Nozawa Onsen is the perfect mix of snow and culture, says snowboard instructor JT Chau.
Snowboard instructor JT Chau’s resume reads a little differently from many of his fellow snow industry workers. Since taking a break from his job as an exercise physiologist in 2011, he’s taught snowboarding and skiing to clients in unlikely locations like Yabuli (China), Perisher (Australia) and dry slopes in Hong Kong and Sydney.
But like many instructors, JT’s search for snow and great experiences eventually brought him to Japan, teaching at an international snow school in Nagano’s Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort. The Australian is now in his third winter season there, and credits the mix of great snow and culture for pulling him back to the resort which he now candidly admits is his favourite.
We caught up with JT to find out exactly what it is that makes Nozawa Onsen such a special place, and to grab a few insider tips.
Ski & Snowboard Instructor, Nozawa Onsen
From: Sydney, Australia
Seasons in Nozawa Onsen: 3
Other seasons: Perisher (Australia), Yabuli (China), indoor ski slopes (Hong Kong & Sydney)
What do you love most about Nozawa Onsen? It’s the perfect mix of snow and culture.
Favourite run: Jumping. After a big dump it’s the epitome of steep and deep.
First part of the mountain to visit in a powder day: I don’t think I can tell you the first, that’s a secret! But definitely the trees through Schneider and the ungroomed Utopia is on the top of my list.
Favourite restaurant: That’s a tough one! So much choice in Nozawa. I’m going to have to pick two. For lunch, Gentarou as the food is fast (perfect for in between lessons), delicious and the staff are super super friendly. For dinner, Tonkichi for its top notch okonomiyaki, cool as chef (Koji san) and just a great place to catch up with friends.
Favourite bar: Himecho. Good Japanese drinks, great bar food (that fried chicken!) and most importantly, it’s a karaoke bar!
Best thing to do in Nozawa Onsen that isn’t skiing or snowboarding: Its famous onsens, whether it be one of the 13 free public onsens (each unique in its own way) or one of the fancier ones in town. It’s what makes Nozawa Onsen what it is… The town literally runs on hot spring water!
Best local tip for anyone thinking about visiting: Soak in the traditional village life! There’s so much more to Nozawa Onsen than just snow! And if you can manage to visit during the Dosojin Matsurii (Fire Festival, held annually on 15th January) there is no other event like it in the world!
Anything else to add… There lots to discover, both on and off the slopes. If you appreciate the opportunity to immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture then Nozawa Onsen is for you!