Shima Onsen: Recharge with the power of nature at this secluded hot spring resort
In northwestern Gunma Prefecture near its border with Niigata Prefecture is Shima Onsen, located on the eastern side of Joshin’etsukogen National Park. The Shima Onsen town is surrounded by mountains thousands of meters high and is situated along the Shima-gawa River that weaves through them. Forests that are home to deer, waterfalls, dams, and rivers surround the town which has been beloved by nature-loving writers such as Dazai Osamu (1909-1948) and Yosano Akiko (1878-1942) over the course of generations.
There are over 40 hot spring sources at Shima Onsen. Most of them are artesian springs, meaning they flow vigorously with the help of the natural force of the earth. The quality of the water is mainly sodium-calcium chloride sulfate, and it is said to be good for the skin as well as the stomach and intestines when consumed. Potable hot springs are believed to revitalize the internal organs and boost body temperature from the core. There are many hot spring drinking places located throughout the town, a recommended feature of Shima. (Please take note of the instructions and appropriate consumption amount indicated at each place.) What’s more, the name “Shima Onsen” is said to derive from a legend stating that Shima Onsen is a “miraculous spring that can heal 40,000 illnesses,” and it has been attracting visitors for 1,000 years.
Walk along Ochiai-dori Street, which stretches forth from a red bridge in front of the long-established ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) “Sekizenkan,” and you will feel as if you are transported back to 30 years ago. The town is home to small alleys that are good for you to walk along wearing yukata (traditional Japanese cotton robe) and geta (clogs), with many souvenir and local sake shops. There are more than 30 ryokans in the town and they offer delicious dishes using fresh, local ingredients, including vegetables and fish from the clear water river nearby.
As the town has no traffic lights or entertainment districts, the surrounding nature is the most pleasurable feature for visitors throughout the year. Hinatami Yakushido with its fine thatched roof, numerous picturesque waterfalls, and potholes created by nature, etc. are among the sights to see. Perhaps the most striking among them is Lake Okushima-ko, a scenic lake known for its mystical blue hue and mirror-like surface with few waves thanks to its location surrounded by the forest. Famous for fresh verdure in spring and colored leaves in autumn, it is highly recommended for a walk.
Shima Onsen will thoroughly relax your body and mind, and is an ideal onsen resort for a quiet, slow-paced vacation.
Tokyo Sta. -> 50 min by Joetsu Shinkansen -> Takasaki Sta. -> 50 min by JR Agatsuma Line -> Nakanojo Sta. -> 30 min by Kan-etsu Kotsu bus -> Seiryu no Yu Iriguchi bus stop (Shima Onsen)
Shima Onsen Kyokai (Association)
*The information herein is as of May 2021.