Cozy Experiences of One-house Inn in a Secluded Hot Spring (Part2)

Hello, welcome to the 2nd episode about staying at a cozy Japanese hot spring inn! I was planning to upload the episode soon after the 1st one, but summer has already come when I noticed! I would like to introduce “Hoshi Onsen, Chojukan” in Gunma prefecture this time. The inn is very historical and famous for traditional Japanese Onsen inn and is still a very popular place to visit among Onsen geeks. I had been longing to visit there for many years, but I had no chance to go there somehow. Finally, the time has come!

Hoshi Onsen seems to the world of ancient Japanese folktales

We went there in the middle of April 2022 and it was my husband’s birthday by chance. Hoshi Onsen is also easily accessible from Tokyo and it takes about 60 minutes by Joetsu Shinkansen (a bullet train) to Jomo-Kogen station which is the nearest. We had a rent-a-car from the station to go there for 40 minutes or so. You can also go there by public transportation such as a scheduled bus, however, rent-a-car is the easiest way to access it. After 40 minutes of driving through the countryside, we could finally find the one-house inn. The place was also a time-slipping atmosphere like Rankeisou which was introduced in the previous episode.

The inn opened 140 years ago and its buildings are registered as National Tangible Cultural Properties which keeps the traditional Japanese housing method. When you enter the building, you can find a massive one-panel wooden brazier at the center. There is also a room with an old hearth on the left side where you can enjoy Japanese green tea. Our room was not in the main building but in the new building,(however, the building was built 80 years ago even though it is said “new”! ).

Our room is on the 2nd floor and the room windows overlook the entire inn. It is furnished with some antique items and they reminded me of my childhood days. In particular, the black rotary-dial telephone is still working to access the reception! People over their 40s are very familiar with the phone, but it may be a relic from the past for younger generations who have never seen and used such rotary dials! Anyway, the inn provides us with the atmosphere of the good old days.

Unusual hot spring where the source gushes out from the bottom

Hoshi Onsen has 3 hot springs in the inn and “Hoshi-no-yu” is the iconic bath. The inner bathroom with 4 bathtubs with slightly different temperatures was built over 100 years ago and is very precious architecture. The bottom of the bathtub is covered with stones and a hot spring is gushing from the bottom. When you see a surface of hot water, you can find little bubbles coming up from the bottom sometimes. In addition, the stones on the bottom also serve as a foot massage and are very comfortable. The quality of the spring is amazing and the water is categorized as a sulfate spring which is my best favorite one.  As you know, Onsen has different effects on the body and mind depending on the quality of the spring. And Hoshi Onsen is effective for gastrointestinal, burns, arteriosclerosis, etc. The spring temperature is around 38-40 degrees Celsius, so it is perfect for me to stay in the bathtub forever! 

The one thing which makes me reluctant is that Hoshi-no-yu is usually mixed bathing ONLY. Of course, women-only time is provided between 8 pm to 10 pm, but it is just for 2 hours a day. If you miss the timing, you never have a chance to experience it, or have to enter the bath with other men if you are brave enough! The other 2 bathrooms called “Tamaki-no-yu” and “Choju-no-yu” are switched for men and women according to time schedule. So we have to be careful to check the schedule and signboards (it is often used as a sign curtain) when we go to the bathrooms. “Tamaki-no-yu” has inner and outer baths and “Choju-no-yu” has only an inner bath.

Do you think a mixed-basin bath seems a unique custom?

By the way, a mixed-basin bath is not normal in Japan nowadays. When you visit a public bath, there are separate rooms for men and women, of course. However, you can still find many “mixed-basing” hot springs in Japan, especially in northern areas of Japan, and it is heard that the basing style is our custom which was very common among people in the old time.

Some hot spring inns tend to allow women to use bathing clothes or bath towels, however, some of them are still prohibited to use them. These inns provide women-only time for “mixed-basing” hot springs in most cases like Hoshi-no-yu. You may feel it is very embarrassing and weird, however, I think it is a unique and interesting custom. In most cases, the locker rooms for men and women are separated and the entrance to the bathtub is each. In case the hot spring is non-transparent and unclear, we don’t need to be so sensitive to share the bathtubs with both genders, because we cannot see anything under our shoulders. If the spring is transparent, you can use women-only time!

For instance, there are spas in Europe such as Germany and some of them provide us to share all facilities, even rocker rooms with both genders. It seems a much higher hurdle for me than mixed-basing in Japan! By the way, I planned to visit Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden, Germany in 2018 when I came to see my friends living in the nearby city, and it was supposed to be my first overseas hot spring experience. Unfortunately, the summer in 2018 was extremely hot in Europe and I had a high fever due to the terrible heat and fatigue of the trip, so I had to give up going there…What a pity it was!! My dream is extended to some more years and I will definitely plan to visit some hot springs overseas in the future:-)

Reference

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