Office, it is the most powerful in Japan.

Snow covered streets at Nakanosawa Onsen
Snowy street scene Nakanosawa Onsen

The water colour varies day to day from clear to milky, with a PH level between 1.7 – 2.1 that’s renowned for its therapeutic properties.

Snowboarding at Numajiri Ski Resort
You can get runs all to yourself at Numajiri

You can hike up a river valley and just sit in the hot stream, or enjoy numerous onsen in the cluster of ryokans and small hotels in and around the village that are served by the spring.

These offer excellent value and traditional hospitality and local cuisine based on fresh seasonal ingredients.

The area is also the historical setting for the “Last Samurai” war and final battles – not exactly as the Hollywood storyline has it, but fascinating, with many sights relating to the Samurai era.

Pleny of wide open cruising with no crowds and spectacular views like this at Grandeco © Owain Price

Nakanosawa Onsen special 3 day ski package deal

There is a special package deal for 3 nights/3 ski days from Sunday – Friday from 5 Jan to 22 March (except holiday dates 12 Jan, 23 Feb & 20 Mar) between including:

  • 3 nights accommodation ( 1 dinner and 3 breakfasts included)
  • 3 days lift pass valid at Grandeco, Nekoma, Alts Bandai & Numajiri Ski Area
  • Return transport from Inawashiro Dai JR station to/from hotel

$AUD 520 pp twin or more share (consumption tax & bath tax included) at

  • Hanamiya Ryokan
  • Bandai Nishimuraya Ryokan
  • Hirasawaya Ryokan
  • Shirokiya Ryokan
  • Ohsakaya Ryokan

$AUD 695 pp twin or more share at Numajiri Kogen Lodge (consumption & bath tax included)

Book this special package deal with Japan Snow Holidays

Enjoy a selection of peaceful ryokan hotels with inviting onsen at Nakanosawa

Nakanosawa Onsen and Numajiri Accommodation

Visit Nakonasawa Onsen in winter with heavy snow and it’s easy to see how isolated, determined warriors could hold out for a long time against superior numbers. Determined skiers can apply that same isolation to their advantage to avoid superior numbers as well!

This is an undiscovered getaway from the hordes of western skiers at major Japanese areas like Hakuba and Niseko.

Choose from a range of accommodation options from ¥7000 per person nightly. All properties can be booked using local agency the Aizu Dream Development (ADD) Group, who have English speaking staff to assist you in choosing.

For bookings email your dates and preferences to ski.deal@add-dream.co.jp

For the special 3 day Nakanosawa Area ski package go to Japan Holidays

Most are in the village area. Numajiri Kogen Lodge is at the ski area, 3km from the village. Bandai Nishimura Ya is also close to Numajiri.

  • Ryokan Shiragiya ¥8000-15000
  • Ryokan Hanamiya ¥8000-13000
  • Hirasawaya Ryokan ¥8000-15000
  • Bandai Nishimura Ya ¥8000-13000
  • Bandai Meiyu Resort Napoli no Mori ¥7000-15000
  • Oogiya Ryokan ¥8000-15000
  • Tamura Ya Ryokan ¥8000-15000
  • Bandai Numajiri Kogen Lodge ¥8000-20000

Numajiri Ski Resort, Japan’s oldest

Just 2km from Nakanosawa Onsen, Numajiri Ski Resort is a scenic small resort on the western slopes of Mt Adatara that is good for families with small kids. They claim to be Japan’s original ski area, first opening in 1915, and installed the first mechanised ski lift in the country too, back in 1927.

Numajiri Ski Resort terrain park
The Park is popular with local riders on weekends © Numajiri

Midweek it is often pretty empty, so if you get lucky with fresh snow you won’t have any competition for tracks. Five lifts include one express quad and 4 pair chairs.

Park and family are the main focus for the local clientele.

Numajiri Ski Resort Trail Map
Numajiri Trail Map

The Numajiri Kogen Lodge at the base is a beautiful rustic log chalet style building with very comfortable rooms, great onsen and fresh local cuisine.

While the runs are limited, basing yourself for a few days here to explore the area works well for anyone who wants to avoid crowds.

A string of bigger resorts are nearby – Minowa just 11.5km away (more below), Inawashiro 18km, Nekoma 26km, Gran Deco 27km and Alts Bandai 29km for example.

Minowa Ski Resort

With a base at 1050m and summit at 1500m Minowa gets quality snow, and stays cold enough for some small snow monsters to form.

The runs are mostly cruisy, and the powder easier for that when it’s on. They have opened up powder zones in recent years and allow tree skiing. You can have it all to yourself sometimes.

Two express quads, one hooded, are the main lifts.

Easy access by road means it can be busy on weekends with locals, but otherwise it’s mainly only guests from the self-contained big hotel at the base.

Facilities include restaurants, hot spring, fitness club, and a nursery.

Nakanosawa Onsen area sights and activities

There are plenty of fun excursions to natural and cultural attractions around Nakanosawa Onsen.

Ice fishing for smelt is popular and easy to try on nearby lakes like Lake Akimoto. Catch and cook is the way to go – the huts over the ice have cookers to do just that.

Snowshoeing is a more active way to get outdoors in winter. Morning and afternoon tours run from the Urubandai Kogen Hotel Lobby from ¥5000 per person past beautiful beech forest and lakes. You can see marks of bears and may sight antelope.

The Aizu Samurai Spirit Grand Tour Tsuruga Castle in Aizu Wakamatsu city is a favourite. It’s a bit over an hour’s drive away. A tour to get the most out of it is the Aizu Samurai Spirit Grand Tour, which is available for 2 – 8 participants for ¥33000 per person, includes transport from Aizuwakamatsu Station.

  • Learn the history of the last samurai in Japan.
  • Learn the history at Tsuruga Castle and overlook the Aizu area from the castle tower.
  • You will experience Kyudo at the Samurai Nisshin School.
  • Visiting with commentary by a veteran guide.

The Aizu Samurai Education Experience is another option, good for families. Visit what was once a school where Samurai children attended, learning history, martial arts, manners.

  • Become a samurai by learning their conventions!
  • Samurai school teachers will kindly guide you
  • Kyudo experience
  • Zazen experience
  • Painting experience of wooden swords and sheaths
  • With interpreter guide

Available for 2 – 8 participants for ¥30000 per person, includes transport from Aizuwakamatsu Station.

All these tours can be booked and more info had from ski.deal@add-dream.co.jp

Snow monkeys can often be see driving in the Bandai National Park on the roads up to Nekoma and Grandeco ski areas. Bears still live in the mountains too.

Tsuruga Castle in winter

Where is Nakanosawa Onsen and Numajiri?

By train is quickest, take the Tohoku shinkansen to Koriyama, then the local Banetsu Line to Inawashiro. Aizu bus services run from the station, around 30 minutes/15 km drive, or get a taxi. Participating ryokan/hotels will include return transport from the station with the 3 day special ski package above.

You can use a JR East Tohoku Rail Pass to visit the area then continue further north as detailed in our JR Pass itinerary ideas feature.

Self driving take the Inawashiro Bandai Kogen IC off the Banetsu Expressway, 15km to Nakanosawa Onsen and just under 3km more to Numajiri Ski Resort.

An Express Bus service runs from Haneda and Tokyo Station times as below:

8:00 Haneda International Terminal →8:50 Tokyo station Kajiyabashi parking →13:05 Hotel Listel Inawashiro →13:35 Active Resort Ura bandai →13:37 Goshiki Numa Entrance→13:43 Geihinkan Nekoma Rikyu→13:45 Ura Bandai Lake Resort→13:50 Ura Bandai Kogen Station

For those who are going to Tokyo/Haneda station

13:15 Ura Bandai Kogen Station→13:17 Geihinkan Nekoma Rikyu→13:30 Ura Bandai Lake Resort→13:36 Goshiki Numa Entrance→13:38 Active Resort Ura Bandai→14:00 Hotel Listel Inawashiro→18:15 Tokyo Station Kajiyabashi Parking→18:55 Haneda International Terminal

Booked with special package above the bus is available for ¥9000 (return), ¥5000 (one way)

Aizu Bus for Nakanosawa at Stop 6, Haneda Inernational Airport
The Aizu Bus leaves from stop 6 at Haneda International Terminal