Thursday, July 24, 2008

Shinohara Onsen - A Hidden Gem

Shinohara Onsen looks like a worn-out sento but since 2001 it has actually been a full-fledged onsen with two mineral pools with the mineral natrium (Na). It still offers the lower pricof a sento but adds a free sauna and two natural mineral pools. The full charge is only ¥380, with patrons aged 70 or more allowed in for half price when they arrive before 4 p.m. As far as I know, the on-site parking fee is not charged to its bathers. Some months ago, TT and I agreed that this was a good onsen but since starting this blog, and looking at onsen with a more critical eye, I might consider boosting it up to fit between a 'good' and 'very good' one. What do you think TT?

The main indoor bathing area consists of a deep soaking pool (41°C), a shallow pool, the electric bath, the natural mineral pool (31°C), and the shower-like stall. By being deep means not holding one's head above water when sitting on the bottom of the pool. The shallow pool might be where young children would feel most comfortable. The electric bath is wide, maybe 130 cm., so the bather adjusts the amount of 'tingle' depending on how near he approaches the electric pad outlet. What is unusual about the shower-stall is not the high pressure waterfall but rather the side, jet sprays that encircle the standing bather.

The indoor mineral pool (31°C) sports mineral water at the same temperature as it comes out of the mother earth from about 650 meters below. Going through a glass door, three more courses open up. This outdoor, heated mineral pool (39°C) is a rotenburo (outdoor pool) since the roof is opened to the sky and allows in the prevailing, ambient temperature. The second course is the natural artisan well water, two-person pool at 22°C. This temperature doesn't shrink up certain male body parts in July as it does in the winter months. The 90C wood-lined, four-person, dry sauna, with TV, does what it should do. This temperature offers a nice contrast to the cold bath, just a couple of meters away.

When first entering the lobby, a younger man at the desk said that Shinohara Onsen was 40 years old but after the bath an older woman there said it was only 25 years old. She agreed with me that the drilling was expensive but she didn't volunteer to say how much it actually was while I patiently waited and nodded my head. Outside, viewed from the street, is a list of the mineral contents found in its water. The lobby holds the framed, official version certified by a Kyoto organization. She was pleased to show off her pet rabbit, a second- or third-generation from their former pet rabbits.

Lobbies at city onsen often have various beverages, or maybe even food, available which probably helps bring in patrons and adds something to the bottom line. KN relaxes in the lobby after our bath while I nose around and ask questions. Outside we see the lockers where our street shoes are stored while we bathe. These are often locked with a square, wooden key.

This Wednesdays' afternoon visit at about 3:30 only had a few patrons but weekends and evenings would probably be much busier. Also, some elderly gents seemed to take advantage of the senior discount. Walkers need about a 10-minute walk west from Hankyu Rokko, on the south side of the tracks. Turn left at the first road crossing with a barrier across Hankyu Railroad. The convenience store on the left is another sign where to turn left. A 100-meter or so walk brings you to Shinohara Onsen. In the winter, an outdoor seating area lets people heat up their feet in heated mineral water. Other photos and information are given at their website: or at their phone (078-881-8080).

泉質:ナトリウムー塩化物・炭酸水素塩温泉(低張性・中性・低温泉) 源泉の温度31.7℃
適応症:神経痛、筋肉痛、関節痛、五十肩、運動麻痺、関節のこわばり、うちみ、くじき、慢性消化器症、痔症、冷え症、病後回復期、疲労回復、健康増進、きりきず、 やけど、慢性皮膚病、虚弱児童、慢性婦人病

078-881-8080 第2、4火曜日休み
営業時間: 平日:11:00~0:00、日曜:7:00~0:00

入浴料380円 (サウナ利用含む)

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Nada Onsen - A Natural

Nada Onsen is a natural onsen with three mineral pools, a sauna, an outdoor cold pool, a deafening, indoor waterfall, and the ubiquitous hot jacuzzi (jet bath) and electric bath combination. Surprisingly, the actual rock cores drilled out from beneath this onsen are on display in the lobby. Prime time evenings, especially on weekends, should be avoided otherwise there may be a waiting line for the 30.5 C mineral pool.

The front-desk cashier said that Nada Onsen was established during the Taisho era but the handout stated it was actually in 1938. It was later reconstructed in 2003, 8 years after the Great Hanshin Earthquake (1995). The main bathing area is mainly the standard bathroom tile but some attractive granite sets off a few places. Outside has mostly natural stone, a black or red hues. Natural wood in the dry sauna offers the ambiance of a Scandinavian sauna. Men enter on the ground-floor level while women enter a smaller onsen area on the second floor.

This mineral water appears green, carbonated, and after you soak for a while the skin feels slippery when you rub it. The most popular of these three mineral pools appears to be the indoor 30.5 C pool which is a temperature that feels neutral, neither hot nor cold. The other indoor mineral pool (43 C) doesn't have as long a waiting time for a seating space to open up but it has more men waiting for it than for the outdoor (rotenboro) mineral pool (42 C). The the longer-than-expected waiting times may be accounted for by it being a Saturday afternoon.

The outside cold bath (21 C)comes from artisan well water, not city tap water which is around 27 C in July. This is further evident since it is odorless whereas summer city tap water in this area normally smells of chlorine. Actually, with ambient temperatures around 30 C in July and the cold pool at 21 C, the temperatures do not contrast so much. Winter ambient and artisan well water temperatures should be nearer to 12 C so the onsen pools offers a more invigorating experience during the winter months.

The bath charge (Y380) or bath and sauna charge (Y530) includes either one or two drying-off towels along with liquid soap and shampoo in the bathing area. It looks like patrons bring along their own scrub towel or maybe they rent one (Y500 with bath charge). Middle-school students enter for Y250, elementary-age for Y130 and those younger for Y60.

Sauna goers have an extra colored, elastic band to be worn around an ankle or wrist which entitles them to enter the sauna. This dry sauna is at 90 C so it's an easy sitting and sweating 6-8 person cubicle, with lower and upper seating. The TV had a Japan championship golf match on at the time I was there.

One bather in his 30s displayed a full-back tattoo. The only other local onsen where such large, colorful tattoos are permitted is at its 'sister' onsen (078-854-6545) 200-meters to the SE of JR Rokkomichi. Both of these onsen include a forced waterfall that drum onto one's shoulders and back. Also, in line with other modern onsen, patrons may leave their valuables in a safe deposit box in the lobby rather than leaving them with their clothes in the locked-boxes in the changing room.

The easiest and most direct way to find Nada Onsen (078-861-4535) is by exiting Hankyu Ojikoen station on the south side and then walking completely through Suidosuji shotengai arcade, followed by an uncovered walk of about 100 meters. It's open daily from 6 a.m. until 1 a.m. with the first Thursday of each month as the only day-off holiday.




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