Jul 21, 2009

Jinata Onsen, Shikinejima, Tokyo

(photo: Oct. 2008)

Believe it or not, this spectacular wild onsen sits in Tokyo. Well, probably the Tokyo Metropolitan Government covers wider area than you assume. You can find this Jinata Onsen(地鉈温泉) in the small island, Shikinejima (式根島, Shikine Island), one of the Izu Islands off the coast of Honshu, the main island. This is my most favorite onsen in Tokyo.

Approach to the onsen is as wonderful as onsen itself. The onsen located at the bottom of the V-shaped valley, you have to walk down several hundred steps from the clifftop. That's why it named "Jinata Onsen" as "JI" stands for land, "NATA" for a hatchet in Japanese. It looks like someone made this valley with a hatchet, doesn't it?

To soak yourself in the onsen, you have to visit right time. High tide submerge it under the sea, and maybe it's too hot at low tide especially in the summer. Even in October last year, the sodium hot springs were more than 55°C at some hot pots when I visit there. Be careful.

Swim suites required for bathing. A typhoon in 2002 washed away the changing room, and not yet rebuilt, so you have to change clothes in the toilet up on the cliff or anywhere else. There are many big rocks around.

Shikinejima is a real small island of 3.9km² with population of about 600. Although there is only one traffic light, there are some more onsens in the island. If you're a soak addict, it's worth visiting. You will see another Japan.

Type: Gender mixed, open-air bath, swim suites necessary

Available hour: Anytime throughout the year.

Admission fee: Free

Equipment: Clock, lighting facilities (if you visit after dark I recommend you to bring your own light), toilet (several hundreds steps up on the cliff)

Access: Overnight slow boat to Shikinejima leaves from the Takeshiba Pier near Hamamatsu-cho, in central Tokyo every night, taking 8-9 hours. Returning boat leaves Shikinejima in the morning and arrives at Takeshiba Pier in the night same day. If you take fast jetfoil, it takes about 3-4 hours one-way. Or you can fly into Nijima, the neighboring island and then take a small boat to Shikinejima. The Nobushi Port of the Shikinejima located north of the island, you have to walk about 30 minutes to the Jinata Onsen at the south. Usually your ryokan or minshuku (family run casual ryokan) will provide free shuttle service if you book in advance.

Location: 34.318615,139.212323

Minus points: Too many sea louses around the onsen. Few people speak English in the island. Many of the ryokans, minshukus, restaurants close down in off season and the boats often suspend services under bad weather.

Link: Official website of The Tokyo Islands Tourist Information Promotion Association

My rating (out of five): 5

Jul 7, 2009

A ryokan owner's son arrested for filming ladies' changing room

The Houkokukan and its ladies' indoor bath. (photo: June 2004)

The second son of the owner of the Houkokukan, a ryokan in Manza Onsen, Gunma Pref. was arrested for filming ladies' changing room of the ryokan on June 29, 2009.

A female guest noticed a small video camera set in a ventilation pipe near ceiling of the changing room and called the police. The police easily found the offender as he had filmed himself while setting the video camera (The camera wasn't wirelessly controlled).

According to some newspaper reports, he admitted he had filmed the changing room several times before. The ryokan has suspended its business after the scandal was reported widely. It is said to open again in late July.

The Houkokukan has more than 80 years of history and being popular among Japanese soak addicts including me.

[Update] The Hokokukan resumed its business on July 14, 2009.

Jul 5, 2009

Useful Site : Japan Ryokan Assosiation

Now that the holiday season has started in many counties, the number of incoming e-mails asking recommendable onsen ryokans is increasing, and it's getting difficult for me to respond each request.

I suggest you to look up the official website of the Japan Ryokan Association. It has English, Korean, simplified Chinese, and traditional Chinese sites.

It carries overall information on ryokan in Japan like "What is Ryokan", "How to choose" and "How to stay". It has extensive list of ryokans all over Japan as well to help you finding suitable ryokans.

Please note the ryokan itself is Japanese style inn, not necessarily supplies onsen. The number of the ryokans accepting solo travelers is limited. Usually they provide dinners and breakfasts and charge per head, not per room. Check in time is generally around 3:00 - 4:00 P.M, and check out time is 10:00 A.M.

Jul 3, 2009


This post is unrelated to onsen.

Uniqlo, the Japanese leading clothing retailer released new blog parts "UNIQLO CALENDAR" last month. If you want the music on, point your mouse lower right of the picture and move the volume level. To see the full size picture, click the calendar (music is on).

If you input your address, you can make your own calendar for your blogs or websites (It covers all over the world, but big cities only for many countries). I will add smaller one to this blog's right side later.