I’ve visited NAGANO Prefecture for TOUJI when spring was in full swing. MATSUMOTO City (松本市) in NAGANO Prefecture. It must be the nearest ONSEN from MATSUMOTO Castle.
TOUJI (湯治) is to cure with ONSEN. I have a weak stomach and get stomachache whenever I’m too busy with my job or I’m exhausted.
The ONSEN here in UTSUKUSHIGAHARA ONSEN (美ヶ原温泉) has a good effect for gastrointestinal orders, and INSEN (飲泉 / drinking ONSEN) is partially permitted here.
This UTSUKUSHIGAHARA ONSEN is listed as a National Hot Spring Health Resort (国民保養地温泉), and has a long history of 1300 years since its opening, according to the record written in NIHON SHOKI (日本書紀 / the oldest chronicles of Japan).
Before visiting here, I had only known that it’s a simple spring and drinking the ONSEN there has a good effect for gastrointestinal orders, but after arriving there, I got to know from the analysis table of ONSEN components (温泉成分分析表) that it contains sulfuric acid a bit more than I expected. I’m qualified as an “ONSEN sommelier”, and it’s my kind of routine to check the analysis table of ONSEN components that I always do whenever I visit ONSEN.
In Japan, ONSEN is classified to 10 kinds of spring quality, such as simple spring (単純泉), sulfur spring (硫黄泉), chloride spring (塩化物泉), and so on, but that is just a broad category. Actually each ONSEN has detailed characteristics which are not same even though they are classified into the same category. For example, let’s say both ONSEN A and ONSEN B are categorized in chloride spring which the main components is salt. But ONSEN A could contain a lot of sulfur which the amount is not enough to be classified to sulfur spring, and similarly ONSEN B could contain a lot of hydrogen carbonate which the amount is not enough to be classified to hydrogen carbonate spring. Like this, spring quality only shows what component that ONSEN contains the most, but it doesn’t show each of every component which that ONSEN contains.
You can learn how ONSEN is classified more in detail from the article below.
Since UTSUKUSHIGAHARA ONSEN contains sulfuric acid, I got to know that the gastrointestinal orders that this ONSEN has a good effect for is only the problems related to bowel movement like diarrhea and constipation. I would recommend this ONSEN if you have this kind of problem.
Rustic and peaceful ONSEN place
There is only a local shop selling Japanese-style confectionary, and a convenience store a bit away. Except that, there are only Ryokans and inns. Since it’s a castle town surrouding MASTUMOTO Castle, a lot of local Ryokans and inns are operating quietly around here. This UTSUKUSHIGAHARA ONSEN is such a rustic ONSEN town where you can stay calmly and peacefully.
In spite of that, surprisingly there are “2” YAKUSHIDO halls (薬師堂 / Buddha hall of which YAKUSHI NYORAI (薬師如来 / Buddha of Healing) is the principal image) in this town.
There is a close relationship between ONSEN and YAKUSHIDO. As the Chinese characters of “YAKUSHI (薬師)” literally means, ONSEN used to be treated as a medicine. ONSEN for injuries, ONSEN for diseases, and ONSEN for fatigue. ONSEN was called “KUSURI YU (薬湯 / ONSEN as medicine)” and it was indispensable for people’s lives. And people built YAKUSHIDO to pray YAKUSHI NYORAI to protect the town and precious ONSEN. Therefore, you can see YAKUSHIDO at most of the places where ONSEN is.
I always visit YAKUSHIDO whenever I visit ONSEN. It’s also my routine. Hope I will keep encountering nice ONSEN. Hope this ONSEN will never be dried up, and this ONSEN keeps giving grace to local people as well as any people visiting here.
Although there might be few people who pray like this, but I always dare to do this. Because ONSEN is such a precious blessings of nature which we should appreciate. Japan is the leading nation in longevity, and ONSEN might be one of the factors which contributes to live long.
Since it’s a small town, I’ve walked around the town for 2 hours. While walking around, I only met 5 local people, 3 dogs, 1 cat. That’s it. Else, I saw butterflies, bees, drone beetles, and cherry and camellia trees fully blooming.
Birds were singing and wind was blowing. Mountains of the Japan Alps far away are blurred with spring breeze. How natural and how peaceful this is. I felt my heart becoming healed.
Stomach-friendly meal I requested
The inn I stayed this time was “TSUKI NO SHIZUKA (月の静香)”. The thatched gate gently welcomed me. It was really a relaxing and peaceful inn with a building renovated from KOMINKA (古民家 / Japanese old house) of 250 years old, and another SUKIYA-style (tea ceremony style) building.
I had booked the package with 1 night 2 meals, and had requested stomach-friendly meals instead of normal ones. When I checked in, the staff kindly told me that they prepared as per my request.
Normally, ONSEN Ryokans and inns in Japan serve pre-fix menu which include SASHIMI (raw fish) and something with thick taste, but I wanted to avoid them as my stomach was weakened.
They kindly answered my request and served meals with subtle flavor with plentiful local ingredients, such as seasonal vegetables in spring, bamboo shoot, firefly squid, local pork, and salmon etc.
For breakfast as well, they kindly served healthy meal for me, which was gently to my stomach and heart as well.
There is also a bar lounge and you can enjoy the night. In the morning, complimentary coffee is served at the lobby.
There seemed to be a large hall with Noh Stage (能舞台). Noh (能) is a Japanese traditional art which played on stage, and many of SAMURAI lord loved it. This is what castle town is!
As the name of this inn is “TSUKI NO SHIZUKA”, you can see the motif of moon (TSUKI) here and there in the bathroom. Sun and moon, Yin and Yang (陰陽) have been really important factors in Japan as well.
Official website of “TSUKI NO SHIZUKA”: http://www.tsuki-shizuka.com/english.html