This onsen was a pleasant surprise, off the beaten tourist track yet very close to Tokyo. It is tucked away in a local neighbourhood area of Saiwai-ku, Kawasaki, approximately 6 minutes walk from Yakou station on the JR Nanbu line.
The entrance to the onsen is traditional and serene with beautiful woodwork and old style lockers for your shoes, a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle and somewhat mundane landscape of the surrounding city area. The unwinding began before I even go to the bath…just as with any hospitality experience it all begins with first impressions.
The Japanese touches…noren (doorway curtain), geta (Japanese sandals) and small bath towels.
The onsen water at Shiraku-no-yu comes from 1300 metres below the ground, and is high in mineral content, brownish in colour, and highly effective for its natural curative effects for a general aches, pains, skin conditions and fatigue. Stone floors and wooden interior feature in the bathing area, making it a very relaxing environment close to nature. After showering and warming up in the indoor baths, I headed outdoor into a beautiful rotenburo featuring a large tree trunk. Again, there was a feeling of connection to the textures of nature as you felt the wood against the palms of your hands, and the natural stones of the outdoor bath against the soles of your feet as you entered the bath. Below is a postcard image of the rotenburo.
Relaxing in the rotenburo…..
Reading a book in an onsen – a first!
I would have loved to have taken a picture as for the first time ever I saw a lady lying back in the rotenburo, feet up on the post of the shelter, relaxing with a book! I had to grin to myself as this is one of my perfect images of relaxation, but it is something not seen in Japan – especially not in a public onsen. This was enough for me to know that I was “in the sticks”, in a more laid back part of town!
Serenading steam – an unexpected onsen meditation
Alas, I did not have a book with me on the day, but I soon found another relaxing pastime. As I soaked blissfully, with the water trickling gently from the bamboo fountain in the background, I soon became mesmerised by the continual flow of steam off the surface of the bath. With the cool breeze blowing, the surface of the water came alive with dancing figures of steam, as if serenading across the water”s surface.
Shiraku-no-yu had 2 peaceful areas for dining, featuring a macrobiotic cafe and a traditional soba restaurant. I ended up sampling a little of each. Again, it was so pleasant to find that the restaurants were not over crowed with people with massive queues as can often be the case when you are not far from Tokyo.
The soba restaurant in particular had a rustic Japanese interior. I sampled some local sake and an “onsen tamago” Caesar salad.
All in all, a lovely day, and a newly found authentic onsen experience close to Tokyo.
From Shibuya, are the Toyoko line express train to Musashikosugi (13 minutes) and transfer to the JR Nanbu line to Yakou. It is a 6 minute walk from the station.