Dec 3, 2009
Osenkaku, Takaragawa Onsen, Gunma Pref.
The mixed gender open-air bath named "Kodakara no yu" in the midwinter, not in early Dec. (photo: courtesy of the Osenkaku, Takaragawa Onsen)
This onsen ryokan is everyone's favorite without a doubt. There are four big rotenburos or open-air baths along Takara-gawa, the River Takara. One of them is for ladies only, and other three are mixed gender baths. All of them are harmonized with surrounding nature and you don't have to choose season to visit as you can enjoy any time of the year. I spent hours hopping the four baths and an indoor bath at my last visit in March.
The Main building of the Osenkaku, Takaragawa Onsen in the midwinter.
It's a huge estate (at leaset for the Japanese). If you make a day visit, pay admission fee at the Takaragawa-sanso just besides the bus stop, put your valuables in a locker (¥100 necessary), walk through junks (you'll see) to the rotenburos. Changing rooms are gender separated, and ladies are allowed to rap their body with bath towels, it's easy for female first-timers to try the mixed bath here. You can rent a bath towel (¥100). If you need a hand towel, you have to buy it (¥200).
"Maka no yu", the biggest open-air bath in the night.
There are four boreholes here (unfortunately the original fountainheads stopped gushing long ago), and the hot springs themselves are transparent and a bit characterless. I felt quality of the water is superior at the gender separated indoor bath. It's soft, light and made me feel like just being float in the air.
Ladies only "Maya no yu" in early spring.
Well... I have to write that a trashy Japanese magazine reported "Nudists from Western Hemsphere flock to the Takaragawa Onsen" earlier this year, probably based on the TripAdvisor's survey. But the attached picture wasn't taken at the Takaragawa Onsen. It looked like a picture of the nudist beach outside of Japan, and the article itself said its writer waited for nudists from abroad for two hours at the Takaragawa Onsen in vain. But some naive people believe what this unreliable article said, and the number of the men come to watch other soakers is said to be increasing.
"Hannya no yu" is most shallow among the four open-air baths.
◆Osenkaku, Takaragawa Onsen （宝川温泉 汪泉閣）
Type: Three gender mixed open air baths, onse ladies only open air bath, gender separated indoor baths, and another gender separated indoor baths for overnight staying guests.
Address: 1899 Fujiwara Minakami-machi, Gunma Prefecture
Business hour for day visit: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Admission fee: ¥1,500 (¥1,400 after 4:00 PM) Overnight stay starts from ¥10,000 per person.
Access: Take a bus from Minakami Station (Joetsu Line). The direct bus leaves the station at 9:47 and 11:45 as of Dec. 2009. If you make a day visit, don't forget to buy a "Tokutoku Ticket" at the Ryokan Association of Minakami Onsen in front of the Minakami Station. It's ¥2,700 and covers round trip bus tickets and admission fee of the onsen, you can save ¥1,000 as one way bus ride usually costs ¥1,100.
It seems close to Nikko on the map, but there is no direct transportation between Takaragawa Onsen and Nikko.
Official website of Takaragawa Onsen in English
Map of Takaragawa Onsen (Scale changable)
My rating (out of five): 5
Related post : Four onsens ranked in "Top 20 SIghtseeing Spots in Japan" (Apr.7 2009)
The indoor bath available for day visitors.