Nick's Guide to Meotobuchi Onsen, Kinugawa, Japan
Information on Meotobuchi Onsen
How to get to this rotenburo
To get to Meotobuchi Onsen is an experience in itself. The best way is by car. From the Tokyo area take the Tohoku expressway to Imaichi or Nikko (Imaichi exit is cheaper). From Imaichi take the 121 North 19 kilometers. The road will fork and you will go left leaving the 121. Meotobuchi onsen is just over 30 kilometers from here, on narrow, winding and sometimes steep roads!
If you don't have a car and STILL want to go, it is possible to go by train and bus. Take the Tobu line from Asakusa to Kinugawa Onsen (see Kinugawa page for more details). From the Kinugawa Onsen Station there IS a bus - travel time is 106 minutes! The bus is 2,060 yen. For more information, call (0288-97-1178).
Times are as follows:
From the Tobu guide, April to November 1996. Subject to change, check in the Tobu information office in Asakusa.
|Depart Asakusa Tobu Train Station||Arrive Kinugawa Onsen Train Station||
Depart Kinugawa Onsen (Bus) Station ||Arrive Meotobuchi Onsen||....||Depart Meotobuchi Onsen ||Arrive Kinugawa Onsen (Bus-Train) Station|
|...||...||7:35||9:21||....|| 7:45||9:31 |
Another onsen I have recently discovered in the same area and like:Ichiryukaku. I discovered this one by serendipity (i.e. a happy or lucky accident!) while trying to visit Meotobuchi.
My experiences at this rotenburo
Well, after a disappointing month of waiting, I finally made it to Meotobuchi. From their brochure, I read they have many rotenburos; one for women only, one for men only and a dozen mixed bathing ones! However, the real story was a little different. It seems the place was 'under construction', or perhaps I should say renovation, and many of the pools were closed or reserved for hotel guests. So, upon arrival we found we could only use three mixed baths, and the 'big' pool. However there were also two reserved for women only - sex discrimination!!! Yet, the fee was still 1,000 yen (about US $10). A few other signs we saw (of course, all in Nihongo only!!!): 1. Do not bring your own sake or beer in the place (they had a few vending machines, with beer, tea and juice.)2. No swimsuits in the onsens. 3. The 1,000 yen was for two hours only!
Being 'in the country', it was much more rustic than a city place. There was a nice resting room with tables and tatami mats. You could enjoy some snacks (brought with you) or drinks (yes, 'some people' brought their own). I even saw a few people dozing. Down below, there was no changing room or 'bath'. People just put their clothes, bags, etc. on a shelf, the ground or where ever. Also, there wasn't a place to 'wash' before getting in the pools, as is so common in baths and onsens in Japan. Everyone just stripped, grabbed their towel and jumped in! The first pool we tried was a little hot, not too bad. I particularly liked the swimming pool. It was neck deep and just the right temperature, at least for me. Most of the few ladies who came, preferred the 'Big Tengu Pool'. We also tried the 'Little Tengu1 Pool', which was extremely hot. It was the highest pool and offered a nice view of the surrounding river and valley. I have since returned at least once with other friends. Yes, that is standing behind the sign for the Little Tengu1 bath. Maybe you can tell that this is autumn, as the leaves are starting to turn beautiful colors. Also, note that I am hanging on to the sign quite firmly; a step behind me is a nice long drop to Kinugawa River.
See this link for more information on onsens
They do close at 3PM for non-hotel guests (no problem for the bus crowd, as the LAST BUS down the mountain is 3:35PM!!!)
We also spent about an hour walking around the area, (another picture of me on the right) although we did not go all the way to the next level of onsens, which are up in the mountains. We had lunch in their restaurant, which was good, even if our experience showed the staff less than friendly. I had the curry rice, at 850 yen. I didn't even wish to try the salamander tempura (five for 1,000 yen!). Please, if YOU go and try it, let me know what you thought. How can anyone eat that poor little guy on the left? Well, I have to confess, I did eat some roasted deer meat on a stick (yakiniku style). Poor Bambi.
1 Tengu is the local area god with a long nose and red face; you may have seen a mask or picture of him somewhere. There is a nice shrine to him in Kanuma.
Copyright © 1996 by Nick Miller.
See notes for information on navigating, links, copyright (my own as well as any possible inadvertent infringement on my part), photo usage, etc.