Food & Drink
When you’ve had enough of eating the powder you can head to the Nozawa Onsen restaurants and enjoy some of the fabulous cuisine that the town has to offer. Dining in Nozawa Onsen and exploring the various bars and restaurants is a highlight of the holiday experience.
Just a little word of advice…..Nozawa Onsen is steeped in tradition and is desperately trying to hold onto its traditional heritage, and the threat of obnoxious westerners challenges this. No one wants this to be the next Niseko! Try to fit in with the culture. Try to learn at least a little Japanese language and be polite. Don’t be a bogan and don’t be like the Nozawana and become completely pickled! OK now that I’ve got that off my chest, go forth and enjoy the Nozawa Onsen restaurants and bars!
Here are couple of phrases that may help with your dining experience:
Please - Kudasai
Thank You - Arigatou
Bon Apetit - Ittadakimasu
Delicious - Oishii
Food - Tabemono
Drink - Nomimono
One - Hitotsu
Two - Futatsu
Three - Mitsu
At the end of the meal it is always polite to say - Gochisosama.
Nozawa Onsen Restaurants
The town of Nozawa Onsen has a multitude of restaurants to choose from and you can pick up a dining guide from your hotel to aid your choice. There are a few Nozawa Onsen restaurants that provide upmarket dining, but many of them offer inexpensive Japanese meals. Nozawa also has a couple of Italian eateries and there’s European food at Haus St Anton.
Wakagiri is a popular choice for Westerners and a good place for orientation to a large range of yummy Japanese food, in part because they have a complete English menu and staff who speak English. The sushi and sashimi here is really impressive and the ramen and rice dishes are pretty good too. As the restaurant caters well to the Westerner, the only downside might be the occasional uncouth yobbo! Wakagiri is located on the main pedestrian street, with the entrance located back from the street a fraction.
Tsukushinbo is a casual and inexpensive izakaya located on the corner next to the O-yu onsen, down in the basement. This is another easy choice for westerners because the menu is in English and the staff speak a little Engrish. The fare is pretty typical for an izakaya, with a wide range of yummy items including edamame, yakitori and mushrooms. Not so typical for Japan are the fried cheese sticks. They are filthy but oh so sublime!
For a delightfully upmarket dinner, head to the restaurant on the 2nd floor of Onsen Ryokan Jon Nobi, adjacent to the Oyu onsen in the heart of Nozawa Onsen. The mezzanine floor restaurant décor is upscale traditional Japanese, but thankfully for ski-weary legs, the seating consists of western tables and chairs. They serve set banquet meals, shabu-shabu Japanese hot pots, and terrific sake. To complement the lovely dining experience, have a complimentary soak in one of their private onsens.
Other Nozawa Dining
If you want a really inexpensive meal, go to the bakery in the main street which is open during the day as well as in the evening. Otherwise many of the shops sell onsen eggs which are great with a bit of soy sauce. Onsen eggs are cooked in the hot onsen (or so they tell the tourists!) and have a hard yoke and soft whites, because the eggs are cooked at 90 degrees rather than at boiling temperature.
Another must-do in Nozawa Onsen is to scoff various pork buns, onsen manju or steamed dumplings. Rather than just standard pork and bean fillings, you can buy all sorts of sweet and savoury buns, and don’t worry that they’re sometimes called onsen manju - they’re not cooked in the onsen!
Like most places in Japan, it is very difficult to find good coffee in Nozawa Onsen. You can get a real coffee at Nozawa Central or the Craft Room.
Nozawa Onsen Bars & Nightlife
Nozawa Onsen is somewhat unique amongst Japanese ski resorts (Niseko an exception) in that it has a little bit of nightlife. It’s certainly not like Niseko nightlife, yet there are at least a few bars that offer some après or nightlife, and even a little bit of dancing!
A great little après bar, the Craft Room, is located at the base of the Nagasaka gondola. This bar is a good spot for a friendly and warming drink before wandering down to the main street of Nozawa. Foot Bar in the main street has really friendly staff and is a charming spot for après drinks. Skiers and snowboarders stand around tables and share powder stories whilst nibbling on appetizers such as octopus balls or Nozawana (pickled vegetable).
Next door down in the basement is Stay Bar, an old style bar that is popular with Westerners. The owner is a fan of Jackson Brown, so cool music is a theme of this bar. They have happy hour drinks from 4-6pm, or head there after dinner for a fantastic dessert such as apple crumble.
Himatsuri, named after the fire festival, is a very chic and upmarket izakaya bar at Onsen Ryokan Jonnobi. This is a very delightful spot for drinks, appetizers or dinner, and they have free wifi and take credit cards!
Another good bar to chill out is Heaven, and if you want to get right into the Japanese culture you can hire out a karaoke room and belt out some really cheesy tunes.
Libushi is an artisan brewery taproom opposite Sakaya Ryokan that sells the most outrageously priced beers.