SAM IN JAPAN: YUDANAKA

Yudanaka is a small hotspring town located to the north from Tokyo and takes about 2 hours to get there by shinkasen.  For those that aren’t familiar with hot spring towns they are towns that specialise or are known for their hot spring baths.  What these baths provide is a public bath house for those that either want to relax and enjoy the natural hot springs (some baths use natural hot springs whilst some are man made)  or for those that want to simply clean themselves and head on home.  Now this concept maybe new to people so I’ll briefly explain how these hot spring public bathes work.

hotspringtut

So if you decide to use a public bath (rules are the same for both natural and man made baths) firstly you must wash yourself clean before entering the bath.  The bath is a large pool of hot water which more than one person can occupy at the same time so be aware you will be sharing a bath with several other naked people.  There should be shower heads or taps nearby with small buckets provided for you to wash yourself clean.  Once you have cleaned yourself thoroughly you may enter the bath but be warned the bathes are very hot so be sure to test the water first before submerging yourself completely.  As a precation for first time goers it is best you do not stay in the hot bath for too long as you may become dizzy from the heat.  Also it is important to keep hydrated with water straight after to avoid dehydration.   For those who are uncomfortable about being naked around others then maybe give it a miss, but if you don’t mind then I would highly recommend as it is a wonderful experience.

So now with that little tutorial out of the way I can now give a little info about the Ryokan (Traditional Japanese Inn) I stayed in.  The place I stayed in is called Senshikan Matsuya, one of the many traditional inns located in Yudanaka.  If you stay at this Inn you are given a free pass to access all 9 public bathes (a popular attraction if you are visiting Yudanaka) anytime before 10.00pm.  It is said that each bath has a different use or cure, for example one for skin disease, cleansing the innards, and a variety of others which unfortunately I cannot remember.

The hosts of this establishment are very welcoming and offer a chauffeuring service to and from the train station upon your arrival.  They speak English quite well and are very informative and helpful especially with organising trips to the popular monkey park nearby.  Once you’ve settled in you can change into a yukata (like a light kimono) as well as a pair of wooden slippers.  You may wear these provided items of clothing about town as it is quite common since most visitors come to bathe in all 9 springs.  Wearing the yukata makes it a lot easier otherwise you’d have to keep constantly changing in and out of your regular clothes, which trust me gets cumbersome after a while.  The town is quiet and quaint with a lot of older folks selling their local wears and delicacies but besides the baths and the local fair there is not much else to do.  Ideally towns like this are ideal for vacationers who want to get away from it all and seek quiet solitude.

You can have the option of having meals provided which I highly recommend as the meal I had was wonderful.  An array of small dishes were served by a lovely sweet elderly lady who described each dish in great detail in perfect english.  During the dinner I had a kotatsu (a table with an in built heater covered with a thick blanket) which kept me nice and toasty while I dined on this delicious home made meal.  After an incredibly satisfying dinner I ventured out to explore the 9 hotsprings, unfortunately I didn’t get to cover all of them as it was getting late and I had to get up early the next day to go to the monkey park.

The next morning one of the hosts took a small group of us to the monkey park.  From the drop off point there is a bit of walk of about 25mins till you reach the destination, after that you’re free to roam about and take pictures of the monkeys or with the monkeys if you choose.  After the monkey park it was time to catch the train so soon after I caught a bus back into town and hoped on the train towards Takayama.

Overall the experience in Yudanaka was amazing.  A much needed relaxation period from the busy Tokyo scene with lovely locals and an experience you won’t soon forget.  For more pics of my time in Yudanaka you can see the full set here on my flickr site.  Next post will be Shirakawago, a UNESCO heritage town known for it’s traditional thatched houses called gassho-zukuri.

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