UPDATE (March 2017) Due to damage caused during the April 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes,Nanjyoen Ryokan and baths have been demolished and rebuilding work is currently underway. Work is estimated to take almost 2 years from now.
Although today`s Onsen-hop at Ryokan Nanjyoen (旅館南城苑 number 9 on the English Guide map) really was just a HOP across from the Visitor Center, it involved a lot of STEPS before I could finally JUMP into the bath.( Hop,step and jump! Get it?!) However it is ideal if you are milling around the Visitor Center and are perhaps short of time (as I was today) ,but want to take a quick dip nearby to warm up.
Follow the flight of stone steps that lead off from the car park down to reception,then once inside follow another flight of wooden stairs down to the bathing area. The men`s and women`s baths are swapped over daily,so today I was bathing on a kind of balcony that caught the rays of late afternoon sun beautifully.
The water was a little hotter than other outdoor baths I have visited,but not unbearably so. There was also an indoor bath,washing area and simple shower with shampoo,conditioner and body soap provided. I had a try of the facial steamer on my way out,but simple instructions in English here would help to enable the correct use of what might otherwise prove to end up more like a means of medieval steam torture ! I think I was supposed to pinch my nose and close my eyes for a short burst (10 to 20 seconds) of steam,but instead I ended up breathing in the very hot vapours.I`ll admit that I`m not a great fan of saunas and such like,despite having lived in Sweden for a time when I was a student…
One of the known beneficial effects of the Chloride and Sulphate spring waters here at Nanjyoen is helping the body retain heat,and I did actually feel a sort of inner warmth in the core of my body for several hours afterwards… I don`t think it was solely due to inhaling that lungful of steam out of the facial sauna tank!
In summary….. very close to Visitor Center
Would I visit again? Yes, to warm up on a winter`s day.
Staff: Polite,not sure if English is spoken. No signs in English,(apart from ` free WIFI`)