Onsen-hop # 16 Yamanoyado Shinmeikan

I`ve been saving a visit to Yamanoyado Shinmeikan (山の宿 新明館) until I could go with a friend as,to be quite honest,I`m not really a fan of caves. I`ll admit that it was a unique bathing experience however,and I`m glad I plucked up the courage to try at least this once. If dark,steamy cave baths are your thing then you`ll be sure to enjoy the experience too,although it could be a little crowded at certain times of day and the changing `rooms` are very,very basic.



Sneaky peek into the women`s outdoor bath (thanks to Helen for this shot)


You can`t miss the large and popular Shinmeikan,  located alongside the river right in the middle of Kurokawa and reached by a picturesque footbridge.



Footbridge leading directly to Shinmeikan Reception


The receptionist explained that the outdoor baths could be reached by following a path running alongside the main Inn building and in the following order: Women`s,Men`s and then Mixed at the far end. SEE NOTE

Get that? I hope so….could be embarrassing for someone otherwise!

Except that the Men`s bath is actually very clearly signposted in English as….a MIXED bath.



This is NOT the mixed bath,it`s the MEN`S bath. (Photo by Helen)


…and the Mixed bath is through this mossy gate at the end of the path. If you plan on hopping from one to the other you will perhaps need a yukata,as the path is in full view of all the tourists wandering along the street on the other riverbank.



Mossy gateway to the outdoor bath (Photo by Helen)


Obviously at some point the baths have been swapped over,so that Men and Women can enjoy separate cave bathing (which of course is the main attraction of bathing here) and then a mixed,more traditional outdoor bath if they so wish. Just that the message to take off the sign hasn`t quite got through to the handyman yet.

The rocky cave pools are quite shallow and a comfortable temperature,slightly cooler at one end. No shampoo or soap is provided,lockers are outside the changing room and toilets…..are back at reception. Useful to note that although most women enter this way (LEFT),to a very cramped changing area there is also a second entrance (RIGHT) with slightly more space for changing.



Main entrance to Women`s bath


A second entrance to the right,also for the Women`s bath.















NOTE (November 23)  A different member of staff at Shinmeikan has since  informed me that in fact the order of the baths is Women`s,Mixed,Mixed. So in fact there is no outdoor bath for men only and the sign is correct!

In summary…..cave bathing

Would I visit again?  Maybe,if I wanted to show a visitor something unique

Staff: Helpful and understood 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.



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.



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!) .











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



View from the bridge near Nishimura Ryokan


…and nearby walking trails lead to views like these…



View from Hiranodai Plateau













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