Nov 22, 2010


This post is unrelated to onsen. Finding free Wi-Fi spots is sometimes big hustle when I go abroad, especially in countries not often visit. I'll visit Mexico next month after more than 10 years blank and know nothing about Wi-FI services there now.

Some people coming to Japan have same problem as mine, I guess. You can search free Wi-Fi spots in Japan with this FREESPOT MAP.

If you already know where to go in Japan, this map might be helpful. Just click one of 47 prefectures you'll visit on the map, and search further with pull-down menu on upper right. One problem is ...well, my map displayed in Japanese. Hope yours are not.

HOT SPOT is a charging service run by different company, and One DAY Passport costs ¥500.

Nov 6, 2010

Furusato Kanko Hotel, Furusato Onsen, Kagoshima Pref.

[update] Furusato Kanko Hotel filed for bankruptcy and Kagoshima District Court accepted their filings on Oct 2, 2012. The hotel was closed down end of Sep.

The mysterious Ryujin-buro (Dragon God Bath) is usually crowded during day time.

Furusato Onsen is located south of Sakurajima, an active volcanic island in Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Pref, in Kyushu Island. Furusato Kanko Hotel is known for its Ryujin-buro, a scenic open-air mixed bath faced on Kinko Bay.

The word Ryujin stands for "Dragon God", and there is a shrine just beside the bath. You have to wear white Yukata (Kimono) to soak the bath regardless your gender (For the Quick Movie and Photo Gallery, see their official site). Because it's supposed to be rude to show your body to the god. Apart from onsen pools, it's one of the very rare "clothing necessary" onsens.

You'll see many small stone statue under roots of the Ficus wightiana. The tree is more than 200 years old.

Although the sodium hot spring is clorinated and circulated (hot spring water is being reused), I could recognize mild touch of the onse water. There are gender separated indoor baths, and private baths, too.

Please note "Ontake", the volcano in the Sakurajima Island is very active, minor explosion counts more than 700 times in a year recently, and sometimes they have to close the Ryujin-buro due to volcanic ash.

A view of the Sakurajima from Shiroyama Park, Central Kagoshima City. Furusato Onsen sits south (right side on the picture) of the island.

◆Furusato Kanko Hotel, Furusato Onsen, Kagoshima Pref.(古里温泉 ふるさと観光ホテル)

Type: Gender mixed open-air bath, gender separated indoor baths, private baths

Address: 1076-1 Furusato-cho, Kagoshima City, Kagosima Pref.

Location: 31.551774,130.656482

Access: Free hourly shuttle services (only in the afternoon on weekdays) from the Sakurajima Port Bus Terminal, taking 15 minutes one way.

Business hour of day visit: 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Holiday: As for Ryujin-buro, usually unavailable up to 3:00 PM on every Monday and Thrsday, every Wednesday for indoor bath.

Admission fee: ¥1050 for Ryujin-buro and indoor bath including rental yukata, ¥530 for indoor bath only, ¥3150 for private bath (one hour)

Link: Official web-site (Japanese Only)

My rating (A-E): C

Hot spring for drinking located at lobby of the hotel.

Sep 16, 2010

Useful Site : Selected Onsen Ryokan

Kinki Nippon Tourist, the second biggest travel agent in Japan launched new web site "Selected Onsen Ryokan" (日式温泉旅館) in four languages, five types targeting visitors from Asian countries in early September.

You can search suitable ryokans for you by checking "Ryokans for families", "Ryokans for couples" "Ryokan providing local foodstuff" Ryokan in Japan's best 10 hot spring resorts" and etc. Check it out!



Simplified Chinese (Mainland China)

Traditional Chinese (Hong Kong)

Traditional Chinese (Taiwan)

Sep 9, 2010

Jizaikan, Tochiomata Onsen, Niigata Pref.

The Shita-no-yu is located just above the fountain head and the onsen water is fresh. I soaked myself two and half hours here.

There are three ryokans at Tochiomata Onsen(栃尾又温泉) in mountainous part of Niigata Pref. The Jizaikan(自在館) has longest history among them of more than 400 years. The Tochiomata Onsen itself was discovered about 1200 years ago.

The Jizaikan is recommendable for onsen beginners as the radium hot springs they supply aren't too hot at 35-40°C, and there are private baths you can share with your group or yourself. But at the same time, their bath sharing system is so complicated.

Guest room for solo traveler. While having supper at a dining room, they get Futon mat ready for sleep.

There are five baths altogether. The Uketsu-no-yu is private open-air-bath, available 40 minutes for each group. You need to book for its use at the front desk.

Two indoor baths, Usagi-no-yu & Tanuki-no-yu are also private baths during daytime, also 40 minute for each group, but turn to gender separated baths from 10PM through nights.

The private bath "Uketsu-no-yu" supplies newer hot springs. Available 5:00AM to 0:00AM for 40 minuites each time on booking basis.

Other two baths are communal baths. Guests of three ryokans of Tochiomata Onsen share these two baths, the Ue-no-yu (Upper bath), and the Shita-no-yu Lower bath). The Shita-no-yu is the best among the five, located just above fountainhead. It's open for ladies from 5:00AM to 3:00PM then for men from 3:30 PM to 11:PM. You can soak yourself in Ue-no-yu at other times. A few hours soaking is recommended. Onsen of Ue-no-yu and Shita-no-yu are drinkable.

Typical ryokan supper (left) and breakfast (right). Honestly I wasn't impressed.

They don't accept "soaking only" day visit. You have to stay overnight or choose "lunch and soak" course starting ¥2,725.

◆Jizaikan, Tochiomata Onsen (栃尾又温泉自在館)

Type: Four gender separated indoor baths (two of them turn private bath from late night till moring), one private open-air bath

Address: Kami-oritate, Uonuma-city, Niigata Pref.

Location: 37.185173, 139.086066

Business hour: check in 1:00PM check out 11:00AM

Room charge: Starts ¥11,280 per night per person (including supper and breakfast, all taxes) If you choose "lunch and soak" day visit plan, it costs ¥2,725 or ¥4,875 or ¥6,975 depending the lunch menu you choose. Advance booking necessary for both.

Tanuki-no-yu (left) and Usagi-no-yu (right). The Tanuki-no-yu is for mens and the Usagi-no-yu is for ladies from 10:30PM till 8:00AM. They are available as private bath from 8:20AM to 10:30PM.

Access: Free shuttle service from Urasa station of Joetsu Shinkansen line twice a day. Advance booking necessary. Regular route bus service is availavle from tte Koide Station of Joetsu Line. It takes about 30 minutes costing ¥400 one way.

Link: Official web site (in Japanese only)

My rating (A - E): B

Schejule chart for bath use (Hey! I'm not joking). From the top; Ue-no-yu, Shita-no-yu, Tanuki-no-yu, Usagi-no-yu, and Ukezu-no-yu. Orange shows ladies'bath, green is men's and light yellow is private bath. White shows unavailable time. All soakers are very punctual. (^^;

Recent Updates

[1] Roads to two of the wild onsens in Beppu, Nabeyama-no-yu, and Hebin-yu closed down after a 28-year-old-lady was attacked and killed on Aug. 31, 2010. She was supposed to be visiting the Nabeyama-no-yu alone with her car after getting dark. The murder suspect arrested in August 2011.

As for Nabeyama-no-yu, one of my most favorite onsens, see my post "Nabeyama-no-yu, Beppu City, Oita Pref." dated Feb. 28, 2010.

[2] The classical Ryokan Inaba in Ito Onsen, Shizuoka Pref. reopened as backpackers' hostelK's House Ito Onsen on August 1. 2010. See my post "Old ryokan reopen as hostel, Ito Onsen Shizuoka Pref. " dated Apr.10, 2009.

Aug 22, 2010

Shinsegae Centum City Spaland, Busan, Korea

The Spaland located 1-3F of the glass walled building. The backside tall bldg is the Shinsegae Department Store.

Made a very short trip to Busan, the second biggest city in Korea. I stayed only 49 hours there, as a typhoon attack stopped ferries and shortened my trip, but I could visit three hot spring bath houses. Shinsagae Centum City Spaland is the newest and most recommendable.

It annexed to the Shinsegae Department Store, just next to the Centum City Station of the subway line 2. Opened in March 2009, it's spotlessly clean with gorgeous atmosphere.

The open-air baths are for ladies only.

The big bath rooms are gender separated. They supply tow types of hot springs, one is Sodium chloride, and the other is Sodium bicarbonate. There are open-air baths for ladies only (Why not for men?).

Their Jim Jil Bang or Sauna is worth visiting. There are many hot rooms and an ice room. All of them are gender mixed, you need to wear in house cloths, and you can enter any room you like. Some new bath houses in Japan are equipped with Jim Jil Bang, but its standard is far inferior to this spaland.

Enjoy sauna hopping at their huge Jim Jil Bang. This is what we don't have in Japan.

You don't have to carry cash inside. The IC-chip attached locker key records all in house expenses, and you pay the balance when you leave the spaland.

There are big foot baths out side of Jim Jil Bang space.

Shinsegae Centum City Spaland

Type: Gender Separated bath rooms (open-air bath for ladies only), gender mixed Jim Jil Bang (complex of sauna rooms)

Address: 1495 U-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan, Korea

Location: 35.168046,129.12920

Telephone: 051-745-2900

Business hour: 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM (Until midnight on weekends)

Holiday: Same as Shinsegae Department Store (once a month)

Admission fee: you can stay up to four hours
12,000(weekday), 14,000(weekend and holiday)
7,000(6-8AM on weekday, and after 9PM on Sun-Thurs)
9,000 (6-8AM on weekend & holidays and after 9PM on Fri & Sat)

Access: Exit 12 of the Centum City Station, Subway Line 2

My rating (A to E): B

Why not take a nap after taking bath and Jim Jil Bang?

Jul 12, 2010

Taki-no-yu, Naruko Onsen, Miyagi Pref.

Although it is rebuilt many times, the Taki-no yu has about 1000 year history. There is an Onsen Shrine nearby.

The "Taki-no-yu" is a traditional Japanese public bath without any located just a stone throw's away from the JR Naruko Onsen Station in Miyagi Prefefture, in Tohoku Region. It's one of my most favorite onsen public baths and attracting many other soaking addicts.

It looks an uninteresting single story house outside, but you'll see how the typical public bath looks like when you enter the gender separated changing room. It makes me wowed whenever I visit there.

Sharpened logs are used as pipes. The left bath is the bigger and hotter. You can try pelting water on your shoulders at the smaller right bath.

The acid hot spring (pH2.8) is slightly whitish, and tastes like a lemon It's not for drinking). It's strange that the hot spring gushing only a few meters away at neighbouring ryokan "Yusaya" is alkaline at pH8.9.  There are no soaps and shampoos. The acid water has some sterilization effects.

◆Taki-no-yu, Naruko Onsen (鳴子温泉 滝の湯)

Type: Gender separated indoor bath

Address: Yumoto, Naruko Onsen, Osaki-city, Miyagi Pref.

Location: 38.74195, 140.717831

Business hour: 7:30 AM to 22:00 PM

Holiday: None

Admission fee: ¥150

Equipment: Small lockers for valuables.

Access: 3 minutes walk from the Naruko Onsen (鳴子温泉) Station. To the Naruko Onsen, take the Tohoku Shinkansen (bullet train) to Furukawa(古川), about 400km north from Tokyo, then change to Rikuu Tosen(陸羽東線)line to Naruko Onsen.

My rating (A - E): A

Jun 25, 2010

Tousen Yokujo, Ikebukuro, Tokyo, closing down

The left bath tub supplies ferruginous mineral spring.

The "Tousen Yokujo (桃仙浴場)" also known as "Tousen Onsen", a small sento located at Ikebukuro (池袋), one of the busiest commercial areas in Tokyo is going out of business at the end of June 2010, ending 65 years of history. Building deterioration and decrease of mineral spring are blamed for the closure. The Tousen Yokujo is the only bath house supplying ferruginous mineral springs in Tokyo.

Washing space.

◆Tousen Yokujo  (桃仙浴場)

Type:  Sento (gender separated indoor bath)

Address:  3-7-3 Nishi-ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Location: 35.727479, 139.704466

Business hour: 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM

Holiday: Monday

Admission fee: ¥450

My rating (A - E): C

Closing notice and shoes lockers.

Jun 11, 2010

Miharashi-no-yu, Sueyoshi Onsen, Hachijojima, Tokyo

The hachijojima-shaped open-air bath is for ladies on every even-numbered day.

Hachijojima(八丈島) is the southernmost island of the seven Izu islands, located 300km away from central Tokyo. "Miharashi-no-yu" (みはらしの湯) is proud of the best view among six onsens in the island.

Mens bath and ladies' bath are separated, and swim suites bathing is prohibited. The grey-greenish muddy onsen is rich with sodium and a bit sticky.

There are sporadic bus services to the Miharashi-no-yu from town center, taking about 30 minutes. Get off at the "Sueyoshi Onsen mae" (末吉温泉前) bus stop. Or you can rent a car or a motorcycle at the airport or in the town. An overnight ferry of the Tokai Kisen or a 45 minutes flight from Haneda Airport in Tokyo takes you to the island. There isn't a restaurant in the onsen and around, but you can bring in your own foods and drinks.

The indoor bath.

Miharashi-no-yu, Sueyoshi Onsen (末吉温泉みはらしの湯)

Type: Gender separated indoor and open-air baths

Address: 581-1 Sueyoshi, Hachijo-machi, Hachijojima, Tokyo

Location: 33.079109, 139.850684

Business hour: 10:30 AM to 9:30 PM

Holiday: Tuesday (except national holidays, during summer, year-end and new year)

Admission fee: ¥500

Bus timetable: (as of June 2010)
Depart "Town Office"

Depart "Sueyoshi onsen mae"

* takes about 30minutes each way.

References: (Travellers guide to Hachijojima)
Tokai Kisen (Overnight Ferry)

My rating (A - E): B

View from the open-air bath.

Apr 30, 2010

Useful Site: The Sento, Japanese Public Bathhouses in Kyoto

I know many visitors from abroad visit Kyoto while traveling in Japan. If you want an experience at a Sento, public bath house in Japan, you"ll find "The Sento: Japanese Public Bathhouses in Kyoto" is handy.

The site is managed by students of College of Policy Science, Ritsumeikan University. It provides all info you may need including maps, manners, and history. Please note Sentos usually supply heated tap or well water, not necessarily onsen. Some of the Sentos in the site are named "Onsen", but actually none of them supply hot springs.

Apr 29, 2010

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

[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.

The Kappa-no-yu, at Oku-yagen Onsen in Aomori Prefecture (see my post dated May 1, 2009) is unavilable now, closed down by the end of March according to a recent local newspaper's report.

Infringement of the public bath law was mentioned in the article. It was an open-air mixed bath without gender separated changing rooms. It said the officials were planning to build gender separated changing rooms, separated baths, and screens to block watchers to reopen the Kappa-no-yu in the future.

I guess increase of WANIs (as for WANI, see my post dated Jan. 23, 2010) in recent years is part of the reason. A friend of mine and I met five or six WANIs there in the summer of 2006, when we were to leave.

The Japanese traditional mixed baths are decreasing. The rotenburo (open-air bath) at Yunokami Onsen, Fukushima Pref. closed down about a year ago (see my post dated May 14, 2009), and swim suites bathing introduced at the Funsenchi, Gero Onsen in Gifu Pref. (see my post dated Jan. 17, 2009) recently.

Apr 22, 2010

Hyakkannon Onsen, Kuki City, Saitama Pref.

The big Open-air bath at upper stage.

Saitama is next prefecture of Tokyo, and you can make a half-day trip to the Hyakkannon Onsen (百観音温泉) from Tokyo. Located three minutes walk from JR Higashiwashinomiya (東鷲宮) Station, it's easy to access for visitors from abroad.

It's a basic day-visit onsen without frills, but the sodium onsen is abundant, gushing 1000 litter every minute. The muddy onsen smells a bit like rubber, the temperature is high at 57.3°C and cooled down by heat exchange system. I guess this is the one of the best day-visit onsens in Greater Tokyo Area.

The smaller open-air bath at lower stage.

If you feel a bit embarrassed to share a bath with unknown people, there are five private baths here. One of them is wood made barrel bath, and remaining four are made with stone and tiles. Tatami mat rooms for rest are attached for all private baths. You can order meal delivery from the restaurant. You can see pictures of the private baths on their official site.

They don't permit single use of the private baths, and you have to be a group of two on weekdays, and three or more on weekend and holidays. Their private baths are very popular and usually you have to book about a week in advance for weekends.

◆Hyakkannon Onsen (百観音温泉)

Type: Gender separated indoor and open-air baths, five private baths

Address: 2-10-1 Nishiowa, Kuki City, Saitama Prefecture

Location: 36.091393, 139.67701

Tel: 0480-59-4126 (English unspoken)

Business hour: 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM (from 6:30AM on weekends and holidays)

Holiday: Third Tuesday of every month

Admission fee: ¥700 (three hours), additional ¥3150 per room for the private bath (three hours). If two of you soak yourselves at a private bath, it will be ¥4550 altogether

Equipment: 2 indoor baths, 4 open-air baths and 1 sauna each for men and ladies, 5 private baths, a restaurant (upper floor), snack bar (first floor)

Access: Take Utsunomiya Line (宇都宮線) to Higashiwashinomiya (東鷲宮) from Ueno (上野) or Akabane (赤羽). It takes about 50 minutes from Ueno station, costing ¥820 one way. Some of the trains (limited rapid service) skip Higashiwashinomiya, in the case you have to get off at Kuki (久喜) and change to local train for one station. When you reach Higashi-washinomiya, walk straight from the west exit and turn right at first signals. See the linked map blow.

Official website of the Hyakkannon Onsen (Japanese only)
Map of the Hyakkannon Onsen in English

My rating (out of five): A-

Apr 13, 2010

Yasuragi Ioujima, Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Pref.

The smaller open-air bath. The floor stained chestnut brown with onsen ingredient.

If you come to Nagasaki, Kyushu Island, I recommend you to spare at least three hours to visit Yasuragi Ioujima(やすらぎ伊王島), Nagasaki Onsen in Ioujima(伊王島) off the coast of central Nagasaki City. You can enjoy an onsen soaking and short cruises.

Ioujima is a small island with 2.26km² area and nearly 900 people, once prospered after a coal mine opened in 1941. The coal mine closed in 1972 and resort development started in '80s. Yasuragi Ioujima is a big complex now accommodating maximum 420 guests per day.

The smaller Indoor bath. There are a sauna, too.

Its onsen was developed rather recently, and I didn't expect anything write home about, but the sodium hot springs were fresh and good, small bubbles sparkle on the surface of the water like soda water. Of course you can soak yourself watching the sea at the open-air bath. Two bath rooms are bit different, the left bath room is bigger. Mens' and ladies bath rooms change daily.

Apart from then onsen, you can rent a bicycle and get around the island. A beach located north is named "Costa del Sol". (^^;

The main building of Yasuragi Ioujima is believed to be Mediterranean style.

Just 20 minutes ferry ride from central Nagasaki City will takes you to the Ioujima, then it take only a few minutes walk to reach Yasuragi Ioujima. If you make a day visit, it costs only ¥980 including round trip ferry tickets, and onsen admission fee including a hand towel and a bath towel. You don't have to bring any bath goods.

There is a counter of Yasuragi Ioujima at the Ohato Pier (大波止埠頭) of Nagasaki Port (長崎港). Buy your ticket there. They will hand you one way ferry ticket and onsen admission ticket. Keep these and hand the ferry ticket when you get off the ferry. After arriving Ioujima, walk right along the sea or you can expect free shuttle service. You'll get return ferry ticket at the entrance of the onsen at Yasuragi Ioujima.

A bridge connecting Iojima and main land Kyushu is under construction. [update] Now that the bridge has opened in March, 2011, you can visit Ioujima by bus. It serves only on weekdays. Check out the timetable and other info at tourist information center.

There are three pot baths for single use at the each open-air bath.

◆Yasuragi Ioujima, Nagasaki Onsen (長崎温泉やすらぎ伊王島)

Type: Gender separated indoor and open-air baths, swim suites bating prohibited

Address: 1-3277-7, Ioujima-cho, Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture

Location: 32.705890, 129.77857

Business hour: 6:00 PM to 0:00 AM

Holiday: None

Admission fee: ¥980 for day visit (round trip ferry ticket, a hand towel and a bath towel included. You have to return towels.)

Equipment:Complimentary soaps, shampoos, hair driers, skin lotions and others. There are a restaurant inside Yasuragi Ioujima.

The ferry "Cobalt Queen the second" arrived at the Ioujima.

Access: Take a ferry from Ohato Pier(大波止埠頭) of the Nagasaki Port(長崎港). It's within walking distance from Nagasaki Station (about 15 minutes).

Ferry timetable:
From Nagasaki port (* not subject to day visit plan.)

From Ioujima

Note: You have to buy day visit tickets at the counter of Yasuragi Ioujima at the pier, because normal ferry ticket is ¥650 one way and day visit plan is special discount offer. If you don't enter the onsen at the Yasuragi Ioujima, you will be charged the balance of regular fare.

My rating (A-E): B

The Megami Ohashi or the Venus Wing and central Nagasaki City view from the ferry.

Mar 30, 2010


[update] A movie version of "Thermae Romae" starring Hiroshi Abe, Aya Ueto, Masachika Ichimura and others will be released in April 2012. I'm not sure if you can see this movie outside of Japan.

Japan is getting more famous for its subculture than manufacturing products among younger generations recently. One of them is MANGA. The word "MANGA" stands for cartoons, but it's different from American cartoons as many of you already knows.

I bought a MANGA book worth mentioning in this blog last week. The title is "THERMAE ROMAE", staged in ancient Roman Empire under the emperor Hadrianus. Lucius, the main character of the MANGA is an architect of Roman baths, accidentally time warps to present Japan.

He doesn't know what happened to him, and recognizes the Japanese in 21st century as "flat faced slaves with very high level of bathing culture". He comes and goes between Roman Empire and present Japan several times, and makes success by building Japanese style bath houses in Roman Empire.

The vol.1 of the serial MANGA books came out in last Dec. and is to continue. It was awarded "Cartoon Grand Prize 2010" this month. Mari Yamazaki, creator of the MANGA has studied in Italy, and lives in Portugal now.

[Related post] Animated "THERMAE ROMAE" (Feb 26 2012)

Mar 24, 2010

Wulai Hot Springs, Taipei County, Taiwan

A soaker and feet bathers. The hot springs water itself is almost transparent, looks gray after mixing with bottom sand. (photo: Mar. 2010)

Wulai(烏來) is a small town of Atayal or Tayal tribe in Taipei County, North Taiwan. It's famous for onsen as well. I made my fourth visit here with a friend of mine, and soaked ourselves in the naturally gushing hot springs on the banks of the Nanshih River the other day.

the onsen soakerWe found the place to soak at the left side of the bridge over the Nanshih River. You have to make your own soaking pond here, moving rocks to mix river water and the hot springs to make adequate temperature for soaking. Fortunately, a kind man gave his soaking space for us, so we didn't have to work hard to get a pond.

You can find readymade soaking ponds at the right side of the bridge.(photo: Mar. 2010)

The hot springs gushing from the bottom sand and very hot, more than 60°C in the sand at my visit. We had to keep stirring water around us to mix river water and hot springs. Swim suites are necessary. There are no changing rooms around there, but a nearby grocery store made us change clothe in their toilet with small money.

Primitive changing rooms are ready at the right side of the bridge.(photo: Mar. 2010)

If you go right side of the bridge, you'll find more organized (?) place for soaking with some concrete made ponds. There are four private changing rooms, and the ponds for washing and for soaking are separated.The river flows slower around here, and many people swim in the river for cooling down after soaking in the hot springs.

There are many hotels with hot springs on the both side of the river. (photo: Feb. 2009)

Of course there are hotels and resorts you can make a day visit. Don't forget to try bamboo tube rice(竹筒飯), one of the aboriginal dishes.

Access is easy. There are frequent direct bus to Wulai from 青島西路 (Qingdao West Rd? location 25.044587,121.51858) , south side of the Taipei Railway Station, taking about one and half hours and the fare is $70 one way. Although many guidebooks recommend to go to Xindian(新店) with MTR (subway) first, then to take the bus to Wulai($40) from just behind of the tourist information center at the Xindian station to avoid traffic jam in central Taipei, this bus gets desperately crowded especially on weekends, and the road is winding. If you go with small kids and aged people, I recommend you to take the bus from central Taipei. Get off the bus at the last stop at Wulai in either case and just walk around. You will find the bridge I mentioned.

Souvenir shop looks very much like one in Japan. (photo: Feb. 2009)