Steamy Saunas in Deep Snow

By Matt Klampert

In the past, we have written extensively about the many great onsen available all over Snow Country, whether they be local onsen around town, hot spring at accommodations, or breathtaking “hidden onsen” out in nature. While Japan has had a long love affair with hot springs, the country is currently experiencing a sauna boom: Since being popularized by television dramas like 2019’s “Sado,” groups of people flock to sauna to relax in the steam and also become closer to one another. Of course, there are plenty of saunas popping up in the bigger cities, but we believe that there is no better place to have a great sauna experience than amidst the beautiful natural scenery in YUKIGUNI. Come along with us and see what our saunas have to offer!

A Special Sauna-Filled Getaway at Mooska de Stuben

For the recent influx of sauna maniacs, overnight getaways in the town of Minakami in Gunma Prefecture have proven quite popular. Minakami is a hotbed of adventure tourism – including rafting and canyoning – in summer, and also has plenty to do in colder months, including exclusive stays at premier sauna destinations such as Mooska de Stuben. Their name is an amalgamation of both German and Estonian, and translates to “a place where people can gather and have fun.” Mooska was created in July 2021, and has already proven popular with sauna enthusiasts both within Gunma and other nearby prefectures. The location was originally chosen for its great views of Mt. Tanigawa, considered to be the symbol of Minakami, and it is located directly across the street from prime glamping spot Wind and Horn.

Mooska de Stuben promises a relaxing and exclusive stay. Groups of up to 10 are accepted for overnight stays, and have free reign of the living room and kitchen area, to say nothing of the roomy deluxe Harvia wood sauna. There are many kinds of sleeping quarters available, including beds and glamping tents. A variety of amenities are included, but customers are advised to bring their own bedclothes. Daytrippers can reserve the sauna on Thursdays for 2 ½ hours at a time. Either way, the sauna will be prepared for you in advance on the day, so customers can enter as soon as they arrive! As this sauna contains a wooden stove and not electric, you can also do loyly at your leisure.

After you go for a dip, why not have a BBQ? The staff at Mooska de Stuben will prepare all the utilities and ingredients for you in advance. You can purchase from their extensive wine list, or try a refreshing local brew, including varieties from Minakami brewery Octone, which we wrote about HERE. Sauna vacations at Mooska are great for the whole family!

Take a shinkansen to a sauna

We have written about Gala Snow Resort, the one and only ski resort with its own bullet train station, HERE. Did you know that in addition to ski and snowboarding fun, the resort has its own spa area? Called “Gala no Yu,” it includes not only onsen, but a sauna area as well!

At Gala, both indoor and outdoor sauna areas are available, depending on the season, for afternoon and evening reservations. Reservations for the sauna are required at least two days in advance. At Gala no Yu, up to four people at a time can enjoy an outdoor tent sauna, and a special “snow bath” unique among certain saunas in Snow Country. Both men and women can be in the same group, but it is recommended to bring your own bathing suits.

East meets West: Experience sauna in an eco-lodge

The eco-lodge Ryugon is a Japanese inn at the site of what was originally Ryugon-ji Temple in Minamiuonuma City. Ryugon itself is known for modern luxury as well as fun and educational excursions through YUKIGUNI, but there is also a separate “Manor House,” which is available for group stays. Though it is called the Manor House, it has in fact been repurposed from an old-style farmhouse known as a “kominka.” Big groups and long stays are the norm at the Ryugon Manor House, which is perfect for relaxing and taking in the best of YUKIGUNI. Rooms at the Manor House have no shortage of amenities- they are a mix of Japanese and Western style, so feel free to chill on bean bags on top of tatami if such is your desire. You have a choice of open-air baths or a brand new sauna, or even a mini-pool! For more information about kominka-style accommodation in YUKIGUNI click HERE.

A sauna-filled workcation at Souq

The Snow Country area is also becoming a workcation hotspot, such as at Yuzawa’s Souq. Souq, meaning “a place for people to gather” in Arabic, was created in order to make an international “workcation gateway” in Yuzawa similar to what now exists in places like Bali. Souq specializes in accommodating international guests, who make up as much as 80% of Souq’s clientele during the busy winter season. However, they are also open during the green season as well, and offer customized travel excursions of not only Yuzawa but all over YUKIGUNI. In addition to accommodation, Souq has a cafe and bar space where locals and international guests gather for exchange opportunities and events, such as concerts. The downtown Yuzawa location also has a shisha bar and a brand new eco-friendly earthbag dome sauna (advanced reservation required). There is a private onsen that guests with tattoos can use worry-free. Click HERE for more information on Souq and other workcation spaces in Snow Country.

Other places to experience sauna

Saunas have been popping up in all sorts of unique locations around Snow Country. Doai station in Minakami is typically known as a starting point for climbing Mt. Tanigawa, but in 2020 Doai Village was opened directly adjacent to the train station. Doai Village is a premier glamping spot with special tents that resemble Mongolian yurts open all year long. They also have a sauna and a special snow bath where you can dive into snow instead of water.

Many accommodations have begun installing saunas. The Inamoto Ryokan has designated bathing and sauna times for walk-ins in the afternoons. This ryokan features two different onsen, with different temperatures, and a luxurious granite spa area. They are endeavoring to make their facilities accessible to all their guests, and have barrier-free rooms, as well as a barrier-free bath that can be reserved. This ryokan is designated Sakura Quality, for accommodation that pass rigorous safety and ethical standards.

Yuzawa’s Toei Hotel has not one, but two saunas! Their men’s spa area called “Aoba no Yu” contains a large sauna room seating 8 people made of cypress wood, a Jacuzzi, and a newly refurbished marble onsen bath with a capacity of over 60 people. The women’s spa is called “Koyo no Yu,” and includes an aroma mist sauna, enlarged public bath, and a Jacuzzi of its own. Toei Hotel has both indoor and outdoor alkaline hot springs, the latter of which is even open during winter! Other features of this hotel are special themed rooms based on characters from the Toei Film Company, and the hotel’s long-running Chinese restaurant “Toei Hanten,” which is beloved by hotel guests and locals alike. Those without a hotel reservation can enjoy both hotel saunas starting from 3pm.

Information for Travelers


Address: 2216-1 Kamimoku, Minakami Town, Tone District, Gunma Prefecture
Access: 10 minute walk from Kamimoku station, pickup service available from Jomo-Kogen station

Doai Village

Address: 218-2 Yubiso, Minakami Town, Tone District, Gunma Prefecture
Access: Located next to Doai station on the JR Joetsu line

GALA Yuzawa Ski Resort

Address: 1039-2 Yuzawa, Yuzawa Town, Minamiuonuma District, Niigata Prefecture
Access: Directly across from Gala-Yuzawa station ticket gate, shuttle bus service available from Echigo-Yuzawa station


Address: 317-2 Yuzawa, Yuzawa Town, Minamiuonuma District, Niigata Prefecture 949-6101
Access: Approximately 10 minute walk from Echigo-Yuzawa station

Yuzawa Toei Hotel

Address: 3459 Yuzawa, Yuzawa Town, Minamiuonuma District, Niigata Prefecture 949-6101
Access: Approximately 10 minute walk from Echigo Yuzawa station

Inamoto Ryokan

Address: 2497 Yuzawa, Yuzawa Town, Minamiuonuma District, Niigata Prefecture 949-6101
Access: Less than 5 minutes on foot from Echigo Yuzawa station west exit

Ryugon Manor House

Address: 1-6 Sakado, Minamiuonuma City, Niigata Prefecture 949-6611 (Located across the street from Ryugon’s main building)
Access: 20 minute walk from Muikamachi Station, shuttle service available