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Shima Onsen's Public Baths

CONTENTS

  • Kawahara no Yu

  • Gomuso Hot Spring

  • Kami no Yu

  • Shio no Yu

  • Shima Onsen in Nakanojo is one of the most famous onsen resorts in Gunma Prefecture. The name itself—Shima—means “forty thousand”, which folk etymology suggests is related to the forty thousand ailments that the waters of Shima Onsen were reputed to cure. There are three free public onsen in the Shima Onsen area: Kawahara no Yu, Gomuso no Yu, and Kami no Yu, as well as a public drinking fountain, Shio no Yu. The free public baths are the perfect way to break up a long day strolling the resort town.

    Between the hours of 9am to 3pm, these baths are free for visitors (and restricted to local residents the rest of the day), although visitors are invited to donate to their upkeep. Lockers are available at all three locations but one should not expect much in the way of creature comforts beyond warm, mineral-rich water.

  • Kawahara no Yu

    Kawahara no Yu

    Kawahara no Yu

    The view out the front door of Kawahara no Yu is dramatic: two mountain rivers meet here against the backdrop of the rugged hillside. The actual location of the baths is less romantic... but perhaps all the more interesting (and photogenic) for its prosaic location—positioned in the heart of Shima Onsen, not far from the Shima Grand Hotel, Kawahara no Yu sits in the shadow of a busy road bridge over the river, and the pink noise shushing of nearby motorways echoes through the trees in the busy season. This is a reminder that the onsen experience is chiefly about the water itself. The baths at Kawahara no Yu are warm, clean and, depending on the season, not usually busy.

  • Gomuso Hot Spring

    Gomuso Hot Spring

    Gomuso Hot Spring

    Upstream from Kawahara no Yu, Gomuso Hot Spring is located closer to what is said to be the source of the Shima Onsen’s healing waters. This is a chance to experience the rustic style of bathhouse frequented by area residents. After stopping by the nearby Buddhist temple, for some spiritual cleansing, head into the baths.

    Gomuso Hot Spring

    Gomuso Hot Spring

    A window lets in some light, but there is not much to see: the baths are rudimentary. The water here is hotter than other baths in the area. If one has been overindulging on the local shochu, fill up a dipper or two—the mineral content in this bath, close to the rumored source of all of Shima’s springs, is said to cure stomach ailments.

  • Kami no Yu

    Kami no Yu

    Kami no Yu

    Head downstream from the Gomuso and Kawahara baths, Kami no Yu sits in Yamaguchi District, home to many ryokan. Kami no Yu is a barebones public bath that draws its waters from the same sources as the private onsen nearby.

    Kami no Yu

    Kami no Yu

    The baths are divided into an achingly hot hot bath and a still-quite-hot lukewarm bath. The water quality in both baths is different, as well, with the hotter bath clear and soft while the lukewarm pool is richer in mineral content (sodium and calcium chloride sulfate, in this case).

  • Shio no Yu

    Shio no Yu

    Shio no Yu

    Shio no Yu is a landmark in the Shima Onsen Central Town, located on the village’s main shotengai shopping street. Shima Onsen is known for being one of the country’s “drinkable onsens”. Drinking the waters of Shima’s hot springs is said to have a number of benefits—a list too long to fit here—when sipped directly.

    On a cold day, a slightly bitter steam fills the pavillion. Here, the waters shoot out of bamboo tubes into stone basins shaped like a hollowed out gourd, the traditional drinking vessel. Perhaps a connoisseur of onsen water could offer more complete tasting notes—the water is bitter and slightly salty from the combination of calcium sulfate, sodium, magnesium, and other trace minerals.

    Nakanojo
    Address
    Agatsuma-gun, Gunma Prefecture Nakanojo
    Phone
    Kawahara no Yu
    Address
    Gunma Pref. Agatsumagunnakanojoumachi Shima 4228-2
    Phone
    0279642321
    Gomusou no Yu
    Address
    Gunma Pref. Agatsumagunnakanojoumachi Shima 4372-1
    Phone
    0279642321
  • Kami no Yu
    Address
    Gunma Pref. Agatsumagunnakanojoumachi Shima 3977-1
    Phone
    0279642321
    Shima Onsen
    Address
    Gunma Pref. Agatsumagunnakanojoumachi Shima
    Phone
    0279642321
    四万グランドホテル
    Address
    4228 Shima Nakanojo-machi, Agatsuma-gun Gunma
    Phone
    0279-64-2211
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