5th day at 黒川温泉 (KUROKAWA ONSEN)
It’s 5th day of my nomad-style TOUJI trip in 九州 (KYUSHU). I moved from 湯布院 (YUFUIN) to 黒川温泉 (KUROKAWA ONSEN) in 熊本県 (KUMAMOTO Prefecture). There’s direct bus from YUFUIN to KUROKAWA ONSEN which takes 1 hour and 35 minutes. The public transportation network such as trains and buses is well advanced in KYUSHU and also its fare is much more reasonable than any other regions in Japan. You can go anywhere you want in cheaper price by utilizing public transportation here in KYUSHU. It fits this kind of nomad-style trip very well.
Originator of “入湯手形 (NYUTO TEGATA)”
“入湯手形 (NYUTO TEGATA / ONSEN-hopping pass)”, which is an admission pass for ONSEN, is now often seen in many ONSEN places across Japan, but here 黒川温泉 (KUROKAWA ONSEN) is the originator of this innovative pass.
It only costs 1400 yen including tax and you can bathe in 3 ONSEN among 24 ONSEN spots. It means only 450 yen per spot. Moreover, this pass is valid within half year. Considering most of those 24 ONSEN spots charge more than 500 yen to the one-day visitors, it’s really reasonable if you would bathe in 3 ONSEN within half year. Needless to say, I also bought one and visited 3 spots.
Townscape of KUROKAWA ONSEN
If you walk around this town, you will notice how unified the whole town is. Each ONSEN RYOKAN (ONSEN Hotels) is visually co-existing with nature. Is this because of its brown wall? The design of signboard is also dissolved with nature. It has full of Japanese taste. Although there are 24 ONSEN hotels, cafes, patisseries, gift shops, and many other shops gathering within 1 hour walking distance, but it’s not felt busy at all and rather peaceful and spacious, maybe because all of them are made in very well balanced with nature. There’s no urbanized building, but at the same time, there’s also no sense of “artificial”, “mock”, “make up” kind of impression like theme park at all. Everything seems to be well cared and maintained into detail.
This may be because of their concept / philosophy they have since they started operation. The concept / philosophy of this KUROKAWA ONSEN is “黒川温泉一旅館 / KUROKAWA ONSEN ONE RYOKAN”. They regard all the ONSEN hotels and surrounding scenery as one 旅館 (RYOKAN / Japanese hotel), and they regard each hotel as each room and each street as corridor. This is why the whole townscape is quite unified and the town itself looks one hotel.
Now I’ll introduce 3 ONSEN spots I visited.
1st ONSEN: 天女の湯 (TENNYO NO YU) at 瀬の本館 夢龍胆 (SENOMOTOKAN “YUMERINDO”)
瀬の本館 夢龍胆 (SENOMOTOKAN YUMERINDO), located at the gateway of KUROKAWA ONSEN town, is a Japanese RYOKAN which has 50 years history. Surrounded by nature, you can calmly bathe in ONSEN with bathing the sunlight during the day, and looking at the beautiful moon during the night.
Women’s bathroom is “天女の湯 (TENNYO NO YU)”. The body is gradually released while bathing in the ONSEN in the forest. Although most people love to see red maple leaves in autumn, I personally love fresh green maple leaves. The combination of its transparent green and true blue sky is perfectly matching.
The spring quality here is sodium / sulfate / chloride spring. The water temperature at the spring source is 73.2°C, and it’s 源泉掛け流し (GENSEN KAKENAGASHI / Free flowing ONSEN springing out directly from the source).
瀬の本館 夢龍胆 (SENOMOTOKAN YUMERINDO):
2nd ONSEN: 黒川荘 (KUROKAWA SO)
黒川荘 (KUROKAWA SO) is a RYOKAN, located along the mountain stream, which really looks dissolved in the natural scenery. This hotel itself is surrounded by natural forest, and its signature outdoor bath “びょうぶ岩露天風呂 (BYOBUIWA ROTEN BURO)” is overwhelmingly vast and fully surrounded by nature.
Since the surrounding forest was really beautiful, I kept bathing in it too long. The sound of ONSEN, the sound of tree leaves swaying in the breeze, the shining sunlight, and the songs of birds. Urban city has forgot and released such nature without noticing it. It is not only nature they have released and lost, but they also released and lost themselves who used to be eased and healed by such nature. I kept bathing in with thinking like that. While bathing in ONSEN, you are naked and don’t have anything in hand. This may be because you can concentrate on yourself and your thought. This is really similar to 座禅 (ZAZEN / ZEN Meditation).
The spring quality here is sodium / chloride / hydrogen carbonate / sulfate spring.
黒川荘 (KUROKAWA SO):
3rd ONSEN: いこい旅館 (IKOI RYOKAN)
People always gather at 囲炉裏 (IRORI / Japanese style fireplace) at the entrance of the hotel. Why do I always feel peaceful to be by the fireplace? Here いこい旅館 (IKOI RYOKAN) is the hotel where heartfully welcomes anyone as if it’s home for everyone.
There are 13 ONSENs at this hotel. Although overnight guests can bathe in all of 13 ONSENs, one-day visitors can only bathe in limited ONSEN. Among them, 立ち湯 (TACHI YU / Standing ONSEN) is very interesting. Since standing ONSEN has depth, the water pressure is a little stronger than normal ONSEN, thus it pressures lower body very well. I bathed in this standing ONSEN with holding the handrail of bamboo, which I felt like I became a gymnast of Olympic game.
In the cloud of white steam, shadows of trees and sound of cascading spring harmonize together. Lighting is really comfortable. It was ONSEN where I felt indescribable peace.
The spring quality here is saline / sulfur / hydrogen sulfide / simple spring. The water temperature at source is 68°C. It’s 温泉掛け流し (ONSEN KAKENAGASHI / free flowing ONSEN directly springing out from the source).
いこい旅館 (IKOI RYOKAN):
This time I’ve stayed at 三愛高原ホテル (SAN’AI KOGEN HOTEL) which is located a bit far from this KUROKAWA ONSEN because I couldn’t book a room at KUROKAWA ONSEN on that day.
Now, let’s go to hotel.
Next article: My nomad-style TOUJI trip to KYUSHU – DAY 5 – vol 2
Read the articles about this trip:
Introduction: My nomad-style TOUJI trip to KYUSHU
DAY 1 (別府 / BEPPU): My nomad-style TOUJI trip to KYUSHU – DAY 1
DAY 2 (別府 / BEPPU): My nomad-style TOUJI trip to KYUSHU – DAY 2
DAY 3 (別府 / BEPPU): My nomad-style TOUJI trip to KYUSHU – DAY 3
DAY 4 (湯布院 / YUFUIN): My nomad-style TOUJI trip to KYUSHU – DAY 4