Friday, April 24, 2015

Second Day in Nyuto Onsen-kyo

Since we have planned to stay in Nyuto Onsen-kyo for 3 days, we were in no hurry to take off after our first night at the lovely ryokan of Taenoyu. The next morning after breakfast, we packed up, left our luggage at the front desk and went out to check out the other hot spring bath-houses in the "village".

Yumegri-go Shuttle Bus going around the ryokans in the village
The village of Nyuto Onsen consists of eight different ryokans, each with their own hot spring facilities available both for their overnight guests and walk-in visitors during the day. For the convenience of visitors they established a "passport" system called "Yumeguri-cho", available only for overnight guests staying at any of the ryokans. For 1500 yen, visitors can buy a passport, allowing them to visit each of the 8 facilities once within one year of purchase, plus free transportation provided to shuttle between the facilities (in a mini-van called Yumeguri-go). Even though this time we weren't able to take full advantage of the system - one of the ryokans was closed during winter months and 2 others were temporarily shut down because of the snowstorm, and it's highly unlikely we would return before the passport expires, we still found "Yumeguri-cho" a good thing to have if you would like to explore further in the area, especially for us without a car that we could get around by.


Our first stop was Ganiba Onsen (蟹場溫泉), so named because of the crabs in the river running right across it, just a bit further down the road from Taenoyu, about 5 minutes by shuttle. From outside it looked like a moderate inn with only basic facilities, or even a bit run-down, but dipping in this 160-year-old hot spring bath was quite an experience in an amazing setting.

Open-air bath at Ganiba Onsen
There were 3 hot spring baths available - 2 indoors and 1 outdoors. Nothing special about the indoor ones but the outdoor bath was not to be missed. It's about 80 meters away from the main building so you had to walk through a snow-covered path to get there with the rain-boots provided by the ryokan. At the end of the path is a wooden hut - the changing room - and next to it is the hot spring bath. The hot spring bath was of decent size, and the mildly sulphuric, greenish water from the underground source nearby was at the perfect temperature to dip in. But the best was its view - it's surrounded by tall beech trees and powdery snow which was still slowly falling. And what's better was I was the only one there for the entire time so I felt like I could completely relax and indulge myself in the beauty of nature totally undisturbed.

Ogama Onsen
Our original plan was to drop by Ogama Onsen (大釜溫泉) next, which was located right next to Taenoyu, but after we found out the ryokan was closed for day visitor because of the snow, we moved on to our next destination, the Kyukamura (休暇村), or the resort village, a bit further down the road.

Nyuto Onsen-kyo Kyukamura
Kyukamura is one of the largest lodging facilities among all seven, and is part of the National Park Resort chain with inns across Japan. It's also the most modernized as well, like a simple hotel more so than a cozy ryokan. But since this is low season it's not crowded at all - once again I had the outdoor onsen by myself so I could even take a few snaps of the pool using my phone. The bath-house was separated into men and women section - no mixed gender bath here - and the outdoor onsen was built in a wooden hut surrounded by trees so it's protected against severe weather.

By the time we finished with hot spring at Kyukamura it's about lunch time, so we headed over to the cafeteria restaurant next to the hotel lobby for a quick lunch. The menu was quite basic with a few options available. We had an oyako-don - rice with chicken and eggs - which was delicious. Both the chicken meat and the eggs were from Hinai-jidori (比内地雞) - the specialty chicken breeds from Akita which was considered one of the best in the country. Just as we were finishing our meal, the shuttle bus pulled up at the entrance, taking us back to pick up our luggage and moved on to the Tsurunoyu - the ryokan we were to stay tonight. Our Nyuto Onsen-kyo journey continues...

Ganiba Onsen:
Kyukamura Nyuto Onsen-kyo: 

(Part of the Japan Rail Trip 2015 Series - a journey through the Tohoku region by rail in Spring 2015)


Unknown said...

Hi Gary

We are hoping to go to this part of Japan late April next year... will there be snow?!

gary s said...

Hmm late April is probably tough in terms of snow...