Northwest of Nagano, these historical neighboring hot-spring towns are the gateway to the Shiga Kogen Plateau ski area, site of Olympic apline skiing and the snowboarding slalom. Yudanaka and Shibu onsens are worthwhile destinations in themselves, though, especially if you like watching monkeys take a bath. One of the nine open-air springs between Yudanaka and Shibu is much-favored by monkeys, especially in winter, and in recent years has become something of a tourist desination. Both towns are considerably developed, but Shibu in particular has managed to preserve the atmosphere of a traditional hot-spring town. Steam still drifts up from the thermally heated water draining from ryokan, and in the evenings you'll see hotel guests wandering through town in yukata robes and geta 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.
Yudanaka Onsen, Nagano, Nagano-ken, Japan