Onsen-hop #24 Okunoyu

My intention this bright and sunny morning was  to pop up to Kurokawa Onsen and pay a visit to Okunoyu (奥の湯 number 6 on the English map),but I took a wrong turning and spent most of my time photographing the autumn leaves and scenery alongside the ` Warabi Nobori ` walking course instead… Later I realised that the Chinese character 奥 translates as `at the far end` or `at the back of` , so to help anyone else trying to find it,it`s located up a narrow ,winding road (one car width) at the back of Nishimura Ryokan,about 15 minutes walk from the Visitor Center.

But then even when I did eventually find my way to Okunoyu I still spent more time taking photographs in and around the grounds than  actually relaxing in the bath….

 

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Within the grounds of Okunoyu

 

Looking up from the women`s bath,this was the view….

 

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A blaze of colour above the women`s bath.

 

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Women`s outdoor bath

 

Okunoyu offers mixed bathing in a cave bath as well as in large and small riverside baths ,the latter of which is lit up at night. Women may have exclusive use of these three baths between 20:00 and 22:00 or the women-only bath at any time.  Do check the sign or ask at reception in case this information should change…..and be careful!

 

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Be careful!

 

Excellent facilities all round,warm changing rooms (with toilet),lockers, soap and shampoo,drinking water,resting area etc. Staff at reception spoke a little English and provided a very useful map of the extensive grounds.

And I`ll leave you with this……

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In summary…beautiful riverside autumn scenery

Would I visit again? Yes,I`d like to see the baths lit up at night

Staff: Helpful and spoke some English

 

 

 

 

Onsen-hop #23 Iromomiji

Exploring a fairly new hot spring complex on the outskirts of Kurokawa today, Iromomiji  (彩もみじ, not yet on the English onsen-hopping map,but tucked up a hill just a stone`s throw from Konoyu,which is number 23 on the map). The receptionist explained that they opened last October,but were forced to close for a while after the April earthquakes and just reopened this September.

It`s a fairly long walk from the visitor center,a steep climb at the end but apparently there is a shuttle bus (although I`m not sure if you have to phone for the bus ,possibly you do need to as I didn`t see it shuttling anyone backwards and forwards this afternoon….) Parking space may get a little tight at busy times,as there is also a soba restaurant next to the main outdoor bath and a mini village of at least six private family baths dotted in amongst the rocks and trees. These can be rented for a period of 50 minutes for between 1000 and 1500 yen and did look very attractive. But today I`m here for the purpose of outdoor onsen-hopping,so here`s the entrance…..

 

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Onsen-hoppers this way please!

 

Lovely wooden interior,shiny dark wood floors and comfortable changing rooms with lockers and everything you need…. a flight of stone steps leads down first to a spacious indoor bath….

 

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Indoor bath,shower area with amenities provided

 

….pause for the view….

 

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View on the way to the outdoor bath

 

….and then to the bubbling jacuzzi-style outdoor bath….which is actually quite unusal for outdoor onsen hop bath tubs!

 

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Nicely landscaped

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Jacuzzi style bath

Also offered within the shiny and new onsen-hopping designated area are a sauna and a medicinal herb tub.The main bath is quite hot today and whoops….I forgot to look up what type of hot spring waters flow here….it`s not a sulphorous smell,I`m guessing a mild alkaline,which is good for all skin types and said to smooth the skin.

Next door to the bathing area,behind a huge,imposing wooden entry gate, is the newly-opened (10/10) Gekkoju Ryokan  (月光樹) which offers 8 very private,tastefully decorated bungalows complete with private indoor and outdoor baths and amazing views…start saving for a stay here.

 

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Entrance gate to Gekkoju Ryokan

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Inside one of the 8 private bungalows

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Bath and verandah of one of the bungalows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In summary……squeaky clean and new

Would I visit again? Yes,anytime!

Staff: Very polite and helpful,litle English.

 

 

 

Onsen-hop #22 Yumerindo

One of the great things about Kurokawa Onsen is that even on a rainy day you can go ahead and enjoy a spot of onsen-hopping in the outdoor baths,as most of them are provided with a  roofed section to offer protection against the  rain. Yumerindo ( 夢龍胆 number 9 on the English onsen-hopping map) was no exception and proved an ideal choice for a mid-morning dip in the rain.

 

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Entrance to Yumerindo

 

The staff were very attentive and helpful from the moment my friend and I stepped through the door,even though we were only there for an onsen-hop . A receptionist  (from Taiwan) spoke English,Chinese and Japanese and other staff seemed to follow our English quite well. It`s a large inn,elevators are available and we made our way down  from reception to the outdoor baths without getting too lost. Once again,being mid-morning, we had the spacious bath and changing rooms to ourselves.

 

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Spacious outdoor bathing and roofed area

 

Yumerindo also boasts a large mixed bath (混浴風呂 or konyoku buro)for as many as 30 bathers…but we didnt try it out,as it would have meant getting dressed again and walking through to a different changing room. Maybe next time,if we remember to take out yukata with us!

 

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The sign says `Men` but this passageway also leads to the mixed bath

 

We lingered for a while in the lobby,which had some great views all around and would be a very pleasant place for a coffee or refreshments after your bath.

 

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Lobby and views…

 

The baths were far less crowded than the fish tank….

 

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In summary……..spacious baths

Would I visit again?   Yes,perhaps to try the mixed bath!

Staff: Attentive and polite,with English knowledge.

 

 

 

 

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.