Yudanaka Onsen: An Evolving Hot-Spring Resort


Yudanaka Onsen:
An Evolving Hot-Spring Resort


Have you heard of Yudanaka Onsen? This hot-spring resort is well-known as the entrance to Shiga Highland, which was a venue for alpine events during the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, and, in recent years, as the site of the Snow Monkey Park, where you can watch charming Japanese macaques (“snow monkeys”) bathing in steamy outdoor hot springs amid the falling snow. In winter visitors can relax in the hot springs after enjoying the powder snow and the snow monkeys. But the attractions of the area are certainly not limited to that season. In summer and autumn visitors can also enjoy trekking in Shiga Highland (for more information on these seasonal delights, see the feature article titled “Ways of Enjoying the Highland: Shiga Highland UNESCO Eco Park“). And at the summit of the Ryuoo Ropeway in Kitashiga Highland, there is the popular Sora terrace observation deck, from where, if the conditions are right, you can see a sea of clouds below and sometimes the evening sun falling into this misty ocean. Furthermore, various new types of café, restaurant, and lodging facilities have been appearing in Yudanaka Onsen recently. I went along to check out its attractions.


The Sora terrace looks down on a fantastic sea of clouds.

Ryuoo Mountain Park

Ryuoo Mountain Park in Kitashiga Highland is a popular ski resort in winter, attracting many skiers from Japan and overseas, but this time I had come to experience the attractions of the green season.
  The foot of the mountain is connected to the summit by a world-class ropeway with a capacity of 166 passengers. The journey up the 1,770-m mountain takes about eight minutes. As the gondola goes up, the vista gradually widens. On the day when I visited, there was no sea of clouds, so such landmarks as the nearby Mount Madarao, Mount Myoko, the city of Nagano, and the town of Obuse were clearly visible. On days when the sea of clouds forms, visitors can enjoy a fantastic view like the one in the photo above from the SORA terrace, which has been built on a steep slope near the summit ropeway station.
  Even in July and August, at the height of summer, the average temperature at the summit of Mount Ryuoo is a cool 18 degrees Celsius. For a moment of real bliss, sit back and enjoy the splendid view from the observation deck while sipping a coffee bought at the Sora terrace’s café.
  Mount Ryuoo is also famous for its marvelous autumnal hues. The trees begin to change color from late September until early October, after which, if you are lucky, you can enjoy the grand views, the autumnal tints, and the sight of the evening sun dipping into the sea of clouds, all at the same time.

In recent years cafes and restaurants serving creative cuisine utilizing local ingredients have been opening one after the other in the Yudanaka Onsen hot-spring resort, which lies within walking distance of Yudanaka Station, the last stop on the Nagano Line.

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