I`ve been saving a visit to Yamanoyado Shinmeikan (山の宿 新明館) until I could go with a friend as,to be quite honest,I`m not really a fan of caves. I`ll admit that it was a unique bathing experience however,and I`m glad I plucked up the courage to try at least this once. If dark,steamy cave baths are your thing then you`ll be sure to enjoy the experience too,although it could be a little crowded at certain times of day and the changing `rooms` are very,very basic.
You can`t miss the large and popular Shinmeikan, located alongside the river right in the middle of Kurokawa and reached by a picturesque footbridge.
The receptionist explained that the outdoor baths could be reached by following a path running alongside the main Inn building and in the following order: Women`s,Men`s and then Mixed at the far end. SEE NOTE
Get that? I hope so….could be embarrassing for someone otherwise!
Except that the Men`s bath is actually very clearly signposted in English as….a MIXED bath.
…and the Mixed bath is through this mossy gate at the end of the path. If you plan on hopping from one to the other you will perhaps need a yukata,as the path is in full view of all the tourists wandering along the street on the other riverbank.
Obviously at some point the baths have been swapped over,so that Men and Women can enjoy separate cave bathing (which of course is the main attraction of bathing here) and then a mixed,more traditional outdoor bath if they so wish. Just that the message to take off the sign hasn`t quite got through to the handyman yet.
The rocky cave pools are quite shallow and a comfortable temperature,slightly cooler at one end. No shampoo or soap is provided,lockers are outside the changing room and toilets…..are back at reception. Useful to note that although most women enter this way (LEFT),to a very cramped changing area there is also a second entrance (RIGHT) with slightly more space for changing.
NOTE (November 23) A different member of staff at Shinmeikan has since informed me that in fact the order of the baths is Women`s,Mixed,Mixed. So in fact there is no outdoor bath for men only and the sign is correct!
In summary…..cave bathing
Would I visit again? Maybe,if I wanted to show a visitor something unique
Staff: Helpful and understood English