There’s nothing better than a day of lounging around at a spa, feeling clean and happy, like a well-fed an well-groomed cat. I had been wanting to visit Japan’s hotsprings for a while, and had my sights set on Kurokawa. Japan’s volcanic activity means a lot of the groundwater is heated, and comes bubbling up as mineral rich hot springs.
Onsen (温泉) towns in Japan are plentiful, but Kurokawa is special because of its traditional atmosphere. No neon lights, and no large concrete hotels. Everything there is old-school and natural. The non-sulfurous water is milky with minerals, and comes pouring out everywhere. Even just walking around town you can treat yourself to free steam facials and “onsen eggs” cooked by hotspring water.
We chose to stay at the Yamamizuki Ryokan. Basically, upon arrival, you take your clothes off and never put them back on again. They give you soft robes to walk around town in, which not only keeps the look of the town traditional, but keeps you unaware of your waistline as you eat all the delicious and beautiful food.
But the main event is to lose yourself in nature’s beauty. The only way to enjoy the hotsprings, is to be au naturel. No swimsuits or towels are allowed in the pools. You scrub and shower outside of the pools first, then follow with a nice hot soak in the springs. Yamamizuki has many options, including private in-room onsens, shared indoor onsen, and shared outdoor onsen. The indoor pools all have screens that open up fully to frame the outdoor scenery, but why frame the scenery when you can be IN the scenery? The best is the outdoor onsen, which is the largest and runs into the stream. The only thing is that you shower off in a hut that is not exactly next door to the pool, so you have to do a nudie run through the forest. It’s quite invigorating, especially in the cold of winter. I’m sure the hot/cold temperatures boosted our immune systems!
It was such an experience, and we left feeling like clean happy fat cats!