Dec 9, 2011

Onsen Ranking 2011 by Biglobe

Yubatake or Onsen Pond of first ranked Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma Pref. It's not for soaking.

The Biglobe's recently released "Forth Onsen Awards", shows popular onsen ranking as well (As for most popular onsen ryokan/hotel ranking, see my previous post).

1. Kusatsu Onsen (Gunma Pref)
2. Yufuin Onsen (Oita Pref)
3. Arima Onsen (Hyogo Pref)
4. Noboribetsu Onsen (Hokkaido)
5. Gero Onsen (Gifu Pref)
6. Hakone-yumoto Onsen (Kanagawa Pref)
7. Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo Pref)
8. Kurokawa Onsen (Kumamoto Pref)
9. Dogo Onsen (Ehime Pref)
10. Ikaho Onsen (Gunma Pref)
11. Beppu Onsen (Oita Pref)
12. Atami Onsen (Shizuoka Pref)
13. Gora Onsen (Kanagawa Pref)
14. Nozawa Onsen (Nagano Pref)
15. Wakura Onsen (Ishikawa Pref) no English site
16. Ibusuki Onsen (Kagoshima Pref)
17. Shirahama Onsen (Wakayama Pref)
17. Beppu Onsen-kyo (Wider Beppu area, Oita Pref)
19. Nyuto Onsen-kyo (Akita Pref)
20. Jozankei Onsen (Hokkaido)

You can see top 100 ranking on Biglobe Onsen site (in Japanese only)

Dec 8, 2011

Onsen Ryokan Ranking 2011 by Biglobe

Biglobe, one of the biggest portal site in Japan released "The Fourth Onsen Award" recently. 10,931 internet users voted this survey between Oct 5 and Nov 16. Ten most popular onsen ryokans/hotels among Japanese are:

1. Kagaya (Wakura Onsen, Ishikawa Pref)
2. Daiichi Takimotokan (Noboribetsu Onsen, Hokkaido)
3. Suimeikan (Gero Onsen, Gifu Pref)
4. Suginoi Hotel (Kankaiji Onsen, Oita Pref)
5. Hotel Urashima (Nanki Katsuura Onsen, Wakayama Pref) Chinese site
6. Arima Grand Hotel (Arima Onsen, Hyogo Pref)
7. Hyoe Koyokaku (Arima Onsen, Hyogo Pref)
8. Akan Yukyunosato Tsuruga (Akanko Onsen, Hokkaido)
9. Ibusuki Hakusuikan (Ibusuki Onsen, Kagoshima Pref)
10. Hotel Ichii (Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma Pref)

I couldn't find websites in English for Hotel Urashima (5th) and Hotel Ichii (10th).

Link: Official Onsen Ryokan Ranking page (in Japanese only)

Oct 29, 2011

Facebook Page now ready

Onsen Soaker Facebook Page is now ready.

I'll know you when I write new post or updates former post, and other information for independent travelers. Questions about onsen and share of your onsen experiences are welcomed.

Oct 13, 2011

Housenkaku, Fukiage Onsen @ Onikoube, Miyagi Pref.

Onikoube Onsen of Naruko Spa Area, Miyagi Pref. is known as a very active geothermal area, and Fukiage Onsen (吹上温泉) at Onikoube Onsen is famous for geysers and a hot spring waterfall.  I made a day visit to a ryokan named Hounkaku (峯雲閣) to soak in the natural hot spring waterfall. It's usually soakable late May through October, too cold to soak during winter and in early spring and late fall.
Hot spring waterfall was lukewarm in early Oct.
There is another large mixed bath just outside of indoor baths.
Another angle of the mixed bath same above.
Indoor bath is gender separated.
Outside of the Hounkaku.
This is highly recommended for mixed bath beginners. Ladies are allowed to wrap their bodies with bath towels and usually you can meet other ladies and probably you don't feel being isolated. Swimsuit bathing is prohibited.

Hounkaku, Fukiage Onsen (Onikoube Onsen), Naruko Spa Area

Type: Gender  Separated indoor baths, one gender mixed open-air bath, and natural hot spring waterfall

Business hour for day visit: 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Holiday for day visit: Monday

Admission fee: ¥500

Address: 16 Fukiage, Onikoube, Naruko Onsen, Osaki City, Miyagi Pref.

Location: 38.80219, 140.67157

Access: Only a few bus services a day from the Naruko Onsen Railway Station, taking about 30 minutes. Get off at the "Kanketsusen mae(間欠泉前)" bus stop and walk about 5 minutes. 

My rating (A - E):  A

Sep 16, 2011

Rotenburo, Izumoyumura Onsen, Unnan City, Shimane Pref.

History of Izumo Yumura Onsen (出雲湯村温泉) in Shimane Prefecture dates back to 8th century but it's a very quiet small onsen area now. There are two onsen inns, a public bath house, and a natural soaking pond called just "rotenburo" (open-air bath) on the riverside. This pond is my favorite.

It's easy to find. There are steps to walk down to the river shore just 20-30 meters from the public bath house. You'll see small bubbles come up from the bottom sand in the pond. Yes, it's ideal temperature at around 40°C.
River Hii (pronounce HEE) and Izumo Yumura Onsen. If you get to the Izumo Ymura Onsen, the rotenburo is easy to find.
There is no changing room and other facilities. Closing optional. I couldn't find a notice to ban swim suites bathing, but I heard local people doesn't welcome visitors' swim suite bathing. I recommend you to visit in the night or early morning.
Close up of the roenburo. Onsen is gushing from the bottom sand.
 ◆Rotenburo, Izumo Yumura Onsen (出雲湯村温泉露天風呂)

Type: Gender mixed. Closing optional

Available hour: Anytime, anyday

Admission fee: Free

Equipment: Nothing

Geocode:  35.21821,132.90807

Access: Take a bus from Kisuki Station of JR Kisuki Line to Izumo Yumura Onsen. The bus and railway services are both sporadic. From the bus stop, it's a few minutes walk.

My rating (A - E): A

Sep 1, 2011

Taki-no-yu, Tousenji Onsen, Totsukawa Onsenkyo, Nara Pref.

The Japanese word "Taki" means water falls. There is a water fall nearby  behind the Totsukawa Village Office.
[update] Taki-no-yu will resume business on 1 Nov, but bus services to Totsukawa Onsenkyo is still suspended as of 28 Oct. 2011 as the Typhoon Talas left severe damages in and around Totsukawa Village.

Totsukawa Onsenkyo consists of three onsens: Tousenji Onsen, Totsukawa Onsen, and Kamiyu Onsen, located mountainous area in Southern Nara Pref. It's time consuming to visit with public transportation.

It takes two and half hours by a local bus from JR Gojo Station, nearest railway station to the Tousenji Onsen, entrance of the Totsukawa Onsenkyo. (This bus route is the longest local bus route in Japan, and if you ride through, it takes seven and half hours.) It is oldest onsen in the Tostukawa Onsenkyo, with 560-year history.

I made a brief stop at Tousenji Onsen on the way to Totsukawa Onsen. There are some ryokans and two day-visit onsens. I walked to "Taki-no-yu", one of the day-visit onsens from bus stop of "Totsukawa Murayakuba" (Totsukawa Village Office).
Open-air bath for ladies.
Opposite angle of the open-air bath. There are narrow streams just beside the bath.
Indoor bath for ladies. The sulfur hot springs has smooth touch and smells like boiled egg.
There are steps to the open-air bath from the indoor bath, you can walk between them in your birthday suits.
◆Taki-no-yu, Tousenji Onsen, Totsukawa Onsenkyo (十津川温泉郷、湯泉地温泉、滝の湯)

Type: Gender separated indoor bath & open-air baths

Business hour: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM

Holiday: Thursday

Admission fee: ¥600

Address: 373-1 Ohara, Totsukawa-mura, Yoshino-gun, Nara Pref.

Location: 33.98755, 135.79003

Access: Take a bus from Yamato Yagi Station of Kintetsu Railway or JR Gojo Station to Tostukawamura Yakuba, then walk about five minutes. 

My rating (A - E): A

Appearance of the Taki-no-yu.

Jul 21, 2011

Savusavu Hot Springs, Vanua Levu, Fiji

From my travel photo album of Fiji I visited in May. Fiji, especially Vanua Levu Island is geothermally very active and Savusavu is most well known for hot springs in the country.

There are mainly two spots hot springs are gushing at Savusavu. One is in a small park, just off the town center. Very hot spring, around 80°C is gushing.

It's too hot to soak. Actually hot springs here aren't for soaking but for cooking. Many people come to this park to cook, steam or boil vegetables, meats and fishes.

It's a pity the "Savusavu Hot Spring Hotel" I stayed didn't supply hot springs for bathing. They said it's too hot and cooling down cost was higher than water heating.

The another spot is seashore.  Hot springs are gushing everywhere along seashore. It's very hot also here and I saw a tourist burned his foot when he tried barefoot walking.

 There are some small hot spring ponds at seashore and people cook here, too. These guys boiling fish for their breakfast.

Jun 27, 2011

Tourists coming back to Asakusa

[This post isn't related to onsen.]
As I wrote in the previous post, Asakusa is a major tourist spot in downtown Tokyo, and tourists are gradually coming back after the Tohoku Earthquake.

The Kaminari-mon is the first gate of the Senso-ji temple. Originally built in 942, the present gate was rebuilt in  1960 after the big fire. The balloon like paper lantern is 3.9 meter high.
The Nakamise, shopping area between the Kaminari-mon and the main hall of the Senso-ji. 
The main hall of the Senso-ji temple.
The new TV Tower, the Tokyo Sky Tree near Asakusa will open on May 22, 2012.
The Tokyo Sky Tree and other buildings on the other side of the Sumida-gawa, or the River Sumida. The building with the golden object on the top is headquarter of the Asahi Beer.
If you want to know about Senso-ji more, check the official website of the Senso-ji in English.

Jun 19, 2011

Jakotsuyu, Asakusa, Downtown Tokyo

The bathroom for men and ladies share the big wall painting of Mt. Fuji. The left wall divide men's bath.
Even if you're on a business trip to Tokyo and too busy to visit countryside of Japan, you can try onsen soaking in Asakusa, one of the major tourist traps in Tokyo. I wrote a post on the "Asakusa Kannon Onsen" in 2009 (see my post dated Apr. 24, 2009), and following is a complete guide of the another onsen, the "Jakotsuyu", finished renovation in Dec.2009and highly recommended.

Follow the red arrow.
The Jakotsuyu" is a Sento - the public bath mainly for local residents but welcomes everybody; young and old, men and women, with or without tattoos.

First hurdle is finding it. You can't see the Jakotsuyu itself on Google Street View as it faced on a narrow alley a car can't enter. I almost get lost whenever I visit. See the linked map below before starting and search left side of the "MacDonald Asakusa ROX Branch" very carefully at the spot. You'll find green small sign written 蛇骨湯 (Jakotsuyu) in white. You can see this sign on the Street View.

A part of the vending machine. Read carefully and buy tickets you need.
On arrival, remove your shoes at the entrance, put them in the shoes locker, then buy your bathing ticket at the vending machines. Don't worry. They carry multilingual signs; in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.

If you need a soap - there are no complementary soaps there, and towel rent/buyout, or use of the Sauna Room, buy the additional designated tickets at the machines. Actually you don't have to bring anything for bathing. They sell "empty-handed set" consists of shampoo, soap, razor, hand towel.

The dressing room for men. It's rather new as renovated in late 2009. Keep your key on your list all the time.
Proceed to the gender separated dressing rooms. Put your clothes and belongings in a locker, and keep the key with you all the time. Enter the gender separated bathroom in your birthday suite.

The bathrooms are typical sento (public bath) style with big wall paintings of Mt. Fuji. The big difference is the hot springs - accurately heated natural mineral springs, each bath tub including cold water bath are filled with mineral springs. They are slightly brow/bronze, and very smooth. Shower water is also mineral springs.

Indoor  Bath for ladies.

Indoor Bath for men.
Semi open-air bath for ladies.
Space of the semi open-air bath for men is bigger.

There is a tiny Japanese garden at the semi open-air bath for men only.
Washing space. Tap with red sign is hot water, blue one is cold water and the one without color is for the shower. The showers above the mirrors are installed to the walls.

◆Jakotsuyu (蛇骨湯)

Help yourself washing bowls and stools.
Type: Gender Separated Public Bath

Address: 1-11-11 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Business hour: 1:00 PM to 0:00 AM

Holiday: Tuesday (If national holiday falls on Tuesday, following weekday)

Admission fee: ¥450 for adult, ¥180 for 6-12 year-old, ¥80 for below 6 year-old.

The courtesy PC
Equipment: Washing bowls, stools, lockers. There is an internet connected PC (you can use 15 minutes maximum) and iPhone charger at the lounge.

Access: Within walking distance from Asakusa Station ,Takawamachi Station, Senso-ji and other main tourist spots of Asakusa.

Geocode for Google Map: 35.712058, 139.792584

Link : Map in English
Entrance of the Jakotsuyu.

This post is written with full cooperation of the Jakotsuyu. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.