Onsen-hop #10 `Yamamizuki`

For this week`s report I decided to pop back to try the outdoor bath at a very popular inn `Yamamizuki` (山みず木 21 on the English Map) that I had previously visited the winter before last. At that time there was major construction work going on,with new accommodation going up on what had previously been rice paddies a little further down the river from the main Inn. This work is now complete and I`m happy to see that the improvements included a few signs here and there in Japanese,English and Korean!  On my previous visit several signs were old and faded in Japanese only,and I was handed a photocopy of a hand-drawn map to help find my way around the extensive bathing area.

 

New signs are  a great help.

New signs are a great help.

 

For day-trippers or onsen-hoppers the entrance to the baths between 8am and 6pm is actually through the Coffee Shop `Inoya`,where several rows of lockers,and also the toilets (I guess)  can be found. Pass through the  shop and follow the path to the right for women,left for men.

 

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Entrance to the bathing area is through the Coffee Shop `Inoya`.

 

The outdoor baths are  spacious and positioned directly on the riverbank,and visitors may also use the indoor baths,which are well-equipped with small shower `cubicles`,shampoo,conditioner and body soap.  Pretty sure the sign for the indoor bath was in Japanese only though,and it was quite a long walk,made clutching my towel very carefully.  Of course,no-one could see me,but  there were some workmen repairing a thatched roof very close by……. and I felt slightly exposed making the dash from outdoor to indoor bath along a garden path!

 

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Riverside bathing at its best

The waters of both outdoor and indoor baths were  a perfect temperature,not too hot at all,and the grounds and bathing areas were  very well-kept and spotless. After bathing,on the way out there was ,I believe , another small room with hairdryers ,make-up mirrors etc. Perhaps this was where the toilets were too,but I forgot to check before exiting through the Coffee Shop. Looked quite inviting,but had to get back to (my other) work….

It`s worth noting that Yamamizuki operates a free shuttle bus to and from downtown Kurokawa (stops in front of the  `Tsukemonoya` pickle shop,not far from the Visitor Center) between approx. 11am and  5pm.  Onsen-hoppers may use this service too,otherwise it`s a taxi ride or a 20min walk from the center.

 

 

In summary……riverside,yet not too rustic.

Would I visit again?   Yes,would probably bring overseas visitors wanting a hot spring `experience`

Staff:  Lots of them around,some English spoken.

 

 

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Onsen-hop # 9 `Iyashinosato Kiyashiki’

Another Friday afternoon,another outdoor onsen  …..this week I chose to pop back to visit one I had noticed towards the end of my hike around Kurokawa earlier this month on the outskirts of town. `Iyashinosato Kiyashiki’ (いやしの里樹やしき 20 on the English Map) not an easy name to pronounce,and perhaps not any easy place to find as I almost missed the entrance while I was concentrating on driving along the very narrow,winding road.  This would be a pleasant walk  from the town center,15 minutes or so on foot alongside a small river,but do watch out for traffic.

Kiyashiki Inn covers quite a large area,so first you need to go to the reception upstairs in the main building and show your onsen-hopping  pass to a member of staff who will then point you in the right direction for the outdoor baths.

 

 

This way please...

This way please…..

 

 

 

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….and down the steps…

 

Kiyashiki is one of the 6 or so outdoor baths( of the 24 belonging to the Kurokawa Onsen Ryokan Association) to offer mixed bathing and today the women- only bath  is on the right and the larger men`s bath is on the left. (At certain times of day the baths are switched,so check the sign before entering!) After getting changed,women may then either bathe separately or access the mixed bath by way of a secret tunnel …I found this intriguing,but I chose to stay put in the women`s bath today!

 

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Hidden entrance to mixed bath,but mind your head on the way!

 

The bath was rocky and enclosed, with the water appearing. slightly cloudy and not too hot . Later I noticed  a sign in the changing room asking for bathers to kindly accept the inevitable presence of  various insect visitors  during the warmer months,and in particular to look out for the odd horsefly  and wasp,but it wasn`t a problem on this warm May afternoon when,once again, I had the entire bath to myself. If you are planning on trying onsen-hopping in Kurokawa it really is worth going at the quieter times of  a weekday,if not early in the morning then at least early afternoon before 3pm or so when a lot of tour groups and visitors arrive to check in.

Part of the bathing area available for use by visitors at Kiyashiki includes a spacious indoor bath,with a wash area complete with soap, shampoo and conditioner. Toilets however,as I usually find out too late,are in a separate building…

 

 

In summary…..peaceful,and offering mixed bathing

Would I visit again?  Yes,with my other half next time to explore the larger mixed bath.

Staff: Very little English,but helpful and some basic signs in English.

 

 

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Walking around the Kurokawa Onsen area

If you are not that keen on onsen-hopping (or perhaps want to get some exercise in between those long soaks in the bath) and are looking for something else to do in Kurokawa then pick up a copy of the English version of the  `Map for Hikers` from the Visitor Center and explore the surrounding area!

 

Hiking trail map in English,follow the footpass!

Hiking trail map in English,follow the footpass!

 

There are three routes starting from near the Visitor Center,which are all approx 4km (ONE way).

 

Start of  Hitotsuya nobori,Kurokawa Walking Course 1

Start of Hitotsuya nobori,Kurokawa Walking Course 1

 

1. Hitotsu-ya nobori (ひとつや のぼり) Green and shady course,moderate climb.

2. Maruba nobori (まるば のぼり)   Steeper course,leading up out of the valley.

3. Warabi nobori (わらび のぼり)    Following the course of a mountain stream near paddy fields,moderate climb.

 

You can probably walk the course quite easily in trainers,as quite a lot of the paths (at least on Route 1)  are tarmac. Take a drink with you on a hot day,as the path soon leaves the center of town and there are no vending machines once you are on your way.

 

A short way into Course 1.

A short way into Course 1.

 

The three courses all seem to lead to the spectacular Hirano Dai Viewpoint (also known as `Lover`s Hill 恋人たちの丘),which should definitely not be missed on a clear day… The printed map is a little confusing,but is still useful as the points of interest are described in English and the routes are clearly signposted. Although we started off on Route 1,after reaching Hirano Dai viewpoint it seemed the natural thing to do to walk down the slope to join up with Route  3 and then  complete a nice circuit ,rather than simply walk back  along the path we had just climbed.

 

Heading towards Hirano-Dai viewpoint.

Heading towards Hirano-Dai viewpoint.

 

We were back in central Kurokawa after about 2 hours,and this is where route 3 brought us eventually,which was then just a short walk from the shops,cafes etc for refreshments!

 

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End/starting point of Hiking trail 3 `Warabi nobori`.

 

Or of course,you could rent electric bicycles from the `Bechin-kan` just behind the Visitor Center  if you don`t quite have time for a lesisurely walk but would still like to see the breathtaking view from Lovers` Hill….

 

UPDATE!

If you`d like to try one of these routes with a group of people there is a  walking event    in Kurokawa on Sunday May 31st.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onsen-hop # 8 `Oyado Noshiyu`

Just a stone`s throw from the bustling Visitor Center and full-to-capacity car park, I was surprised to find the Oyado Noshiyu Inn(お宿 のし湯) grounds quiet and peaceful on a Friday afternoon during Golden Week. This is the entrance to the compound:

 

Entrance to the grounds

Entrance to the grounds

As usual there were no signs in English and I almost took a wrong turning,but here I found the green and shady entrance to the women`s outdoor bath.

 

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Green and shady…

 

I explored the fairly large,but slightly shallow bath,which has a small roofed area for rainy days and a water massage for your tired shoulders. The bath is surrounded by quite dense trees and greenery with low branches hanging overhead,which gives a very `close to nature` feel,but at the same time  means that there will be  detritus floating around with you as you bathe. A sign in Japanese also explains that because of the close proximity to nature here shampoo and body soap are not provided,and visitors should please not use their own. Water runs into a large tub just at the bottom of the steps as you enter from the changing room,and here you should rinse your body before entering and on getting out of the main bath.

 

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Close to nature

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Water massage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is also one private bath for hire here for 500yen per person per 40minute time slot,but the other private baths (standing bath,semi-outdoor bath) are for ryokan guests only. A member of staff gave me a quick tour of the complex so I had sneak peeks of all of them,and as I was leaving…the Golden Week visitors started pouring in. Finding a car park space in Kurokawa will be tricky over the next few days so you might be directed to one of the overflow car parks ,but even so the distances from the center on foot are not far,and strolling around the narrow streets of Kurokawa is a pleasure not to be missed during your visit.

 

In summary…….central location yet close to nature

Would I visit again?  Yes,it`s a convenient 2 minute walk from the Visitor Center

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No shampoo please!

Staff: very helpful and spoke some English