Stay!By Mitsuko Totani
Ousenkaku, Minakami, Gunma
Minakami lies deep in the mountains of Gunma and is known for its outdoor sports and abundance of onsen (hot springs), a good example being Takaragawa Onsen which sits among the headwaters of the river of the same name. The name “takara” literally means “treasure” (in this case copper), which was mined here from the Edo Era to the Showa Era. This issue we turn the spotlight on Ousenkaku, a stand-alone hot spring resort on the banks of a picturesque mountain stream.
The charm of Ousenkaku is found in the four separate outdoor baths lining the river bank, the largest of which, Kodakaranoyu, covers more than 320 square meters and is known to have healing properties for feminine ailments. Letters often arrive from people who have been blessed with children after having a dip.
Makanoyu and Mayanoyu are both expansive at 160 square meters. Even the “smallest,” Hanniyanoyu, still cuts a wide swathe at 80 square meters. The 700-plus square meters outdoor baths make Ousenkaku the largest natural hot spring in Japan.
The view of the opposite river bank is glorious, particularly in fall when the leaves shed their green for deep hues and spectacularly bright colors. All baths except Mayanoyu are mixed, making for a wonderful day out for families and couples. Note that local manners dictate girls wear towels rather than swimming suits.
According to one of the staff members, Kazuya Ohtani, “All of the bath water flows naturally from the hot spring; however, we adjust the piping to bring the water to an ideal temperature in all four seasons.”
Ousenkaku is surrounded not only by mountains, but also a grand variety of mushrooms, mountain vegetables and freshwater fish.
All are wonderfully prepared over a charcoal grill. And don’t overlook the local specialty – bear stew – a dish, inspired by stories of old, which goes well with local sake. The bear meat in the stew reportedly is from Hokkaido, not from resident Gunma bears in the area. Stay packages at Ousenkaku start at ¥16,950 per person including dinner and 24-hour hot spring access.
The hot springs are available for day-trippers from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it is a perfect way to finish off the day after some fun activities in Minakami.
By Shinkansen (Bullet Train): Joetsu Shinkansen Line to Jomo Koigen. Takaragawa bus to Takaragawa Onsen (60 mins.), or Yunokoya bus to Takaragawa Onsen Iriguchi (55 mins.).
By Express Train: Joetsu Line to Minakami Station. Takaragawa Onsen bus to Takaragawa Onsen (35 mins.), or Yunokoya bus to Takaragawa Onsen Iriguchi (30 mins.).
By Car: Expressway to Minakami Interchange. Local roads for 18 km. (30 mins.).
Fujiwara 1899, Minakami-cho, Tone-gun, Gunma-ken 〒379-1721
Tel: (0278) 75-2611 (General Inquiries) 0278-75-2121 (Reservations)
Fax (0278) 75-2038