Minakami is a popular hot spring destination with some rather famous baths, including outdoor baths with beautiful views of nature. There are over a dozen separate hot spring sources found across Minakami's mountains and valleys, around which resorts of various characters have been built.
Some resorts, especially centrally located Minakami Onsen, are largely develeoped towns consisting of numerous big hotel complexes, while others, such as Takaragawa Onsen and Hoshi Onsen, are lone, rustic ryokan isolated deep in the mountains. Also worth mentioning are Tanigawa Onsen, a small town attractively located in the back of a side valley at the foot of Mount Tanigawa, and Sarugakyo Onsen, a hot spring resort town next to Lake Akaya.
Hot spring bathing is best enjoyed by staying overnight at one of Minakami's onsen ryokan. Some of the ryokan also open their baths to non-staying guests during daytime for typically 500 to 1500 yen. Furthermore, there are a few public bath houses that are open to anybody.
Some hot spring baths around Minakami
Daytime hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:00) Daytime fee: 2000 yen
Osenkaku, the one ryokan of Takaragawa Onsen, has some of the largest and most famous rotenburo (outdoor baths) in the country. The mixed gender baths are open to non-staying guests during the day and are located along a river, taking on a different character through the changing seasons. Takaragawa Onsen is one of the rare hot spring baths in Japan where all bathers must use a bath dress provided at the facility. Nude bathing and the use of one's own bathing suit are not permitted.
Daytime hours: 10:30 to 14:00 (entry until 13:30) Daytime fee: 1000 yen Closed: Wednesdays and January 1 to 3
One of "Japan's Secret Hot Springs", Hoshi Onsen is an isolated onsen deep in the mountains of Minakami. Hoshi Onsen's sole ryokan, Chojukan has a few beautiful and rustic traditional baths, its most famous being a wooden, mixed gender, indoor bath where the water bubbles up straight through the stones on the floor of the tub.
Yuterume Tanigawa Onsen
Hours: 10:00 to 20:30 (from 9:00 July through August) Admission until 30 minutes before closing time Fee: 630 yen Closed: 3rd Thursday each month (or Friday if Thursday is a national holiday) The outdoor baths are closed every Thursday from 15:00 for cleaning
Yuterume Tanigawa Onsen is a modern public bath house overlooked by nearby Mount Tanigawa in Tanigawa Onsen. It has indoor baths as well as large outdoor baths that are set among the trees on the Tone River allowing you to relax to the sounds of the river rushing by.
Mantenboshi no Yu
Hours: 10:00 to 21:30 (entry until 20:30) Fee: 800 yen (3 hours) Closed: Tuesdays
Mantenboshi no Yu is a public bath house overlooking Lake Akaya in Sarugakyo Onsen. The large facility has multiple indoor and outdoor baths, as well as a restaurant and massage facilities. Next door is an event hall with scheduled kabuki performances and a small folk and paper craft museum. A campground is also located nearby.
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Getting there and around
The various onsen resorts are spread out across Minakami. The central town of Minakami just south of Minakami Station is known as Minakami Onsen, while other areas are farther away and can be reached by bus, taxi or car.
Minakami Onsen is centered about a ten minute walk south of Minakami Station.
Tanigawa Onsen is about ten minutes by taxi from Minakami Station in a side valley at the foot of Mount Tanigawa. The taxi ride costs approximately 1000 to 1300 yen one way. Guests staying at one of the local ryokan can arrange to be picked up from Minakami Station.
Buses depart Minakami Station in the direction of Takaragawa Onsen every 2-3 hours. They stop at the Takaragawa Iriguchi bus stop (30 minutes, 1150 yen) from where a pick-up service is provided to the ryokan, 1.5 kilometers away. A discount ticket which includes a round trip from the station and entry into the onsen is available for 3500 yen.
Alternatively, Takaragawa Onsen can be reached in about 45 minutes by car from the Minakami Interchange. Staying guests can also arrange free pick up from Minakami Station.
Buses on the Numata-Sarugakyo Line, stop at Jomo Kogen Station and Sarugakyo Onsen. The one way trip between Jomo Kogen and Sarugakyo Onsen takes about 30 minutes, costs 900 yen, and there are hourly departures. Alternatively, the onsen area can be reached in about 30 minutes by car from the Tsukiyono Interchange.
Hoshi Onsen can be reached by infrequent buses that depart from Sarugakyo Onsen. Take the bus from Jomo Kogen Station to the Sarugakyo Onsen bus stop (30 minutes, 900 yen, hourly departures) and transfer to another bus bound for Hoshi Onsen (20 minutes, 630 yen, four departures per day). Alternatively, the onsen can be reached in about 45 minutes by car from the Tsukiyono Interchange.