Shimoda – Day 2: Kannon Onsen

Tucked well away from civilisation, Kannon Onsen is a natural paradise to relax and unwind to the fullest. Before I tell you more, let me rewind a little to the beginning of day 2 of my Shimoda experience.

I awoke to a day of bright sunshine and decided to get up with the birds so as not to miss a moment. Keen to see some more of the beautiful coastline, I took a 10 minute bus ride to Shirahama beach. Until now, I had not held Japanese beaches and coastline in high regard as much of the beaches are black (due to the volcanic terrain) and do not compare to the white sandy Australian beaches I am used to.

The Shimoda beaches have certainly changed my perception and apparently they are among the best in Japan and are comparative to Okinawa. I loved walking along the beach in the morning sunshine, and it was so peaceful and free of crowds at the early morning hour.

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Furthermore, there was a beautiful Torii (traditional gate usually found at the entrance to shrines or sacred places), on the edge of a rock ledge overlooking the sea which provided a very special place for a morning meditation. This was something not found on an Australian beach either…

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Following my visit to the beach, I hopped on a bus and went back to the main port of Shimoda. Along the way I caught glimpses of beautiful coastiline and wished I had more time to explore fully as well as a rental car for more flexibility. Knowing I still needed to fit in another onsen experience, I took a short cut to get a birds eye view of the coast via a cruise on a replica of the black ship. Again, a bright blue sky and crystal clear waters…

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Kannon Onsen

After my beautiful morning on the coast, it was time to go inland to Kannon Onsen. As per my introduction, Kannon Onsen is well off the beaten tourist track and is tucked away up in the mountains. Due to its isolated location, it is easiest reached by car, but it can also be reached by public buses which leave once an hour. If you are a staying guest, there are also hotel pick up services. I took a combination of the public bus and private shuttle bus from the closest bus stop.

Below is a picture of the beautiful Japanese country side at the closest bus stop to Kannon Onsen. Unlike the vast flat agricultural areas of Australia, Japanese agricultural areas are small communities nestled in valleys between mountains. Summer brings the rainy season from June, followed by a very hot humid summer. Although the humidity is hard on the sweat glands, the lush green landscape is a feast for the eyes!

 

 

 

Following a 5 minute wait, I was very glad to be picked up as the onsen is located 3 km up a narrow winding road. The trip in the shuttle bus was an adventure in itself as the road was only the width of a car. Although there wasn’t much traffic, the driver often had to back up the windy road to find a place where both cars could safely pass each other.

As I arrived, I knew I had come to a very special place of peace and tranquiity. The driver commented that it was definitely a location to come to “get away from it all” vs to come and have fun, as it is really isolated. I always welcome these types of places in Japan!

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I soon discovered that Kannon Onsen is ranked 44th in the top 100 ryokan to visit in Japan and offers a range of high quality accommodation with many of the rooms featuring private onsens overlooking the mountains. I was truly blessed to be able to experience the day spa facilities for an entrance fee of only 1300 yen, which is phenomenal value for the facilities offered.

Photography is strictly forbidden, but below is a photographed image from a promotional brochure to share some of the atmosphere.

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Nature’s Paradise

As I relaxed in the onsen, overlooking the mountains in total bliss and relaxation, I couldn’t help but be attuned to nature’s energy. I smiled to myself as I had a twisted vision of “Snow White and the Onsen”- only because I was blissfully happy and smiling, whilst the birds sang, busy ants bustled along the garden edge, butterflies fluttered gently and one or two slinky salamanders wove their way in and out of the cracks of the wooden floor boards to enjoy the sunshine and crisp mountain air. There is so much more to feel and experience when you fully immerse yourself in nature. Not a dwarf in sight though – and lucky for me, very few people either!

Much of the food served at the facility is also locally grown, but this is exclusively available to staying guests only, but I can imagine it would be pretty special.

Drinkable Onsen

The water at Kannon Onsen is highly alkaline (pH 9.5) and very silky and soft on your skin. It is also drinkable! There is actually a cup in the fountain featured in the picture above that you can drink from in the onsen, and they also have bottled water that is sold, along with other specialist beauty creams and shampoo made from the water. I noted that nutritional elements listed on the bottled water, and am intrigued to research more about the health benefits.

A place to remember

Kannon Onsen has definitely been marked in my calender to ensure I return on a special weekend to experience an overnight stay. I also left inspired with a copy of the “5 Star Onsen Ryokan” annual magazine to provide more inspiration for my upcoming onsen visits. So much of this information is only available in Japanese, but each little bit of inspiration is a step toward another adventure in many of the hidden secrets of Japan.

Getting there

From Tokyo Station, take the express “Super View Odoriko” or “Odoriko” to Rendaiji or Izukyu Shimoda Station (approximately 2.5 hours). Call ahead to Kannon Onsen to see if pick up services are available.

 

 

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