Nestled in the mountains approximately one hour north of Kyoto, this is a very magical hot spring destination. Renowned as the birthplace of Reiki, one can very defintely feel a special energy emanating from the cedar forests, clear mountain streams and wonderfully fresh air. There are many hiking tracks in the area after which people generally head for the onsen, however as usual I headed straight for the onsen and decided to have a lovely relaxing day to ease away my stress in the sulphur hot spring waters.
There are a couple of options to choose from at the onsen – either an outside bath course for 1000yen, or a full day experience for 2500yen which comes with rental bath towels and a yukata (cotton kimono) with access to 3 indoor baths, sauna and rest room. I chose the full day experience, but knew straight away that I wanted to spend most of my time in the outdoor onsen known as Hourokuyu.
As soon as I had slipped into my yukata and geta, I headed straight outside and wandered across the parking lot toward the entrance of the outdoor bath. I had arrived early, and I was hoping that I would be lucky enough to have the bath to myself!
I meandered up the stone steps, and along a semi lit textured walkway lined with stone and cedar toward a small locker room. I was already excited with a sense of awe and wonder before even getting to the bath!
Wow….the rotenburo did not disappoint! What a view! Even better, I did have the bath to myself for a while. After rinsing off at the washing area behind the bamboo partitions, I couldn’t wait to get into the bath.
On the day I visited it was a little misty, but the mountains were quite mystical in this type of weather. As I soaked blissfully, I also enjoyed the amazing reflections of the surrounding mountains and shrubs in the bath with me. Talk about being fully encapsulated in nature filled with peace and serenity…..
Growing up in Japan, I remember the sense of greenery particularly in the summer which is in stark contrast to the dry, brown landscape in Australia. Something that I have only come to fully appreciate in recent years however, is the luminescent greens known as shinryoku which literally means “the fresh verdure of spring”. Japanese tune into the relaxing energy of the fresh growth, and the maple viewing for this season can be just as beautiful as the autumn colours. I took ridiculous numbers of photos as everywhere I looked I could see varying degrees of green.
Gorgeous country side
Following a few hours and a lovely lunch, it was time to wander back toward the station as I had to travel back to Tokyo that afternoon. It was a straight walk down the hill along a quiet country lane, with another few picture stops along the way.
Although time was short for me on the day, I do recommend a visit to Kurama Temple which is set right up on top of the hill, accessible by cable car followed by quite a few steep steps but the view is well worth it! If you continue over the hill you will also come across Kifune Shrine, and another stunning area that features kawadoko which are tatami rooms built across the rapid running river, a must to experience if you visit in summer.
From Kyoto station, take the JR Nara line one stop to Tofukuji station and change to the Keihan line to Demachiyanagi-ekimae (approx 22 minutes) Change to the Eizan Dentetsu line and get off at the final stop (29 minutes)