Touring the nine public bath houses (sotoyu) of nostalgic hot-spring town Shibu Onsen
Shibu Onsen has enjoyed a 1300-year history as a hot-spring spa since the first bathhouse was opened here. It has long been famed as an inn town and a hot-spring health resort where the waters are rich in restorative effects. The town retains its distinctive ambience of earthen walls and latticed windows, and the warmth of abundant water flowing directly from the hot-spring source is matched only by the kindness of the local people. The ambience of Shibu Onsen feels like a visit to the Japan of a long-past age.
If you’re staying in Shibu Onsen, we strongly recommend making the rounds of the town’s nine public bath houses, each of which boasts its own hot-spring source and mix of beneficial effects.
The public baths used every day by the local people are open for use by guests of ryokan that are members of the Shibu Onsen Ryokan Association. Before you set out, ask the inn for the dedicated key to the sotoyu baths, then head for the cobblestone streets of the hot-spring district. As you enjoy the charming appearance of Hatsu-yu, Sasa-no-yu, Shibu O-yu and the other sotoyu baths, you can choose your favorite, based on the feel of the steaming water on your skin, the temperature, and other factors.
Another thing to do before you start your bathing tour is to pick up a kigan-tenugui at any souvenir store in the spa district. This is a hand-towel marked with the names of each of the sotoyu baths. Collect the stamp of each bath next to its name on the towel. At the end of your bath tour, tie your kigan-tenugui with a ribbon at Shibu Takayakushi temple and make a wish. It might come true.
Tour of sotoyu baths of Shibu Onsen
Inn guests: 6:00AM to 10:00PM *Kigan-tenugui are sold at many local inns and spa-district souvenir shops.
Non-guests: Entrance is available only to O-yu bath house (No. 9 bath), from 10:00AM to 4:00PM. *Tickets can be purchased for ¥500 per person at the Shibu Onsen Ryokan Association Office and at the Shibu Onsen parking lot.
Shibu Onsen parking lot: Toll (fee-payable) parking lot
Inquiries: 0269-33-2921 (Shibu Onsen Ryokan Association)