Onsen-hop # 14 Genryunoyado Hozantei

After an autumn morning spent exploring  some of the hiking paths around`Sparrow Hell` (suzume-jigoku) and `The Forest of Crystal Streams ` (seiryu no mori) with a friend, nearby `Hozantei` (帆山亭、number 23 on the English map) was an obvious and indeed excellent choice. Easy to miss the entrance if you are driving though,those tall brown signposts dotted around Kurokawa can be just a shade too subtle sometimes…

This must simply be the best time of the year to visit Hozantei,and we couldn`t resist spending  a while exploring the various nooks and crannies of the garden and its central pond before heading off to the baths.

 

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Entrance to the gardens (that`s a pond , not the bath!)

 

 

 

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Just starting to change colour…

 

Although this season can be busy in Kurokawa we were bathing around lunchtime,so there were few other visitors. Hozantei was well-equipped, with a fairly modern shower area,(shampoo,conditioner and body soap provided) lockers,hairdryer and a toilet in the changing room area.

The rocky outdoor bath is divided into three pools,pretty hot,warm and cold…a nice idea if you are not keen on a piping hot bathing experience or,as my friend commented,if you are with children or perhaps wanting to try bathing in the hot summer months. Also,the mildly acidic waters here are suitable for all skin types and may help fight fatigue and insomnia. The location by the river provides  the prefect backdrop while you bathe.

 

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Hot bath on the left,warm on the right and cold in the far corner.

 

 

 

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In summary….perfect post-hike bath

Would I visit again? Yes,maybe very soon to catch some more autumn colours

Staff: Friendly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onsen-hop #13`Ryokan Ichinoi`

UPDATE (March 2017). Ichinoi Ryokan and baths will be closed until later this year while repair work continues on the bathing areas. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

A short,but uphill, stroll from the Visitor Center made me feel as if I had at least earned a relaxing dip at Ryokan Ichinoi (旅館壱の井,number 11 on the English Map). The road  was narrow,and lined with bright and cheerful cosmos daisies.

Cosmos daisies

Cosmos daisies

 

The outdoor baths are reached by two flights of stone steps outside that I wouldn`t really want to try negotiating in the dark or wearing `geta`. It was a  weekday morning when I visited,hardly any other onsen-goers around, and within a minute or two of having my card stamped I was already in the bath.

 

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Bath to the left.

 

The main thing that struck me here was the eggy smell and the floaty white deposits in the water associated with a suphur hot spring. Although the facilities here are quite basic,with no washing area,soap or shampoo provided, this `no-frills` hot spring felt like the `real thing` and the smell lingered on my skin for some hours after.

 

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Very hot ( Don`t try to get in this mini-pool!)

 

 

In summary…..quite basic and very eggy

Would I visit again? Yes,the sulphur is said to be good for your skin

Staff: Polite

 

 

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November 1st Event: 2015 Rice Festival in Minami Oguni

If you would like to learn more about RICE ( harvesting,cooking,eating and more) and happen to be in the Minami Oguni area on Sunday ,November 1st why not come along to this year`s Rice Festival   (Kome Fes 米フェス in Japanese). There will be rice pounding (mochitsuki) ,onigiri riceball making,popped rice,quizzes,locally-produced goods and more!

TIME: 11am to 2pm (so make sure you are there early on to try all the activities and see the various events)

COST: 1500yen (includes food,and several free gifts including a rice bowl and a bag of locally-harvested rice)

PLACE: Mr. Hino`s Rice Paddy (日野さんの田んぽ) and Haiwara Community Center in Manganji,Minami Oguni

The event is limited to 300 participants,places can be pre-booked at the Minami Oguni Tourist Association

tel: 0967-42-1444.

 

If you are heading out to this event from Kurokawa Onsen it is only a 5-minute ride by car,so it might be best to ask reception at your Ryokan to book a taxi,or go to the Visitor Center and ask the staff to call a taxi and explain to the driver where you want to go!  Kome Fes 米フェス 2015!

 

Japanese follows:

 

Onsen-hop # 12 ‘Ryokan Nanjyoen`

UPDATE (March 2017) Due to damage caused during the April 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes,Nanjyoen Ryokan and baths  have been demolished and rebuilding work is currently underway. Work is estimated to take almost 2 years from now.

Although today`s  Onsen-hop at Ryokan Nanjyoen (旅館南城苑 number 9 on the English Guide map) really was just  a  HOP across from the Visitor Center, it involved a lot of STEPS before I could finally  JUMP into the bath.( Hop,step and jump! Get it?!)  However it is ideal if you are milling around the Visitor Center and are perhaps short of time (as I was today) ,but want to take a quick dip nearby to warm up.

 

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Down the steps to reception

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Down more steps to the baths…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the flight of stone steps that lead off from the car park down to reception,then once inside follow another flight of wooden stairs down to the bathing area. The men`s and women`s baths are swapped over daily,so today I was bathing on a kind of balcony that caught the rays of late afternoon sun beautifully.

 

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View of outdoor bath from the indoor bath

 

The water was a little hotter than other outdoor baths I have visited,but not unbearably so. There was also an indoor bath,washing area and simple shower with shampoo,conditioner and body soap provided. I had a try of the facial steamer on my way out,but simple instructions in English here would help to enable the correct use of what might otherwise prove to end up more like a means of medieval steam torture ! I think I was supposed to pinch my nose and close my eyes for a short burst (10 to 20 seconds) of steam,but instead I ended up breathing in the very hot vapours.I`ll admit that I`m not a great fan of saunas and such like,despite having lived in Sweden for a time when I was a student…

 

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Try the facial sauna…I dare you!

 

One of the known beneficial effects of the Chloride and Sulphate spring waters here at Nanjyoen is helping the body retain heat,and I did  actually feel a sort of inner warmth in the core of my body for several hours afterwards… I don`t think it was solely due to inhaling that lungful of steam out of the facial sauna tank!

 

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In summary….. very close to Visitor Center

Would I visit again?  Yes, to warm up on a winter`s day.

Staff: Polite,not sure if English is spoken. No signs in English,(apart from ` free WIFI`)