Drinking the Winter Night Away at the Rooftop Igloo Bar, Setsugekka

Drinking the Winter Night Away at the Rooftop Igloo Bar, Setsugekka

Vanessa Techapichetvanich

When the weather is freezing, and you wish to experience drinking spirits in an igloo, here’s exactly what you can do.

Setsugekka is a rooftop bar in Yudanaka Onsen town and the only igloo-themed bar in Japan. Located just a 7-minute walk from Yudanaka station, the bar is located just beside the river connecting Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen where you can enjoy the flowing sound of nature while indulging in your warm Japanese rice wine.

This photogenic bar is actually the highlight of my trip to Yudanaka Onsen Town. The bar is part of a luxurious ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel) called Aburaya Tousen. Whether you are an overnight guest or just a visitor, the bar welcomes anyone. The interior of the igloo is heated, so you don’t have to worry about the cold; some people even come dressed in yukata. Each igloo offers a sunken table with 4 very comfortable seats, and they are very spacious. The menu offers a few light meal options and a different variety of drinks, serving both alcohol and non-alcohol options. The experience couldn’t have been better with the amazing view of the town at night and jazz music playing in the background.

At the bar, you can order a variety of different food and drinks, with Japanese and western options. You have to give local Nagano sake a try; go for the 3 different sake tasting option (1,800 JPY), of which you can choose different options from the sake menu. Other liqueurs also include beer, European wine, whiskey, Shinshu, and cocktails, with prices ranging from 800 JPY to 3,000 JPY. My favourite food menu was the local chicken stew (1,200 JPY), a creamy and nutritious slow-cooked dish perfect to warm you up in the cold winter; it was also perfect for food pairing with the sake.

Even if you have never tried sake or might have heard scary experiences about it, you should not let that stop you from trying this Japanese high quality rice wine. The cool climate, clear water and high-quality rice of Nagano are the main reasons why the sake from Nagano Prefecture is unusually light and soft. Most of the sake served was Junmai sake, which is made only from rice, water, and yeast. With the best quality rice you can find in Nagano prefecture, local sake is certainly a must-try.

The themed setting changes according to the season: igloo-themed setting with heated sunken tables during winter and spring, and Japanese umbrella setting with tatami tables during summer and autumn.

Since Setsugekka only has about 8-10 igloos, it is best to call the hotel to reserve beforehand. The bar entrance is free of charge for overnight guests, and 500 yen/person for non-overnight guests.

Opening hours: 20:00 – 23:00 (Last order at 22:30)

Surrounding the area are also a few different attractions which include Shibu Onsen, Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park and Shiga Kogen Ski Resort. An ideal travel plan would be to stay a night or two in Yudanaka in order to fully explore the area. And of course, do not miss out on this extremely unique bar.

To reserve an igloo or more info, click here.