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Visiting the most Extreme Wild Onsen in Japan!

Visiting the most Extreme Wild Onsen in Japan!

The Extreme Onsen: Nakanosawa-numajiri Onsen

Possibly the greatest wild onsen in Japan, or the world?  This massive onsen river in the mountains is the largest of its kind in all of Japan! With the help of a professional guide, visitors can traverse unique volcanic terrain to reach this extreme onsen river in the mountains. Bathing in the water here is thought to have many health benefits, as well.  Read more below for additional information about this experience! 

Poisonous Volcanic Gasses and Safety (IMPORTANT!)

First of all: SAFETY. 

Completing this hike takes approximately two-hours roundtrip, it has several stretches of difficult and potentially dangerous terrain. The main danger is that this mountain is a volcano, so, it is constantly releasing poisonous gasses. These gasses sometimes accumulate to dangerous and deadly levels that can cause fainting and even death. Fortunately, professional guides are available and trained with the tools necessary to safely guide you on your journey.

If you are interested in doing this hike, tours can be booked through Aizu Dream Development (ADD), and professional guides can be hired at the Café & Activity Nowhere. (Currently the website is only available in Japanese, so please use Google Chrome’s browser Google Translate extension)

The approach

The hike is beautiful, with views of a massive waterfall and the surrounding mountains.

Tunnels of trees reminded me of the entry way to a mysterious world. As you get higher, the trail slopes downwards on either side so that there are panoramic views of the surrounding area. Suddenly, you can see the terrain has changed up ahead from green forest to white and red volcanic stones. This way once the setting of a violent volcanic eruption, and the thought of that feels outlandish as the mountain is peacefully quiet. 

Descending into the volcanic valley

The trail drops steeply into the valley, where shadows preserve small pockets of winter snow well into the spring months, something that is important to consider if you are visiting in spring. (Vising in winter would be extremely dangerous and is therefore prohibited.) 

As you continue, the trail can be difficult to identify due to plant overgrowth, the remote nature of this trail and onsen can make it difficult to keep the path clear. When I visited, I was grateful for my guide who kindly helped me cross the large pockets of snow and ice as well as the sections where bamboo shoots had encroached on the trail, making it difficult to pass.

As you descend deeper into the valley, you can appreciate the way the valley forms a bowl of reddish volcanic stone and soil. Unfortunately, this unique shape is what can contribute to the accumulation of fatal levels of poisonous gas! Our guide tested the air and conditions, and determined that we were safe to explore. 

A river of warmth

The blue river of onsen water contrasts sharply with the warm tones of the volcanic landscape. It felt like we had discovered water on mars. Steam rose from the water and it was amazing how warm the water stayed despite being so exposed to the cool spring air. Wooden channels split off from the river, this onsen water will flow through the wooden channels, to underground pipes and fill the baths at eleven different onsen hotels where it can be enjoyed by guests who want to experience the health benefits of this onsen water without the need to go hiking.  

Bathing

Bathing in the onsen water is thought to have medicinal benefits. The water has a pH of 2.1 that is comparable to lemons! It is unique in Japan as the largest amount of hot spring water to come from one source, the “Numajiri Motoyu,” which is inaccessible to humans. So if you choose to visit, I hope you will bathe in the water here and experience the refreshing effects of this onsen! 

Disclaimer:

We will not provide the exact trail information for this hike due to the dangerous nature of poisonous volcanic gasses in the area which have been fatal to some hikers. You may find information about the trail online, these the sources reference a different version of the trail that is illegal, and crosses over protected land. In order to experience this beautiful and unique environment in a safe and respectful way, we encourage visitors to hire guides or visit as a part of tours that include guides.  Unfortunately, some have chosen not to hire a guide, resulting in a number of casualties on the mountain. Please help us to avoid further tragedies and do not attempt this hike without an experienced guide or encourage others to do so. Thank you for your cooperation.   

Extreme Onsen Experience Tour is available from here

 

 

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  1. Useful Information

    A Complete Guide to Visiting Fukushima During Winter

    The coldest months of the year bring beautiful scenery to Fukushima prefecture.  Kaneyama Fureai Hiroba Viewpoint From snow-capped mountains and thatched-roof houses in the Aizu area to the refreshing view of the sunrise over the iconic Bentenjima Shrine in the Hattachi coast, there is a wide variety of attractions and activities to enjoy during winter in Fukushima. We’ve compiled some useful information to make your winter getaway to Fukushima prefecture smoother and more enjoyable! Yanaizu Town Transportation Checking the Status of the Roads Before Departure Especially in the Aizu and Central areas of Fukushima, a snow storm could occasionally block some roads or affect visibility (a phenomenon known as a whiteout). Checking the status of the roads makes your trip safer and can help you foresee potential delays. This webpage shows camera footage of the status of the roads (available only in Japanese). Click or tap on the camera button in the area you’re planning on visiting. Select the road you’d like to see on the new pop-up window. In most rent-a-car facilities, you'll be asked where you’re going and be given a vehicle equipped with what you need (winter tires, chains, etc.). Preparing for Longer Travel Times Because road conditions change unexpectedly, it’s best to expect longer travel times, particularly if you’re traveling by bus or car. As an example, check the following estimates: Aizu-Wakamatsu City to Ouchi-juku: normally takes around 45 min. (90 min on snow-covered roads) Ouchi-juku to Tadami: normally takes around 90 min. (150 min. on snow-covered roads) Tadami to Kaneyama Town: normally takes around 40 min. (90 min. on snow-covered roads) Kaneyama Town to Mishima Town: normally takes around 30 min. (90 min. on snow-covered roads) Mishima Town to Aizu-Wakamatsu City: normally takes around 50 min. (120 min. on snow-covered roads). 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If you would like to know where to go for pit stops, roadside stations, known in Japanese as “michi no eki” (道の駅) usually have local specialty foods and souvenirs. Prepare for the Unexpected—and the Beautiful We recently visited the famous No. 1 Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint with my coworker. In the morning, we were told that the JR Tadami Line, which famously runs over the scenic bridge, had canceled operations for the day due to heavy snowfall, but we decided to go anyway. When we arrived at the viewpoint, it was snowing heavily and there was zero visibility—the iconic view was nothing but an indistinguishable mass of white and gray. We decided to drive to another scenic point (Kaneyama Fureai Hiroba Viewpoint) hoping the sky would clear up. It finally did and we were lucky to get beautiful shots of both places. You never know when you can enjoy a snow-covered landscape with clear skies. Winter is a delightful season to travel around Fukushima and take in the views of its many scenic towns, winter festivals, and glistening lakes nested in the mountains. Miyakoji Area in Tamura City The coastal area is also worth a visit during this time; its famous sunshine and tropical feel make it a perfect getaway from the harsher cold inland. If you’re thinking of visiting the sunny city of Iwaki, check out our recent post, 5 Things to Do in Iwaki City This Winter. If you have any questions about traveling in Fukushima, please send it to us using the contact form you can find on our website. We hope you enjoy your stay in Fukushima!

    A Complete Guide to Visiting Fukushima During Winter
  2. Useful Information

    2023 Winter Festivals in Fukushima: Dates and Times

    During the first months of the year, Fukushima prefecture becomes enlivened with colorful festivals and traditional events. Craft displays in Iwaki, snow festivals in Tadami and Ouchi-juku, and one of Japan’s most famous daruma markets in Shirakawa, to name a few, are excellent ways to experience the true folk of Fukushima! Here are the dates and times for some of the winter festivals taking place in Fukushima prefecture in 2023: Tadami Snow Festival (只見雪まつり) The Tadami Snow Festival is scheduled this year after a three-year hiatus. Place: In front of Tadami Station, Tadami Town, Minamiaizu District, Fukushima Pref. 968-0421 Date: Festival eve celebration: February 10 (Friday) February 11 (Saturday) and 12 (Sunday), 2023 Time: All day during the weekend, evening on Friday More information here. Ouchi-juku Snow Festival (大内宿雪まつり) Ouchi-juku’s Snow Festival features traditional Japanese performances, an incredible firework show, and a town that feels like it still exists in the Edo Period, illuminated solely by the light of lanterns made of snow. Place: Ouchi-juku (Yamamoto, Ouchi, Shimogo Town, Minamiaizu District, Fukushima Pref. 969-5207) Time: Varies depending on the event (see event website for details) Date: February 5 (Sunday) to February 11 (Saturday) More information here. Higashiyama Onsen Candle Festival (雪見ろうそく) Every evening from Christmas until around the end of February (depending on the amount of snow), Higashiyama Onsen town is filled with the lights of candles. Place: Higashiyama Onsen, Aizu-Wakamatsu City (map) Date: From December 17, 2022 (Saturday) until February 28, 2023 (Tuesday) Time: In December and January: from 16:30 to 18:00. In February: From 17:00 to 18:30. Aizu Painted Candle Festival (会津絵ろうそくまつり) Aizu Painted Candle Festival is when Oyakuen Garden really comes into its element, as the garden becomes 1 of 2 main stages during the 2 day festival period. The other stage is at Tsuruagajo Castle. Oyakuen Garden often hosts live performances of traditional Japanese music during the evening during the festival. Tens of thousands of candles illuminate the castle and the garden over the 2 day festival period, creating absolutely stunning scenes as the sun sets. Place: Tsurugajo Castle and Oyakuen Garden Date: February 10 (Friday) and 11 (Saturday), 2023. Time: From 17:30 until 20:30 More information here.   Shirakawa Daruma Market (白河だるま市) 700 stalls selling daruma standing along a 1.5km long street in central Shirakawa City during the Shirakawa Daruma Market. There are 18 different varieties of daruma to choose from, all looking for a loving home and an owner to give them a goal or wish to look after!   Place: The main street in front of Shirakawa Station that runs parallel to the train line. Date: February 11 (Saturday), 2023. Time: Not specified. More information here. Iwaki Tsurushi-bina Matsuri (いわきつるしびな祭り) This festival was started in recent years as a way of celebrating the Nakanosaku district of Iwaki City, and rejuvenating the area. During the festival, hundreds of decorative items hand-made by local people from chirimen fabric – the fabric used to create kimonos – are displayed and sold over a period of two days. Place: Nakanosaku, Iwaki City (Map) Date: From January 28 (Saturday) to February 5 (Sunday), 2023. Time: From 10:00 to 16:00. More information here. Nanokado Hadaka Mairi Festival (七日堂裸詣り) During this traditional event - which draws many tourists every year - local men clad in loincloths make the challenging climb to the top of Enzoji Temple, in the hopes of ensuring happiness and protection from disease in the year to come. This event is celebrated every year on January 7th. It was already held in 2023. Place: Enzoji Temple, Jikemachi-ko 176, Yanaizu Town, Kawanuma District, Fukushima Pref. 969-7201 Date: January 7 (Saturday), 2023. Time: From 20:00. More information here.

    2023 Winter Festivals in Fukushima: Dates and Times
  3. Useful Information

    Ideas for Winter Trips in Fukushima

    I decided to write a bucket list of things to try out in Fukushima during the winter months!   1) TAKE IN THE VIEWS OF BEAUTIFUL OKU-AIZU   The Tadami Line train connects Aizu-Wakamatsu City with Niigata Prefecture via some of Fukushima’s most beautiful rural towns and villages. The route of this train ride is breath-taking throughout the year, and winter is no exception. I especially want to check out the view of Oshi Shuraku Hamlet (大志集落) in Kaneyama Town, which you can see in the photo below. This view spot is located at Kaneyama Fureai Hiroba (かねやまふれあい広場 – Map), which is a 10-minute walk from Kaneyama Station on the Tadami Line.       2) ATTEND SNOW FESTIVALS (AIZU, MINAMIAIZU)   Most of the snow festivals held in Fukushima take place on the same weekend of the year, meaning that it’s pretty difficult to visit more than one per year! I have attended both Ouchi-juku and Tadami Snow Festivals (mentioned below) in the same day, but I would recommend taking your time at each festival instead of rushing between them.       AIZU PAINTED CANDLE FESTIVAL   Aizu Painted Candle Festival is when Oyakuen Garden really comes into its element, as the garden becomes 1 of 2 main stages during the 2 day festival period. The other stage is at Tsuruagajo Castle. Oyakuen Garden often hosts live performances of traditional Japanese music during the evening during the festival. Tens of thousands of candles illuminate the castle and the garden over the 2 day festival period, creating absolutely stunning scenes as the sun sets. This festival is held to celebrate the traditional craft of Aizu’s painted candles, which have been produced in the region for 500 years. DATE: Second Friday and Saturday of February LOCATION: Tsuruga-jo Castle Venue (Map) & Oyakuen Venue (Map)     HIGASHIYAMA ONSEN CANDLE FESTIVAL   Every evening from Christmas until around the end of February (depending on the amount of snow), Higashiyama Onsen town is filled with the lights of candles. The lighting of these candles usually occurs between 16:00 to 18:00, so if you are staying in this onsen town during the winter, be sure to check it out. DATE: Late December – Late February LOCATION: Higashiyama Onsen, Aizu-Wakamatsu City (Map)     OUCHI-JUKU SNOW FESTIVAL   Ouchi-juku’s Snow Festival features traditional Japanese performances, an incredible firework show, and a town that feels like it still exists in the Edo Period, illuminated solely by the light of lanterns made of snow. There are plenty of nearby onsen ryokan where you can warm up & stay overnight at the end of the evening. Not much beats that for a snow festival, does it? DATE: Second weekend of February LOCATION: Ouchi-juku, Shimogo Town   TADAMI SNOW FESTIVAL   This snow festival is the largest in Fukushima Prefecture. Often welcoming special guests (such as Kumamon) this snow festival features snow sculptures, igloos, places for kids to play, and lots of traditional crafts and tasty food to check out. Oh, and also a fantastic fireworks show. DATE: Second Saturday and Sunday of February LOCATION:Tadami Eki Mae Hiroba (JR只見駅前広場) (Map)   3) PICK-YOUR-OWN STRAWBERRIES IN SOMA (SOMA CITY)   Soma area is well known for its bright-coloured, juicy strawberries. I’ve been lucky enough to try some in my office when visitors have brought them as gifts for my colleagues, but I really want to go to Soma and pick some strawberries of my own!   4) ATTEND CRAFT FESTIVALS (SHIRAKAWA CITY, IWAKI CITY)     SHIRAKAWA DARUMA MARKET   Daruma are good luck charms originating from Buddhism. It is a common new year’s traditional in Japan to buy a daruma soon after the start of the new year. After purchasing a daruma, you should think carefully and decide on 1 wish or goal that you want to achieve during the year. Then, draw in the daruma’s left eye (or right eye if you are facing it), and then draw in the other eye when your wish or goal is completed. 700 stalls selling daruma standing along a 1.5km long street in central Shirakawa City during the Shirakawa Daruma Market. There are 18 different varieties of daruma to choose from, all looking for a loving home and an owner to give them a goal or wish to look after! DATE: Held annually on February 11 LOCATION: The main street in front of Shirakawa Station that runs parallel to the train line.     IWAKI TSURUSHI BINA FESTIVAL   This festival was started in recent years as a way of celebrating the Nakanosaku district of Iwaki City, and rejuvenating the area. During the festival, hundreds of decorative items hand-made by local people from chirimen fabric – the fabric used to create kimonos – are displayed and sold over a period of 2days. These Tsurushi Bina decorations are traditionally given to young girls on Girls’ Day, in March. They come in all shapes and sizes, but in Fukushima I have seen lots of decorations shaped like animals and vegetables. This festival represents a rare opportunity to see so many of these beautiful, painstakingly handmade decorations in one place, so I really want to go check it out next year. DATE: Early February LOCATION:清航館, Nakanosaku, Iwaki City (Map) ENTRANCE FEE:100 yen     5) HIT THE SKI SLOPES   This year I really hope I get to try out skiing in Fukushima Prefecture. There are so many different ski areas spread all over the huge prefecture, from the relatively temperate slopes in Inawashiro, where skiiers are blessed with a view of Lake Inawashiro as they descend down the slopes, to the deep snow country of Hinoemata. Aizu Ski Japan is a really good English-language website to use as a resource for getting to grips with the type of ski areas available in the prefecture.       6) GO WAKASAGI (SMELT) FISHING Rent out a tent at the centre of Lake Hibara in Urabandai, make a hole in the ice in front of you, and try out smelt fishing this winter! There are a number of different companies that take visitors out onto the lake during the winter months, when smelt fishing is allowed to take place, but it may be a little difficult to try this out if you don’t speak Japanese. Rental costs all depend on the individual company or organisation. LOCATION: Lake Hibara (Map)       7) WATCH THE SUN RISE ON NEW YEAR’S DAY This beautiful spot on the coast of Iwaki City is a very special place for local people, especially fisherman, who visit Hattachi Coast on New Year’s Day to show their faith to the Buddha of Hattachi Yakushi. The Hattachi Coast is one of many places on the coast of Fukushima that was devastated by the 2011 tsunami, and is therefore a very bittersweet place for many locals. It has not lost its spiritual hold over visitors though, or its breathtaking scenery. A seriously beautiful spot for those who like photography, and those who would like to make connections with local folk from Iwaki during the early hours of the new year. LOCATION: Hattachi Coast, Iwaki City (Map)

    Ideas for Winter Trips in Fukushima
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