This onsen was a real gem that I found purely by coincidence when searching the web for new onsen locations to discover. It was listed by Hitou which is the Japan Association of Secluded Onsen, and was indeed secluded deep in the mountains in Hinomura, Nishi-Tama gun in the upper reaches of the beautiful Akigawa gorge which believe it or not is still technically a part of Tokyo! I was thrilled at the prospect of visiting this pretty thatched cottage so close to Tokyo, especially after recently falling in love with the renowned gassho style thatched roofs (named after the prayer hand shaped roofs) in Shirakawago and Gokayama. The thatched roof of Takarasou was actually called “Kabuto tou” meaning pointed like armour.
In total it was approximately a 2 hour trip via the Chuo line departing from Shinjuku to Musashi-Itsukaiichi station, followed by a bus bound for Kazuma. The connection to the bus was relatively smooth, although I noticed there were plenty of hikers all ready for a day in nature. I took the opposite approach – straight to the onsen with the hope of still enjoying some nature along the way!
The onsen was beautifully quiet, and picture perfect in a very serene location, very much in contrast to the many people who have queued for Miyamaedaira Onsen. In fact I ended up having the bath also to myself and was even allowed to take pictures. Also, unlike Miyamaedaira, there was only one small indoor onsen, but for me the location and serenity was perfect.
Hebi no yu – “Water of the snake”
Legend has it that the onsen water at Takarasou is named after a large wounded snake who cured himself soaking in the onsen! Of course there are no snakes bathing within Takarasou now, but the alkaline water is definitely good for the skin.
A beautiful lunch …
The owners of the onsen wish to preserve and share the local culinary heritage and prepare beautiful dishes using local ingredients and of course Jizake (local sake) is also available. Following my bath, I was shown into a lovely little private room with a view over the river and enjoyed Sansai Soba (soba noodles with mountain vegetables). The vegetables included negi, horenso, konyaku, shimeji, maitaku, and warabi, along with a touch of yuzu and abura-age. Given my love of sake, i decided to try some atsukan (warm) sake, “Kisho” produced by Nozaki Shuzo – a brewer located near Musashi-Itsukaiichi. What a delightful way to relax after the bath.
Soaking in the atmosphere
After lunch I enjoyed a quiet wander through the main part of the house and admired the beautiful structures – I do adore traditional Japanese structures. It was also pleasant to wander around outside, but I had to be careful not to slip as there had been snow the day before. I definitely will be back to this location to wander around the hillside a little more. It would be a very stunning location in Autumn with the glorious colours of the momiji trees.
All in all a beautiful exoerience, and what’s more, I was soon off to discover another onsen just down the road!