Saturday, January 6, 2024

One of the Best Hot Springs on Aichi Prefecture's Chita Peninsula

The blues and roses of the sunset sky melted with the arrival of stars above. Lights from night-fishing squid boats bounced and glittered on the horizon when I tilted my head downward. I was sitting in a traditional Japanese cedar-wood bath on the tenth-floor roof of a gorgeous Japanese-style hotel named Genji Koh in Minamichita, Japan. If you are driving along the coastal road, look for the sign below. Directions for drivers and train riders are here. My friends and I were searching for an onsen for an evening soak and chose to try this one because of the seaside location and the hotel's attractive exterior. Many fine Japanese hotels allow both overnighters and visitors to enjoy the baths. We paid 1,600 yen (around US $11.00 at writing time) to enjoy the baths, a relaxation room, and towels. 

Two birds called to each other in their private language somewhere in the sky. When the birds ceased conversing, I  heard gentle waves rhythmically slapping Yamami Dolphin Beach below. A gentle wind off the sea kept my head cool while I soaked in the higher-than-40-degree warmth of a natural Japanese onsen.

My evening goal was to test the temperature and mood of each bath.

Each one was soothing.

The ripples spreading across the surface of the hot water surface represented the stress fleeing my body and soul as the view and Earth's thermal goodness worked their healing magic on me. According to the hotel's information, the spring water contains sodium, calcium, chloride, and saline that help cure or reduce pains related to arthritis, neuralgia, and poor circulation. 

Wellness experiences like these are the principal reason I  reside in Japan. Other incentives are the beauty of Japanese art and the deliciousness of superb restaurants  I discover in remote locations, often by chance. Not only did the hotel have soothing baths with expansive natural vistas, but the owners had filled the lobby and hallways with gorgeous arts and crafts, for example, check out the closeup photograph of a traditional kimono on display in the hotel. 

This magnificent afternoon started with taking guests to a seaside pizza restaurant I guessed would be worth visiting. Pizzeria Passo Avanti blew us away with the sea view from the dining room and sensational cooking. The head chef apparently won pizza-making awards in Italy. Notice the trophy in the image below the pizza maker. 


The area I have written about in this post is part of the Chita Penisula, south of Nagoya. Despite being close to the Chubu Centrair International Airport (which has an airport bathing facility), only a few international visitors know much about this charming region. Another incredible aspect of Chita Penisula is the considerable number of days ending with gorgeous sunsets. 
Sunset and a nori seaweed farm

A fisherman watches the sun dance on the horizon

If you are in Nagoya City and need refreshment, try the bathing facilities below, but the information needs updating.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Healthy Black Water in Tokyo Community Onsen: Mikokuyu Onsen

Many community bathing facilities have Mt. Fuji illustrations

Mikokuyu Onsen is one of many soothing community onsens scattered throughout the busy hodgepodge of the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area. 

Despite being close to the popular, densely-touristed Asakusa Temple area, Mikokuyu is a friendly oasis for locals and sojourners seeking serenity in hectic Tokyo, stress reduction, and the pleasant sensation of a clean, rejuvenated body.  

Relaxed elegance on the 4th floor

Mikokuyu's naturally black mineral water is from a source of hot water that lies just one hundred meters below the concrete sidewalks and asphalt roadways you encounter everywhere in the urban jungle of Tokyo City. "The mineral-rich water is stained by leaves and other organic materials in the soil," explained a staff person at the entrance counter

Depending on the material of the different onsen tubs, the water may appear purplish, black, or the color of a cup of strong black tea. 

The semi-outside bath in the corner was my favorite of the three bathing areas I tried in the men's section. Wooden slats permitted privacy while letting cool air in, steam escape, and bathers enjoy views of the sky. I could view Tokyo Sky Tree in the distance. 

Fifth-floor bath for the elderly and disabled. Reservations required.

The onsen has more baths than I could experience during my one limited-time visit, so I plan to return for more bathing research. There are jet baths, bubble baths, a sauna, and an open-air bath. 

This is a hangout for locals, but visitors are welcome. According to reviews, this onsen does not shun visitors with tattoos. 

The entrance to relaxation and cleanliness in Tokyo

Admission for adults is 460 yen and 180 yen for children. Towels and robes can also be rented.  Considering the quality of the water, the beauty of the old building that has been renovated quite stylishly, and the care that goes into maintenance and cleaning, fees are amazingly low. 

Mikokuyu is located in Sumida-ku, Tokyo.  The nearest subway station is Honjo- azumabashi Station, which is on the Toei Asakusa Line. From there, you can walk to the onsen in approximately ten minutes.

Location on Google Maps:

Myoko Kogen in Niigata Prefecture has another amazing onsen with black water. This one is in a mountainous area. To learn more, read this post and then go to Myoko for a more immersive experience. 

Japanese onsens come in a variety of colors. This post discusses this colorful topic.

Do you have comments or recommendations on Japanese onsens? Please write them in the comment section below. Thank you in advance.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Does Heaven Have Japanese Hot Springs?

Are Japanese onsens part of the topography of heaven? 

Authentic Japanese hot springs are heavenly: They bring us closer to the earth, eliminate stress like sunlight melting ice cream, soothe aching muscles, heal injuries and other physical ailments, and let us slow down and be aware and grateful for our surroundings. 

Some of us in Japan can't imagine life without onsens. Japanese hot springs are our ikigai, our passion, or, as the French say, raison d'être 

The person who chose the etching on this gravestone probably shared this feeling. When I discovered this artwork while strolling through a culturally rich, historic cemetery within Nagoya's fantastic Heiwa Koen (koen means park), her passion transmitted across time and nationality to my heart. Though I never met her, maybe I know something about her.

I imagine a woman luxuriating in a hot spring bath. Perhaps she is in a traditional ryokan (one in Shizuoka?) with views of Mt. Fuji and cherry trees. It must be spring since blossoms are falling. She has prepared a small container of sake in a wooden bucket floating on the water's surface. She is at peace with the world. For her, she is experiencing heaven on earth. 

The image reminds me of my experience at a Shizukoka ryokan soon after arriving in Japan. I was alone in a rock-lined onsen bath on the side of a cliff. The moon above shone a beam that flashed across the sea in my direction. Elegant, perfectly manicured pine trees and towering Mt. Fuji were silhouetted against the evening sky. 

A Japanese man in his seventies walked naked toward the bath. He passed by me and stared into Mt. Fuji. Then, he sang in a melodious voice a traditional country song about Mt. Fuji. This moment became one of my most memorable cultural immersions in Japan.

Another heavenly bath     Photograph by Peter Locke

Even though I have bathed in over six hundred hot springs in Japan, I will always remember that special moment. Japanese onsens became my ikigai and my relaxation. 

The photograph above shows me experiencing another moment of heaven on Earth. The name of the hot spring is Yunohira Onsen. It is one of the best natural hot springs in Japan. Going there requires a four-hour-one-way hike.

If you read this post while in Nagoya, check out Raku Spa Garden, Nagoya Airport's Bath, and the Nagoya Crown Hotel in Fushimi.

Please continue reading my blog and share your best onsen memories with me and my readers. A comment field is located at the bottom of my posts. I look forward to your contribution. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Wellness in Mie and East Nara: Hiking to Waterfalls and Soaking in a Japanese Onsen


An indoor bath with forest views

Vast stretches of lush green forests, sparkling rivers, and mountains with soothing hot springs make the border of Mie Prefecture and the eastern section of Nara Prefecture a go-to location for wellness adventures. After a refreshing day of forest strolling, soaking in Hotel Sansuien's hot baths, and savoring healthy local cuisine, months of accumulated big-city-induced stress melted away. This soothing experience took place in the outskirts of the verdant city of Nabari, Mie.

After receiving towels in the main building on the exquisite Japanese garden grounds of Sansuien, my friend and I walked outside. Peering at the gate leading to the bathing facilities, I could not stop feeling ukiuki, which is Japanese for excitement, happiness, or cheerfulness. The thoughtful designers of the garden and hotel created a harmonious atmosphere that blends with the natural surroundings and respects the heritage of the area. 
The gate to the bathing area

Notice the rustic structure surrounding the indoor bath, shown in the first photograph. Soaking in the wide tub, I saw swaying trees and flickering light dappling through the branches and windows of the wooden building. A greenish hue to the thermal mineral water matched the outdoor leaves. 

The immaculate outdoor bath exuded a feeling of being in nature because of the greenery, natural building materials, and fresh breezes blowing from the woods. In the background of this photograph, you can see two ribbons of water pouring into the bath. Bathers stand or sit under the falling mineral water to be massaged by the pressure and heat. Called utaseyu in Japanese, this is a positive addictive experience. Thermal water also enters the bath from a hole in a rock, seen in the foreground. I found the temperature to be at the border between pleasure and pain. A nearby wooden sauna room facilitates healthy sweating and bodily cleansing for those seeking dry heat.
Outdoor bath with utaseyu

The photographs above show the baths for men on the day of my visit. Many Japanese bathing facilities alternate public bathing areas so men and women can enjoy different baths without being exposed to members of the opposite sex. 

For those who wish to bathe with only family or friends, regardless of gender identity, Sansuien provides guests with a private bath called a kazokuburo, which translates as a family bath. 

Family bath for private bathing with intimate companions

Sansuien is located a short drive or bicycle ride (3 km or 1.86 mi) from a meandering path that follows the course of a river into which 48 gorgeous waterfalls pour. This magnificent canyon in Nabari City, Mie Prefecture, is known as the Akame 48 Waterfalls. The stunning views of waterfalls, woods, and sparkling water, paired with the sounds of splashing and streaming water, enthrall the spirit and calm the soul. 

Soothing hiking path

Nabari and other areas of Mie and East Nara are relatively unknown and barely visited, compared to Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Nagoya. By train, Nabari is less than two hours from the four cities above, so tour companies focusing on wellness and independent travelers can easily reach this region.

Being off the typical tourist map means this area retains its natural charm. Yoga, hiking, bathing, herbal tea and medicine workshops, ninja training workshops, and green tea preparation workshops are available to those who visit this wellness oasis. Lines, long waits, and crowds are rare. The astounding beauty of autumn leaves does draw people from afar. At that time, there may be traffic jams in the most popular areas. 

Sansuien's hot springs are open to overnighters and day visitors, too. Adults and children can enjoy the baths for 800 and 500 yen on weekdays from 10:00-21:00 and weekends/holidays from 10:00-15:00. 

My recommendation for day visitors is to combine a meal of regional cuisine and a bath. Spend 1,650 yen or more and receive a 300 yen discount on the baths. 

Sansuien has a wide variety of accommodations and meals. If you can read Japanese, visit the Sansuien website for details and prices. Otherwise, compare online hotel reservation sites.

The Hot Spring Addict was not paid by the Sansuien Hotel for this positive review. I was honestly impressed, which motivated me to write about it. The hotel did provide photographs of the baths. Tourism authorities in Nabari and East Nara covered accommodation, transportation, and meals while traveling for this trip. I was not required to provide such a glowing review of this onsen hotel. In fact, I visited two onsen facilities on this trip but decided to write about this one only. 

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Best Outdoor Hot Spring of 2022-2023 Winter

Peaceful Bathing

Bathing in a Japanese onsen on the side of a mountain is a soothing experience, but when surrounded on almost all sides by vast expanses of idyllic snowy forests, the experience is transcendental. The view and the hot water melt concrete walls of urban stress from your pores, and waves of relaxation and pure joy splash inward. This is what I experienced at a rustic cabin named Apple Pension in Zao Onsen, Yamagata, Japan. 

Relaxing and healing
Snow monster habitat

Driving to Zao took several hours from my home in Niigata. Upon arrival, we went straight to the Zao Onsen Ski Resort to visit the icy jewels of Zao Resort, nicknamed "snow monsters." These are giant trees that have acquired mysterious shapes after repeated freezing and exposure to tons of snow and crafty winds. A storm blew in soon after we reached the top, temperatures dropped to minus eight degrees Celsius, and my hands were numbed to the bone. 

An emergency immersion into the local thermal waters was required. My body sent the following message to my brain: "Urgent soaking in hot mineral water required. Quick! Direct the car immediately to our accommodation and head to the outdoor bath." 

Perfect for couples and close friends
My mind responded accordingly. Within five minutes from one of the Zao Ski Resort parking lots, we arrived at Pension Apple, a quaint wooden cabin perched on a plateau encircled by white trees and white mountains. Apple has an indoor bath (uchiyu in Japanese) and an outdoor bath (rotenburo in Japanese). We checked in, reserved the rotenburo, grabbed our towels, and headed for the outdoor bath.

Guests can reserve the bath, so one can be alone or with friends and family. My wife and I shared the bath with a trusted friend from England. This was his first experience bathing outdoors in a snowy region. He was amazed, and I, although I have bathed in more onsens than I can count, thought the location and scenery were superb. 

Evening view from our room

This small, reasonably-priced accommodation is run by Masayuki Sato, an enthusiastic Zao native, and his wife, Michiko, who prepares hearty meals in a dining room with wide windows for savoring the scenery. They also encourage friendly conversations between different guests through the abundant sharing of wine, cheese, and sake. Guests who choose to eat Michiko's sumptuous breakfast and dinner will pay about US $100 per night. 

The evening soak was so good that we decided to wake up early and watch the morning light spread across the sky from the vantage point of the rotenburo. 
Morning onsen

Zao has a wealth of outdoor pleasures to choose from depending on the season: skiing, snowboarding, ice fishing, snowshoeing, hot spring bathing, fishing, flower viewing, hiking, wild mountain vegetable picking, bicycling, outdoor meditation, and yoga, among many others. 

After our morning bath, we snowshoed in a nearby park and observed ice fishers catching wakasagi (Hypomesus nipponensis--Japanese smelt), and followed that up with another bath in a local public bath. Zao is sprinkled with hot springs. Many are free although it is hoped that bathers will place 200 yen into a box outside of each facility to help pay for upkeep. Follow the smell of sulfur or whisps of steam to find them.

For more on beautiful winter hot springs in Japan, here are links to other posts about winter bathing spots in Japan: The Cloud Sea BathHot Springs for SwallowsZao OnsenIntercultural Bathing in HokkaidoVarious Winter SpringsBlack Onsen Water in Myoko Kogen, and Tainai, Niigata. 

Google Map Link:

The hot spring addict did not receive any cash or services for this favorable review. 

If you have comments about Zao or other hot spring areas in Japan, please write them below. 



Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Japan's Geothermal Farms Revitalising Communities

Echelon Magazine, based in Hong Kong, published my article titled "Japan's Geothermal Farms Revitalising Communities." The reaction has been amazing. Within a very short time, the article has been shared repeatedly worldwide. 

Please click on the link and read the article. Japan's Geothermal Farms Revitalising Communities

Your comments on the article and recommendations for Japanese onsens are always welcome. 

Thank you very much. 

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Australian Magazine Publishes My Article about Onsens in Akita

 Dear Readers, 

I stepped out of this onsen blog for a while to concentrate on writing for international magazines and regional travel organizations in Japan. As a result, I have not updated this blog recently, which I apologize for. For now, please read my article about hot springs that Escape, an Australian-based travel magazine published. 

Kawarage Jigoku: Japan’s best hidden hot springs |

Sincerely yours, 


Friday, November 12, 2021

First-Class Private Riverside Baths for Kanreki and other Extraordinary Occasions

Special occasions deserve celebration at a Japanese ryokan. Think private indoor and outdoor baths and meals of exquisite locally foraged mountain vegetables and freshly caught fish that you savor within view of the meandering Arakawa River. This is Takanosukan in Sekigawa Town, Niigata.
The service was impeccable. Staff artfully placed gourmet dishes on a solid wooden table in the dining area of our exclusive onsen bungalow. They arrived and departed with deep polite bows. We listened to the river sing while eating. I cannot imagine a better way to celebrate turning sixty than this splendid and romantic night alone with my wife.

After all, turning sixty is a once-in-a-lifetime event that the Japanese call kanreki. Reaching sixty means that a person has gone through five cycles of the Chinese Zodiac. Some view kanreki as a rebirth. That is a fitting idea for my life.  For me, a hot spring bath is a healing womb that refreshes, revitalizes, and restores me to a younger and more positive being. 

Being reborn

Others think of kanreki as a return to being an infant. Typical gifts for those celebrating kanreki include red clothes to symbolize the red skin of a baby. My wife gifted me with an opportunity to turn my skin red through immersion in mineral-infused hot water. Whether I am becoming a child again or becoming senile, a great bath is a moment to treasure.

The name of the onsen,Takanosu, translates as eagle's nest. A local legend says a hunter spotted an eagle soaking an injured wing in a natural hot spring at this location. While soaking, we did hear the screeches of raptors and spotted two eagles flying above us. Perhaps, this picture, taken from the top of a nearby mountain, shows what the eagles saw as they flew by. The onsen bungalow that we rented is the second from the left. Do you see the suspension bridge? Guests cross that bridge to enter the secluded property, adding to the atmosphere of being separated from the rest of the world.

Before, after, or between soaks, one can stroll trails that lead along the river's edge and some that encircle a nearby campground. I spotted fishers in mid-river. We gathered mountain vegetables (called sansai in Japanese) to take home. Some of the dishes included mushrooms and vegetables that the workers collect each day.

For me, though, the greatest pleasure was bathing, soaking, bathing, soaking, and repeating the process while switching between the indoor and the outdoor bath. Every time was different. As day shifted into night and morning woke us up, the sounds of the river changed, the lighting differed, and I was both older and reborn.

This glorious birthday celebration cost approximately three hundred dollars, which included two gourmet meals. This was a special price offered during the pandemic. I do not know what the price would be during normal years. I was more than satisfied by the perfect service, the mouth-watering dishes prepared with the best local ingredients, the size and quality of the rooms and furnishings, and the private atmosphere. 

Another wonderful hot spring ryokan in Niigata that also offers river views, hiking, luxury, and gourmet meals prepared with mountain vegetables is Rankeisou.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Japan's Best Natural Hot Spring Waterfall

The plunging cascades of a thermally heated twenty-meter-high waterfall provide a powerful warm massage. Kawarageoyu-taki is the name of this remote natural entry-free onsen in Takamatsu National Forest, Yuzawa City, Akita, that soothes the body and the soul. To experience idyllic forest bathing, come here.

Thermal waterfalls are rare even for Japan, which boasts over 3,000 onsen areas and approximately 27,000 individual bathing locations. In my quest for the perfect bath, I have found only four such waterfalls. Kawarageoyu-taki is definitely the best.
Kawarageoyu-taki is special for many reasons. Located in Takamatsu National Forest, Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture, admission is free to anyone willing to take the 10-15 minute hike from the parking space. The lovely path will introduce you to sights that you have probably never seen before. 

First, you'll see a stream of hot water and steam wafting in the air. The sweet smell of sulfur also arrives. Proceed down the hiking trail and you'll cross over the stream on a small wooden bridge. Unfortunately, the trail is not accessible for wheelchair travelers.
As you walk over the stream of hot water, notice its clarity and green color, which could be from alkaline minerals or algae or a combination. Depending on the season and weather, the temperature of the stream leading to the waterfall and water will vary. At the time of my summer visit, the stream temperature was about 50 Celsius or 122 Fahrenheit.
If you are lucky, the trees will cooperate by framing the waterfall with their branches.

Soon, you'll be at the pool, marveling at the color, the aroma, and the bathing opportunities. Choose from standing or sitting under two of the main cascades or settle yourself into a number of naturally formed pools. The hot water is chest-high in the deepest pools. My suggestion is to try them all! When we visited, there were only two other people, and they soon left. Most people wear clothes while bathing here, but one old man who arrived just before I left bathed naked except for the traditional tiny towel for covering his privates. The wooden stairs seen in the photograph above lead to basic changing rooms.

To have the best experience, which to me means fewer people, go in the morning and on weekdays. Avoid holidays. I took a photograph of an image on a sign at the entrance to the waterfall. Compare that image below with mine. Also, you might think that soaking in this hot spring during winter or early spring while the surrounding environment is snowy or cold would be a wonderful experience, but that is a mistake. I once visited during the spring season and was disappointed because the waterfall's temperature was cool. That was because the melting snows had released cold water that flowed into the thermally heated stream. My visit in early September was heavenly. I estimated the water temperature at slightly above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The Japanese autumn, with its exploding golden foliage, must be fantastic.  Winter might prevent challenges as Akita receives heavy snowfall.

Kawarageoyu-taki is one of many extraordinary attractions located in Akita prefecture's Yuzawa Geopark.  Click on the link and see what else interests you.