Yubara Onsen with a Huge Open-air Bath Filled with Natural Hot Spring Water from the Bottom of a River

Yubara Onsen with a Huge Open-air Bath Filled with Natural Hot Spring Water from the Bottom of a River

Located in Maniwa City in the northern Okayama Prefecture, which is situated roughly in the center of the Chugoku Mountains and surrounded by abundant nature, Yubara Onsen is an onsen resort with a good access to both north and south of West Japan. It takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes by bus from Okayama Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen to Yubara Onsen, and there is a bus connecting Yubara Onsen and the Tottori area on the Sea of Japan side.

Stretching along the Asahi River, which runs north to south through Okayama Prefecture, the onsen town is lined with small-scale onsen hotels with a few to a few dozen of guestrooms. Yubara Onsen is characterized by abundant high-quality alkaline hot spring water, which makes your skin nice and smooth. In this area, an ancient steelmaking process called “Tatara operation,” which appeared in the popular Studio Ghibli movie “Princess Mononoke,” has been actively carried out, and it is said that this onsen has been used for recuperation and healing of ironmaking workers for more than 1,000 years.

The symbol of Yubara Onsen is the huge open-air natural bath called “Sunayu,” which is located at the foot of the Yubara Dam. Formed with rocks trapping the hot spring water from the bottom of the Asahi River, the bath is open to everyone for free for 24 hours a day. Sunayu is one of the few onsen baths in Japan that are filled with hot spring water coming from underfoot, attracting many onsen fans for hot spring water freshly coming out of the ground. As Sunayu is a mixed bath in an open-air location, there is a rental service of non-transparent bathing suits for women (rental fee: 2,000 yen, including a refund of 1,000 yen upon return; 500 yen for hotel guests at respective hotels). In addition to Sunayu, there are other onsen facilities, such as “Yumoto Onsenkan,” a public bathhouse, and baths at hotels in the onsen town where you can drop by and enjoy day-bathing.

If you have time to go a little further from Yubara Onsen, it is recommended to visit Hiruzen Kogen Plateau in the northern part of Maniwa City. “GREENable HIRUZEN,” a facility designed by one of the most renowned Japanese architects, Kengo Kuma, opened in 2021, in the area. It attracts attention as a hub for making more people aware of the value of sustainability, along with shops, a museum, and a cycling center.

If you want a special onsen experience in nature, try “Sunayu”!
The public bathhouse “Yumoto Onsenkan” has natural hot spring water, which is mild to skin and called “water for beauty.”
Designed by Kengo Kuma, “Kaze no Ha” serves as a symbol of “GREENable HIRUZEN.”
You can enjoy cycling on the cycling road while feeling a pleasant breeze on the Hiruzen Plateau. You can rent not only a regular bicycle but also an electric power-assisted bicycle.

〈From the editor〉
Maniwa City, which gets really cold in winter, has a long-ingrained culture of making fermented foods and beverages, such as sake, soy sauce, and miso, which are essential to the Japanese diet. Recently, the cheese made with milk from Jersey cows which are raised in the Hiruzen Plateau has become increasingly popular. After enjoying onsen, you can make yourself healthier from inside with fermented foods!

〈For questions and inquiries〉
Maniwa Tourism Bureau

Access Tokyo Sta. → 3 hr 20 min by shinkansen → Okayama Sta. → 1 hr 50 min by bus → Yubara Onsenguchi

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