Feb 28, 2010

Nabeyama-no-yu, Beppu City, Oita Pref.

[Update] Road to the the Nabeyama-no-yu closed down after a 28-year-old lady was attacked and killed near the Nabeyama-no-yu on Aug.31, 2010. The murder suspect was arrested in August 2011. (updated Sep. 12, 2011)

A wild mud bath. You can see the Beppu Bay if the sky is clear. (photo: Jan. 2008)

For those looking for onsens in wild settings, I strongly recommend this Nabeyama-no-yu(鍋山の湯), near Myoban Onsen(明礬温泉) in Beppu City, Oita Prefecture.

You can enjoy two types of Onsen here. One is usual hot spring bath, transparent with many small black mineral encrustations, and the other is mud bath. Located upper stage, the mud bath has spectacular view. If the sky is clear, you can see the Beppu Bay through Yukemuri, or streams of Onsen steam of Kannawa Onsen.

Transparent onsen bath. It was lukewarm at my visit. But it's very hot at the fountainhead.

Beware of slippy mud. I was so excited to find this mud bath and when I rushed to the bath, I slipped and hit my leg on a lock hardly, and I came back with a big purple and green bruise on my leg.

If you are willing to walk nearly an hour each way like me, it's accessible without a car. Take a bus numbered 5, 9, 24, 41, or 43 from the west exit of the Beppu Railway Station and get off at the Myoban Onsen(明礬温泉) stop. Bring a detailed map and check it before start walking.

If you visit with a car, don't leave valuables in your car. I heard some reports of theft.

A small mud bath. Rocks around the bath was so slippy.

◆Nabeyama-no-yu (鍋山の湯)

Type: Gender mixed open air bath. No signboard on clothing rules. Available anytime for free.

Equipment: Nothing. No toilets, no changing rooms.

Access: Possible to visit without a car, if you walk nearly an hour one way.

Location: 33.314884,131.44207

My personal rating (A-E): A+

Feb 15, 2010

Shimizuya Ryokan, Yunokami Onsen, Fukushima Pref.

Typical Japanese style ryokan room. Kotatsu in the center of the room is an electric heater. While having dinner at a dining room, ryokan people prepare Futon, the Japanese style sleeping mats in the room. (photo: Feb 2010)

Spent last weekend at Shimizuya Ryokan(清水屋旅館) of snow covered Yunokami Onsen(湯野上温泉) in Fukushima Prefecture with my husband. He doesn't like onsen at all, but he is a train spotter and agreed with me to stay here because this ryokan sits right beside railway of Aizu Tetsudo.

I couldn't recognize more than one hundred years of its history from its appearance.

This is the oldest ryokan in Yunokami Onsen. I chose here as I often feel longer run ryokans tend to supply better hot springs. They started business in Meiji era in 1890.

It's a pity that original buildings were covered up by renovation and nothing tells its long history, and stained carpet and others show they need another massive renovation. If you want to stay at an up market ryokan, you'd better choose another place.

Rotenburo of the Shimizuya isn't so open because of the roof. The temperature of the hot springs is different in each bus tub.

Their rotenburo, open-air bath is gender mixed and ladies only time is set from 4:00PM to 6:00PM. There are four bath tubs and a big Sakura (cherry blossom) tree at rotenburo area. The transparent hot springs are smooth without strong scent, good for my husband and satisfactory for me. Indoor baths are gender separated, and ladies' bath is bigger.

Indoor bath for men. Ladies' bath is twice as big.

◆Shimizuya Ryokan, Yunokami Onsen
(湯野上温泉 清水屋旅館)

Type: Gender mixed open-air bath (Ladies only from 4:00PM till 6:00PM), gender separated indoor baths


Business hour: They accept day visit soaking from 10:00AM to 6:00PM. For overnight stay, advance booking is necessary, check in time is 3:00PM and check out time is 10:00AM.

Admission fee: ¥500 for day visit. Overnight stay starts from ¥8550 with dinner and breakfast per person. If you stay alone, extra charge necessary.

Equipment & Service: Complementary soaps and shampoos. For a overnight staying guest, a hand towel, a bath towel, a tooth brash and tooth paste, a Yukata (bathrobe and pajamas) are ready. I mean you don't have to bring anything special for overnight stay.

You can see the only one station building with miscanthus or straw thatched roof in Japan here at Yunokami Onsen.

Address: 762 Idaira Yunokami Simogo-machi, Minami Aizu-gun, Fukushima Pref.

Location: 37.296945,139.900085

If you have a Japan Rail Pass, go to Koriyama(郡山) with Tohoku Shinkansen from Ueno(上野) or Tokyo(東京) , then to Aizuwakamatsu(会津若松) with Banetsu-saisen line(磐越西線) and change trains to Aizu Tetsudo line(会津鉄道) at Aizuwakamatsu to Yunokamionsen(湯野上温泉). Japan Rail Pass doesn't cover Aizu Tetsudo, and you have to pay ¥820 extra one way.

If you don't have a Japan Rail Pass, taking Tobu line from Asakusa(浅草) through Shinfujiwara(新藤原) then to Yunokami Onsen is cheaper at ¥3760 one way without express fee.

Link: Map of Shimizuya in English (scale changeable)

My rating (A - E ): B for the onsen, C for the room

My husband satisfied with this scenery from the window of our room.

【Related post】Rotenburo at Yunokami Onsen, Fukushima Pref. Closed Down (May 14, 2009)

Feb 7, 2010

"Second Onsen Award" released by Biglobe

Another onsen ranking news came in. The Biglobe, a leading portal site in Japan released "The Second Onsen Award" late last month. This is rather new face survey, they started this award last year.The survey is based not only on polls by nearly forty thousand users, but also on access data of their sites and users' reviews.

Although you can't soak yourself in, the Yubatake (Onsen field) is a symbol of first ranked Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma Pref. (photo: Dec.2003)

Second ranked Yufuin Onsen, Oita Pref. is known for onsen resort. At the same time there are some shabby public baths (My favorites) scattered around. You can see Mt. Yufu from almost everywhere in Yufuin. (photo: Jan. 2008)

Onsen steam rising from the Jigokudani or hell valley in the winter at the third ranked Noboribetsu Onsen, Hokkaido. (Photo: courtesy of Yun-san http://www.yunphoto.net/)

The top10 rankings are as follows:
  1. (1) Kusatsu Onsen, Guma Pref. Kanto Region
  2. (2) Yufuin Onsen, Oita Pref. Kyushu Region
  3. (4) Noboribetsu Onsen, Hokkaido
  4. (3) Arima Onsen, Hyogo Pref. Kansai Region
  5. (5) Hakone Yumoto Onsen, Kanagawa Pref. Kanto Region
  6. (6) Kinosaki Onsen, Hyogo Pref. Kansai Region
  7. (8) Gero Onsen, Gifu Pref. Tokai Region
  8. (9) Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto Pref. Kyushu Region
  9. (11)Dogo Onsen, Ehime Pref. Shikoku Region
  10. (7) Beppu Onsen, Oita Pref. Kyushu Region
(Last year's rankings)

Feb 5, 2010

Tokiwa Onsen, Sakai City, Osaka Pref.

The bath for Men. The mosaic tile art of Mt.Fuji on the wall is typical scenery at Sentos.(Photo: Courtesy of Kanbutsuya-san, taken July 2007)

When it comes to good onsens, Osaka is one of the most ungifted prefectures. But there are a few recommendable onsens, and the Tokiwa Onsen(トキワ温泉) in Sakai City is easiest to visit among them.

The Tokiwa Onsen is a Sento. It means no frills, minimum equipment and service with low admission fee. If you want to visit a luxury spa type onsen, don't go. But if you want to see a part of Osakans' daily life, visiting here and soaking with them would be a worthwhile experience.

Sentos are bath houses originally for people don't have baths at their homes. Residences equipped with baths were very limited until late 1950's or early 1960's in Japan, and sentos were so important for our daily life several decades ago. Most sentos accept soakers with tatoo.

Now that most residences equipped with bathrooms, the number of the sento is decreasing sharply. Surge of the fuel price in recent years, owners & managers' aging, and lack of successors also accelerating the move. (To know more on sento, see Wikipedia)

The Japanese character "ゆ" on Noren, half long curtain at the entrance means "hot water". (Photo: Mar. 2006 )

The Tokiwa Onsen is no exception. It was closed for months twice, as the manager died following long-term hospitalization. It resumed business under a new manager in July 2007 after fourteen-month closure.

Some of the sentos including the Tokiwa Onsen supply hot springs. Usually I don't recommend onsens in city area, but this one is different. Abundant onsen overflows from the bath tub and the floor looks like flooding. It has slight boiled egg smells and sometimes you can recognize many small brown mineral encrustations in the onsen water.

There are three stages in the bath tub (see the top photo). Hot spring pour into lower stages and finally to the floor. At my first visit, the temperature of the top stage was 43°C, the middle was 42°C, the lowest was 41°C. The top stage is too small to soak.

Osakans are generally open-hearted. If you don't forget two basic bathing manners in Japan - wash or at least rinse your body before stepping in the bath tub, and not to soak your towel in the bath tub, they will welcome you.

◆Tokiwa Onsen (トキワ温泉)

Type: Gender separated indoor baths, day visit only, tatoo allowed.

Address: 3-1-26 Shinmeicho Nishi, Sakai-ku, Sakai City, Osaka Pref.

Location: 34.586178,135.477986

Map of the Tokiwa Onsen in English (Scale changeable)

Business hour: 2:30 PM to 11:00 PM

Holiday: Every first, third, and fifth Sunday

Admission fee: ¥410 for adult. Buy your ticket at vending machine.

Equipment:Washing Bowls, Showers, Lockers. Sauna available with ¥200 extra. Bring your own towel, soap, and shampoo, or you can buy them.

Access: There are two routes.
1) Take a tram Hankai-line(阪堺線)from Minami-kasumicho(南霞町), just beside Shinimamiya(新今宮)Stn. and subway Dobutsuen-mae(動物園前) Stn. to Abikomichi(我孫子道)and when you reach Abikomichi, the terminal station, change trams to Hamaderaekimae(浜寺駅前)and get off at the Shinmeicho(神明町). Some trams go directly to Hamaderaekimae.

2) Take a tram Kamimachi-sen(上町線)to Hamaderaekimae(浜寺駅前)from Tennojiekimae(天王寺駅前), and get off at the Shinmeicho(神明町). Every other tram goes dictly to Hamaderaekimae. If you get on the tram to Sumiyoshikoen(住吉公園), change the trams at the Sumiyoshikoen to Hamaderaekimae.

The one way through fare is ¥290 either route. When you get off the tram at the Shinmeicho, turn right (There is a Family Mart on the corner) and walk few blocks. You will find the Tokiwa Onsen at the second traffic signals. If you get lost, Just ask around "Tokiwa Onsen wa doko desuka?"

My rating (A - E): B

Minus point: Lack of relaxing space.