The “Green Season” is, as you might guess, the 6-8 months of the year (depending on the altitude) when the scenery isn’t white! But summer proper, for tourism in Nozawa Onsen, starts when the gondola runs… this year, that’s July 2nd. The gondola runs for four months, into the beautiful autumn season, with the summer peaking during the o-bon holiday period in mid-August.
Country folk are never inactive, but, relatively, people have time to chat, to have barbecues with their neighbours, indulge in their hobbies, and generally slow the pace a little. It’s maybe the best time to get to know your neighbours, and make new friends.
Summer in the Japanese cities can be oppressively hot, and, a couple of hundred years’ ago, the summer was the peak period for tourism in Nozawa Onsen, as city folk came to avoid the ovens of Tokyo and Osaka, often for a few weeks at a time. Typically the temperature at the top of the gondola is naturally 10 degrees or more cooler than in the valley, so that’s where the action is! Over the last decade or so, that summer crowd has come back, attracted not only by the relative cool of the village and the mountain, but its excellent facilities and countless attractions.
The ski resort lays out a number of easy forest and meadow trails radiating out from the gondola station; shaded by the ancient beech forests or shoulder-high grasses, walkers enjoy spotting the wildflowers, butterflies, and birds on Mount Kenashi.
And also… there are some hair-raising downhill mountain bike trails for the more adventurous. The gondola cabins are designed to accommodate mountain bikes, and if you don’t have your own, you can rent good quality equipment in the village.
For the real nature lovers, the camp site by lake Sutaka at 1,300m altitude is one of Japan’s very few camp sites inside national parkland, and is beyond wonderful You can pitch your own tent, drive your camping car in, have the staff put up a glamping tent for you, or stay in a woodland hut.
As the evening cools down, head back down into the village for an onsen dip or two, a locally brewed cold beer or two, another onsen, and a leisurely meal as you watch the village’s guests walk around in their yukata (cotton kimono), soaking up the atmosphere. If you’re lucky you’ll catch one of the many local festivals, or the early-Sunday-morning street market.
Join us in the summer!