On the western fringes of the Jōshinetsu Kōgen National Park is a string of onsen villages, kicking off with YUDANAKA (湯田中), from where you can catch the bus to see the famous “snow monkeys” at nearby KAMBAYASHI ONSEN (上林温泉). Yudanaka is also the access point for the well-groomed and quiet slopes of Gorin Kōgen (ごりん高原) and Kita-Shiga Kōgen Heights (北志賀高原), which are especially popular with snowboarders.
The Nagano–Dentetsu train line from Nagano terminates in Yudanaka (express 40min, ¥1230; local 1hr, ¥1130). From the station, it’s a fifteen-minute bus journey to Kanbayashi Onsen. There’s also a direct bus from Nagano to Kanbayashi Onsen (40min; ¥1300). To reach the monkey park, walk uphill from the bus stop until you find a sign for a trail leading through the woods for around 2km.
Beside the monkey park is Kōrakukan (後楽館), a rambling wooden ryokan offering homely Japanese-style accommodation; rates include two meals. Take a dip in their rotemburo for ¥500 and it’s possible that the monkeys will join you. Alternatively, there’s the elegant Kanbayashi Hotel Senjukaku (上林ホテル仙壽閣), set amid the trees in Kanbayashi Onsen.