“天城温泉 禅の湯 (AMAGI ONSEN ZEN NO YU)”
There is a temple named “慈眼院 (JIGEN IN)” at IZU Peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture. This temple has ONSEN in its precincts, which name is “天城温泉 禅の湯 (AMAGI ONSEN ZEN NO YU)”. Surprisingly, this ONSEN was excavated by this temple’s chief priest’s wife in 2007.
There used to be a Japanese old culture called “施浴 (SEYOKU)”. In the ancient times when 奈良 (NARA) was the capital of Japan around 700’s, accompanied with the prosperity of Buddhism, a lot of Buddhism temples in Japan started to build bath (mainly steam bath) inside their precincts. They were not only for priests to bathe in, but also provided to those who were poor and suffered from diseases. This culture of charity providing bath at temples was called SEYOKU. This is why there are a lot of temples having bath inside even at the present day.
However, what is special about this ZEN NO YU is that they have not had bath in its precincts based on this SEYOKU culture till 2007, but they opened its bath for the first time in 2007.
In addition, it is also interesting and photogenic to have the modern building of ZEN NO YU with white wall right next to the old Buddhism temple. Japanese and Western. Past and Future. Such kind of contrast is here.
ONSEN just excavated in 2007
The chief priest’s wife is from NAGANO Prefecture, and fell in love and got married with this chief priest of JIGEN IN at IZU Peninsula, SHIZUOKA Prefecture. They used to live in Tokyo, but moved here after a while. Since then, excavating ONSEN had been her dream because she had spent most of her life in NAGANO Prefecture with ONSEN. Since her hometown NAGANO Prefecture is one of the places where has a lot of ONSEN in Japan, and her life had been with ONSEN. She finally decided to excavate ONSEN right next to the youth hostel which JIGEN IN was running at that time.
She says, “I had tried to excavate ONSEN several times within my budget, but I failed again and again. But finally I made it when my budget was about to be zero. It is a miracle ONSEN for me. Also, that year 2007 was the 1200 years anniversary of 修善寺温泉 (SHUZEN JI ONSEN) since the nation-wide famous SHUZEN JI ONSEN was excavated in 807.” (Quote from their official website)
Related article: SHUZEN JI ONSEN – Beautiful ONSEN town with historical temples
The spring quality here is calcium / sodium / sulfate spring (hypotonic / alkaline / hyperthermal spring). The water temperature at the source is 49.5°C. It is alkaline spring of pH9.0, and it has a similar cleansing effect as soup. Also it is the natural ONSEN which yield is 169 liters per minute of 温泉かけ流し (ONSEN KAKENAGASHI / Free flowing ONSEN springing directly from the source) with no added water, no added heat, no circulation, and no sterilizing. It is huge yield of natural ONSEN compared to the capacity of accommodations.
Now, let’s go bathing in ZEN NO YU!!
The entrance is with TATAMI and very comfortable from the moment you enter. There is a reception at the entrance, and its accommodation facility consists of 12 Japanese rooms, 1 Japanese-Western mixed style room, and 1 Western room. They also welcome the guests for 日帰り温泉 (One day ONSEN visitor), and it only costs 1000 yen with a towel for sauna, another towel for bath, and a pareo to wear at sauna.
I have chosen this One day ONSEN and spent a few hours here.
Men’s bath and women’s bath are separated, and the one with blue のれん (NOREN / Curtain hanging at the entrance) is for men, and the one with red NOREN is for women.
There are an indoor bath, stone sauna, and an open air bath made of 檜 (HINOKI / Japanese cypress).
内風呂 (UCHIBURO / Indoor bath)
An indoor bath is located right ahead of the modern changing room with 琉球畳 (RYUKYU TATAMI).
Generally speaking, you are not advised to take an outdoor bath before your body gets warmed because it would impose a burden on your body much more than you imagine. First you need to bathe in indoor bath, and then once your body gets warmed it’s time to go to outdoor bath.
Although many of indoor bathes in many places have a sense of closed, but the indoor bath here at ZEN NO YU has a huge window and you can view nice scenery of mountains. It is very clean and spacious. It is super feeling good when you bathe in here in the morning or early afternoon in a sunny day.
石の湯 (ISHI NO YU / Stone Sauna)
A stone sauna is located right next to the indoor bath. A lot of stones are placed and you can spread the towel on the hot stones and lie down on it. It is just like you are lying on the warm dry riverbed. Although it is so dark and humid just like the summer in the subtropical area, sweating a lot inside this sauna is very healthy and refreshing.
These are full of efficacious stones such as ONSEN mother rock, Tourmaline, Plutonic rock, Extrusive rock, and Inorganic germanium etc, and the room temperature and humidity are stabilized, which enhances your metabolism comfortably. It has a good effect for your health, refresh, and beauty by its far-infrared radiation and minus ion.
As instructed, I drank water first, entered inside the sauna, and then lay down on the stone. After that, I closed my eyes and focused on my own body. It was as if I was doing “ZEN Meditation” lying on the mysterious stones. Yes, here was “ZEN NO YU”!! That made perfect sense to me.
Honestly speaking, I don’t like sauna that much, though I love ONSEN so much, because it is humid and takes time to sweat. However, the stone sauna here at ZEN NO YU was totally different and it was so comfortable and refreshing. The time while waiting till sweating is also felt like the time to focus on myself just like ZEN Meditation.
露天風呂 (ROTEN BURO / Open air bath)
After having my body warmed at the stone sauna, I drank some water again. Now, it’s time to go outside!! The outside bath here is made of 檜 (HINOKI / Japanese cypress) and I enjoyed the warmth of the wood.
While ONSEN itself is also warm, I feel that the wooden bathtub is also something which makes your body and mind warmer. The ONSEN here is so smooth and gentle.
Moreover, with viewing the green color of the mountains right in front of me, I felt like bathing in the nature itself. It was really a beautiful and refreshing scenery.
It is something different from staying at some mega ONSEN hotels. It is bathing in live ONSEN calmly and peacefully at this small inn at a Buddhism temple. This is what is special about 湯治 (TOUJI / Hot spring cure).
Since this is at a Buddhism temple, you can experience ZEN Meditation as well as Yoga here. ZEN Meditation can be experienced from 7:00 am of Sunday morning, and Yoga can be experienced from 10:30 am of Wednesday morning. It is the attractiveness of this ZEN NO YU that you can refresh at ONSEN right after ZEN Meditation and Yoga.
This ZEN NO YU is very close to their guests and they would like to be the place where their guests coming back again and again to refresh. They have a community for the guests named “おせっ会 (OSEKKAI)” which holds some events, party, and BBQ etc for their repeating guests. If you would like, let’s be the repeating guest and join this community as well.
About 慈眼院 (JIGEN IN)
As written above, this ZEN NO YU is located inside the precincts of the temple 慈眼院 (JIGEN IN).
慈眼院 (JIGEN IN) is a temple of 曹洞宗 (SOTO Sect) of Buddhism which founded during KAMAKURA Period.
At the end of EDO Period, Townsend HARRIS, the United States council general, stayed at this temple on his way to EDO (Tokyo) to sign 日米修好通商条約 (The Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Japan and US). You can see some stuffs he used here.
What a curious ONSEN place here is. Next time I’m sure I will stay long.
The official website of ZEN NO YU: https://zen-no-yu.com/