Hot Springs in and around Yamanashi

Contents

  1. The Onsen Experience
  2. Onsen Glossary
  3. A Few Good Onsen
  4. But What about Fluffy?

The Onsen Experience

rotenburo
Rotenburo in Yamanashi

No tatoos! Note: If you have multiple tattoos you may be denied entrance to many onsen. Most onsen enforce this policy to keep the yakuza (Japanese mafia) out since this has a noticeable negative affect on sales from the other customers who feel uncomfortable and simply find a different onsen to frequent.

If you go to an onsen in Japan, and I highly recommend you do, you will at least want to know some basic etiquette and what to expect. This is very simple. Firstly, like most other establishments in Japan you need to remove you shoes when entering and put them on the shoe shelf or in a small shoe locker near the entrance. Next you will pay the fee and buy or rent a towel if you didn't bring one. This is done two ways: The first is to pay at the front desk. However many onsen have vending machines that dispense the tickets for admission and towels. If you don't know how to use it, simply ask any one around. Most people will be happy to help and maybe practice some English in addition. If you purchased ticket(s) with a vending machine, then give these ticket(s) to the person at the front desk. You will receive your towel if you purchased one. Some places will give you a locker key here. There will sometimes be a vending machine selling toothbrush sets, or shaving sets.

Next boys and girls will split up and go through the entrance to the baths marked by blue and red curtains respectively. You will have entered the changing room. Undress and put your belongings in a locker. The key goes around your ankle or wrist. Some places only have coin-operated lockers so you may need a 100 yen coin. Some places do not have lockers at all and instead have baskets and cubby holes. So the question of security comes up. What do I do with the 80,000 yen in my pocket? One option is to keep the money you don't need locked in your car. As long as there are no foreigners (non-Japanese) around I am usually not to worried and I just leave it in my jeans pocket and hope it is still there when I am done. However, you will need to find a solution you are comfortable with. Enter the onsen with your small towel covering your naughty bits or flaunt what you've got. Either is fine. There will be an area to wash along the wall near the entrance. There will usually be liquid body soap and shampoo provided. Have a seat on the small bench and wash yourself well from head to toe. At least as well as you wish your neighbor to wash himself/herself. Make sure you rinse the all soap from your towel well when done.

There are only a few rules you need to know. The main one being not to let your towel enter the bath water. And if your a guy, and unless you are posing for a corny photo, only fold your towel and put it on your head if you want to look like an ojisan (old man). It is also a good idea to rinse off at the shower after sweating like a pig in the sauna. These are basic common courtesies which means you will most likely see people not following them. Like in the winter when some people hop in the onsen first to warm up a bit before getting out and washing. There will sometimes be drinkable water even if there is no water fountain. Look for a cup on a chain. The water from the spigot there will be drinkable. This will almost always be at the mizuburo. This may be actual spring water from the source at some onsen. The water supplied to natural onsen is sometimes so hot that cold water is also constantly provided. ATTENTION: It is rarely a good idea to stick your hand under any spigot from which water is flowing if you are not absolutely sure of the temperature. Well, some people need practical advice.

At really small outside onsen, and almost certainly at any onsen you need to hike to get to, there will be no soap, no shampoo, and there may not even be a place to change or wash. In this case undress where ever convenient and use the small bucket to scoop some water from one of the baths, dump it on yourself, lather up, rinse, and repeat as necessary. Then scoop some more water and rinse well before entering the bath. These onsen are the most fun if you get the opportunity to visit one.

Onsen Glossary

ofuro
A general term for bath describing the bath in ones home, and the bath at a Japanese inn or youth hostel, and "ofuro ni hairu" which literally means enter the bath is even used to mean "take a shower". For the Japanese, washing and soaking are done separately. The Japanese ofuro is a small room with a tub and a shower outside the tub area. You bathe first and then enter the tub to soak and relax. The water is left in the tub for other family members to use kept warm by covering the tub or by a heater.
sento
Simply a public bath: a place to bathe and soak, and also served as a place to socialize. In the past sento were numerous since Japanese homes did not have baths. However, in modern Japan, outside of the country, all have baths so sento are no longer a necessity and as a result have diminished in number. I have used the neighborhood sento on occasion when staying at places without a bath.
onsen
Hot spring. In the larger onsen there may be a variety of baths such as mizuburo (cold bath), warm, hot, jet bath, rotenburo (outside bath), and even a sauna and steam rooms. Although it means "hot spring", the term onsen is sometimes used generically even when the source of the water is city water.
denkiburo
Electrified bath.
yukimiburo
Literally "snow watching bath" and means to watch the falling snow while relaxing in a rotenburo (outside bath).
konyoku
Mixed gender onsen. These were more plentiful in the past when people did not have baths in their homes. Men and women would sometimes soak together in an outdoor hot spring. However, the younger generation having grown up with private baths in the home and more privacy rarely will frequent a konyoku because they are mainly used by the older male generation. If you search for a konyoku in local guide magazines you are likely to find one. If you go, you are likely to find it empty or full of elderly men. However, for friends of mixed gender, families, and spouses, searching for a konyoku or kazokuburo (below) may be worth the effort.
kazokuburo
Family bath. This is a small private bath found in some hotels although not too common. You can lock the door and use a small onsen in privacy. One that I have been to in Izu had a small changing area and vanity as well.
rotenburo
Outdoor bath. If you find that Japanese onsen are too hot, try the rotenburo which will always be just a bit cooler. The garden or area around the rotenburo are often decorated in traditional Japanese style. Some are covered and others are not. Rotenburo are especially enjoyable during rain or snow.

A Few Good Onsen

Hottarakashinoyu, Yamanashi City, Yamanashi

mountainrotenburo
The two large rotenburo at Hottarakashinoyu hot springs

This is a great onsen especially for nighttime. This onsen is up the mountainside just above the Fujiya Fruits Park Hotel in Yamanashi City. There is one small inside onsen and two rather large rotenburo. One is wood and has a negative edge that over looks the city lights. The other is made of natural rock. The fee is 500 yen and tickets are dispensed from a vending machine near the entrance. From the changing room inside go outside to the area was washing up. This can be cold in the winter but makes getting in the onsen feel even better. There are vending machines, a small hut serving ramen and other snacks, and tables and chairs outside in front.

Directions

From Kofu take Route 140 to Yamanashi-shi and follow signs to The Fujiya Fruits Park Hotel. Pass the hotel and follow signs to the onsen. Parking is free.

Isawa Kenkou Land, Isawa, Yamanashi

kenkou_land
Small garden near the entrance of Kenko Land

This is not a natural onsen and the water is recirculated in some of the baths. Kenkou Land is a hotel, onsen, restaurant, bar in one. There are more types of baths here than any other place I have gone including a small pool, jacuzzi, sauna, small rotenburo, a few different herb baths, and more. Outside there are a few one person barrel onsen. What makes this onsen worth while for me is the salt sauna. The salt sauna is similar to a standard sauna except you take handfuls of salt from the center bin and rub it all over your body. My least favorite bath after trying it a couple times is the denkiburo (electric bath). There are two one-person barrels with electric contacts submerged in the water. Before you hop in, you may want to stick you hand in the barrel. You will feel your muscles immediate begin to spasm. Sound relaxing? During my last visit I got a "akasuri" Korean massage. The masseuse scrubs you head to toe with one of those plastic brillo pads for 30 minutes. Actually it was pretty relaxing. You pay at the front and get a locker key. In the locker is a pair of pajamas and towels. There is soap, shaving cream, razors, no-paste toothbrushes and more all included in the price. You can ask for a large size at the front when you pay. The entry fee allows you to use all the baths and sauna. Massages are extra. I have spent entire days here with friends bouncing from the onsen to the bar to the restaurant. There are also private rooms you can rent for the day for larger groups. The fee is around 1200 yen, but 1000 yen if you buy a 10 ticket book.

Directions

A 15 min. drive from Kofu station. Exit the station towards the south and continue south down Heiwa dori to the second pedestrian overpass. Make a left turn. This is Route 140. The road makes a sharp left followed by a sharp right. Continue on this road. The road again makes a sharp left followed by a sharp right and then passes under the train tracks. Continue into Isawa Onsen town and Kenko Land will be on the left.

Kaisen, Isawa, Yamanashi

What a great onsen. In Nov. 2008 the price was 2000 yen. But don't be scared away by the price. It is well worth it. There may be a discount if you go a night. This onsen is open 24-7. There is a large and smaller rotenburo, pool (cool water), steam room, bubble and jacuzzi baths, and a special event bath which changes. There are 3 relaxation rooms. A dark and quiet rest room, a large TV room, and a hot relaxation room. Matts and blankets are free. Ask for blankets at the front. There are small foam block "pillows" that are first-come-first-serve. There are also private rooms you can book. Wait, there's more. Stone rooms where you can lay down in hot stones, a foot bath outdoors in a garden setting, a restaurant, snack shop in the relaxation room. And a slew of massages available for extra.

Directions

By Train: Take the Chuo line to Isawa Onsen. Exit the station (South is the only exit) and continue down the main street on the right side. \ You will walk for about 25 minutes until you reach Route 20 a major road. There will be a McDonalds on the left. Turn right and continue about 5 minutes more to the onsen on the right.

Puku Puku, Yamanashi City, Yamanashi

This onsen opened sometime in 2003. It is located in the Fruits Park. There is an inside onsen and a rotenburo. The fee is 600 yen and tickets are dispensed from a vending machine near the entrance. The onsen contains torimarin which is a gem stone that is supposed to be good for your health. There is a break room with tables, a gift shop, coin-operated massage chairs.

Directions

From Kofu take Route 140 to Yamanashi-shi and follow signs to The Fujiya Fruits Park Hotel. Enter the Fruits Park, go past the hotel and follow signs to the onsen. Parking is free.

Tsutanoyu, Nagano

tsutanoyu_onsen
Rotenburo at Tsutanoyu

This is a natural onsen with a rotenburo, mizuburo (cold bath), jacuzzi, sauna, pressure shower, and a few different hot baths. The fee, paid for buy purchasing a ticket from a vending machine, is 500 yen. There are vending machines, coin-operated foot massage, and coin-operated massage chairs. There is a tatami room for relaxing, a restaurant, and a souvenir shop. Phone: 0266-61-8222

Directions

Continue on Route 20 past Suntory Winery. Leave Yamanashi, and continue 5 minutes into Nagano. The onsen is on the left. Parking is free.

Mukawanoyu, Mukawa, Yamanashi

This natural onsen has a large rotenburo, mizuburo, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, as well as a couple of hot baths.

Directions

Continue on Route 20 into Mukawa. Turn left immediately after at the pedestrian over pass. If you pass the Shell gas station on the left, you have gone too far. Continue past the high school and make a right. The onsen is on the left-hand side.

Risonare Hotel, Kobuchisawa, Yamanashi

risonare
The wave pool at the Risonare Hotel

Risonare Kobuchisawa Hotel pool in Yamanashi. This is not an onsen but I included it here because it is a great pool and a really nice hotel. I stayed at this hotel for a company bounenkai (year end party) in December 2000. However, I just recently visited the pool. Admission is 2000 yen (April 2002). Besides the wave pool shown here, there are showers, sauna, rotenburo style pool outside, jet baths, pool side restaurant that serves snacks, ice cream sundaes, and beer, coin-operated massage chairs, and even bathing suit rentals (yuck).

Directions

Take the Chuo expressway towards Nirasaki to the Kobuchisawa exit. Make a left from the exit and make an immediate left onto the road that runs parallel to the expressway. Risonare will be on this road. If you go by train, take the Chuo line towards Nirasaki. Get off at Kobuchisawa station. The hotel is about a 10 min. walk.

Sanbare Hotel, Izu, Shizuoka

onsen
One of five private onsen at the Sanbare Hotel in the town of Izu.

This hotel opened in July, 2001. All 5 private natural hot spring rooms all slightly different in design. If available, you enter, lock the door, and the onsen is your's until you decide to leave. I do not know if these onsen are available to anyone, or to overnight guests only.

Usaginotsuki, Izu, Shizuoka

I have only heard this is a great onsen but have not visited myself yet.

Yumemino'oka, Futaba, Yamanashi

I am really excited about this onsen. Not just because it is a great onsen and brand spanking new, but because of its location. It is directly between my company and my apartment on the road I take to work every day. Besides that it is open to 10 p.m. Because of the location, my coworkers from AZ should be able to get there easily by taxi. This is a natural onsen and the water is not recirculated as is with some onsen. There is a rotenburo, mizuburo, baths in the range of hot, very hot, and ultra-hot, and a sauna. The fee is 700 yen, and an addition 100 yen to rent towels if you didn't bring your own. You can get a 10 ticket set for 5000 yen. Everything else is provided. There is also a restaurant, massage chairs, foot massage machines, and vending machines. All the water at this onsen is drinkable. Note: Drink from the bath source and not the bath water itself; Well some people need practical advice...

Directions

From the intersection of Nodo (farm road) & Kita bypass in Futaba, travel east past the It's More supermarket at the intersection, and take the next right turn. The parking lot is on the left. You will see the many pink flags on the street if there are still up.

Yurari Onsen, Narusawamura, Yamanashi

This place is very aesthetically cool. From the front you enter the onsen and there is a one-person and a 2-person bath. You can take the staircase outside down the rotenburo, but the spiral staircase inside, although really slippery, is more fun. It leads to a small hall with 1/2 height doors to the left and right. Open the left door and step down into the onsen in the round. Relax while listening to the background music. From the hall if you step down into the room on the left you will enter the sauna in the round. The small door from here lead directly into the mizuburo outside next to the rotenburo. For an extra fee there in a sunaburo (sand bath) where you lie down and are buried up to the neck in hot sand. This place is definitely worth checking out.

Directions

By Car: From Kofu take Route 358 to Route 139 heading towards Kawaguchiko. Enter Narusawamura and past Route 71. Look for signs to the onsen. Yurari will be south of Route 139.

By Train: From Kofu take Take the Chuo line to Otsuki and change to the Fuji Chu Otsuki line to Kawaguchiko station. Take a taxi to the onsen about 6-7 kilometers from the station

But What about Fluffy?

catdogonsen petonsen

Onsen are not only for humans! This is an ad for a cat and dog onsen. It reads, "Cat and Dog Onsen. Make sure you visit for the benefit of your pet's health." They also boast a pet only rotenburo. The photo on the right is from another magazine advertising an onsen for owners and their pets to use together. This dog very well may enjoy the onsen, but I am not too sure it likes that towel sitting on its head. Its expression reminds me of the put the biscuit on the dogs nose and tell him "wait..., wait..., wait..., ok!" trick.