Japan Tour Review
A majority of onsens in Japan are gender separated, where males and females go to separate rooms. However, Takaragawa Onsen is a mixed gender resort, making it possible for couples to stay together for a romantic getaway. Not only its onsen pools are mixed gender, but they are also entirely open-air and outdoor. With abundant Edo-era architecture in the surrounding, bathing in its hot spring pools is truly an authentic Japan experience. Better yet, this onsen resort is easily accessible from Downtown Tokyo Rail Station (see below for direction).
Japanese Onsen Rules
For hot springs in Japan, there are quite a few étiquettes and rules to follow:
Rule #1: Put towel on your head….not into the water, not along the pool side. It’s meant to pat dry yourself while exiting the pool, so you don’t make the floor slippery. No wonder you have to keep it dry until ready to use it. Make sense.
Rule 2: No clothes. Isn’t it obvious?!?! ò.ó No underpants, no swimpants, etc. Uh?!?! ò.ó Use the small towel provided to you if you’re shy when entering/exiting the pool. If the small towel doesn’t help much, just close your eyes; nobody will see you and you will not see anyone.
Rule 3: No tattoos. Tattooing is associated with Yakuza gang. Cover them up if you can. Otherwise, rent a private room for hot spring spa, which may not be as scenic as the outdoor public pool.
Rule 4: Relax and enjoy. Talk to your neighbours. Just make sure eye to eye contact, not looking down.
There are other rules, but the above are the interesting ones. Follow the rules, so that people won’t think you don’t have manners. Japanese are very self-disciplined.
Takaragawa Onsen is located in a small town called Minakami, in Gunma Prefecture. It takes about 2.5 hours by JR Rail from Tokyo Station to Minakami Station. Starting from Tokyo Station, you take JR Joetsu Shinkansen to Takasaki Staion (about 75min), and then you take a local train JR Joetsu Line from Takasaki Station to Minakami Station (about 60min). After arriving at Minakami Station, you then take a local bus to Takaragawa Onsen; the bus ride costs ¥1060 (USD 10) and takes about another 30min.
The most difficult part about getting to Takaragawa Onsen is the bus schedule. Trains run frequently, but not so much for bus rides. In order to have a smooth ride, you should check the bus schedule and train schedule ahead of time and plan your trip so as to catch a bus in Minakami. If you miss the last bus, your only option will be taking a taxi, which can be very expensive in Japan!!! Any questions? Leave a comment below.
For bus and train timetables, check Takaragawa Onsen website.