Onsen-hop #7 San-Ai Kogen Hotel

It was a beautiful afternoon here in Kurokawa,so after an English lesson at one of the ryokan in town I made time to drive round to the San-Ai Kogen Hotel on the outskirts for a quick dip in their outdoor bath before my next class.

 

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Car park in front of the San-Ai Hotel

 

The reception at this large hotel was bustling with activity and a coachload of guests from Korea had just arrived,so I hurried downstairs and out of the backdoor leading to a path across the grounds to the outdoor baths. It was like stepping into a different world….

Path leading across to the outdoor baths.

Path leading across to the outdoor baths.

 

I could hardly believe my luck when I found I was the only bather at this time of the afternoon…..

 

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All to myself!

 

The water was a perfect temperature and the sun was shining . I relaxed  to the sound of birdsong with the bath and the spectacular views all to myself. This must be the most truly `outdoor`bath of all those I have visited so far,with no roof or protection if it rains. It is rather open,but of course you are safely hidden from the eyes of guests in their hotel rooms or passing bikers. I have brought overseas visitors here several times and they enjoyed it very much,but the experience could be less pleasant if you happen to time your arrival with a large number of hotel guests !   I so want to try this bath on a clear night….so I will definitely be back soon for another dip. Remember that if you are using your `Onsen-Hopping Pass` (nyuto tegata in Japanese) you can visit the baths anytime between 8:30am and 9pm,outside of these times the baths are usually reserved for staying guests only.

 

In summary…….breathtaking

Would I visit again?    yes,and again and again….

Staff: pleasant and spoke a little English

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onsen-hop #3: `Waraku`

A little way out of town and off the beaten track  lies  peaceful Waraku Inn (和らく number  22  on the Onsen map).

At the outdoor baths of this small inn  you are unlikely to be disturbed by a coachload of fellow bathers,or by anyone at all for that matter  ,and on the late weekday afternoon I visited I only saw one other onsen-goer. The route to the bath from the inn first leads through a garden area,then down  steps (right side for women,left for men,although the sign is changed over at 3pm every afternoon). I discovered almost too late that this is a `go before you change` bath…..the toilets are located in a different building to the changing rooms, back at the top of the steps! So remember to `go before` you start getting undressed… this arrangement is true of several baths I have visited recently.

 

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Separate bathing here….

 

The women`s bath was quite spacious and I was intrigued by the powdery white sediment deposited on the surfaces of the rocky bath. This is  harmless and a deposit of the sulphur hot spring waters that run into the baths here, which also have that distinctive smell of bad eggs!

 

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Peaceful bathing at Waraku…

 

At this time of year the fresh green of the maple leaves overhead is particularly uplifting,my fellow bather noted. She also hoped to be able to come back in the Autumn to see the changing colours of the leaves. This is one bath that I would also love to visit at least once each season,as I`m sure it is quite a different experience in each of the four seasons. A sign in one area of the bath near the water gushing into it warned that the water there was scalding hot,but an area on the other side notified bathers that it was a relatively cool 38°C.  Funnily though,I am enjoying quite hot baths even on these humid June days ,  I had felt very hot and sticky on the day I visited Waraku,but on leaving I was feeling very refreshed and relaxed and ready for my evening classes.

Sadly,although I was invited for a drink in the cafe area I had to go straight off to work.

But I had left my mark…IMG_0284

 

 

In summary…..

One word: Peaceful

Would I visit again?  Yes, for the Autumn foliage.

Staff: Attentive,some English spoken.

To note:  Quite isolated,may be too quiet for some?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onsen-hop # 1: `Kurokawaso`

So….. this morning I thought I`d better get to work on trying out some of the outdoor baths or rotenburo ( 露天風呂) and decided to start with an old favourite,Kurokawaso (黒川荘). The Inn is number 3  on the English Onsen-Hopping Map (available at the Visitor Center,reception desk or click on `Onsen Map` at the top of this page) and boasts one of the largest baths in Kurokawa .

You NEED this too!

You NEED this too!

Set just a  short distance from the main road it is easily accessible,yet quiet and secluded As it`s a ten-minute walk if you are coming from the Visitor Center , and is now a very popular bath with tour groups,you may want to call ahead and check with reception to make sure it is not busy. Mid-afternoons sometimes bring a coach load of bathers,and you may be asked to wait for a while. Luckily I had the bath to myself for almost 20 minutes …the temperature was just right and the colour was a beautiful pale,milky blue.

 

Milky blue waters at Kurokawaso

Like many inns,the baths at Kurokawaso are swapped over  daily so that guests can try the two different baths at some point during their stay. Be sure to check that you enter the correct changing room and bath!  (At Kurokawaso a red curtain for the women`s side,blue for the men`s).

There`s no mixed bathing at Kurokawaso and no private bath hire. For Onsen-hoppers the indoor and outdoor baths can be used between 8:30 am and 9pm (although a tour group will take priority….but believe me they are in and out pretty quickly!).  When you have finished bathing,follow the  `OUT` sign to the large lounge where you can relax for a while and cool down with a drink.

After-bath lounge area.

After-bath lounge area.

 

 

 

 

 

In summary….

One word:   SPACIOUS

Would I come again?   YES,would like to try a late evening dip.

Staff:  Exceptional,some English spoken

To note:  Avoid clashing with a bus tour splash en masse

(Note to self….mind that big step down into main bath,almost missed it without my glasses on!)

 

 

Don`t pull out the plug!

Don`t pull out the plug!