THE GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
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Northwest of Nagano, these historic hot-spring towns are the gateway to the Shiga Kogen Plateau ski area, known for its alpine skiing and snowboarding. Yudanaka and Shibu are worthwhile destinations, especially if you like watching monkeys take a bath. One of the nine hot springs between Yudanaka and Shibu is favored by the monkeys, and in recent years this has become something of a tourist destination.
Both towns are considerably developed, but Shibu has managed to preserve the atmosphere of a traditional hot-spring town. Steam still drifts up from the thermally heated springs, and in the evenings you'll see hotel guests wandering through town in robes and sandals trying out the many town-run baths. Yudanaka is the last stop on the Nagano Dentetsu Line; the trip from Nagano takes 40 minutes and costs ¥1,230.
The highly touted hot springs at Kusatsu contain sulfur, iron, aluminum, and even trace amounts of arsenic. Just inside the border of Gunma...