Nakagawa Onsen lies on the banks of the Nakagawa River which feeds into Lake Tanzawa in western Kanagawa Prefecture. For the past 100 years, the storied ryokan (Japanese country inn), Shingenkan, has presided over the banks of the river.
Shingenkan takes its name from the army of Takeda Shingen who, during his battles against the armies of Ujimitsu Hojo, sent the wounded to this hot spring to nurse their injuries. The very same healing waters remain as they were, directly in front of the ryokan.
The hot springs are certainly the main attraction where the pools are just as clear as the waters of the Nakagawa River flowing nearby. With an alkali level PH 10, the soothing waters supposedly have a great effect on atopy and other dermatological afflictions, and sips of the water are said to be good for gastrointestinal troubles.
Consequently, the hot springs are called the “onsen of beauty.” From the windows of the large pool, guests enjoy grand views of the river and mountainside, and a recently finished outdoor bath adds to the surroundings nicely.
“We want guests to lie back and enjoy the starry sky. And the cadence of the frogs makes quite a lively tune,” says the proprietor, Sho Inoue. Three pools can be reserved for private soaks, and the outdoor heated pool is popular with the kids.
Inoue follows by commenting, “Fishing season runs from April to the end of October, and you can catch your fill of dace, yamame (a kind of native trout) rockfish, rainbow trout and sculpin. Barbecuing on the riverbed is also quite a pleasure.”
Tanuki (raccoon dog), rabbits and other small woodland creatures abound in the Tanzawa area. However, don’t be surprised to see the occasional deer, wild boar and bear in the mountains surrounding Shingenkan. On the day of our visit, we were greeted by a deer poking its head out from the wooded glade.
The region features many hiking trails and is particularly well known for fall and shower climbing (sawanobori) in the summer. Day-trippers can enjoy the hot springs as well, and it’s refreshing to wash away the sweat while relaxing in the onsen after exploring the mountains.
Getting There (from Tokyo)
Train: Take the JR Gotemba Line to Yaga Stn., then board the bus for Nishitanzawa, getting off at the Nakagawa Onsen stop. If you take the Odakyu Line, get on the Nishitanzawa Bus from Shin Matsuda Stn.
Car: Take the Tomei Expressway, get off at the Oi-Matsuda I.C. Cut across Route 246 to Route 76 and then drive about 40 minutes to Lake Tanzawa. From Nagoya, take the Tomei to Gotemba I.C. and continue to Route 76
Address: 258-0201 Kanagawa, Ashigara Kami-gun, Yamakita-machi, Nakagawa 577-6
Tel: (0465) 78-3811
Fax: (0465) 78-3630
Pricing: Packages for two adults (night/two meals) start at ¥15,500 per person. Using the onsen costs ¥1,000 for adults, ¥500 for children aged 2 through elementary school.