Postcard from Boutique Japan: A Retro Onsen Near Tokyo
It’s Andres, from Boutique Japan.
This month’s postcard comes from a lovely onsen (hot springs) village, the perfect escape from busy Tokyo!
Once more, I’m thrilled to welcome Vanessa-san, my colleague, who just returned from a relaxing Japan getaway….
During my recent trip to Japan, I was in search of some relaxation and rejuvenation. As much as I love wandering the streets of Tokyo, I knew that some cool forest air and hot mineral springs onsen were exactly what I needed to reset.
Deciding where to go was the hard part. The obvious favorite, Hakone, is gorgeous – but there are so many other great onsen (hot springs) resorts to choose from!
I ended up deciding on Ikaho Onsen, a small onsen town in Gunma prefecture. Ikaho is not well known by travelers to Japan, but is popular with Japanese people. It’s an old-fashioned, nostalgic and sleepy hot springs town, within easy reach of Tokyo.
From Tokyo, it takes just about two hours to get here via shinkansen, local train, and bus. There’s also a comfortable bus straight from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station that takes you to Ikaho’s famous “stone steps” (“Ishidan”) in about 2 1/2 hours.
The main “street” in Ikaho is actually a giant stone stairway lined with soba and ice cream shops, crafts stores, and enticing alleyways begging to be explored. At the top of the staircase is Ikaho Shrine, which offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
My goal was to do as little as possible, so I mostly stayed in my ryokan, soaking in the baths between meals. I had a pocket WiFi with me, so was able to get in a few hours of work with some gorgeous mountain views from my room.
In addition to the baths in the ryokans, Ikaho is full of other onsen baths. In my free time, I wandered up a mountain path in search of a rotenburo (open-air onsen) I had seen signs for. A short walk in the woods led me to an orange, iron-rich river flowing from the head springs, and a very rustic outdoor bath.
Soaking beneath the trees with the sounds of a nearby river was the icing on the cake! After two nights, I was ready to return to Tokyo’s exciting pace.
Wishing you some rejuvenating onsen experiences in your near future!
As always, I’d love to hear what want to see us write about on our blog. If you have any ideas or requests, please hit reply to this email and let me know!
Founder, Boutique Japan
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