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Japan is home to some of the best skiing in Asia and the world, and Manza in Gunma Prefecture is one of the many high-quality skiing areas that can be easily accessed from the Tokyo area. At the heart of the small ski and onsen town is the Manza Prince Hotel, a resort that directly serves the slopes of Mt. Manza.
After a long day of skiing, hotel guests can enjoy the hotel’s gourmet food offerings, stunning mountain vistas and outdoor hot spring baths. During my weekend in Manza, I was able to experience first-hand the great accommodations at the Manza Prince Hotel.
Outdoor Bathing and the Highest-Altitude Onsen in Japan
Upon arrival at the hotel, I stopped by my room and dropped off my belongings, before heading down to the lobby to pick up ski rentals for the weekend. I was immediately struck by the views outside of my corner room.
On one side was the Mt. Manza ski slopes—I could see skiers pass by my window throughout the day. On the other side, next to a small lounging area, was a gorgeous mountain vista. I would wake up at sunrise the next morning to enjoy tea and take in the view, as sunrise cast colorful skies over the snowy scenery. My hotel room window seemed to frame a winter landscape painting.
After picking up my gear and before my first run of the trip, I headed to the resort’s striking outdoor onsen. Manza’s hot springs were discovered back in the 1500s. Today, Manza Prince Hotel guests have access to some of finest hot spring baths in the onsen town.
In addition to a standard indoor bath and washing area for both men and women, the hotel features five rotemburo (outdoor hot spring baths) that are located on the edge of a cliff overlooking the surrounding snowcapped mountains.
Both men and women have access to two baths, with one mixed-gender bath for visiting couples to enjoy. This was not my last trip to the hotel’s baths. I would stop by later that night to enjoy a relaxing bath under the night sky and soothe my sore muscles after a long day of skiing.
The hotel’s sister resort, the Manza Kogen Hotel, is just minutes away by foot or shuttle bus, and features and an even more elaborate outdoor onsen.
With four different color waters, originating from four distinct Manza hot springs, the mixed-gender rotemburo is an onsen destination in its own right.
It also holds the title of one of the highest-altitude open-air onsens in Japan, at an 1,800-meter elevation.
Fine Dining in the Mountains
In addition to the onsen baths, Manza Kogen Hotel has many dining options for its guest. I had the opportunity to try a range of different food during my weekend skiing at the resort. My first meal was one of the most memorable.
In main dining hall, I was treated to the chef’s signature white curry dish. A mix of pork and grilled vegetables, the curry dish was shaped to imitate the appearance of an onsen, with the rice molded to mimic a square stone bath. As delicious as the curry was, the view of the mountains was equally impressive.
Guests are also given a breakfast pass to enjoy the meal with the other guests in the buffer dining hall. The spread ranges from traditional Japanese breakfast classic, like miso soup and grilled fish, to the standard western fare of scrambled eggs and sausage. Whatever your preference, there will be an food option there to help you gain energy for a long day of skiing.
The most delicious meal of my trip, however, was far and away the luxurious traditional kaiseki (multi-course) meal. The set course began with sake, with two of the three glasses highlighting some of Gunma Prefecture’s best rice wine brewers (It was an optional.)
It was a followed by an appetizer of sashimi with picked vegetables. The dish was the first time I had tried rainbow trout or sea cucumber, both delicious regional fare.
One after another, the waiter treated me to traditional Japanese fine dining fare, including an elaborate pork and grilled vegetable dish, as well as tempura. The meal capped with a light desert of brown sugar mochi and melon with a nice cup of hot Hōjicha tea.
The kaiseki restaurant waiter multitasks as a bartender in the Manza Prince Hotel’s lounge and bar. He treated me to original hand-crafted cocktails inspired by the region, including one named after a flower ‘Komakusa’ commonly found on Mt. Manza during the summer months. Another drink featured multiple shades of white, yellow, yellowish green and green, replicating the colors found in Manza Kogen Hotel’s outdoor onsen baths.
We enjoyed casual conversation as he expertly produced these elaborate and delicious alcoholic creations. The staff could not have been more friendly and accommodating during my stay, going out of their way to ensure I was having the best stay possible.
While Mt. Manza offered a wonderful chance to experience skiing in Japan, my time off the slopes and in the hotel lodge was just as important to making my trip an enjoyable one.
To get to the relatively secluded Manza resort area, you’ll first need to hop on a Horokiku Shinkansen bound for Nagano. The Shinkansen route leaves from Tokyo Station and services many of the most popular ski areas in the Japanese alps.
Manza-bound riders will get off after 1.5 hours at Karuizawa Station, located next to an expansive and upscale outlet mall. The Manza Prince Hotels runs shuttle buses from Karuizawa Station that cover the rest of the trip and drop you off right at the lobby of Manza Prince Hotel.
|Name||Manza Prince Hotel|
|Address||Manzaonsen Hoshimata, Tsumagoi, Agatsuma District, Gunma Prefecture 377-1595|
|Access||[map]Manzaonsen Hoshimata, Tsumagoi, Agatsuma District, Gunma Prefecture 377-1595[/map]|
|Opening Hours||Daily ski hours (8:30am-17:00pm)|
|Price Range||Nightly rates vary|