Those of you who were in Hakuba a few years back will fondly remember Obuya Onsen. The onsen with endless options. Obuya has a new owner and is now called Hakuba Genryu no Yu. They have a large washing area, large indoor bath, large outdoor bath, a steam room/bath inside a tiny hut, and a good selection of single use baths where you can put your feet up and your head back. This you must try during one of Hakuba’s big snow falls. Watching huge lit up flakes floating towards you can best be described as a adventure through the galaxy, all while keeping warm and soaking in the therapeutic waters of one of Hakuba’s best mineral water sources.
UPDATE: The smaller baths and the steam room will not be put to use this winter. The indoor and outdoor baths are still fabulous though.The indoor bath area still smells of fresh hinoki, a Japanese cypres admired for its strength and aromatherapeutic qualities.
The outdoor area is steamy and the stone bath is surrounded by a thick blanket of snow while the hot alkaline rich water does wonders for dry winter skin.
Charge: 500 yen
Open: 9:00 – 21:30
After a long winter of snow-filled skies, I must admit I do look forward to a bit if sunshine, and Obinata-no-yu is my favorite place to catch up on my vitamin D. It’s closed in the middle of winter but re-opens just as the days start to get a little longer and the clouds give way to more bluebird skies. When there is snow on the ground the taps and showers are also covered up so you have to wash the old fashioned way by sitting next to the hotspring and splashing yourself by dunking a bucket into bath. Don’t forget to get wet, lather up with soap, and rinse yourself clean before lowering your (now goose-pimply) body into these alkaline-rich mineral waters.
Open: 10:00 – 17:00
Closed: November – February
We have passed Kajika Onsen Ryokan a number of times on our way to Takasekan Onsen in Oomachi. Even tried to go there once but because the onsen is only available from 10 to 3 for non-staying guests, it’s been a bit hard to catch. This time we were intent on trying Kajika Onsen and I am glad we made the extra effort. Kajika is a beautiful Ryokan surrounded by a peaceful snow-covered forest. They have one indoor and one outdoor bath available for non-staying guests to use before check-in time. The two baths have two different types of natural mineral waters. The indoor bath has simple alkaline clear water, while the outdoor bath smelled more sulfurous and was loaded with yu-no-hana which literally translates as bath flowers but looked more like bits of volcanic ash. Proof that it’s a 100% natural mineral water hotspring.
Open: 10:00 – 15:00
Price: ¥800 adults / ¥500 kids
Access: You can find it on our google map here
If you are an onsen virgin (as one of our guests called it) you may be feeling a little reluctant to bathe with the locals. Many foreigners feel strange about being nude with others, but let me assure you, everyone is naked under their clothes, and everyone leaves their clothes behind when they take an onsen. If you too undress, you will fit in perfectly, no need to feel uneasy or out-of-place. And anyway, you will most likely never have to see these people again so who cares if they get a peak at your barest essentials. Even if you don’t care about the nudity, you may be worried about embarrassing yourself by committing the worst of faux pas while having nothing on to cover up the shame. The first time I went to an onsen I had a good friend take me through the process step-by-step. I have to admit it was not the most relaxing experience the first time around, but now, 100s of onsens later, I have to tell you this is an experience not to be missed! So let me take you through the process step by step and hopefully you too will feel confident enough to have a go at one of Japan’s oldest and most popular traditions. Click on “read more” for a detailed 9-step onsen procedure.
I’ve been suffering from a cold so, as advised by my naturopath, I’ve been turning to all things hot. This week I have soaked at the Yamada Ryokan Onsen for a long dip in healing waters, put extra tabasco on my Tacos on Monday, had a good dose of wasabi on my tofu last night, been drinking hot yuzu tea, and spent a few hours sweating it out at Escal Plaza’s Spa. The Spa at Escal Plaza is nothing fancy but has all of the required basics for only ¥600. There is a large changing area with free lockers, showers, a large hot bath, a sauna, and a cold plunge pool for those who prefer to bathe the Scandanvian way (alternate between heat and cold). Their super convenient location on the first floor of Goryu Ski Resort’s main building, makes it possible to get warm and clean while waiting for your friends to finish up their day on the mountain.
倉下の湯 (kurashita-no-Yu) is perhaps my favorite onsen in Hakuba. Mind you, it is not everyone’s favorite. Some people don’t like the color of the water, others are put off by the rusty smell. However, I love the yellowish-grey iron-rich water here. As the sign on the wall proudly exclaims “this is real onsen water, straight from the spring” where nothing is added and none of it gets recycled. Hakuba has 3 types of hotspings. The alkaline springs in Happo make you feel real good on the outside as they do wonders for the skin. While this super potent iron and sulphur solution does wonders for your insides.
Daini Satonoyu is one of the onsets (hot springs) in the Happo Onsen group. This is probably my favorite of the bunch because it is HOT! Last time I went it was over 43 degrees. The washing area is right next to the bath so it is nice and warm there too. There are some onsen I won’t go to when I am feeling chilly because the washing area is just too cold. No problems here. The springs at the 4 Happo Onsens are high alkaline waters with a PH of 11, which means the water feels soft and makes your skin silky smooth. No rotenburo (outdoor bath), no windows, no view. Nothing fancy just good quality water at the right temperature (for me).
Hours: 12:00 – 21:00 (last entry is 20:30)
Price: adults ¥500 / children ¥250
Yasu’s back still wasn’t ready to shred so off to another onset we went. This time we drove towards the coast into Otari. We went for a long drive down winding roads with snowbanks higher than our van. The road ends where the plows stop plowing which put us in front of Yamada Ryokan (Japanese style inn). The indoor bath is small but the water is potent. I had the place to myself so could sneak in a quick snap.
The place is old and aging but I prefer a bit of character and a whole lot of history over bland and sterile. I hear the waters have been flowing here for over 500 years!!
Spent the morning shredding powder in the backcountry but Yasu’s back was bothering him so we decided to call it a day and seek some relief for tired aching muscles at an onsen (Natural hot spring mineral bath). There are tons of great onsens here in Hakuba but since we had some extra time we decided to do a bit of exploring and drive out to the next town, Omachi, and go for an onsen there for a change. It was a beautiful drive and we spotted many monkeys along the way.
The hotspring, Takasekan Onsen, was awesome too. We have actually been there before. Hot thermal alkaline waters you can drink. Last time we went I used the women’s outdoor bath (women’s rotenburo) which was a bit too hot for my liking. It was even too hot to drink! The women’s side also has 2 baths indoors, these were set at a more comfortable soaking temperature.
This time we discoved that the men’s outdoor bath is actually a mixed bath (konyoku), meaning daring women could soak with the boys, which I did. It was the pefect temperature (probably about 40 degrees) and we soaked for about an hour.