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.