Bessho Onsen (別所温泉) is a small hot spring resort town just outside of central Ueda City in Nagano Prefecture. During the Kamakura Period (1192-1333), it served as the headquarters of the governor of the Shinshu Region (today's Nagano Prefecture), who built temples and brought Kamakura culture to the mountain town. This made Bessho Onsen into a prosperous center of education and religion, and in turn earned the town the nickname "Kamakura of Shinshu".
Bessho Onsen is the oldest recorded hot spring in the region. Its sulfurous waters have long been regarded for their healing properties and are said to have healed the arrow wounds of warriors who bathed in them. There are three small traditional public bath houses found around town that offer visitors a chance to experience the atmosphere of a small neighborhood hot spring bath. For larger baths and more amenities, head to the Aisome no Yu public bath house at the entrance of the town.
Bessho Onsen is a compact town that is easily explored on foot. Its temples are found along the wooded slopes surrounding the town, and are connected with the town center by narrow streets and lanes lined by small shops, restaurants and ryokan. All of Bessho Onsen's attractions can be reached in a ten to fifteen minute walk from Bessho Onsen Station.
Hot Spring Baths
Take the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Ueda Station (95 minutes, about 6500 yen, 1-3 trains per hour), one stop before Nagano, and transfer to the Ueda Railway to Bessho Onsen (30 minutes, 590 yen, departures every 30 minutes), the terminal station on the line. The Japan Rail Pass is valid between Tokyo and Ueda, but does not cover the train between Ueda and Bessho Onsen.
Take the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen from Nagano Station to Ueda Station (15 minutes, 1470 yen by unreserved seat, two departures per hour) and transfer to the Ueda Railway to Bessho Onsen (30 minutes, 590 yen, departures every 30 minutes), the terminal station on the line. The Japan Rail Pass is valid between Nagano and Ueda, but does not cover the train between Ueda and Bessho Onsen.
Alternatively, take the Shinano Railway between Nagano and Ueda (45 minutes, 780 yen, two to three departures per hour) and transfer to the Ueda Railway to Bessho Onsen. The Japan Rail Pass is not valid on either the Shinano Railway or the Ueda Railway.