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Yunishigawa Onsen (쉷) is a small hot spring town in a remote valley in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture, about a one hour bus ride deeper into the mountains from Kinugawa Onsen.

The town was founded after the Taira clan (also known as the Heike clan) was defeated by the Minamoto clan (also known as the Genji clan) for political supremacy over Japan towards the end of the Heian Period (710 - 1185), and many members of the Taira clan fled into hiding in remote regions of Japan. Yunishigawa was one such hidden settlement of Taira refugees.

Strict rules were maintained to keep the town from being discovered, such as bans on chicken (because of their crowing) and koinobori streamers (because the colorful streamers could be easily seen from a distance). Interestingly, some of these bans are still observed today, despite the fact that the town has long been put onto the map. An open air museum, the Heike no Sato, exhibits about a dozen old homes and tools that illustrate the everyday life of villagers in the past.

Thanks to its hot spring sources, Yunishigawa Onsen has turned into a tourist destination in more recent times, and the town now offers multiple lodgings, ranging from rustic ryokan to large sized hotels. Several of the lodgings include dinners of local cuisine served around a fireplace (irori).

Yunishigawa receives a fair amount of snow in the winter, attracting visitors with river lined outdoor baths surrounded by snow. An even more popular winter attraction is the Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival ("Yunishigawa Snow House Festival"), during which hundreds of snow houses (kamakura) of different sizes are built and illuminated in the evenings around town and along the river.

The Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival is held every year around February (January 31 to February 28, 2021) on multiple sites across the town. The main site is the Heike no Sato which features snow houses and is lit up in the evenings until 21:00. A nearby riverside site features lots of mini snow houses and is illuminated everyday except Wednesdays and Thursdays. Various outdoor activities, such as a snow slide, can be enjoyed at other sites.

Getting there and around

Yunishigawa Onsen can be reached by direct hourly buses from Kinugawa Onsen Station (one hour, 1800 yen one way). Alternatively, you can take the train as far as Yunishigawa Onsen Station, from where there are 1-2 buses per hour to the town of Yunishigawa Onsen (25 minutes, 930 yen one way). Yunishigawa Onsen Station is somewhat special as its platform is located inside a tunnel, and the station complex features a public bath fed by hot spring waters.

How to get to and around Kinugawa Onsen

Hotels around Kinugawa Onsen

Top rated in Kinugawa Onsen
Budget:
    • Asaya
      Luxury
      Boasting open-air natural spring baths that look out to the surrounding mountains, Asaya provides chic Japanese accommodation that displays flower arrangements throughout. A bus stop is located right in front of the property, and shuttle buses are available from Utsunomiya Train Station, an hour away, at an additional fee. Featuring a relaxing ambience, each room comes with a flat-screen TV, a telephone and a fridge. Asaya Hotelfs front desk is open 24 hours, and massages are available at an additional cost. Karaoke facilities and a gift shop are on site. Some of the hot spring baths can be reserved for private use for a fee. A tour to Edo Wonderland can be arranged upon request. The hotel is a 13-minute walk from Kinugawa Koen Train Station. Nikko Toshogu Shrine is a 40-minute drive away, and Edo Wonderland Nikko theme park is a 10-minute drive from the property. A buffet is served at one of the on-site restaurants. The dinner buffet serves about 80 various dishes ranging from Chinese, Japanese and Western meals, while the breakfast buffet provides about 60 variations, mainly Japanese and Western dishes.
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    • Hotel Shirakawa Yunokura
      Mid-range
      Situated in Nikko, 24 km from Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Hotel Shirakawa Yunokura features accommodation with free WiFi and free private parking. This 3-star ryokan offers a concierge service and luggage storage space. The ryokan has family rooms. The ryokan offers 3-star accommodation with a hot spring bath and sauna. Kegon Falls is 40 km from Hotel Shirakawa Yunokura, while Rinno-ji Temple is 24 km from the property. The nearest airport is Fukushima Airport, 77 km from the accommodation.
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    • Tsuganoki
      Mid-range
      Boasting a terrace, Tsuganoki is situated in Nikko in the Tochigi region, 24 km from Nikko Toshogu Shrine and 41 km from Kegon Falls. Attractively situated in the Kinugawa Onsen district, this ryokan offers a shared lounge, as well as a hot spring bath. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, a shuttle service, room service and free WiFi throughout the property. All guest rooms in the ryokan are equipped with a flat-screen TV. The rooms at Tsuganoki are fitted with a private bathroom fitted with a shower. An Asian breakfast is available each morning at the accommodation. Rinno-ji Temple is 24 km from Tsuganoki, while Futarasan Shrine is 24 km from the property. The nearest airport is Fukushima Airport, 79 km from the ryokan.
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    • Sudomari Hotel Roman Tsutsuji
      Budget-friendly
      A 5-minute walk from Kinugawa Onsen Train Station, Sudomari Hotel Roman Tsutsuji features affordable Japanese-style rooms with a private bathroom, a microwave and a fridge. Itfs a 10-minute drive from amusement parks Edo Wonderland and Tobu World Square. Guests at Hotel Tsutsuji Sudomari can find activities nearby, such as rafting on a 5-minute walk, tennis in a 10-minute drive and golf within a 20-minute drive. At the front desk, discount tickets are available for hot springs and theme parks. Basic rooms feature a tatami (woven-straw) floor, a low table with seating cushions and traditional futon bedding. They are fitted with an LCD TV and a variety of amenities, including yukata robes, toiletries and complimentary green tea. The outdoor hot springs of Kinugawa Koen Iwaburo can be enjoyed a 5-minute drive away. Sudomari Hotel Roman Tsutsuji is a 30-minute drive from the Nikko Tosho-gu Shrin, the Nikko-zan Rin-noji Temple and Nikko Futarasan Shrine. No meals are served. The hotel is within a 5-minute walk from restaurants and shops. Also, free transfer service is available from some restaurants farther away.
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    • Hotel Sunshine Kinugawa
      Luxury
      Hotel Sunshine Kinugawa is located next to Kinugawa River, just a 6-minute drive from Kinugawa Onsen Train Station. It features various entertainment facilities like karaoke and table tennis. Free WiFi is available in the lobby. Offering mountain views, all rooms are fitted with tatami (woven-straw) flooring and traditional futon bedding. In-room facilities include a flat-screen TV and a telephone. The private bathroom comes with a bathtub and a hairdryer. Guests staying at Kinugawa Sunshine Hotel can unwind in the public bathing area which has open-air baths and sauna. Massages can be requested at an additional charge. Drinks vending machines and a gift shop are also available on site. The hotel is situated just a 1-minute walk to Kinu-tateiwa Otsuribashi Bridge. Tobu World Square Amusement Park is a 4-minute drive away, while Edo Wonderland can be reached within a 10-minute drive.
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    • Hotel Ootaki
      Mid-range
      Surrounded by lush nature, Hotel Ootaki features a garden and Japanese-style rooms with a private bathroom. Itfs a 15-minute walk from Tobu Kinugawa Onsen Station. The Ootaki Hotel is a 10-minute drive from theme park Tobu World Square, and a 15-minute drive from historical theme park Nikko Edo Mura. Edelweiss Ski Resort is a 45-minute drive. Guests can relax in indoor and outdoor hot spring baths with nature views at Ootakifs sister hotel, to/from which a free shuttle service is available. Hotel Ootakifs facilities include drinks vending machines and free parking. Rooms feature a tatami (woven-straw) floor and Japanese futon bedding. They are fitted with a seating area with a table and chairs, an LCD TV and a fridge. A safe and yukata robes are provided. The attached bathroom comes with a bathtub and toiletries. Meals can be requested at check-in. A buffet with Japanese and Western dishes is available at its sister hotel a few minutesf drive with the free shuttle.
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    • OYO Kinugawa Park Cottage
      Mid-range
      Offering views of Kinugawa Valley, Kinugawa Park Cottage provides adult only accommodation with free private parking. Free WiFi is available throughout the property. Kinugawaonsen Station is a 5-minute walk. All units at the holiday home feature air conditioning and a flat-screen TV. A fridge and kettle are also featured. A private bathroom is provided. At Kinugawa Park Cottage guests are welcome to take advantage of a hot spring bath. Guests can relax in the garden at the property. Nikko Toshogu Shrine is 30 minutes by car, while Kegon Falls is a 60-minute drive.
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    • Monogusa no Yado Hanasenkyo
      Mid-range
      Situated in Nikko, 20 km from Nikk?-kokuritsu-k?en, Monogusa no Yado Hanasenkyo has a terrace. The property is set 24 km from Nikko Toshogu Shrine. The property features a children's playground and a 24-hour front desk. A buffet breakfast is available every morning at the ryokan. Dinner features Japanese-style cuisine with ingredients including pork. Monogusa no Yado Hanasenkyo offers a range of wellness facilities including a hot spring bath and a sauna. You can play table tennis at the accommodation. Kegon Falls is 40 km from Monogusa no Yado Hanasenkyo, while Rinno-ji Temple is 24 km from the property.
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    • Hotel Manyotei
      Mid-range
      Featuring free WiFi and a hot spring bath, Hotel Manyotei offers accommodation in Nikko, 12 km from Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine. Free private parking is available on site. Every room is fitted with a flat-screen TV. Some rooms have a seating area for your convenience. Certain rooms feature views of the mountains or river. You will find a shared lounge and shops at the property. You can play table tennis at the hotel. Nikko Toshogu Shrine is 12 km from Hotel Manyotei, while Nikk?-kokuritsu-k?en is 12 km from the property.
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    • Kinugawa Plaza Hotel
      Mid-range
      Overlooking the Kinugawa River and forested mountains, Plaza Hotel offers natural hot-spring baths beside canopies of green. Traditional Kaiseki dinners, a gGanbanyokuh hot-rock spa and a summertime outdoor pool are featured. Guests at Kinugawa Plaza Hotel sleep in traditional futon bedding on a tatami (woven-straw) floor. Each air-conditioned room has a zen decor, with seating areas beside the window and the LCD TV. An en suite bathroom is included. A 20-minute walk from Kinugawa-Onsen Train Station, the hotel is 3.5 km to Tobu World Square and 6 km to Edo Wonderland historical village theme park. Indoor & open-air baths as well as a hot-spring footbath are available, and some hot-spring baths can be reserved for private use. You can further relax in the sauna, enjoy billiards or ping-pong, or shout out some tunes at karaoke. Free-use internet PCs are provided. A Japanese/Western buffet breakfast is served, and dinner is multiple courses of seasonal specialities made with fresh local ingredients.
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