Bessho Onsen (ʏ) is a small hot spring 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.

Temples

  • Anrakuji Temple
    Hours: 8:00 to 17:00 (until 16:00 from November to February)
    Closed: No closing days
    Admission: 300 yen (an English pamphlet is available for a small fee)
  • Kitamuki Kannon Temple
    Hours: 7:00 to 16:00
    Closed: No closing days
    Admission: Free
  • Jorakuji Temple
    Hours: 7:00 to 16:00 (museum from 9:00)
    Closed: No closing days (museum closed from late Dec to mid Feb)
    Admission: Free (museum: 500 yen)

Hot spring baths

  • Oyu
    Hours: 6:00 to 22:00
    Closed: First and third Wednesday of each month
    Admission: 200 yen
  • Daishiyu
    Hours: 6:00 to 22:00
    Closed: First and third Thursday of each month
    Admission: 200 yen
  • Ishiyu
    Hours: 6:00 to 22:00
    Closed: Second and fourth Tuesday of each month
    Admission: 200 yen
  • Aisome no Yu
    Hours: 10:00 to 22:00 (entry until 21:20)
    Closed: 2nd and 4th Monday every month (except national holidays)
    Admission: 500 yen

Getting there and around

From Tokyo

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.

From Nagano

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.