Originally developed as a temple town perched just below the gate of the famous Zenko-ji (dating from the 7th century), the picturesque, lush, mountain valley town of Nagano is a world-class destination.
Host of the 1998 Winter Olympics and known for its world-renown onsens, Nagano forms part of the larger prefecture of the same name, and its incredibly diverse tapestry of unspoiled cedar forests.
The city and prefecture are also world-famous for the Jigokutani monkeys (also called snow monkeys) who are known to relax and bathe in the hot springs located near the Shiga Kohen Ski Resort.
During your next stay in Nagano and surrounding areas, it may be difficult to choose from the many traditional ryokans that offer incredibly rich-tasting Japanese cuisine, and one-of-a-kind room and board. Below, we’ve compiled a list of only but a few of the best; read on to find out which ryokan may be the best fit for your next trip to Nagano!
1. Oshi Ryokan
A traditionally Japanese, ryokan experience awaits you at one of Nagano’s favorite accommodation destinations. The family-owned and operated Oshi Ryokan, is named after the family who’ve owned the property for generations. Hospitality-oriented, through its attentive service and its welcoming staff, this Nagano ryokan claims top spot for service.
The structure itself is over 260 years-old and boasts proud Japanese architectural elements. Design features including a thatched roof, tatami floors, as well as authentic Nihonga-style, decorative paintings which adorn guest bedrooms, feature prominently throughout.
Modern fixtures include TV and Wi-fi service, available for those who require a taste of some of today’s more modern amenities. The property itself is antique but is maintained in pristine condition, and contains a historic charm that is sure to instill a sense of peace and wonder on any guest.
Aside from the historic setting, the sweeping vistas of Nagano’s towering mountains and rolling, green hinterlands are a key selling point. Don’t forget to check out the views from your own suite, truly a sight to behold!
Guests have access to various activities including golfing and skiing during the summer and winter months. For those who wish to participate in the latter, Oshi Ryokan offers ski rental equipment at a great, affordable price. Nearby Togakushi Ski Resort is only a short distance away (16 minutes by car).
Tended to by Oshi and his wife, the pair cook, clean, and entertain for guests. Oshi ensures home-cooked, fresh, and traditionally Japanese ingredients are used for delicious meals. Enjoy a special soba recipe passed down from Oshi’s parents, and their parents before that. Slurp to your hearts content!
Location-wise, Oshi Ryokan is only a stone’s throw away from Nagano’s well-known Togakushi Shrine. This relaxing Nagano ryokan might be better suited for individuals who have enough time to enjoy its more remote location, as the main train station (JR Nagano Station) is almost an hour’s drive by car or bus.
Even so, Togakushi Hokousha bus stop is conveniently just a few minutes from the property. For those who have the time, the property is perched in a bucolic, forested mountain valley with spectacular views of Nagano’s mountain scape, making the exclusivity all the more worth-while!
Book It Here: Oshi Ryokan
2. Chuokan Shimizuya
Chuokan Shimizuya features traditional tatami floors, and bright, spacious rooms in traditional Washitsu (or Japanese-style) sitting and sleeping rooms. All of which offer a truly authentic ryokan experience.
With a long history, the ryokan’s main structure is over 150 years-old. Its handsome wooden beams jet out of hallways and staircases; in a manner that truly captures the feeling of being in a space brimming with historical precedence and memories.
Nagano’s well-known Zenko-ji Temple is a mere five-minute walk away. The property also enjoys its very own, centuries-old hot spring onsen, which guests can enjoy at their leisure. Massages are also available, as well as onsite rejuvenating spa for those wishing to deep-dive into further relaxation.
Quiet, and impeccable facilities (onsen, guest rooms, rest areas and lounges), are perfect for guests seeking an experience that is both calm and replenishing.
Chuokan Shimizuya Ryokan also has onsite, coin-operated laundry facilities for guests as well as additional space for oversized luggage. In case you need to keep connected, a PC is stationed near the reception desk for anyone to use. If you’ve travelled to Nagano by car, complimentary parking is available free of cost just behind the property. Free Wi-fi is also available for guests.
In terms of getting around, the ryokan is only a 10-minute bus ride from Nagano station (the area’s main transportation hub). For art enthusiasts, the Nagano Prefectural Art Museum is less than a 20-minute walk away as well; while the famous Taio Temple is shy of an hour’s drive (at about a 40-minute drive from the property). Other landmarks of note include the Joyama Zoo, and Patio Daimon.
Book It Here: Chuokan Shimizuya Ryokan
3. Jizokan Matsuya
One of the top-rated ryokans Nagano has on offer, Jizokan Matsuya Ryokan is a great spot for getting in that dose of (you guessed it!) rest and relaxation. A homey atmosphere, inspired cooking, and exceptional customer service mix together for an experience that’s not just another place to lay your head while traveling.
The staff’s dedication and attention to every little detail leaves guests with a lasting impression (many guests who have stayed at this location are repeat customers!).
Guests rave about the food as well as the location, as Zenkoji Temple is situated just meters away. Guest rooms are designed with authentic Shōji paper screens, clean, spacious tatami-floored rooms, green tea machines, as well as a fully-equipped personal, private bathroom complete with soaking tubs. Flat-screen LED TV as well comfortable, slippers are stocked in every room!
The onsen is a charming, relaxing spot perfect for quiet contemplation and a rejuvenating dip in the mineral-rich waters. The option to book a personal massage session is also available upon request.
Just like the previous accommodations on this list, art enthusiasts are in for a treat as the property is steps away from the Shinano Art Museum. JR Nagano Train Station is only 2 miles away for easy commutes to and from major transportation hubs.
Guests have the option of either choosing a Japanese breakfast, or Western-style cuisine depending on their preference with the option of meals being served directly to guest rooms or eating communally in the dining hall.
For those who enjoy a good cup of joe in the morning, free coffee is available as well. In between sightseeing, take a breather and rest in one of the many benches and rest areas throughout the ryokan. Enjoy a minute or two of quiet contemplation and awe at the striking water features stationed in the main hallway areas.
Book It Here: Jizokan Matsuya Ryokan
4. Yamanokami Onsen
Yamanokami Onsen is a traditional Japanese hot spring resort located in Nagano. It sits at the end of a quiet street so know you’ll be able to get a good night’s rest. However, its prime location also means you’ll be close enough to some famous attractions such as Zenko-ji temple, Jouyama Park, and Zenkoji Nakamise Street.
The guest rooms themselves are simple and modest, yet it’s the simplicity that’s the understated beauty of this place. Huge windows display lush greenery surrounding the ryokan. Low traditional Japanese furniture allows guests a different experience. Soft futon bedding provides the ultimate sleep-in conditions.
There are indoor onsens available for use 24/7 for all guests; note that they are gender-separated. There’s also free Wi-Fi available throughout, a cozy shared lounging area for guests to sip on tea with views of Zenko-ji temple, and a comforting Japanese breakfast is available every morning.
Book It Now: Yamanokami Onsen
With spectacular views of Nagano’s breathtaking mountain surroundings, a dining space that feels more like your very own grandma’s kitchen, and food that is just as deliciously-made and heartfelt. Shinshulanson is a homey, charming ryokan experience to cherish.
Guest accommodations are modest and simple, with wooden, as well as tatami floors and traditional Shyūdo (Japanese calligraphy scrolls) hanging in guest rooms for daily inspiration. Private balconies offer one-of-a-kind views of Nagano day and night, as well as a small traditional garden.
The property is perched on a hilltop which overlooks the city. During the winter in Japan, Shinshulanson’s location makes for a marvelous sight while the snow-covered trees and rooftops dot the white, winter landscape. During the warmer months the elegant garden featured outside is a great place to read a book under the shade of the trees or to have a quiet moment of reverence for Nagano’s stunning landscape.
Run by an older Japanese couple in their 70s, Yuki and her husband offer one-of-a-kind customer service and attention to guests requirements which goes above and beyond any expectation.
Guests comment on the owners humbling attention to service; the couple personally pick visitors up from bus/train stations, express mail forgotten passports back to guest’s home countries, bake home-made sweets to thank them for their stay according to their guest’s individual tastes to name just a few of the points guests highlight about their stay at this property.
In terms of food, the portions are quite generous so make sure to leave room in your stomach before dinner. Home-cooked meals are made personally by Yuki, as her husband Lee daily ventures off to the local market to cook fresh, local fish and locally-sourced ingredients for guests to enjoy.
Location-wise, the Zenkoji Temple is 2.3km away, while the Togakushi Shrine is a bit further away (around 20 km). For those flying in or out of Nagano, Matsumoto Airport is 80 km drive from the property though the owner offers a free shuttle service for uncomplicated and easy pick-ups and drop-offs.
Book It Here: Shinshulanson Ryokan
For those looking for a ryokan that is more stylistically-oriented, with an emphasis on modern design, unique architectural features, fresh furnishings, yet still retains the experience of an authentic ryokan, Shioriya is a great choice in terms of value as well as overall experience.
This space is a stylish blend of modern design, yet still incorporates traditionally Japanese features like Shōji sliding wooden doors. The main reception area consists of all-wooden beams which are bound together without the use of a single nail (as was the custom with older Japanese Buddhist temples and traditional Japanese carpentry).
The lounge features a chalet-style communal space, decorated with wooden skiis, and an authentic wooden-burning fireplace to cozy up to on chilly winter nights. The room also enjoys a comfortable dining table to savor meals and time shared with friends and family (it’s also perfect for playing card games on long winter nights!).
The overall atmosphere is stylish, yet comfortable; lighting is moody, yet warm. Attention to fine details in craftwork, including the sliding wooden doors, are all made by local carpenters. All of which add a special, unique touch and a taste of everything Nagano.
Rooms are not completely Washitsu (or Japanese-style). Some feature two twin raised beds in a Western style, wooden floors, and large wooden oak desks/work stations for guests who may need to get some work done during their stay. Upon request, guests can also reserve rooms with their very own kitchen equipped with gas stove, sink, toaster, and coffee machine.
Guests who seek more of a traditionally Japanese-style ryokan experience can reserve the room with green, tatami floors and low-laying table, meant to serve as a thoughtfully-designed, meditative space perfect to unwind after a long day of sightseeing or skiing. During the summer, this ryokan offers free rental bikes to use during your stay. Rooms all come with their own fridge and TV as well.
Shioriya is located 6.8 miles away from Zenkoji Temple, as well as popular tourist attractions like the Togakushi Shrine and the Old Kawanakajima Battlefield. Museum goers and history buffs can enjoy Nagano City Museum, located just a short mile ride away, as well as the Matsushiro Castle, just a little over 2 miles away.
During the winter months, skiing is a popular activity enjoyed by guests as the ryokan’s central location amid Nagano’s skiing mecca, offers great opportunities to try out the prefecture’s many different ski resorts.
Book It Here: Shioriya Ryokan
7. Yadoya Shiroganeya
Nestled at the foot of the mountains, this Ryokan is a fantastic option for those looking for the full Zen experience. It’s surrounded by nature and offers some of the most breathtaking views of the mountains – residing here will have you in a state of calm you haven’t felt in a while, simply due to ‘forest bathing’, or ‘shirin-yoku’.
This ryokan spares no expenses, offering daily maid service, free Wi-Fi, free parking, accessibility options, fireplaces for that extra bit of warmth, fantastic seasonal meals, and a great location.
The interior of the ryokan is decked out in amazing cultural decor, traditional Japanese furniture, and subtle touches that elevate the comfort level. In winter, the surrounding snowscape is breathtaking, and during the warmer months, golden leaves and blossoms will be your views.
Guests Tips: It is located close to the bus stop, which arrives and departs hourly. If you’re booking accommodation for children or the elderly, best not to book on the second floor as you will need to go up the steps.
Book It Now: Yadoya Shiroganeya
Nagano is a place known for its crisp, fresh mountain air, bucolic green vistas, mineral-infused onsens, as well as endless outdoor activities including skiing, biking, hiking, and everything in between.
For your next trip, a traditional ryokan experience will serve as the perfect resting spot to relax and replenish in a uniquely Japanese fashion. There’s certainly no shortage of options —the hardest part is being able to choose one!