My heart and mind sparkled with joy as I boarded the Wakashio Express train bound for Awa-Kamogawa, a coastal town located on the south east side of the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture. This was my first onsen trip after a few weeks break due to international travel so I was excited to be back on my onsen quest! Kamogawakan was a spur of the moment choice after I saw a write up in the 5 Star Onsen Ryokan magazine and noted it was only 2 hours south east of Tokyo by train. I had not visited any onsen in Chiba, so my decision was made. Admittedly, in my mind I had only equated Chiba prefecture with Narita Airport and not much else, but there is actually so much more to explore in this prefecture. As in so many of my onsen visits, I was also to discover hidden treasures and magical scenery leading to another memorable day.
Scenic Surprises – Oyama Senmaida
As the train weaved out of the big metropolis of Tokyo, and into the greener countryside area, I did a quick online search to see what else I could explore in the area. Kamogawa Sea World is a huge attraction for visiting families, but the number 2 attraction, Oyama Senmaida, sparked my interest. Oyama Senmaida is listed as one of the top 100 scenic terraced rice paddies in Japan, and is the closest to Tokyo. Only 30 minutes by local bus from Awa-Kamogawa, I was thrilled to be able to fit it into my day trip.
Arriving at Ata-Kamogawa, I found the bus stop approximately 50 meters from the station. A lovely kind man advised me of the special return ticket of 800 yen, and I was soon on my way into the countryside. I had a giggle on the bus as I met the locals, including a farming lady, bent over 90 degrees and quite deaf. The bus driver appreciated my help in helping her off the bus and making sure she knew how much money to pay. It’s one advantage of not having a car, when you get to meet the locals like this on a personal level!
It was soon my stop and the bus driver kindly pointed me in the direction of Oyama Senmaida, which was a 20 minute walk from the bus stop. The road was relatively quiet and I enjoyed the leisurely walk reflecting on the changing seasons. Since the beginnning of my onsen quest, the country landscape has transitioned from the barren brown or snow covered fields, to the luminescent green of freshly planted rice, to the current hues of green and gold from the full heads of rice. Harvest time is not far away.
After passing through a tunnel on the hill, I soon arrived at the view point to look over 375 rice paddies layering the hillside. What a treat! Special sights like these have gradually disappeared over the years with the increased use of machinery and the aging farming population. Oyama Senmaida was recognized as a “cultural landscape” in 2002, and today the fields are being maintained by the community. Groups are also welcomed to adopt a small plot and to plant, cultivate and harvest their very own rice. This is certainly a location to come back and enjoy during the different seasons!
Another view looking down the hill:
After the 40 minute round trip up and back down the hill, I had worked up a sweat in the heat of the day. I was well and truly ready for a bath. I was picked up again by the same bus driver and he greeted me warmly and guided me to the closest bus stop to reach Kamokawakan. Around 35 minutes later we were back at the coastal area and I entered the beautiful foyer of Kamogawakan. As an Onsen Ryokan, they also cater to day visitors. The fee for day visitors is 3800yen including 2000 yen to spend in the restaurant or gift store. I didn’t mind this, as it preserves the tranquil sophisticated atmosphere vs being over run by hoards of tourists.
Following a leisurely lunch of a dish featuring local venison, I headed to the main bathing area. There was a range of both indoor and outdoor baths featuring varying temperatures 39-40, 40-41 and 41-42. Outside there were my favourite big ceramic pot baths that you can have all to yourself, as well as a spa bath, and a cold plunge bath along with a sauna area. Unfortunately photography was strictly forbidden, but I can share an image of the entrance to the bathing area.
One last surprise…
Following my bath, there was one more surprise. Luckily I had remembered a foot bath from the magazine feature. It was not sign posted or introduced to me at reception so perhaps it is mainly for staying guests, but they kindly guided me to the 8th floor where I climbed another set of stairs and here is the view that greeted me….Japanese architects are such masters of scenic framing.
It gets one step better, as just next to this area is the foot bath, where you can sit down and enjoy this view whilst you leisurely soak your feet..what a beautiful way to finish the day before hopping on the train back to Tokyo.
From Tokyo Station, take the Waksashio Express train to the final stop of Awa-Kamogawa (1 hour and 55 minutes). If you are looking to visit Oyama Senmaida, take the local bus to Kamanuma (30 minutes) followed by a 20 minute walk.