Whether your time in Nozawa Onsen will be spent on powdered slopes; soaking in hot spring waters; or blissfully combining the two, great independent cafes, bars, and restaurants will set you up for the day then make for some memorable evenings. Here’s our pick of the best.
Akari House Swiss Bakery
At this Swiss-style bakery, located on the ground level of the Akari House rental apartments, a genuine Swiss baker named Stephan works through the day making an ever-changing lineup of pastries, quiches, cakes, and breads to be taken away or enjoyed on the no-frills but cozy premises. As evening falls Stephan doesn’t let up; his focus turns to a selection of pizzas, such as tuna drizzled with Tabasco, which visitors are invited to enjoy with beer or wine. Pizza delivery to your accommodation can be easily arranged too.
Run by two friends, one Japanese and one Australian, this self-described ‘little burger shop with a big heart’ combines those two countries’ approaches to burger building. The result is a menu of voluminous, imaginatively named, and irresistible creations featuring ingredients as diverse as eringi (a Japanese mushroom), Frank’s Hot Sauce, and homemade jam from the nearby Haus St. Anton Cafe. The Cho Abunai (‘Very Dangerous’) burger is named for its jalapeño-fired fierceness, while the Nozawa Onsen burger contains Onsen Tamago (egg cooked in the waters of a hot spring).
Gochisou Pizza Bar
This ‘pizza bar’, easily found just across the street from the Nozawa View Hotel Shimataya, has established a solid reputation despite opening only recently (at the very end of 2018). A hipster-friendly interior, all warm woods and Edison-style lightbulbs, houses a wood-fired oven that both takes off the chill of a day spent on the slopes, and grills to perfection a menu of pizzas ranging from classic margarita to Gochisou originals topped with sweet potato and Japanese kale.
Freshly-made pizza dough is patiently fermented over two days, the old-fashioned way, with a Mediterranean-style tapas menu also on offer. Drinks-wise, expect to find quality craft beers, along with cocktails mixed by friendly staff. Gochisou accepts cash only.
Winterland Lodge, Taproom & Gyoza
Those humble gyoza you enjoy alongside your ramen are considered a delicacy in their own right by the Japanese, and one that goes down very well with a few beers. This venue with a party-friendly, sports bar-like atmosphere offers a winning combination of freshly cooked gyoza and fine craft beers.
Winterland’s gyoza weigh in at larger than average, and are offered in a handful of different fillings including the town’s emblematic nozawana vegetable. Beers meanwhile range from staples such as Nagano Prefecture’s own Shiga Kogen, to an esoteric wasabi pale ale.
Haus St. Anton Café
Haus St. Anton, a classically European-styled hotel in the center of town, houses this cafe that is noted for both its oyaki, a Nagano Prefecture specialty, and the quality of its home made jams (which make an appearance at Genki Burger; see above).
Hot breakfasts, served with freshly squeezed juices, will prep you for a session on the slopes, while the dinner menu presents an eclectic, yet harmonious, mix of Japanese, Chinese, French and Italian recipes.
This family-run Japanese restaurant offers a range of teishoku set meals, based around tempura; sashimi; or pork katsu for example, along with soba and udon noodles (served hot or cold) and a la carte sushi. With an at-home atmosphere and wallet-friendly prices (set meals start at just 830 yen), Wakagiri is easily found thanks to the giant A-shaped frame on its facade.
What looks like a modest but charming kissaten (old-school Japanese coffee house), somewhat hidden off Nozawa’s main street, is actually an acclaimed fusion restaurant. Chef Hirahara Yamasaki’s creations, which draw upon French and Japanese culinary traditions, are both innovative and beautifully presented. His basil sauce-based risotto, for example, contains shirasu (a tiny, whitebait-like fish) from way over in Wakayama Prefecture. Shichirohei’s menu is reasonably priced too: at dinner time main dishes cost around 1,0000 yen apiece.