A Hot Guide to Nagasaki’s Amazing Hotsprings

Whether it be to wash the sweat from your body during the humid summer weather, or to warm up your chilled bones during winter, a visit to the onsen (hot spring) is perfect for any season. What exactly is an onsen you might ask? It is a gender separated public bath usually built on a natural hot spring. While donning your ‘birthday suit’ and bathing with strangers might cause some embarrassment at first, as it did for me, I soon found that going to the onsen with girlfriends is about as natural as going out for coffee to gossip. There are several great places in Nagasaki prefecture where you can enjoy both indoor and open-air hot springs or rotenburo(露天風呂).

Northern Nagasaki

Sechibaru: There isn’t even a convenience store in this small town, but Yamanoren is a wonderful onsen where you can gaze out across the valley as you bathe and let your cares melt away. http://www.yamanoren.co.jp/

Tabira: I would recommend the Samson Hotel’s Nagomi-no-yu to anyone who loves the ocean. You can sit in the bubbly water inside, or sit outside, gazing out across the sea, in water that makes your skin glisten. Afterwards, if you feel like it, there is a conveyer-belt (kaiten) sushi restaurant and even a masseuse in the complex. http://www.samson-hotel.jp/

Hirado: There are two places I love here. The first is Hotel Ranpu. The beach is just across the street, so you can swim around until you’re tired (or sunburned) and then relax in the hot spring. There are many different kinds of water you can try out, including a dirt-colored bath and a green tea bath, and inside is a green house where you can bathe amidst tropical plants. Every other day, the bath that overlooks the sea alternates between the men’s and women’s side.

The Kaijou Hotel’s Mizuki-no-yu is another great place. There are two main baths, one outside with a sea view and another inside where fish and sea turtles swim around you in tanks imbedded in the walls as you bathe. There are outdoor baths and baths overlooking the sea that you can rent privately, and what with the elegant Japanese restaurant in the hotel, it makes this a perfect spot for a date. http://www.hiradokaijyohotel.co.jp/

The Shimabara Peninsula

Shimabara: This is the kidney shaped peninsula south of Nagasaki city which is riddled with hot springs. My favorite one in Shimabara City is Nanpuro. It is situated along the coast, and looks out onto the ocean. However, if you’re still feeling a little shy about bathing in the buff with a bunch of strangers, Shimabara also has a free foot spa near the shopping street. http://www.nampuro.com/

Unzen: Unzen is in the center of the Shimabara Peninsula and deserves special mention. Setting foot in Unzen is almost like stepping into another world, shrouded in billowing steam from the volcano. You can throw a stone in any direction and hit a hot spring, though some of them are just a little bit too hot for bathing! Here you can find a variety of private and public, indoor and outdoor hot springs. All of the water used in these hot springs is heated by the volcano, giving off a distinctive sulfur smell, and is great for your skin. It is even more stunning in the fall, when all of the leaves turn to different shades of yellow, red and brown. Even if hot springs aren’t your cup of tea, there are still plenty of paths to walk around the different steaming pools, hiking trails and lovely places to have lunch. http://unzen.org/e_ver/

Nagasaki is fortunate enough to have a plethora of fabulous hot springs in all areas of the prefecture. In addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned, there are also notable onsens in Obama (a town on the Western coast of the Shimabara peninsula), Iojima (an island off the coast of Nagasaki city) and Ureshino (a town just over the border in neighboring Saga prefecture.) Most places provide amenities such as shampoo and body soap, as well as a modesty towel that you can borrow or purchase. So even if you are just coming from dinner, shopping or the beach, you can drop in and bathe any time. Just look for the Japanese characters for onsen (温泉) and you can find them just about anywhere!

-Tricia Vinzant

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