Saturday, 18 December 2010

Awanoyu 泡の湯 at Shirahone onsen 白骨温泉 (15 Dec 2010)

We had originally wanted to go skiing in Hakuba Happo One, the 1998 winter Olympics site but insufficient snowfall in that area delayed the opening of the resort so Shirahone onsen was our alternative.

Panoramic view from our room

A two-hour bus ride through the Norikura highlands on the Matsumoto Dentetsu bus (JPY3400 round trip per person) from Matsumoto bus terminal (go to ESPA building basement) brought us to this beautiful ryokan nestled in the mountains with a public outdoor MIXED hot spring bath (kinda like the one in ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’) where women are allowed to wear a towel into the bath.

The hot spring water at Shirahone onsen is opaque white in colour because it contains calcium, magnesium and sulphur among many other minerals. PH level is 6.5 and water temperature is 37-38 deg C so it didn’t feel very warm like in most hot springs, especially in the freezing cold weather but still, soaking in the rotenburo 露天風呂 (natural outdoor hot spring) while gazing up at the picturesque surroundings is very therapeutic and unforgettable.

As you enter the public bathroom, you’re enveloped in the inviting scent of hinoki wood. The exit to the outdoor bath is very interesting. From the female side, you wade down 6 steps into the water and out into the open air bath, like entering a swimming pool so be careful not to slip because the water is opaque! There are minimal amenities at the bath area (no special peeling gels and toners haha) although the room does provide toner, moisturizer etc.

Specialties of Nagano such as soba and apples were served at dinner =) We loved the handmade soba… delicious! You shabu-shabu it in the mushroom broth, garnish with grated ginger and chopped spring onions and slurp! Nice! =D

They also served onsen porridge for breakfast =) that’s porridge made using onsen water =)

Next time we will try to make a trip to Kamikochi (open from April to mid-November) from here =)

Note that the bus driver and conductor speak no English at all but there are staff in the ryokan who can speak simple English.

Rate: JPY40,000 (SGD$600+) per room per night (include dinner and breakfast)
Access: Take the Matsumoto Dentetsu bus from Matsumoto bus terminal (JPY3400 round trip per person) platform 9. Buy the tickets at the basement of ESPA building. The bus made two toilet stops from Matsumoto to Shirahone onsen: Shin Shima Shima and the Norikura Tourist Info centre. Alight at Awanoyu (second last stop. Last stop is shirahone onsen) and the ryokan is right in front of Awanoyu bus stop (hence the name of the bus stop). On the way back, it only made one toilet stop at the Norikura Tourist Info centre.
Bus time table click on Matsumoto to Shirahone Spa

From the bus, we could see our ryokan

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