Shibu Onsen is a trip back in time. Filled with historic buildings and a traditional atmosphere, this old hot spring town is just a quick hop from Yudanaka Onsen.
Shibu Onsen is located just next door to Yudanaka Onsen, the last stop on the Nagaden Nagano Line.
To access the area from Nagano or any of the other major cities, catch the Nagano Dentetsu-Nagano Line to Yudanaka Onsen. From there, it is about a half-hour walk or short taxi ride from Yudanaka Station.
Shibu Onsen's history is said to go back over 1,000 years. It's long been a rest stop for pilgrims making their way to Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City. The cobblestone streets lined with traditional wooden Japanese inns and dotted with shrines offer you the atmosphere of another era.
Shibu Onsen has nine public baths, known as Sotoyu and managed in common by the village inns. Being a guest at one of them entitles you free use of all of the baths. All of the different baths are meant to heal or protect from different ailments.
To add to the fun of onsen-hopping in Shibu, the baths give out commemorative stamps. Get one of Shibu's special junyoku stamp towels and collect them all. If you're not staying over, you can still use the largest Oyu bath for a small fee, payable at the information center.
In the evening, do like the Japanese and stroll the narrow lanes in your yukata robe and geta wooden sandals, going from bath to bath or bar to bar. Try some of the local sake at Tamamura, Shibu's brewery.
Shiba Onsen's only a 10-minute bus ride from the trailhead leading into the famed Snow Monkey Park, and 30 minutes from Shiga Kogen Ski Resort. For a change of pace or more restaurant options, Yudanaka Onsen is a little busier and located just down the road.