By David Onsenbaum
My onsen companion and I recently spent a weekend at the fantastic Sukayu onsen. This article is not about Sukayu Onsen, but if you are in the general area, you should check out the onsen this article is really about: Fukazawa Onsen…
Sukayu Onsen IS a truly great place with beautiful wooden buildings and a nationally recognized mixed bath onsen. Staying there is not too expensive, and if you include the wonderful buffet breakfast, you can stay there for 5,500yen per night. That includes all the bathing you can handle. The baths are open 24 hours, and I am sure they are great late, late at night, but unfortunately, I have yet to experience a middle-of-the-night bath. The thing is I bathe after dinner and then I go back to my room, and recline… next thing you know it’s morning… sigh.
In any case, as mentioned above, this article is not about Sukayu Onsen, but rather about an onsen nearby called Fukazawa onsen. One of the only negatives about the fantastic Sukayu Onsen is that there is no rotenburo. The area is gorgeous, and I think it gets some of the most snow in all Japan. Mt. Hakkoda is very close by and you can go skiing and snowboarding there, or you can snow-shoe into the wilderness as you please. Sukayu is also a great base if you are thinking about climbing Hakkoda-san. There are all these great things about Sukayu, but no darn rotenburo.
My onsen-loving companion and I were lamenting this “no-rotenburo” fact as we drove away from our luxurious weekend. The snow-lined road was beautiful and we both said, “ah, if only there were a rotenburo around here…”. Just at that moment, we saw a sign for Fukazawa Onsen, about a 12 minute drive from Sukayu. Keep in mind that we had both had had long, long bathing sessions that morning, so our “onsen-tank” was near full. We looked at each other, and we said, “we gotta”… so we turned down the long driveway to Fukazawa onsen. We arrived to find that the parking lot was almost empty. The building itself is not much to look at, but there was a sign indicating that there was a rotenburo.
We parked and went in. This was one of the strangest onsen entrances I have been to… strange but wonderful. When you walk in, you walk past tons of firewood. You open what must be the main door, and in you go. The first thing you see is a wood-stove that is going full-blast (always a welcome sight, I might add). When you look around the room though, you feel like you have walked into someone’s messy living room. The scene is very hard to describe, but picture an old couple who live in the countryside. They have clothing drying in the living room, random furniture pieces lying around, the grandkid’s old toys from when they were children, and piles of random objects just adding to the general clutter… We asked if we were in the right place. They assured us that this was indeed an onsen and it would be 400yen to use the bath.
We paid our entrance fee and went through to the onsen, and found a wonderful, wonderful rotenburo… surrounded by snow, and in a very calm setting. The water is not too, too hot. The indoor bath is hotter, and the source water is 46degrees. The outdoor bath is a really nice temperature. The water is different from Sukayu too. The water at Sukayu is very sulfur-y, and very strong, where the water at Fukazawa Onsen is not as strong, and has little to no smell. If you are traveling with a member of the opposite sex, you can sit and chat, without having to worry about other people seeing you naked. There is a small opening between the women’s side and the men’s side.
Incidentally, they offer sleeping accommodations for the night. It’s about 7000yen for a night with two full meals, and 4,500 if you opt out of the meals. I didn’t check out the rooms, but they informed us that they have en-suite bathrooms and heated floors. It does not have the “hotel” feeling of Sukayu, but it also lacks the crowds of Sukayu AND it has a rotenburo.
Words cannot describe this place, and I don’t think they get many foreign visitors, judging from the fact that there is only one English website that mentions them.
For more information on Fukazawa Onsen (a great secret of Hakkoda-san):
http://www.hikyou.jp/detail.php?shid=30559 (only in Japanese, but with great pictures so you can get an idea of the place)
http://www.aptinet.jp/Detail_display_00000144.html (also only in Japanese)
For more information about Sukayu Onsen: