The Japanese love of Hot Springs, or "onsen" is inseparable from the national character. People will gladly travel many hours just for the chance to have a soak in one of the many thousands of hot springs throughout this volcanic country. The "onsen" experience, like so many things in Japan, is a multilayered experience. Some hot springs form the focal point for a whole tour...
A boundless range of other activities can be found in Hakuba and area, from canyoning to paragliding to rafting to kayaking to canoeing, arts and crafts and more!
The Nagano Prefecture area and beyond offer a variety of sightseeing opportunities, from the laid back ambiance of Matsumoto, with it's justly famed Matsumoto Castle, to he beauty of Zenkouji Temple in Nagano City, to the resort shopping town feel of Karuizawa...and more.
There are many hiking opportunities around the Hakuba area, ranging from challenging multiday hikes to ones that are more suited to the "strolling". The one constant is views of the Japanese Alps and the surrounding countryside that is sure to soothe the soul.
Japan is a cyclist's paradise in a number of respects. Forgetting the highways for a moment, it is a country of well kept roads, many of them with very light traffic (thanks to those highways!) which lead you through blissful scenery and villages where time seems to have stopped, or at least has slowed down a bit, with a refreshment stop or lodging for the night never more than a few km...
Hakuba can be your base for many fascinating day trips, on the way up or back from the major centres, or to break up your ski vacation.
The weather had started out rainy and cold in Hakuba, but had
cleared a bit by midday, so some friends and I decided to take the
drive up through Omachi and up towards the series of dams and onsen
through the Takase Ravine (about 30 minutes outside Hakuba).
There are three main dams, the Omachi, Nanakura and Takase dam itself,
and they form a beautiful backdrop to the drive. We stopped at
the Kajika Onsen, first taking a stroll alongside the stream, where
Mizubasho, or the unatrractively named in English, "Skunk Cabbage",
were in full foliage and bloom.
The every popular monkeys of the Japanese Alps also made an appearance,
though they don't deign to bathe with you as they do at Jigokudani.
Our timing was perfect, and we had the onsen pretty much to
ourselves. While they are both lined with cypress wood, "hi no
ki" in Japanese, the inner bath and the outer are fed from different
springs, and there was a noticable difference both in temperature and
in sulphur content. Both extremely refreshing however, and a
great way to while away a lazy Friday afternoon..
About a 30 minute drive from Hakuba towards Oomachi, and near the route up to Kurobe Dam.