Translated by MATCHA-PR
Rediscover Ancient Japan at Tsuetate Onsen in Kumamoto
Tsuetate Onsen is an area in Kumamoto prefecture, Kyushu, famous for its hot spring and unique traditions. This article introduces some of the hot springs and the traditional festivals specific to Tsuetate Onsen - a region you will fall in love with once
Written by MATCHA-PR
There is a plethora of famous hot spring areas all over Japan, and each one has its own unique charms. One such hot spring area, Tsuetate Onsen, is located in Kyushu, in the town of Oguni. The appeal of Tsuetate Onsen lies in how it retains its classically Japanese look, which will be nostalgic for Japanese visitors and a fresh experience for overseas tourists.
What is Tsuetate Onsen?
Tsuetate Onsen is located at the northern edge of Kumamoto, on the border with Oita Prefecture. Remarkably, the history of the onsen goes back more than 1800 years.
Tsuetate is short for “tsue wo tateru,” which means “to leave one's cane behind”. The story goes that the hot springs at Tsuetate are so effective at restoring vitality, that a visitor who requires the assistance of a cane can soak in the water, and by the time they leave, they will no longer need the cane. The name is derived from a classical poem, which was composed by the historical figure and high priest Kobo Daishi Kukai.
As you walk through the streets of Tsuetate Onsen, steam from the hot springs will rise up everywhere you go. At the public steam area, you can even cook eggs and vegetables.
The Water at Tsuetate Onsen
The water in Tsuetate Onsen’s hot springs can get as hot as 98 degrees. It’s very unusual for a hot spring source anywhere in Japan to reach such a high temperature.
The water is colorless and odorless, and has no characteristic sulfur smell. The weakly alkaline water is almost neutral, and gentle on the skin. It also contains a great deal of metasilicic acid, which is said to be a natural skin moisturizer, which makes the onsen popular among women interested in the water’s beautifying properties.
In the past, the hot springs at Tsuetate Onsen were so high-quality that it was not unusual for visitors to stay for two to three weeks at a time. Recently, there has been an increase in number of female visitors to Tsuetate Onsen, who come because of their desire for beautiful skin.
Tsuetate Onsen’s most notable feature is its “steam bath,” a sauna-esque hot spring where you can warm up your whole body with steam. It’s said by the locals that “if you have a cold, you should visit the steam bath to clear it up!” Taking a steam bath will make you sweat from head to toe, and is beneficial for blood circulation. Hot springs with sulfuric compositions can’t be made into steam baths, since the odor would be too powerful in a confined space. It is precisely because of the odorless nature of Tsuetate Onsen’s hot springs that you can experience this unique bath.
Strolling The Back Streets Of Sedoya
The back alley area of Tsuetate Onsen is called Sedoya, and is a complicated maze. Once, the area was composed of various storefronts and homes, but thanks to building extension after building extension, Sedoya gradually became this labyrinth. One of the fun things to do when walking around Tsuetate is to try and explore Sedoya.
In the past, children used to play hide-and-seek in these alleys. While a first-time visitor will definitely get lost, the local children known the ins and outs of every connecting street. The atmosphere in Sedoya, totally different from the main street, is something to enjoy.
In addition, little red figures like the one in the picture are hidden all over Sedoya. This is “Grandpa Tsue,” the mascot character of Tsuetate Onsen.
Grandpa Tsue figures are scattered all over Sedoya, so when you’re walking around the area, keep an eye out for them!
The Bridge Is A Power Spot?？
The Tsuetategawa River, which runs through the heart of Tsuetate Onsen, has three bridges. The bridge furthest downstream, the “maple bridge,” is said to grant wishes.
Visitors have written their wishes on carp-shaped cedar boards and hung them up on the canopy of the bridge. These boards, called e-goi, are an item unique to Tsuetate Onsen.
Because the words for carp and love are pronounced the same way in Japanese (“koi”), it’s said that the e-goi at the maple bridge are effective at granting requests about love. Many people have come to visit the bridge after hearing the rumors, and it is now a popular sightseeing spot.
The Pudding Is Popular Too
The pudding at Tsuetate Onsen is also well-known. As mentioned above, Tsuetate Onsen has a steam area, which had been used as a place to make sweet egg dishes for generations. That tradition is still alive at the hotels and ryokan inns of Tsuetate Onsen, where the menus offer various original puddings.
These places have lists like this, which show you all the different types of puddings that a given place has on its menu. Please choose the one that seems the most appealing to you from the menu and show it to the staff. They will be happy to serve you!
Free Foot Baths
You can also take foot baths for free by the river. After walking around Sedoya and eating some pudding, we recommend that you take a load off and rest your feet.
What do you think? Supported by onsen lovers for over 1800 years, this historic hot spring area in Oguni offers baths, mazes, foot baths, pudding, a bridge where you can make wishes, and more! How about traveling to Kumamoto and sampling the many pleasures of Tsuetate Onsen?
Address: Shimojo 4173-5, Oguni, Aso, Kumamoto
Homepage: Tsuetate Onsen