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!

 

image

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…

 

image

Nicely polished wood throughout….

image

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.

 

image

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.

 

 

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 #17 Ikoi Ryokan

Ikoi Ryokan (いこい旅館 11 on the printed English guide map) is an established,  centrally-located inn very popular with Korean tourists,but luckily when my friend and I visited the baths today it was lunchtime and we had the baths almost to ourselves.

 

Entrance to Ikoi Ryokan

Entrance to Ikoi Ryokan

 

Lots of corridors, paths ,signs and stairs later we  managed to find the women`s bathing area,also known as `Bijin-yu` (beauty bath) which is described as one of the top 100 hot spring baths in Japan.

 

image

Go upstairs to the women`s baths

image

The polished path to `Beauty Bath`

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A word of warning….the women`s rocky pool bath down the steps was the hottest hot spring I have ever tried and although I wanted to get in quickly because it was cold, I could only lower myself in very slowly and gradually. A sign ,in English, warned that the water pouring into the pool was `boiling`,it certainly felt like it! Later,I found it much more comfortable to sit at the edge of the standing bath where the temperature was more like a normal bath. I must have missed the sign here (as well as the step) but this was also the deepest standing bath I have ever tried (in fact, come to think of it,probably too deep for most Japanese ladies of average height to stand up in comfortably!). Hold onto the bamboo grips at the side,and mind your step!

 

image

Main rocky pool with boiling hot water spout

 

Feeling warmed and beautified after our dip we had a little bit of an explore and found there are several private baths here for rental for 800yen/adult/ 40 minute slot and also bathing areas which are only for use by the hotel guests. As far as onsen-hopping is concerned it is probably the men who get the better deal here as they may use three different baths, `Takino-yu` (waterfall massage) ,`Utase-yu` and `Hako-yu` (wooden indoor bath) AND apparently the large outdoor men`s bath is also for mixed bathing. (I must admit I`m never quite sure….and not being a fan of mixed public bathing….. I`ll give it a miss for today).

 

image

Details of baths available ,including private baths.

 

We also had a look around the Inn entrance area,where there are Onsen eggs going for 50yen each,a foot bath if you haven`t yet had enough of bathing and a cosy seating area around a hearth where you can have a rest before continuing on your way.

 

image

Foot bath

image

Cosy hearth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In summary….hottest and deepest

Would I visit again?  ONE day I will be brave, return with my husband  and try the large mixed bath

Staff: Yes,very little English.

 

 

Onsen-hop #15 Fumoto Ryokan

Although the path leading to the entrance to the centrally-located Fumoto Ryokan (ふもと旅館) leads directly off Shimokawabata-dori you could easily blink and miss it! Better to use the cake shop `Roku` as a guide,the path to Fumoto is on the opposite side of the road.

 

image

Entrance to Fumoto bathed in afternoon light…

 

The Inn itself seemed a hive of activity,but after crossing a quaint wooden bridge over to the outdoor baths on the opposite riverbank and climbing rather a lot of stone steps it was quiet,apart from the sound of the water and one or two cheerful birds. The rocky bath was secluded and atmospheric, surrounded by dense bamboo and foliage which allowed in only a few of the low,late afternoon rays of autumn sunlight. Perfect temperature for me,so I enjoyed a rather longer than usual dip today without overheating or feeling dizzy.

 

image

Plenty of time for reflection

 

Neat and simple outdoor washing area included shower, body soap,conditioner etc .Lockers ,hairdryer etc were provided in the well-heated changing room (very important as the colder weather approaches!) .

 

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile,Kurokawa Onsen is a blaze of  autumn colour,catch it while you can!

 

image

View from the bridge near Nishimura Ryokan

 

…and nearby walking trails lead to views like these…

 

image

View from Hiranodai Plateau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image

Looking towards Kuju

 

 

 

In summary….central location,but lots of steps up to the bath

Would I visit again?  Yes,if I can manage the above

Staff: Busy,but spoke a little English

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

image

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

 

 

 

image

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.

 

image

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

 

 

 

image

 

 

 

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.

 

image

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.

 

image

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

 

 

image