1. Nozawa: Full-Day Fire Festival & Snow Monkey Tour on Jan 15
Your tour begins with pickup from one of two locations: Hakuba’s Happo Bus Terminal at 11:45 AM or JR Nagano Station at 1 PM. After meeting your guide, you’ll hit the road and head towards Yamanouchi, home to the only hot spring-bathing monkeys in the world, Japanese snow monkeys. After arriving near the monkey park area at 2 PM, your guide will lead you along a snow-covered forest trail to the park itself. Found deep inside Jigokudani, or “Hell’s Valley”, your guide will explain the history and importance of the park and give you plenty of time to enjoy the unique experience of observing the snow monkeys in close proximity. Then enjoy an early dinner at a nearby restaurant where you’ll learn all about Nagano’s renowned food culture. Next, you’ll head to Nozawa Onsen, where you’ll witness one of Japan’s three great fire festivals. After arriving at around 6 PM, you’ll have ample time to explore the village before the main event begins. Preparations start at 7 PM with singing, drumming, fireworks, and more. Then it’s time for the main event, during which the town will converge on a wooden shrine. Fueled by tradition, bravado, and drinking, the mock battle takes place with an explosion of embers. After the gods have been deemed happy and ready to bless the villagers with good luck, harvest, and happiness, the shrine will be set on fire at 10 PM. At 10:45 PM you’ll regroup with your guide at the designated meeting point and be transported back to your original pickup point.