Hirayu Onsen perhaps my second favourite place

Travel ?? Comments Sat 17 January 2015

Having only one night in Takayama, and really wanting to try an outdoor onsen (also known as a rotenburo, or outdoor hot spring) in the scenic Japanese Alps, I found myself running at full speed from the center of Takayama to the Nohi bus station on the edge of the city, desperately trying to make the 1.40pm bus (with less than 10 minutes to spare).

And I was so glad I made it, because Hirayu Onsen is just as impressive (read: magical) as Takayama.

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Look at the height of the snow! (with a selfie for scale)

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The scenery was stunning


First things first: try and find a rotenburo. Turns out their was one 5 minutes from the bus stop, so that was relatively easy.

Step 2: Work out how to use the onsen without looking like a idiot/accidentally insulting everyone.

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Outside the onsen


Admittedly having no idea what I was doing, I decided to just try and copy everyone in front of me. To begin with, strip off completely and store everything in a locker (with just a tiny towel for your modesty), followed by a thorough scrub in a communal shower (and remaining seated the entire time), and finally, walking outside through the freezing air and slowly submerging yourself in the almost 40°C sulfur-infused water.

It was certainly surreal - sitting naked in a hot spring (with other naked strangers), with panoramic views of snow covered trees, the Japanese Alps, and elderly cleaning ladies nonchalantly pottering around and mopping up.

It felt like I'd been sitting there for hours, and somewhat dying from the insane heat of the mineral-rich water, I thought I better go get changed and perhaps make a run for the bus back to Takayama.

But barely 15 minutes had passed. Oops.

Oh well. I was dressed, and feeling insanely warm and relaxed - I might as well check out the almost-insignificantly labeled waterfall on the edge of my scrunched up tourist map of Hirayu Onsen. I mean, I had time to spare, I guess.

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Passed a ski slope on my trek to the waterfall


The hike took a lot longer than I expected (my map consisted of squares and circles on A4 paper - most likely constructed in Word or MS Paint), and I have to admit I was becoming a bit disillusioned.

Godammit. Why did this hike have to be uphill, of all things.

Because it's a waterfall - I tried to reason with myself. That's, uh, how they work.

The path was becoming increasingly snowy; one wrong step, and you would fall through it to your waist.

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As this couple discovered

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Following the river uphill

Oh, but it was so worth it. Because this was the view that greeted me at the end.

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It was completely frozen - where there should be water there was instead ice. A waterfall in name only, it was more like a sculpture - with a certain eerie undertone due to the unexpected silence of the valley.

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After standing in awe for at least 20 minutes, I turned around and reluctantly headed back for the bus. Although no longer in sight of the waterfall, the view was no less stunning (okay, maybe slightly less impressive).

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Tags: japan hirayu onsen



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