Nozawa Onsen’s Free Hot Springs (Soto-yu)
Blessed with access to steamy hot spring water, this area rose to popularity during the Edo Period as a wellness destination, with over twenty inns offering accommodation and access to the healing waters.
Nozawa Onsen’s heavy snowfall and abundant powder have attracted the winter sports crowds for over half a century, cementing its reputation as a world-class ski resort.
But before skiing was introduced to this part of the world, Nozawa Onsen was all about the hot springs. Blessed with access to steamy hot spring water, this area rose to popularity during the Edo Period as a wellness destination, with over twenty inns offering accommodation and access to the healing waters.
Today, not much has changed. Dotted around the winding, hilly town are roughly 30 springs, 13 of which are Nozawa Onsen’s free onsen, or soto-yu.
Nozawa Onsen’s free onsen
Here in this mountain community, hot spring water is an essential part of the lifestyle. During the day, you’ll find the locals coming and going from the famous Ogama where the 90ºC (194ºF) waters are used for washing and cooking vegetables and eggs (onsen tamago).
Elsewhere, the water is much cooler and used for bathing. Amazingly, thirteen of the town’s springs have been designated as free communal baths, open to villagers and tourists alike.
Known as soto-yu, these free public baths are operated by a villager’s association called yu-nakama (‘hot water friends’), and are open from 6:00 am until 11:00 pm every day. Many of them are designed in an eye-catching Edo Period aesthetic making them pleasant from the outside in. You can find them all, marked by black pins, on this map.
(You can read the rest of the article at this link. This article was first published by Team JJ on September 28, 2021. Check here for deeper and unique insights into visiting Japan, including wellness, travel, cuisine and more. Find us on Instagram and on Facebook.)
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