Feb 24, 2009

Term Limited Rotenburo, Oshio Onsen, Fukushima Pref.

Some say "miracle", others say "legend". I think both words aren't exaggerating at all to describe this Oshio kikan-gentei rotenburo(大塩期間限定露天風呂), or the term limited open-air bath of Oshio Onsen, and I say it's a "mystery of nature".

This rotenburo dried up long ago and being empty most of the year. But on a spring day of several years ago, the hot spring suddenly revived, and after a few weeks it stopped and dried up again. Since then it's available for soaking every spring for 6 weeks at most. Nobody but mother earth knows when the hot spring starts spouting and how long it lasts.

I heard it tends to start spouting later after snowy winter. It was available from mid March to early May in 2007 after less snow than usual winter, and from April 17 through May in 2008. But the relationship between snow and the hot spring isn't clear so far.

I visited here late April in 2008. The hot spring was spouting vigorously from a hole at the bottom of the rotenburo. It wasn't so hot, 37-38 degrees Celsius, about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for long-time soaking. I spent more than an hour in early evening and the following morning each time.

You can enjoy view of blue-green Tadami River(只見川), cherry blossoms, and a local train passing far away while soaking. Surprisingly, the hot spring water tastes a little bit sweet (I know it's not for drinking!)

A family run inn, Tatsumi-so(たつみ荘) owns this rotenburo. They allow day visitors' soaking for free so far. First you have to ask permission. No wonder staying (paying) guests have priority for soaking. It's a mixed bath, swim suites bathing is prohibited, and there is no changing room. I recommend you to stay overnight at the Tatsumi-so and soak early in the morning or in the night. Hundreds of people visit here on weekends and national holidays.

Spring is coming, just around the corner. Get ready! Come see and feel a gift from our mother earth and a mystery of nature.

overflowing spring pours into the river.

Travel Tips:
Oshio Onsen is in walking distance from Aizuyokota(会津横田) Railway Station of Tadami-line in Fukushima Pref, Tohoku Region. But visiting here by train isn't practical as Tadami-line train serves only several times a day. Also note four national holidays fall on end of April to early May, making so-called Golden Week, heavy travel season in Japan. In 2009, April 29, May 3-5 are national holidays, and May 6 is a substitute holiday as May 3 falls on Sunday.

Link to a bigger map

Feb 15, 2009

Kannawa Onsen, Oita Pref.

Fire!?!? No. They are so-called Yukemuri, steams rising from hot springs' fountainheads. You might have seen pictures of such hot spring steams in wild fields, but these steams are part of daily life in Kannawa (pronounce as kan-nawa) , a tourism and residential area of Beppu City, Oita Pref, Kyusyu Region. Isn't it amazing?

At some budget inns, they provide cooking facilities, you can cook sea foods, vegetables and other foods by onsen steam for yourself. Of course there are so many places for soaking.

Kannawa Onsen is one of the Beppu Hatto (Beppu Eight Hot Springs). Beppu City is famous for hot springs, there are 2843 fountainheads in the city, no other cities in Japan have so many fountainheads (See statistics in English).

Travel tips:
You can go Kannawa(鉄輪) by bus from the Beppu(別府) Railway Station, taking 20 to 30 minutes depending which bus you take (There are various bus routes). Then you need to walk 15 minutes to reach the Yukemuri View Point(湯けむり展望台), where I took the picture above. Or take a taxi from Kannawa bus center. Winter is the best season to see Yukemuri.

Live Webcam of Kannawa Yukemuri
(If you can't see anything, click here)
Official website of Beppu city (English)

Link to a bigger map

Feb 12, 2009

Ba Ian Wild Hot Spring, near Taipei, Taiwan

Just came back from Taiwan. Soaked in various type of hot springs, for example, a wild open-air bath beside a river, a free public bath mainly for local residents, a private bath at a temple, and stylish spa pools.

The most memorable was the Ba Ian Hot Spring(八煙野渓温泉) just outside of Taipei city. The sulfur hot spring is very hot, more than 50 degrees Celsius, but you can make it adequate temperature by mixing river water.

To visit there, get on the Royal Bus(皇家客運汽車) serving between south side of Taipei railway station and Jinshan, and after about an hour and half ride, get off at Ba Ian Hotspring Resort(八煙温泉會館).

Takes not more than 30 minutes on foot to reach this wonderful open-air bath from the bus stop. Swim suites necessary. If you like hot springs in wild settings, this is the place to go. Everyday many people visit there, and the foot pass is well marked. You don't have to worry about get lost. Gets crowded on weekends even it rains.

Travel Tips:
The Royal bus(皇家客運汽車) to Jinshan(金山) leaves from Gong Yuang Rd(公園路), south of Taipei Railway Station. The bus departs about every hour on weekdays, and every half hour on weekends. It takes an hour and half to Ba Ian Hotspring Resort(八煙温泉會館), costing TWD 120 or 130. Walk down the slope beside the bus stop, then not turn right to the entrance of the resort, but go straight to follow unpaved foot pass.