Ryusenji Onsen (竜泉寺の湯)

I have lived in Japan for a cumulative 6years and 2 months. That is a bloody long time. In that time, I have probably been to about 30 onsens – not as many as some, but still a pretty decent number. I would probably have been to more, if my stupid mistake of a tattoo at 17 didn’t mean I was denied access to a number of sweet places. Oh well. Live and learn.

My all time favorite onsen was probably Jigokudani, in Nagano. John and I went there 2 years ago, and hung out together in an outdoor onsen, in the snow, with a huge family of Macaque monkeys. It was surreal. Probably not entirely sanitary either… but still, pretty damn awesome.

Obviously not John or myself, but this is what the monkey onsen was like. With about 25 more monkeys crowded around.

My second favorite, was up in the village of Kurabuchi, in Gunma.  It wasn’t fancy, but it was cheap. And it was close to where I lived without any students being there, and I basically went there 3 times a week in the winters so that I didn’t have to be naked in my super cold apartment. Plus, my friend lived near there, and we would hang out and cook dinner after, so that was a huge bonus.

Kurabuchi Onsen

Anyway, that leads me to this past weekend’s experience, at what is now my 3rd favorite onsen in Japan. Ryusenji no Yu. This place was crazy. It was easily the largest onsen I have ever been to, with a tonne of options for your relaxation needs.  Normally, I don’t like those big places, but this place was awesome – and perhaps I liked it more because it was exactly what I needed this weekend. A few hours to unwind and relax.  I went there with my friend Monique, and her friend Ellis.  They were the perfect pair to go with – non Jets, who although they work together, didn’t talk about work the whole time. We just talked. And relaxed. We spent the extra 200yen for the pajamas, and then spent 3 hours moving from relaxation area to relaxation area.  Ellis got an 80 minute massage, and Moni and I went and hung out in these crazy outdoor sun chairs, which were partially submerged in natural spring water.  I then got a 20 minute intense massage, in which the woman who massaged me tried to dig a hole to the centre of the earth through my back muscles, using her elbows. It was crazy. But wonderful.  I almost cried. I actually made the mistake of telling her harder was fine, and then regretted it about 15 minutes in. 🙂

After that, Moni and I soaked some more, this time in a bath with silk in it. Lovely. I haven’t felt this relaxed in my neck in I don’t know how long. Then we had lunch, with a great view over Nagoya.  To be honest, I was then ready to go… but Ellis hadn’t actually been in the baths yet, just the massage room, so we stripped off the pjs and went out and found a salt sauna. Basically you scrub the crap out of your skin with this lovely salt, and then you sit in the sauna, and then rinse off. Lovely. Next up was the jet pools, where I let the powerful water jets pummel my really sore (thanks to Insanity) hamstrings and quads.

A bed of hot rocks, in a hot steamy room

Finally, I was getting a bit pruney and bored, so I went exploring on my own, and ended up having a short nap lying in a hot room filled with rocks.  It doesn’t sound comfortable, but trust me, it was amazing. I lay on my towel, so it wasn’t digging in my skin, but it reminded me of the volcanic sand baths we went to in Kagoshima when Kat visited. So hot and cozy.  However, we had said we would leave at 4, and I got the feeling if I didn’t round up the troops we would be there all night… so sadly I did one more dip in the silk bath, and we left.

I highly recommend this onsen. It is pretty easy to get to from Nagoya by bus or car, and is well worth the trip. I could easily have spent all day going from room to room, bath to bath. The food was awesome and cheap – the whole experience (massage, pajamas and huge towel to use, onsen for the whole day, lunch) cost me 4000yen. Money and time well spent!




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