Takamine Onsen was one of the places I was most excited to visit during my trip across Japan because it is so different from many other places I’ve visited.
It is a traditional Japanese hotel, a ryokan, located deep in the mountains of Takamine Highland, Nagano Prefecture, at an altitude of 2000 m. This alone would make it a very interesting place to visit, but there there’s so much more about it that I wanted to experience. Let me tell you what it was like.
Since the Takamine Onsen is located on a mountain, the only way to reach it is by car or by bus, so I needed to plan my arrival in detail. I arrived by train to Komoro, a town located in the foothills of the mountain. At the town’s train station, I waited for a bus to take me up to the Takamine Onsen.
The ride to the top took about half an hour. For me, it went by in an instant because the view of the surrounding area was so good. I spent the entire time just looking through the window of the bus and enjoying the forest and mountain scenery.
It was early October, and as I was slowly climbing up the mountain, I could notice the colors of the scenery switching from greens to yellows and oranges. I have come to a place where autumn had already started. There were a couple of stops on the bus trip up to the mountain, and I had to make sure I exited at the right one.
However, this turned out to be a non-issue since the majority of the people on the bus were heading to the same place as I did. We all got off at the Takamine Onsen station, which was right in front of the hotel. There, many staff members awaited us to help us unload our luggage and get inside the hotel.
As you might expect, it was quite chilly at the top of the mountain since we were, after all, 2000 meters above the surface level. The whole area around the hotel looked quite beautiful to me since, as many of you know, I’m a huge fan of autumn and Autumn scenery. I felt that the hotel also looked quite cozy located there among the autumn-colored trees. Fun fact, the hotel is located right on the border of Nagano and Gunma prefectures.
The bus on which I arrived at the hotel is a JR Bus, and it arrives and departs two times a day from the hotel. Since it is a JR bus, it is covered by your JR pass. There is also a direct bus line from Shinjuku. You can learn more about access on the Takamine Onsen website.
I was really looking forward to staying here and exploring the hotel and this magical mountain. As I said, I arrived here on a bus with many more guests. But despite the large number of us, the hotel staff quickly completed the check-in procedure.
I was given a quick tour of the hotel and shown to my room to unpack and relax from the trip. But I did not want to spend too much time relaxing just yet since it was already afternoon, and I did not want to spend the entire day inside the hotel despite how good it was. I wanted to experience the mountain while there was still light.
So I headed out to go hiking on a nearby trail that starts directly in front of the hotel. It led me further up the mountain through a beautiful forest full of yellow, orange, and red trees and bushes. It was not a difficult hiking trip, and I really enjoyed exploring this rocky and forested landscape. There are some beautiful vistas all along the trail, and I could see great valleys and mountains in all directions.
As you all know, the weather in the mountains can change in an instant, so you need to be careful. The clouds settled in quickly and limited the visibility, but I loved that since the atmosphere was even more mysterious and magical.
When the sun started to set, I headed back to the hotel, and after arriving, I grabbed some hot drinks to warm myself up and went to the room to rest.
The room I was located in was a traditional Japanese room with futon beds, a small table, a TV, a couple of closets, and a modest bathroom. Basically, everything you would need to stay in a place like this. All the amenities you would expect were also there.
The highlight was the view of the forested valley and the surrounding mountains. I loved waking up to see these autumn-colored leaves outside.
Despite being located so high in the mountain during the colder part of the year, it was not cold since there was heating in every part of the hotel and in every room.
On each floor, there are also a few public bathrooms where you can go and refresh a bit more. I love the look and feel of the hotel itself and its interior. To me, it felt like a large cozy mountain cabin since everything was made out of quality wood.
There are many interesting decorations, books, posters, and art all around the place. You can really feel the hotel’s identity and the effort and love that the staff, as well as guests, have for this place.
During my stay here, I felt like all of us there were one big family on our winter vacation. I enjoyed just walking around the hotel and checking out all the interesting spaces around the hotel. For example, here is a place where you can observe the valley through large fixed binoculars.
Dinner time was fast approaching, so I went back to the room to change into a traditional yukata that was provided to me by the staff members. I headed out to the main dining hall, where there were already plenty of people seated around their tables.
When I got there, a staff member approached me, asked what I would like to drink, and started bringing me a traditional Japanese dinner set. It included a variety of local traditional dishes wany seasonal ingredients. Here you can find things like miso soup, tofu, appetizers, and, since it was autumn, all kinds of different mushrooms.
There was even horse sashimi which I found quite interesting. It made me crave some tuna sashimi, so I ordered some, and it was delicious.
I enjoyed the atmosphere of this large dining hall. And the view of the mountain valley outside was also great, even though it was getting dark. After dinner, I made my way back to the room to relax a bit before heading out to one of the many hot baths.
Takamine Onsen has several large indoor baths as well as two outdoor baths. The hot spring water comes from Mount Asama, an active complex volcano. It is said that it helps cure diseases and improve health.
There is even drinkable hot spring water available at the drink corner. The indoor baths are made of comfortable cypress baths and provide a great view of the mountains and forests outside.
This time I visited one of the indoor baths and had a great time there. You know how I love relaxing in a hot spring after a nice dinner, and this one was no exception. After the bath, I went straight to bed to rest up for tomorrow.
I decided to get up as early as possible because I wanted to see the highlight of this place, the outdoor hot bath that is located outside of the hotel. To get there, you need to go to a small changing room where you can leave your belongings and get slippers to walk outside.
After doing that, you make your way on a small path through the forest until you reach a plateau that overlooks the valley. It is located about a minute or two from the hotel.
And there you will find probably the best-located outdoor bath I’ve ever seen or heard of. Not only is the feel of being in an outdoor hot spring on a cold morning so great, but the view is spectacular as well.
Sitting there in a hot bath, I could see a large valley stretching out in front of me with peaks on all sides. Everywhere I looked, there were trees in yellow, orange, and red colors, while on the horizon, I could see distant mountains. It felt like taking a bath on top of the world.
It’s truly something I will never forget, and it’s worth coming here for this experience alone.
After taking a bath here, I headed straight to the dining hall, where breakfast was being served. Again it was a traditional Japanese breakfast with dishes such as rice, miso soup, onsen-boiled egg, fish, and many other appetizers. It gave me a lot of energy for the day.
You see, every night around 8:30, they host a star-watching party. Since the hotel is located on a 2000 m tall mountain far away from the city lights, the night sky is absolutely breathtaking. You can see every little star and color of the milky way in the sky.
They have three large telescopes that they place in front of the hotel, and all guests can watch through them. This is a great experience, and I highly recommend it to everyone. If you are an astronomy fan, you will surely want to see this, and even if you are not, you will love these scenes, and maybe you will become one.
There are many more things to do and see around the hotel, depending on the season you come and visit. In spring, summer, and fall, you can enjoy hiking in nearby Ikenodaira Marsh, go on trips around Mt. Asama, or climb mountains such as Mt. Kagonoto or Mt. Kurofu.
In winter, the Asama Mountain Range is covered by snow. At that time, snowshoeing is very popular since hiking trails turn into snowshoeing trails. Guests staying at the hotel in winter can rent snowshoes, leggings, and poles for free. All in all, you can have a lot of fun here.
All in all, I enjoyed every minute of my stay at the Takamine Onsen. All of my expectations were met and exceeded. The cozy hotel has not only a unique location but also many more great things about it, from the amazing outdoor hot bath with a breathtaking view to the delicious local food and a great mountain atmosphere.
I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to try something different on their trip across Japan. If you are such a person, check out their website to learn more.