Onsen-hop #21 Yamanoyu

Looking at the small and unimposing entrance directly off Shimokawabata Dori in the centre of  Kurokawa Onsen you might almost decide to give the baths at Ryokan Yamanoyu (旅館やまの湯,number 17 on the English onsen-hopping map) a miss….

 

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Entrance to Ryokan Yamanoyu

 

But if you are in the center of town and looking for  a quick and quiet dip this is the ideal stop,if you don’t mind steps.I found it quite intriguing that after taking the elevator to the 4th floor there was a corridor,then a flight of steps,then another…

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…and another…

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….and another….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So by the time  I reached the actual outdoor baths ,which are quiet,compact and secluded ,I was fairly high up ,tucked away on the hillside. Hence the name ‘Yamanoyu’,which literally means ‘mountain bath’.

 

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Small and secluded

 

Facilities were basic yet adequate,and at 10:30 on a rainy weekday morning I had the place to myself. The  mildly acidic (tanjyunsen) spring water was just the right temperature,and not too hot for the lingering humidity and heat of September…hooray,autumn is finally just around the corner!

 

 

In summary……lots of steps

Would I visit again?   Yes,for a quiet and central dip

Staff: Polite,but all communication in Japanese (and very few English signs,you may get lost….)

 

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Nice lamps….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onsen-hop #20 Wafuryokan Misato

A quick lunchtime onsen-hop today,Wafuryokan Misato (和風旅館美里 number 15 on the English guide map ) only a minute or so on foot from the Visitor Center.

From the reception desk it felt very strange to go UP a flight of stairs to the outdoor bath,which is be located on a small hill tucked behind the ryokan,and although right in the center of Kurokawa it was extremely peaceful.

 

 

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View from the changing room

 

 

As soon as I had entered the ryokan there was the unmistakable eggy smell of a sulphur bath wafting along the corridors,and the water was a beautiful milky blue…

 

 

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Smelly but beautiful!

 

The facilities were quite simple,no heating in the changing area ,basic wash area and toilets located on a different floor of the ryokan . Lockers were provided outside the bathing area,but I cant remember seeing any hairdryers,sinks or even mirrors in or around the changing area.

 

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Just a quick rinse before entering the bath will suffice.

 

Simple is best….

 

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In summary…….blue and sulphury

Would I visit again?   Yes,so peaceful yet in center of Kurokawa

Staff :friendly and spoke a little English

 

 

 

 

 

Onsen-hop #19 Okyakuya

Unusually it took three goes today to find an outdoor bath that was open….two others that I still haven`t got round to trying  were both closed for cleaning,although this wasn`t mentioned on the `Daily Onsen Updates` page of the Kurokawa Ryokan Association English website. So…by the time I decided on Okyakuya (御客屋 12 on the English guide map) I was cold,damp and ready to warm up in the bath on this dull,rainy afternoon. It`s quite easy to find,central and just a stone`s throw from Ikoi Ryokan.

 

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Entrance to Okyakuya

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Sign explaining that outdoor baths are swapped round once a day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again a maze of stairs and corridors led down to the outdoor bathing area,which is situated very close to the river but doesn`t open onto it directly as in Yamamizuki. A member of staff led me downstairs to the bath ( popping up again just after I`d finished) helpfully showing me the way while explaining that the outdoor baths are swapped over every day at midday. The women`s bath at this time of day was designated as the smaller iron-rich rocky pool (luckily for me it was also partially roofed so I didn`t get rained on) while the men`s bath was the larger one up a further flight of steps.

 

 

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Rocky bath with iron-rich waters…

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Up the steps to the men`s bath (swapped over at midday).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The outdoor bath was simple ,but pleasant and not too hot. An indoor bath with an area for showering also offered various shampoos and body soaps. Signs in Japanese in the outdoor bath explained that showering after a bath is not necessary as it washes off the beneficial hot spring deposits on the skin, so I went home smelling rather earthy and metallic!

 

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No need to shower after a dip (left) and soap is not provided here out of consideration for the environment,particularly the river nearby (right).

 

 

 

Actually…this establishment really likes signs….image

but you can still get lost!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One very important sign on the wall in the outdoor bath explains that there has been an onsen here for over three hundred years,making it the oldest in Kurokawa. Obviously the building is a lot more recent,but the beautiful wooden corridors and stairs certainly give it an air of times gone by.

 

 

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Hope he enjoyed his bath…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In summary……historical

Would I visit again?  Yes,to try the larger outdoor bath next time.

Staff: Attentive,spoke some English.

 

 

 

 

 

Onsen-hop #18 Ryokan Yumotoso

Part of the fun of outdoor bathing in Kurokawa lies in actually finding the establishment,venturing inside then getting lost while negotiating flights of stairs and,in some cases,miles of corridors to reach the bath itself…..so I`ll try not to spoil the fun for you. Ryokan Yumotoso (旅館 湯本荘 ,number 20 on the English map) you can`t miss it,or maybe you can!

 

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Outside the entrance to Yumotoso

 

To be honest,from the outside I wasn`t expecting much,but inside the Ryokan was warm and welcoming on this wet,winter morning. All the polished wood looked quite old and beautiful . So….off down the stairs and along the corridor we headed,which is almost always a good route to start with…

 

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Nicely polished wood throughout….

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Cosy hearth area for a rest after bathing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again,with our mid-morning timing we were lucky to avoid the crowds and my friend and I had the small,rocky outdoor bath to ourselves. Although one of the smaller public outdoor baths in Kurokawa all facilities are provided and the ferruginous (iron) spring water here is a fairly unusual (for Kurokawa) brownish colour with an earthy smell. When you leave the bath it`s not necessary to rinse the beneficial hot spring water off,although you may want to check for orangey-brown smudges if you have rubbed against the iron deposits on the rocks in the pool. The waters here are said to be good for treating anemia.

 

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Steamy waters on a winter morning,note the reddish iron deposits!

 

Unfortunately my friend and I had to rush off  to a meeting,so we didn`t linger in the cosy rest area provided. I really appreciate the fact that this kind of area is provided by most Ryokan,and it is quite acceptable for onsen-hoppers to linger a while and enjoy a drink and a rest before moving on. Also,I realised after I had got dressed that  indoor bathing here  includes a bath in a large sake barrel,although as the baths are swapped over each day it may have been over on the men`s side today anyway.

 

 

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In summary…..central,with an olde worlde feel

Would I visit again?  Yes,to try the sake barrel bath!

Staff: Helpful,very little English.

 

 

 

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