Translated by Hilary Keyes
6 Secluded Open-Air Baths Even Japanese People Might Not Know
Written by LIFE STYLE, Inc.
When hearing 'hot spring' many people immediately think of famous places like Hakone or Kinugawa, but there are plenty of hidden away hot springs that not many have heard of. Let's visit six of these secret hot springs via Google Street View.
When the Japanese think of winter, what immediately comes to mind is the much loved onsen or hot spring. After the bitter cold of winter right down to your bones, you too will find yourself wanting to savor the warmth and natural surroundings of an onsen.
The term 'hot spring' tends to bring places like Hakone or Kinugawa to mind, two famous onsen areas in Japan, but there are also many, little-known hot springs scattered throughout the country. These are referred to as 'hitou' or 'secluded hot springs' in Japanese.
Today, via Google Street View, let's visit six of Japan's little known open-air baths.
1. Kawayu Onsen Sennin Onsen
Please place your cursor on the screen above, and click and drag it. By doing so, your view of the hot spring changes.
Sennin Onsen is located in Wakayama prefecture. This hot spring is only open when the water level has decreased in winter, which not only makes it a secluded hot spring, but also a limited time open-air bath as well. As it is a mixed gender hot spring, it is standard for people to wear swimsuits or T-shirts while entering this spring.
This hot spring is open every year from December to February and holds a special event on Saturday nights called Yukemuri Toro. This event sees the riverside hot spring illuminated by toro lanterns at night, and the combination of this and the steam rising from the water makes for a sight that will leave you speechless.
Kawayu Onsen Sennin Onsen
Address: Wakayama, Tanabe, Hongucho, Kawayu
Website: Kawayu Onsen Sennin Onsen
2. Shirahama Onsen Saki no Yu
Next on our Google Street View tour is Saki no Yu another secluded hot spring located in Wakayama prefecture. This open-air bath is located right on the beach so you can savor the scent of the ocean breezes as you soak in a hot spring. On days when the water is rough, you can even watch waves break against the shore from the onsen as well.
Shirahama Onsen Saki no Yu
Address: Wakayama, Nishimuro-gun, Shirahama 1688
Website: Shirahama Onsen Saki no Yu
3. Kita Onsen Oyogiyu
Next on our list is Tochigi prefecture's Kita Onsen, where you will find Oyogiyu. Kita Onsen became famous in Japan thanks to its use as a location in the hit film Thermae Romae, based off the manga series of the same name.
In the Street View screen you can see Oyogiyu itself. If you move towards the back, you will notice a small slide there. This slide is for kids; it leads right into a small bathtub. As you can enter Oyogiyu in your swimsuit, it's the ideal place for families to enjoy a hot spring together.
Kita Onsen Oyogiyu
Address: Tochigi, Nasu, Nasu, Yumoto 151
Website: Kita Onsen Oyogiyu
4. Shirahone Onsen Konashi no Yu Sasaya
Konashi no Yu Sasaya a reservation-based, open-air bath, is the largest free, private bath of its kind at Shirahone Onsen in Nagano prefecture. With a 30 minute based reservation system, visitors can enjoy this hot spring as often as there are openings in the schedule - which are indicated by wooden blocks.
This hot spring is often surrounded by snow, giving a very wintery feeling to it, and as it is a smaller open-air bath, you can soak in the waters in the comfortable silence of nature. At night, the view of the sky and stars from this onsen is lovely. If you time your visit just right, you will be able to enjoy some truly stunning views all from the comfort of a private open-air bath.
Shirahone Onsen Konashi no Yu Sasaya
Address: Nagano, Matsumoto, Azumi, Shirahone 4182−1
Website: Shirahone Onsen Konashi no Yu Sasaya
5. Takayu Onsen Ryokan Tamagoyu and Tenkei no Yu
Heading out once more, let's visit Tenkei no Yu, an open-air bath found at Takayu Onsen in Fukushima prefecture. This is a purely natural hot spring - there is no heat or water added to the natural spring itself whatsoever.
With its circumference surrounded by rocks, Tenkei no Yu is divided into two open-air baths with two different temperatures. Being about to enjoy two hot springs in one is just one of the many charms of this hot spring.
Also through Street View you can see Tensho no Yu, another open-air bath found at Ryokan Tamagoyu. The following panel shows Tensho no Yu.
This hot spring is even more snug than Tenkei no Yu. These two hot springs work on a rotating sex-based schedule, meaning that if you match your visit up properly, you can enjoy visiting one then the other based on whether you are male or female. It's an irresistible place for hot spring fans.
Takayu Onsen Ryokan Tamagoyu and Tenkei no Yu
Address: Fukushima, Fukushima, Machiniwasaka, Takayu 7
Website: Takayu Onsen Ryokan Tamagoyu and Tenkei no Yu
6. Norikuran Kogen Onsen Yukemurikan
Yumemurikan is a hot spring in Nagano prefecture's Matsumoto city which is known for its milky white waters that gush forth from Ohi-Ginzan. You can see the beautiful color of the hot spring from the Street View panel.
Right before your eyes you will be able to enjoy a sweeping view of Mount Norikura, and at dusk, the silhouette of the mountain across the landscape is quite impressive. This open-air bath is open to groups of people so families and groups of friends traveling together can leisurely share in the fantastic views that spread out before your eyes in this hot spring.
Norikuran Kogen Onsen Yukemurikan
Address: Nagano, Matsumoto, Azumi, Suzuran 4306-4
Website: Norikuran Kogen Onsen Yukemurikan
The Best Thing for the Season - Open-air Baths
The best way to beat the cold of winter is by soaking in an open-air bath. The combination of the chilly air and the hot water around you is very comfortable, and the sight of a hot spring surrounded by snow is something you can only enjoy for a short time each winter. Enjoy a break from the everyday at these secluded spots perfect for a winter getaway.