May 30, 2009

Two Public baths of Arima Onsen to open free of charge in early June

The Kin-no-yu(金の湯)opened in 2002. (photo: Dec.2003)

Kobe City decided to open the two famous public baths of Arima Onsen, Kin-no-yu and Gin-no-yu free of charge from June 1 to June 5 2009. This is a part of revitalization plan of Arima Onsen.

Visitors to Arima Onsen in Kobe City, Hyogo Pref. are decreasing sharply as the number of swine flu patients in Kobe City reached more than one hundred. About twenty thousand people cancelled reservations of ryokans and hotels, the loss of Arima Onsen is estimated more than four hundred million yen. The swine flu patients in Kobe City and around area has already turned decreasing.

[Update] Kin-no-yu and Gin-no-yu will be free of charge again for one month from July 17 to August 16, 2009.

Ashiyu (foot bath) outside of the Kin-no-yu is free anyday.

May 27, 2009

Sakinoyu, Shirahama Onsen, Wakayama Pref.

Sakinoyu in the late afternoon. Men's bath at left of the wall is said to have better view. (photo: Jan. 2009)

Shirahama Onsen(白浜温泉) is known as one of the three oldest onsens in Japan (the other two are Arima and Dogo). The sodium hot spring is abundant still now, attracting many visitors mainly from Kansai area as it's easy to access from Osaka. I visited five of six public baths so far and found Sakinoyu(崎の湯)was the most recommendable.

The Sakinoyu has more than 1350-year history. It is said that Saimei Tenno (37th sovereign empress) took bath here in AD 658. Of course the original bath has gone and only a signbord tells its history.

Iwaburo at mid stage. This was hottest at my visit.

Aside from the history, its location makes Sakinoyu very popular among visitors. Just imagine an open-air bath by sea shore. You can enjoy sea view, sound of waves, and sometimes sea splashes while soaking. Be careful not to soak too long as Shirahama Onsen is hot and thick.

There are three bath tubs here. One at the highest stage is wooden bath, and Lower two are Iwaburo (rock baths). The bath on lowest stage is nearest to sea. For men, there are just two baths (no wooden bath).

Ladies to right, mens to left. Stone curving says "Japan's oldest Sakinoyu".

◆Sakinoyu, Shirahama Onsen(白浜温泉崎の湯)

Type: Gender separated open-air bath. Day visit only. Swim suites not allowed.

Address: 1668 Yuzaki, Shirahama-cho, Nishimuro-gun, Wakayama Pref.

Location: 33.676642,135.337014

Business hour: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (7:00 AM to 7:00 PM in July and August)

Holiday: Wednesday

Admission fee: ¥300 Buy your ticket at a vending machine.

Equipment: Small lockers for valuables outside of the changing space (¥100 neccessary). Lockers inside of changing space are free, but some locks don't work.

Access: Take a bus to Sandanbeki(三段壁)from Shirahama Station and get off at Yuzaki (湯崎)bus stop. Then walk forward for a few minutes and you'll find a red sgin board (See left photo).

Express trains named Kuroshio, Super Kuroshio, and Ocean Arrow serve from Kyoto and Osaka to Shirahama via Wakayama.

Link: Map of the Sakinoyu in English

My rating (A - E): B

More tips: You can try "reverse egg" at Kamakura Shoten nearby (see photo below). Onsen boiled egg (onsen tamago) usually has soft white and almost liquid yolk, but onsen tamago here has softer white and almost solid yolk. ¥70

Reverse eggs are in the turtle shaped tub.

May 14, 2009

Rotenburo at Yunokami Onsen, Fukushima Pref. Closed Down

I heard it's empty now. (Photo: Courtesy of Ishida-san, both shooted in Oct. 2008 by him)

Real bad news... The famous rotenburo of Yunokami Onsen in Aizu Area, Fukushima Pref. has been closing down since May 7th 2009, likely for good.

Officially the reason was explained that it's against the Japanese Public Bath Regulations as there was no changing room/space around the bath. But this gender mixed open-air bath had been available for about 30 years without changing room. Nobody is satisfied with the explanation.

Many say the real reason of closing down must be increasing visitors without common sense. Leaving garbage after eating and drinking around the bath, camping overnight although not permitted, making big noise, and so on are pointed out.

You can't see the reflection of the hot spring at lower right anymore.

【Rekated Post】 Shimizuya Ryokan, Yunokami Onsen, Fukushima Pref. (Feb. 15, 2010)

May 12, 2009

Huaqing Spa Hotel, Beijing, China

Beijiners' family hang out for weekends. The yellowish slightly muddy hot spring has smooth touch.(photo: May 2009)

Spent my Golden Week, a Japanese spring holiday season in Beijing, China. This was my first visit to Beijing. There are some hot springs in and around Beijing, I visited four of them besides the famous tourist spots like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.

The giant panda wasn't so cute.

The Huaqing Spa Hotel is known for the first large scale garden-style open-air baths in Beijing. It's easy to visit for foreigners as it's within walking distance from the subway station.

I felt the admission fee of ¥89 (nearly 1300 yen) was a bit expensive compared to the other consumer prices (Usually I don't spend more than 1000yen for soaking in Japan). Hot spring soaking might be a snobbish leisure for beijiners.


There are also some indoor baths.

◆Huaqing Spa Hotel

Type: Gender Mixed. Swim suites necessary.

Address: No.2 Jia Linshuiqiao, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China

Business hour: 9:00 AM to 02:00 AM

Holiday: None

Admission fee: ¥89 (¥128 including a meal at the cafeteria)

Equipment (for day visit bathing): Open-air baths, indoor baths, a swimming pool, a cafeteria. Free Bath towels.

Access: About 10 minutes walk from the Lishuiqiao Station of the Subway Line five & thirteen.

Link: Official website of Huaqing Spa Hotel in English

My rating (out of five): 3

May 1, 2009

Kappa-no-yu, Oku-yagen Onsen, Aomori Pref.

[update] Kappa-no-yu reopened in April 2011. It's no more gender mixed onsen. Available for men from 7AM to 9AM, 11:10AM to 1:00PM, and 3:10PM to 5:00PM. As for wemwn, from 9:10AM to 11:00AM and 1:10PM to 3:00PM. Available until 11:00AM only on every Wednesday.

Aomori (青森), the northernmost prefecture of Honshu Island and Tohoku Region carries many good onsens. My choice for this post is Kappa-no-yu (かっぱの湯) at Oku-yagen Onsen (奥薬研温泉) in beautiful forest of Shimokita Peninsula.

Kappa no Yu on a rainy day in mid summer.(photo: Jul.2006)

It's quite simple. Just park your car, walk down stairs toward Ohata River and you'll see the big open-air bath with changing space, which is divided into two parts. A sign board on the wall says "Don't bring in anything but towels" in Japanese. It means swim suites bathing isn't allowed here.

If it's embarrassing for you, there is a commercially run Meoto Kappa-no-yu (夫婦かっぱの湯), gender separated open-air baths nearby. I' m afraid I don't know details of it as I haven't been there.

The Kappa is one of the legendary monster spirits of Japan. A Kappa is believed to have carried an injured monk here and cured his injury with this onsen in 9th century. That's why there is a small statue of Kappa by the rim of the bath. I saw someone had left offerings of coins and a glass of sake (Japanese rice wine) to the Kappa.

Hot spring water looks green on the photo, but it's transparent, rather hot at 42-43 degrees when I visited in mid summer. The best season to visit is late October. You'd be surrounded with colorful forest of red and yellow leaves.

Kappa-no-yu, Oku-yagen Onsen(奥薬研温泉かっぱの湯)

Type: Gender mixed open-air bath. Swim suites bathing and use of soap & shampoo not allowed.

Address: Oku-yagen, Ohata-machi, Mutsu-city, Aomori Pref. (青森県むつ市大畑町奥薬研)

Available hour: Anytime year round (no lighting facilities)

Holiday: None (but Wed. morning is unavailable for cleaning)

Admission fee: Free

Equipment: None except changing space with shelves. There is a camp site nearby.

Access: It's difficult to visit here by public transportation. From Shimokita railway station of Ohminato-line, take a bus to Ohata Bus Center (45 minutes), then take a taxi (15 minutes). If you are going to stay at a ryokan of Yagen Onsen, you can expect discount rate for taxi or your ryokan might offer free shuttle service between Ohata and Yagen Onsen. Oku-yagen Onsen is about 2km away from Yagen Onsen (Oku-yagen means deep yagen).

My rating (out of five): 4

External links:
Map of Kappa no Yu in English (scale changeable)
Slide show of Kappa no Yu with music (click the green "PLAY" bottun)
You can see more photos here (written in Japanese)

[Note] I have difficulty finding a detailed free on-line map of Japan in English. Google map is written in Japanese, and the map of is useless, too. If you have any suggestions, please leave me a comment.