Japan's Hidden Onsen
In the deep dark reaches...
Japan’s Hidden Hot Springs
Japan is a country consisting of 4 main islands; Honshu (main Island), to the North is Hokkaido (Northern Sea Island), Shikoku (Fourth Country) and Kyushu (Nine Provinces).
There are hundreds of smaller islands that lie in Japan’s territories.
To the South there is Okinawa, also the Kerima Islands, which has some of the world’s most pristine sea and coral reefs.
Further south-east, lies Ishigaki Island, with its’ diverse marine life and enticing turquoise sea.
Iriemoto Island with its dense jungle, is home to a unique wild cat that is rarely seen by the locals. This island is at the fringe of Japan’s territories to the South. Sparsely populated, it is worth an evening stroll in Summer when the fire flies are out, spottingly illuminating the darkness.
The Izu Archipelago dots off Izu Peninsula. Izu Penninsula or Izu Hantou (Izu “Half Island”) is 2-4 hours South West of Tokyo - depending on which location you want to access and your means of transport. The archipelago, also known as the Seven Islands of Izu, offers free Hot Springs with incredible sunsets over the deep blue Pacific Ocean. One of these hot springs (from here on hot springs will be written as “Onsen”) is actually in the ocean and, depending on the tide, one needs to test the water. High tide, go a little closer to the shore, low tide, you can venture into a loosely constructed rock wall bath further out to sea. It is quite an experience to have the ebb and flow of the waves sweep across you. The hot water and then the cool of the incoming waves is a sublime sensation. You might find yourself swirling around the bath with the waves, soaking it up. This bath is best experienced at night.
If the weather is clear, you can see the twinkling night sky and the occasional shooting star.
Going late at night with a carefully carried bottle of your favorite beverage, your partner in-hand, is an experience that is well worth the trek down the hundred or so stairs.
There are many more islands that offer their own unique culture and atmosphere with many different dialects of the Japanese language… and onsen.
If you have taken up study of the Japanese language, you can relax with the knowledge that, although you may not understand all of the different dialects, the people will be able to understand “standard” Japanese, which is pretty much Tokyo (Edo) Japanese.
Japan lies on top of the juncture of three tectonic plates. They converge all around Tokyo Bay. The resulting affect of the tectonic activity are earthquakes, volcanic activity and… onsen.
Travelling in Japan
Outside of Tokyo, you will find few signs in English. If you love a challenge and feel you want to give it a try, I would say – yes, do it. We all have to live and learn.
The first time that you come to Japan, you might want to enjoy it without the stress of trying to navigate around.
Japan has an excellent train network. While accessing some hidden onsen requires more than transport by train, the train network is extensive and cars or buses can be utilized near your desired destination.