Activities & Tours
Shiga Kogen Activities
For information on activities, visit the Shiga Kogen tourist office down in Hasuike. Or if you’re staying in one of the higher villages such as Ichinose or Okushigakogen, you may find it easier to drop into the information centre at the Nagano train station before catching the bus to Shiga Kogen. Alternatively, some of the hotels where English is spoken (e.g. Okushiga Kogen Hotel
) offer a concierge style service and can assist with advice or bookings for Shiga Kogen activities.
There aren’t that many Shiga Kogen activities actually located at the ski resort, but the resort is close to other attractions and not far from Nagano.
Japanese Snow Monkeys
It seems compulsory to visit the snow monkeys
on a ski holiday at one of the Nagano ski resorts, and Shiga Kogen is the closest to the action. The Jigokudani Monkey Park
features about 200 snow monkeys who play and keep warm in the onsens. Take a camera or phone with plenty of memory as you’ll want to take lots of photos of the cute monkeys doing somersaults and performing other antics. They look suspiciously human-like at times, particularly after you’ve witnessed some of the Japanese blokes grunting in the human onsens!
You can take a DIY tour. To get to the Jigokudani monkey park, catch the Nagaden bus from one of the many village bus stops down to Yudanaka, and get off at the Kanbayashi Onsen Guichi bus stop. From there you will have to hike up into the Jigokudani valley to experience the monkeys, which takes about 30 minutes each way. Don’t be like some of the Japanese girls - wear sensible shoes!
There are also various organised tours of the monkey park that your hotel may be able to assist with.
Day Ski Tours
For a bit of a hoot or a hoon, try snowmobiling at Yakebitaiyama. RSS Sports Land can offer snowmobiling for beginners up to advanced snowmobilers. Beginners get a short lesson before hitting the trails, and rather than just sticking on the trails, even beginners can have a play off-piste in the powder. This snowmobiling is not lame for experienced riders either, as they can head up and down the slopes of a private ski area. Bookings can be made via the Prince Hotel at Yakebitaiyama.
Yakebitaiyama has a kids’ park and there are cheesy horse drawn sleigh rides available at Okushiga Kogen.
Shiga Kogen Onsens
A soak in an onsen (hot spring) offers the perfect rejuvenation after a hard day on the slopes. It’s also an important component of immersing yourself in Japanese culture! See our Japanese onsen etiquette
for an overview of onsens and tips on what to do, and more importantly what not to do.
Shiga Kogen was well known as an onsen destination long before it became renowned for the skiing, so there are various options, but unless you’re a really hairy westerner, you don’t go bathing in the monkey onsen! Many of the Shiga Kogen hotels have indoor onsens and some have outdoor hot springs. Onsens are particularly widespread in the lower villages of Shiga Kogen. Your nose will give you a bit of a hint as to their location!
Even further down the mountain in the foothills are old onsen villages. Soaking in an onsen is part of the experience, but wandering around the cobble stone streets of villages such as Yudanaka
and Shibu Onsen
is a nice cultural experience. In addition to sotoyu (public hot springs), these villages also have various foot baths.
Shiga Kogen Leisure Activities
Memorabilia from the 1998 Winter Olympics and Paralympics can be found at the commemorative hall in the Hasuike area, and at the top of the gondola station at the Higashitateyama Ski Area.
Shiga Kogen also offers access to various sightseeing destinations near Nagano and other Nagano activities
The Zenkoji Temple in Nagano is over 1,400 years old. This multi-denominational temple houses the first image of Buddha brought to Japan in the 7th century. The main temple has a huge hinoki thatched roof and is popular with tourists because it looks classically Japanese. The streets surrounding the temple demonstrate “traditional” Japanese architecture and have gorgeous lanterns and cute stalls.
Matsumoto Castle is a national treasure, and the five storey donjon is one of the oldest castles in Japan. The castle also has a museum next door.
Matsushiro is located in the southern part of the city of Nagano. The town has various historic assets, including Buddhist temples, samurai houses, and the remnants of the Matsushiro Kaizu castle.
Only 60 minutes by car from Shiga Kogen is the chestnut town of Obuse that features lots of chestnut confectionary shops and the Hokusai Art Museum.
Fifty minutes from Shiga Kogen is Tanaka Honke, a historic mansion of the Edo period that displays how the wealthy people lived back in the 1700s, with exhibits of antiques and traditional kimonos.