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Touring Around the Land of Onsen, Satsuma, Kagoshima

September 6th, 2010 Comments off
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Myoken Onsen foot bathKyushu, the land of volcano, is a treasure-box of onsen (hot springs). Foot bath is seen here and there, as well as reasonable outdoor bath using fresh hot water directly from the source. Soaking into the hot bath will warm up the body which is very good for health. There is a whole variety of the quality of the water with different positive effects to our body, and it is certainly a great joy to travel around in search of favorite hot springs. That said, touring around for onsen is not necessarily a plush entertainment. Indulging in luxurious ryokan (onsen inn) is also nice, but if you are an outdoor person, you may want to enjoy the solitude bathing in the wild, or try small public baths with a human touch. Be it simple and small, these onsens are as “powerful” as high-class Japanese inns. Meanwhile, “Kirishima onsen” and the surrounding hot springs are starting to attract attention before the opening of Kyushu Shinkansen (bullet train) next spring. Heated up by the Ryoma Sakamoto boom, this onsen area is currently Japan’s “hottest” onsen paradise.

Soaking in a Secret hot spring in Kirishima, the Onsen Town Ryoma Visited

Ryoma ParkThanks to NHK’s period drama “Ryoma-den,” Nagasaki and Kagoshima has been receiving nationwide attention, especially in Kagoshima where it used to be the feudal domains of Shimazu family of Satsuma clan and the place where historical icons of late Edo period thrived, including Nariakira Shimazu, Takamori Saigo, and Tatewaki Komatsu. Most of all, it is said that Kagoshima was the first honeymoon destination for a Japanese, as Ryoma and Oryu were the first Japanese couple to go for a honeymoon; in this way, Kagoshima has deep connections to the patriots of late Edo period. Until today, Kirishima and the surrounding hot spring villages are loved by many people.

Kirishima hot spring village consists of eight onsen in different size, upwelling from the heart of Mount Kirishima. All eight onsen is located between 600 m to 800 m above sea level, varying in spring quality but all with positive effects to our body. Gas with sulfurous odor constantly blows up from the fumarolic area in the center of the hot spring village. Nearby, there are scenic spots such as Nunobiki falls, vast plateau of Senjojiki, and rock bath which is said to be the oldest in Kirishima, with high-end onsen inns and hotels, becoming the mecca of Kirishima sightseeing.

Also, though it completely changed over the time, there are hot springs related to the patriotic samurais in the late Edo period, such as “Shiobitashi onsen” visited by Ryoma and Oryu for Ryoma’s recuperation (currently Shiobitashi Onsen Ryoma Park where statue of Ryoma and Oryu stand), and “Eno onsen” where Tatewaki Komatsu cured his body. In contrast to luxurious onsen, Kirishima still has classical and casual hot springs with a rustic flavor. Hydropathic guest houses and simple leisurely bath stand along Amori River from Hamanoichi (currently called Hayato-cho) to Kirishima. To name a few, there are Hinatayama onsen, Myoken onsen, and Anraku onsen. Though it is not glamorous, there are good local hot springs with a history. Every one of these onsen is filled with human warmth that can be enjoyed in a reasonable price.

For example, “Kirishima Yunotani Sanso” of Yunotani Onsen is a hot spring in the old rustic hydropathic style, situated on the way to Kirishima Shrine from Kirishima Onsen. The bath use hot spring in a Kakenagashi style (having fresh hot water directly from the source without circulation) where you get to enjoy both transparent sulphur bath and white milky carbonic sulphur bath called ramune-sen at the same time. Forget about the hustle-bustle of the city and immerse yourself into the warm water to enjoy the blissful moment. You can also drop by the public bath regularly used by the locals. “Fukuju Onsen” along Route 223 and “Segodon-no-yu” near JR Hayato station is a typical onsen with a human warmth in the countryside.

“Fukuju Onsen”

This is a simple and nostalgic onsen near Kagoshima airport, loved by the locals as a relaxing public bath. The bathing area is aging, but uses fresh and natural hot spring in an excellent quality. The entrance fee is only 100 yen with a foyer provided to take a rest after the bath. From the effectiveness against neuralgia and healthy drinkable hot spring, Many people come from afar as regular customers to this onsen.

“Segodon-no-yu”

This is a natural hot spring in Kakenagashi style, situated within Hinatayama onsen village in front of Hayato station, the final stop of Hisatsu Line. Kirishima mountain range can be observed in the north, and Sakurajima in the south. While there are many public bath in town, “Segodon-no-yu” is the source of the distinguished Hinatayama onsen. “Segodon-no-yu” is named after the virtue of Takamori Saigo, the hero of Meiji Restoration, who visited this area for fishing after the Boshin War. Nearby, there is a relocated hut with a thatched roof where Mr. Saigo used to stay.

Entry to the bath costs 250 yen. Many locals drop by to bathe in the morning to freshen up before they start their day. Bright bath room surrounded by opaque glass window and tiled bathtub. The light hot water is colorless, transparent, and quite hot. Here, they also have a special tap to drink hot spring water. Shochu (distilled spirit) would certainly taste great mixing this hot spring water. What a luxury to have a hot spring directly from the source in everyday life!

If you are looking for a more primitive onsen, how about trying “Wake-no-yu” in Myoken onsen and “Me-no-yu/ Kawa-no-yu,” a bath in the wild in Kirishima onsen village? You will pretty much feel as if you become one with nature, soaking into the outdoor bath gushing out by the river, opened seven days a week. There are no place to get changed, so you do need to be well prepared to bathe here, but it is worthwhile to enjoy the real joy indulging in an onsen. The coming autumn season would be even more better to do so.

various onsens in Kyushu

Myoken Onsen “Wake-no-yu”

“Wake-no-yu” near Myoken onsen is also an old onsen Ryoma visited and it is said to be Japan’s oldest outdoor bath. Located near Route 470, scenic spots related to Ryoma is also see, including Wake Shrine and Inukai waterfall. It is a custom to place some small change as a sign of gratitude. The outdoor bath is along the river, adding a wild flavor to the atmosphere. It is also a great place conveniently located near Kagoshima airport.

“Me-no-yu/ Kawa-no-yu”

This is an onsen in the wild that developed in a sulfuric rivulet near the entrance to Kirishima Maruo Nature Path, in the center of Kirishima onsen with fume rising in the air. “Me-no-yu” is a very hot transparent water puddled in a niche of a rock. A signboard is placed by the rock which reads “The oldest rock bath in Japan.”

On the other hand, “Kawa-no-yu” is a milky sulfuric spring that flows in from the fumarolic area of the hot spring. The hot spring flows along the craggy cliff, and pools of hot water is seen here and there in the rock. Nobody charges entrance fee in these two wild onsen, but you will need a lot of courage to bathe naked as it is along the walking path. Instead, you can try bathing your feet.

Source: Travel Vision

Travel Vision Inc. provides information on the travel industry in Japan via "Daily Travel Vision", a Japanese-language e-mail newsletter, and the "Travel Vision" website. There are nearly 110,000 people working in the Japanese travel industry, and Travel Vision is proud to be bringing travel news to more than 30,000 people through Daily Travel Vision.

Nagasaki, A Hilly City Loved by Ryoma Sakamoto

August 2nd, 2010 Comments off
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View from Mt.InasaThanks to the effects of NHK period drama, nowadays Ryoma Sakamoto is even more popular than the historical icon, Nobunaga Oda. Nagasaki was the place where this hero of the late Edo period got to the first base of changing Japan. With a picturesque view everywhere in the city, Nagasaki was the authorized gateway to exports throughout the period of national isolation, since the arrival of Portuguese ships in 1571 until Meiji Restoration. Ryoma saw the steamboat come and go with a black smoke, and he himself steered Japan to open up the country. There are many historical sites related to the hero, Ryoma Sakamoto in this port town Nagasaki.

The last days of Edo period was embroiled with anti-foreigner movements and reverence for the Emperor. Ryoma Sakamoto, an ambitious activist, only spent four years in Nagasaki, but was one of his important moments during his life in a fast lane. Ryoma visited Nagasaki when accompanying his former teacher, Kaishu Katsu, and established Japan’s first trading company, Kameyama Shachu (the predecessor of Kaientai) to realize his dream. He purchased weapons from English tradesman, Thomas Blake Glover, and cooperated with Satsuma and Choshu clan to put down the Shogunate. By his strong efforts to realize the restoration, Satsuma-Choshu Alliance was formed, and as a result, Japan started to move into a new era.

At that time, many non-Japanese from Britain, America and Holland lived in Nagasaki, and thus Nagasaki was a place where Japanese encountered the world. Many young political activists around Ryoma gathered in Nagasaki as if they were attracted to his energy. In that sense, Kameyama Shachu played a big role, and was supported by business tycoon, Kendo Kosone. While Kendo provided assistance to Ryoma, he was also supportive to Ryoma’s wife, Oryu, by letting her stay in his house near Glover’s residence and taught her how to play a moon guitar. The town of Nagasaki has drastically changed over the years, but Kosone’s residence by the port of Nagasaki still remains to be in its shape as it was in the time of Kendo, with precious goods from the past including the moon guitar and music scores used by Oryu.

Statue of Sakamoto RyomaThe building of Kameyama Shachu is no longer in place, but the achievements of Ryoma and the activists can be seen in the museum constructed on the site on top of a hill above Teramachi Street. Nearby there is the now- famous “Ryoma-no-boots-zo (statue of Ryoma’s boots).” Put your foot inside the bronze boots and take a glance at the panoramic city; you will feel like being Ryoma himself. On top of the hill there is Kazagashira Park with a spectacular view of Nagasaki Port and a statue of Ryoma watching the port. With a view of the city from the park, the statue of Ryoma is a popular photo spot. Among numerous statues built in Japan, this statue is said to be the one that most resembles Ryoma himself. It makes us wonder what Ryoma had in his mind when he was alive. The stone steps from Kazagashira Park to Teramachi Street is now a sightseeing route called “Ryoma Street” where Ryoma and his Kameyama Shachu peers swaggered about in the old times. Kazagashira Park also has a grave of Hikoma Ueno, the first Japanese photographer who took pictures of Ryoma and many prominent figures in the late Edo period.

With many sightseeing spots with great view such as Kazagashira Park, Mt. Inasa, Mr. Nabekanmuri, Nagasaki is the most hilly city in Japan. Some slopes are popular sightseeing spots, including “Oranda-zaka (Holland Slope)” leading to foreign settlements, “Heifuri-zaka” in Teramachi, and “Dondon-zaka” in Minamiyamate-machi, but most of the slopes are community roads for the residents. I heard that 80% of the city has a slope angle as steep as more than 5 degrees. Taking a close look, the houses are built along the mountain surface to the top, with numerous paths and stairs connecting the neighboring houses.

Many of these houses are old, and cars and buses can drive through only certain routes. The residents of the area walk along the path to get to the nearest road. This is how people in Nagasaki deal with the slopes. That said, a complimentary incline elevator, “Glover Sky Road” was completed in 2003, from Ishibashi Station, the terminal station of the tram, to the second gate of Glover park, as high as 330 steps of stairs. Even if the scenery of the city change, the slopes of Nagasaki still remains to be an important community road since the end of Edo period when Ryoma was running up and down the town.

Ryoma Sakamoto is now starting to be the main icon of sightseeing in Nagasaki, but the people in the town is also eager to entertain visitors with two routes; “Nagasaki Ryoma-no-michi (Ryoma’s Road),” a 3 km walking course from Suwa Shrine to Glover Garden, and “Nagasaki Saruku,” a tour course to easily enjoy Nagasaki. Participating in the tour, time flies as you listen to interesting stories by the local volunteer guides. The duration of the tour varies, but if you are touring around Nagasaki and follow Ryoma’s paths, I would highly recommend “Ryoma-ga-miageta Nagasaki-no Sora” course (duration about 2 hours).

Nagasaki Saruku has more than 50 varieties of courses, including guided courses called “Tsu Saruku,” as well as free-and-easy “Yu Saruku,” and “Gaku Saruku” which is a combination of meals and lectures. Participation fee is 500 yen per person for “Tsu Saruku” (for junior high school students and above/reservation required).

Source: Travel Vision

Travel Vision Inc. provides information on the travel industry in Japan via "Daily Travel Vision", a Japanese-language e-mail newsletter, and the "Travel Vision" website. There are nearly 110,000 people working in the Japanese travel industry, and Travel Vision is proud to be bringing travel news to more than 30,000 people through Daily Travel Vision.

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