Located in Kanazawa prefecture, just over an hour from Tokyo, Yugawara Onsen is a health resort town associated with famous Japanese novelists and artists. From early February to March the town is also renowned for its ume grove festival where thousands of plum blossoms light up a mountain side in hues of soft pink making it a beautiful time to visit. Little did I know just how many pink memories were to unfold for the day.
If you are a foot bath fan, Doppo-no-yu is the place to visit as it is the largest foothbath facility in Japan. From Yugawara station it is only 3km and can be reached by a short bus or taxi ride. There are plenty of beautiful walks in the surrounding Manyo park, however my focus was immediately drawn to discovering a new found foot bath mecca!
First step – pink slippers!
Upon paying the 300 yen fee and entering the park, the first step is to head to the locker rooms and change into the slippers provided. Travellers to Japan will soon discover that there is a time and place for every type of slipper. For today, pink plastic slippers were the go for the ladies! Although far from glamourous, they were very functional for slipping on and off between each of the baths. Small towels are also available for purchase or you can bring your own.
Titillating textures to heal and soothe
It cannot be said that a foot bath is just a foot bath! Doppo-no-yu provides visitors with 9 different foot baths, each with different temperatures and textures. In addition to the natural healing benefits of the onsen, the surface of each of the baths is designed to stimulate different pressure points in the foot, resulting in a combined reflexology and onsen experience. Unfortunately there is no English signage however below is a brief summary of the healing properties of each footbath.
- Joints and metabolism
- Skin and mouth conditions
- Peace and serenity
- Intestinal heath and nasal conditions
- Softening of heart and thoughts of happiness
- Circulation and digestion
- Joy and laughter
- Liver and eye conditions
- Kidney and ears
Overall it was a journey of discovery and fascination with anticipation and curiosity about each individual foot bath experience. Along the way, you also meet plenty of people also enjoying the experience and exclaiming delight through “ooohs” and “ahhhs”! To complete your foot experience, you can even indulge in a 15 minute reflexology massage for 1000 yen. Definitely Doppo-no-yu is a unique onsen experience not to be missed.
Kogomenoyu is a day spa located 5 minutes walk from Doppo-no-yu. The pink theme continued with the noren (Japanese curtain) overhanging the front desk. Although the bath experience left my body with a pink glow, it was not such a rosy experience as I found the facilities quite dated, with poor circulation and lighting in the bathing areas. Overall the entry fee of 1000 yen did not deliver the value compared to many of the day spa onsens visited on the journey to date.
If you are seeking to visit Yugawara Onsen, you may wish to book into a ryokan that provides a higher level of facilities.
Yugawara Plum Blossom Festival
Following a morning of onsen experiences it was off to the plum blossom festival held at Makuyama Park located approximately 20 minutes by local bus from Yugawara station. The weather had clouded over somewhat, but it was still quite beautiful hiking through the mountain tracks and enjoying the kaleidoscope of pinks and whites.
Plum blossom viewing in Japan can almost rival cherry blossom viewing. There are over 300 varieties ranging from white to crimson and the blossoms are much more gradual and can last up to a month. Branches may weep or even feature different colours of blossom on the same tree. Plum trees that are over 80 years will begin to twist and gnarl creating beautiful dark silhouettes in amongst the splashes of colour.
Umeshu – a finishing touch to the day!
Traditionally, one would end the day of outdoor hiking in nature with an onsen. As the onsen experience had already been completed in the morning, a bottle of umeshu purchased at the festival was the perfect alternative. Umeshu is a Japanese liqueur made from steeping ume (Japanese plum) in alcohol and sugar, and it certainly provided a lovely warming touch to soothe the body and soul and soak in the day’s memories.
From Tokyo station, take the Tokaido line directly to Yugawara (98 minutes). Alternatively take a Kodama shinkansen to Odawara and change to the Tokaido line to Yugawara (72 minutes). On a fine day you will catch glimpses of Mount Fuji on the right hand side of the train!