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 #10 `Yamamizuki`

For this week`s report I decided to pop back to try the outdoor bath at a very popular inn `Yamamizuki` (山みず木 21 on the English Map) that I had previously visited the winter before last. At that time there was major construction work going on,with new accommodation going up on what had previously been rice paddies a little further down the river from the main Inn. This work is now complete and I`m happy to see that the improvements included a few signs here and there in Japanese,English and Korean!  On my previous visit several signs were old and faded in Japanese only,and I was handed a photocopy of a hand-drawn map to help find my way around the extensive bathing area.

 

New signs are  a great help.

New signs are a great help.

 

For day-trippers or onsen-hoppers the entrance to the baths between 8am and 6pm is actually through the Coffee Shop `Inoya`,where several rows of lockers,and also the toilets (I guess)  can be found. Pass through the  shop and follow the path to the right for women,left for men.

 

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Entrance to the bathing area is through the Coffee Shop `Inoya`.

 

The outdoor baths are  spacious and positioned directly on the riverbank,and visitors may also use the indoor baths,which are well-equipped with small shower `cubicles`,shampoo,conditioner and body soap.  Pretty sure the sign for the indoor bath was in Japanese only though,and it was quite a long walk,made clutching my towel very carefully.  Of course,no-one could see me,but  there were some workmen repairing a thatched roof very close by……. and I felt slightly exposed making the dash from outdoor to indoor bath along a garden path!

 

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Riverside bathing at its best

The waters of both outdoor and indoor baths were  a perfect temperature,not too hot at all,and the grounds and bathing areas were  very well-kept and spotless. After bathing,on the way out there was ,I believe , another small room with hairdryers ,make-up mirrors etc. Perhaps this was where the toilets were too,but I forgot to check before exiting through the Coffee Shop. Looked quite inviting,but had to get back to (my other) work….

It`s worth noting that Yamamizuki operates a free shuttle bus to and from downtown Kurokawa (stops in front of the  `Tsukemonoya` pickle shop,not far from the Visitor Center) between approx. 11am and  5pm.  Onsen-hoppers may use this service too,otherwise it`s a taxi ride or a 20min walk from the center.

 

 

In summary……riverside,yet not too rustic.

Would I visit again?   Yes,would probably bring overseas visitors wanting a hot spring `experience`

Staff:  Lots of them around,some English spoken.

 

 

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Onsen-hop # 4 `Sanga`

This is one of those inns in Kurokawa where a map of the grounds (and just one or two English signs, pretty please) might be useful!

The grounds are beautiful,a shady leafy lane runs down from the car park to the main entrance of Sanga Inn and then various paths branch off to the men`s and women`s indoor and outdoor baths (Onsen-hoppers may use both the indoor and outdoor baths).

The shady path to Sanga

The shady path to Sanga

 

The men`s outdoor bath here is spacious and doubles as the mixed bath (混浴),if you dare,or you could actually reserve one of the several private `family` baths (家族風呂) here at Sanga for a charge. These private baths seemed to be quite busy,although my visit was late on a Friday afternoon so many new guests had just arrived. From the beautiful photographs in the pamphlet I was given (nice souvenir too) I liked the look of the semi-outdoor large round wooden tub♥ …..but,back to my Onsen-hop for the day!

After bumping into a Swiss couple who were equally lost, we teamed up and  eventually found the women`s outdoor bath located towards the far end of the grounds and pretty much built on the riverbank.

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Bathing next to the river..

 

Once we ladies were inside the outdoor bath changing area however we realised two things,showers and toilets were back up the other end of the garden…..easy enough if you came in a yukata,but not if you have to put clothes back on again!

So this was my first Onsen-hop with a companion to chat with in English and perhaps for that reason I stayed in the bath a bit longer than usual and overheated…in fact,my face remained quite a bright shade of red for an hour or so after. I  wondered if this was due to the properties of this particular hot spring ,and a quick check on the `What`s in the Water? section of the  English Onsen-Hopping map  does indeed confirm that a saline spring (such as the one at Sanga) helps the body to retain heat,so I will probably save this and similar ones in future for winter visits. That`s if Sanga can even be reached in the winter, at least probably not without tire chains and expert driving skills if it snows…

 

One  thing we chatted about in the bath was the complete lack of signs in English…the Swiss lady had previously burnt her shoulder by sitting too near the pipe where the often scalding hot spring water gushes into the bath. In most baths there is usually a sign in Japanese warning of the danger,but nothing in English. It was also confusing as to whether it was OK to drink the hot spring water as all the signs were in Japanese only. I explained that if there was a small ladle hanging up somewhere nearby a water spout thingy it indicated that the water was drinkable, but neither of us was sure if it was OK to drink the (cold) water out of the cheap and ordinary-looking  tap at foot level,so we didn`t…

NB.The hot spring waters can have have various `effects` on the system when ingested,so best not to drink too much in one go!

 

A scoop for rinsing the body…

 

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Ladles for drinking water (taken at Kurokawaso)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In summary…

One word:  RIVERSIDE

Would I visit again?  Yes,but in winter.

Staff: Friendly and speak just a little English

Note: A few discreet English signs would be helpful!