As I reminisce about my visit to Tanigawa Onsen in Gunma Prefecture, my memories are flooded with fairy tale images of sakura trees dotting the countryside against a backdrop of the snow capped Mt Tanigawa. I am still amazed that such idyllic countryside is only a couple of hours north of Tokyo by train. As usual, I was on the hunt for a remote onsen so it was a real treat when I randomly discovered Yuterume Tanigawa Onsen tucked away in a valley about 10 minutes by taxi from Minakami station.
Yuterume Tanigawa Onsen
Yuterume Tanigawa Onsen is a public onsen facility. Standing from the outside I was not sure what type of facilities I would find within.
As I went through the front door however, I felt a lovely community atmosphere especially when I saw the local farmer’s produce for sale. A mini farmers market is not necessarily something you would expect to see at a bath house, but it goes to show how the bath house in remote regional areas can also be a point of community exchange. If I had been living locally, I certainly would have bought some of the fresh vegetables but instead I went straight to the reception. Once I had paid the very modest 570yen bath fee, I headed toward the red noren (curtain) to the ladies’ baths.
Yuterume has both indoor and outdoor baths. I was keen to minimize my time inside to a quick wash down and then head straight outside into nature to enjoy the rotenburo (outdoor bath). The rotenburo was just gorgeous. As I soaked in the bath, my senses were satiated. I felt the silky warm water on my skin whilst gazing at the blooming daffodils and listening to the sounds of the Tone river flowing through the valley. How lucky was I to indulge in having this bath all to myself! I think my luck was due to the midday timing as well as the fact that it was a weekday.
After I got dressed again, I sat and took a breather to fully let the deep relaxation effects from the bath work their magic.
I was soon feeling hungry and wondering if I would be fortunate enough to to find any local restaurants or cafes within walking distance. The onsen staff were great and introduced me to “Sae”, a little Italian cafe about 200 meters from Yuterume.
Ten minutes later I found Sae. It was a very cozy and homey cafe. Despite the Italian flag blowing in the breeze out the front, I felt more of a Japanese influence as soon as I walked in the door and had to take my shoes off! I was greeted by a “Mama san” who explained the menu and took my order for a warm chicken salad. Again, it was very quiet as I was the only person dining at that time. I felt blissfully at peace as I looked out the window across at Mt Tanigawa.
Feeling content after my bath and meal, I was in the mood for a wander through the surrounding country side to take in the views. It was such a glorious spring day with the blossoms in full bloom. There wasn’t a car in sight and not many clouds either!
Meandering along the country lanes, I couldn’t help but stop regularly to take lots of photos in an attempt to capture some of nature’s beauty. There is so much charm in Japan’s country side especially if you know how to get off the beaten track.
Filled with lots of positive warm energy, I then decided to walk all of the way back to Minakami station rather than taking a taxi or trying to catch a bus. It turned out to be a great decision as it was a relatively easy walk along the main road straight down the hill, with plenty of great views along the way.
As I got closer to the station I crossed the Tone river and was on my final stretch.
Finally, I arrived back at Minakami Station. It had been a really great day with a perfect blend of fresh country air, stunning scenery, lovely food, plenty of exercise and of course another great onsen experience!
After such a special day, I was pleased that I had made a reservation to stay overnight at a local ryokan. I was soon picked up by the ryokan staff in their mini shuttle bus, and whisked away on my next adventure at Minakami Onsen. More on that in my next blog!
From Tokyo, take the Toki Shinkansen bound for Niigata to Takasaki (49 minutes). Change to the Joetsu line and travel to Minakami station (65 minutes). From Minakami station it is a 10 minute taxi ride to Yuterume Tanigawa Onsen. Bus services are also available, but the service is quite infrequent so please check the times carefully.