May 17, 2014

Tsurunoyu, Beppu City, Oita Pref.

Noncommercial, but well managed.
Most frequently asked and yet difficult to answer is “What is your most favorite onsen?” Well, my recent answer is "Beppu Onsen", Oita Prefecture in Kyushu. Actually, Beppu is huge area with roughly eight hot springs zones; Beppu, Kan’nawa, Myoban, Shibaseki, Kamegawa, Horita, Hamawaki, and Kankaiji. There are hundreds of soaking places of various types.

Tsurunoyu, one of my favorites located in a Myoban Onsen area, is a hidden gem. It's a noncommercial (free) mixed open-air bath. It’s well-kept and recommendable for those without vehicles, as you can reach with about 20 minutes walk from bus stop.

There is a wooden shack, you can change and leave your stuff inside. Left part with white door is for women. It’s a kind of wild hot springs and when I first visited there nearly 10 years ago, it was a primitive site. In recent years, it became more and more organized and looks like a commercially run onsen, especially after someone put stones on the bottom of the soaking pond.

Managed by volunteers. Don't leave garbages.
Hot spring is rather hot around 43-45 degrees C, not recommendable for visiting in midsummer. The sulfur smell of the hot spring is very strong, it remains on your skin for hours after soaking.

There is no rule for clothing. But if Japanese soakers are there, they might not welcome soakers in swim-suites (Because it’s an onsen bath for us and a bath is for soaking in your birthday-suites). But usually and hopefully they don’t complain about women’s clothing.

Although I always go there alone, I can’t recommend solo woman to visit. A woman in late 20’s was killed nearby in 2009. It gets crowded on weekends. In the winter, sometimes water level gets too low to soak.

◆ Tsurunoyu (鶴の湯)

Type: Gender Mixed Open-air bath

Business hour: 24 hours (noncommercial)

Equipment:  None except changing space

Access: take a bus toward Myoban Onsen from Beppu Station. Get off the bus @  Myoban Clinic, then walk backward a little and turn right toward inland at the first corner. Walk straight passing under the expressway, then the graveyard on your left to the end of the road. It takes about 20 minutes from the bus stop. If you drive to the site, leave the dead end space to make a turn when you park (notice written in Japanese).

Location: 33°18'45.6"N 131°26'53.8"E

My rating: A (A-E):

Overall view from upper road

Jun 4, 2013

Yubatake, Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma Pref.

Southern side of the Yubatake. Onsen is gushing from the bottom. Wooden devices of upper pond is to cool down the hot springs and to collect sulfur powder.  
Ever heard of the Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma Pref, Kanto Region? Well, Kusatsu has been chosen "the most popular hot springs in Japan" for 10 years continuously by the survey conducted by the Kanko Keizai Shimbun or the Sightseeing Economic Journal.
North end of the Yubatake.
There is a huge hot spring pond named "Yubatake" located center of the Kusatsu Onsen. Strong acid onsen - pH about 2.0 is gushing about 4,600 litters per minute in this pond. The temperature at the fountainhead is about 60 degrees Celsius. Of course it's not for soaking.
The whole Yubatake view from the Kosenji Temple.
The Kusatsu onsen is said to be effective for skin disease, neuralgia, joint pain, chronic digestive disease, arteriosclerosis and many other symptoms. The hot spring of Yubatake was carried to Edo (present Tokyo) for the bathing of Yoshimune, the 8th Shogun of Edo period in 1726.
Onsen cooled down a bit while flowing in these wooden gutter
Access to Kusatsu Onsen: There are some express train to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi from Ueno, central Tokyo. From Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi, about 20 minutes bus ride will take you to the Kusatsu bus terminal. It's a 5 minute walk to the Yubatake. Or you can take the direct bus from Shinjuke to Kusatsu bus terminal.
There are classical ryokans on both sides of the street near the Yubatake.

Apr 2, 2013

Day-visit Onsen Ranking 2013 by Tripadvisor

The Hoheikyo Onsen in Sapporo City, Hokkaido (photo: Sep 2012) was chosen the most popular day-visit onsen in the recent servey by Tripadvisor Japan. Top 20 onsens are following. Linked site in bold letters are English pages, others in Japanese only.

  1. Hoheikyo Onsen, Sapporo City, Hokkaido

  2. Dogo Onsen Honkan, Matsuyama City, Ehime Pref.

  3. Healthy Land Rotenburo, Ibusuki City, Kagoshima Pref.

  4. Shikanoyu, Nasu Machi, Tochigi Pref.

  5. Yuaminoshima, Kuwana City, Mie Pref.

  6. Yachigashira Onsen, Hakodate City, Hokkaido

  7. Oberiberi Onsen Suikoen, Obihiro City, Hokkaido

  8. Hottarakashi Onsen, Yamanashi City, Yamanashi Pref.

  9. Sainokawara Rotenburo, Kusatsu Machi, Gunma Pref.

  10. Spa World, Osaka City, Osaka

  11. Takegawara Onsen, Beppu City, Oita Pref.

  12. Spa Resort Hawaiians, Iwaki City, Fukushima Pref.

  13. Saraku, Ibusuki City, Kagoshima Pref.

  14. Dogo Onsen Tsubakinoyu, Matsuyama City, Ehime Pref.

  15. Akazawa Higaeri Onsenkan, Ito City, Shizuoka Pref.

  16. Shigira Onsen, Miyakojima City, Okinawa Pref.

  17. Lamune Onsenkan, Takeda City, Oita Pref.

  18. Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, Koto-ku, Tokyo

  19. Spa LaQua, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo

  20. Yamatonoyu, Narita City, Chiba Pref.