By David Applebaum
The year is moving along, the weather is getting cooler and the leaves are changing colours (yes, there is a “u” in colours). This is the time to start getting serious about onsens. If you haven’t really been onsen’ing yet, you have been doing yourself a disservice. If you onsen occasionally, you are doing alright, but like potato chips, even the most bland potato chip, you probably can’t have just one. Onsens should be listed as a drug, but this should be a drug that you are encouraged to be addicted to. Schools should force their staff to go to onsens at least once a month. If Kim Jong Un went to onsens more, he probably would relax his nuclear trigger finger.
HSE has a wonderful suggestion for a weekend-getaway… even better if you can swing 3 days for it though. You take the ferry from Hachinohe to Tomakomai. There is really very little to see or do in Tomakomai, so don’t worry about passing through. You take the bus from the ferry terminal straight to the heart of Sapporo. From there, you can wander around Sapporo for a while. It is a pretty great city really and well worth a visit. There are beautiful parks, a great night-area, and lots of good food. There is also a very helpful tourist information office at the train station. That being said, it is still a city with all the noise and buildings that big cities have. Once you have had a good look around, get back to the bus station and catch a bus to Jozankei Onsen.
Jozankei Onsen is a pretty developed onsen-town with hotels and such, but you stay on the bus and go past all that stuff. You get off the bus at the last stop, and there you are at the perfect combination of delightfulness. An Indian restaurant combined with an onsen, nestled high in the mountains with nothing but nothing around. You order a nice curry, maybe a spicy one to get you sweating. You eat while gazing at a nicely designed Japanese garden. You relax after your meal, and drink lots of water. When you are ready, you meander down the hall, disrobe and immerse yourself in the soothing waters of Jozankei Onsen. It is well-worth it and may very-well change your life.
Don’t just take my word for it though, here is what others have said about it (the grammatical errors have been left as they were):
“As a long-time resident of Sapporo, this rates as the best onsen in this entire south Hokkaido area. And to put the cherry on top, incredible, authentic Indian food.with incredible, crispy man, great local Ginkgus Kan and homemade soba…excellent!!!!”
“Why Indian Curry at Hot Spring in the suburb of Sapporo? I couldn’t understand, but the curry was genuine. After having bath at hotspring, I enjoyed it. And of course the hot spring is also nice atmosphere, huge pond of hot spring at outside.”
The actual onsen is called Houheikyo Onsen (豊平峡温泉), and the description will make you drool (just please don’t drool while you are in the onsen… they look down on that sort of thing). Of course, it is 100% real onsen water. The water is a Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate mix, which I’m told is really great if you want to have beautiful smooth skin. The rotenburo is one of the largest in Japan, capable of holding 200 people… but it would lose it’s charm if that many people were actually there at the same time.
One more note about the food… just in case Indian food is not your thing (I guess it is possible that someone might not like Indian food…), they offer all kinds of other options including Jingiskhan and a local soba called Juwari soba, so there is something for everyone. Not to worry.
Relax, eat and bathe.
For more information on Houheikyo Onsen, check out these sites: