I had been looking forward to my trip to Kawaji Onsen in Tochigi prefecture since passing briefly through the area earlier in the year. It was a beautiful spring day with clear blue skies as I headed off on the express train, buzzing with positive energy. The grey landscape of Tokyo soon gave way to the vibrant green of the newly planted rice paddies and my heart opened with anticipation for another adventure ahead. Other passengers were also getting into the weekend holiday mode, with couples and singles alike tucking into a beer or two from 10:30am! Why not?!
After changing to a local train at Kinugawa onsen, I travelled approximately another 20 minutes north to Kawaji Onsen Yumoto station. Immediately I knew I was in a much quieter area, and I happily wandered down a tree lined track toward the river, past full blooming wisteria and found Yakushi-no-yu.
Yakushi-no yu is a relatively small day onsen facility, located right at the fork of the Kinu and Ojika rivers, used by locals and visitors. I was greeted by an older woman at the door and chatted about options of buying a single entry ticket for 510 yen or a Kawaji onsen pass for 1200 yen, that would allow entry into 3 onsen in the area as listed on the flip side of the pass. I chose the pass, knowing that I was sure to be on the lookout for another onsen experience.
Overall, this was quite a small facility offering a small semi outdoor bath overlooking the river. The view of the river was beautiful, although unfortunately due to the privacy screens, you could only see the river if you were at the edge of the bath peering through the gaps in the screens so it wasn’t quite the “wow” I had been hoping for.
The hot spring water at Kawaji onsen is simple alkaline and historically it was renowned for the healing of wounds, slightly differing from the Kinugawa hot springs which are known for treating burns. Thankfully I wasn’t suffering from any burns but it was certainly very calming and soothing to soak in the beautiful aquamarine waters.
Following my bath, I had a quick look around upstairs, found a few snoozing old guys in the tatami rest room, and decided it was time to head off to find another onsen that would perhaps grab my fancy a little more!
Sure enough there was a beautiful surprise just across the river….
Take the Tobu line from Asakusa or Shinjuku to Kinugawa Onsen and change to the local Aizu Kinugawa line. Get off at Kawaji Yumoto station and walk approximately 10 minutes down the hill to the riverside. Travel time is approximately 3 hours.