Towns of Japan: Kawayu Onsen
The Kumano Kodo is a religious experience in itself, a multi-day mountain hike (though you can also go by bus), following in the footsteps of royalty, visiting some of the most magnificent temples and shrines on the islands of Japan. Towards the end of the hike, along the Oto River, is a unique onsen town. We love sending people there, to soak in the most unique of onsen. What makes it so special? Read on, to learn more about Kawayu Onsen.
Kawayu Onsen was first recorded in history in 1630. According to legend, an oracle visited Kobuchi-so Inosue and told him about the onsen. Due to the steep, mountainous terrain, no one lived there until the first lodging was built in 1720. From there, the town grew and grew. At one stage, the town was even exporting its onsen waters to be used in the baths of the rich and powerful elsewhere in Japan!
|Summer fun in the Oto River at Kawayu Onsen
As previously mentioned, Kawayu Onsen is located along the Oto River, and this is what makes the town so unique. Instead of getting into a bath you go out onto the river and dig into the river bed! Hot water bubbles up, and you make your own little bath! You can adjust the flow of the hot water as well as the amount of river water to make a bath the perfect temperature for you. Of course, if you’ve hiked the Kumano Kodo, you mightn’t feel up to digging. In that case, just get into any of the pre-dug baths.
Imagine it, after a day of hiking you arrive in Kawayu Onsen. You make your way down to the river bank. If it’s summer, you dig a shallow pool and relax in the cool river water. In spring and autumn, make it a bit deeper, and warmer, as the cool evening envelopes you. In winter, hop in the Senninburo, a special, winter only bath, about 60cm deep, which legend has it, can hold 1,000 people.
|The Kawayu Onsen Senninburo in Winter
The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage and Kawayu Onsen feature on our Scenic Samurai Trails Small Group Tour. This stunning walking tour will lead you on an adventure through the ‘Sacred Mountains of the Kii Peninsula’, Mt Fuji, and the samurai postal route from Tsumago to Magome. With departure dates coming up in November, why not check it out on our homepage.