Shin-Hotaka「新穂高」is an onsen town in the group of resorts that make up the Okuhida onsen region, nestled in a valley at the foot of the Northern Japan Alps in Gifu Prefecture. Especially famous for its outdoor rotemburo bathing, we reached it via a scenic two hour bus trip from Matsumoto in Nagano.
On the winding road to the Hida-Takayama region.
It’s easy to see the high mineral content in the water with its strong, yellowish tint.
Shinhotaka no Yu「新穂高の湯」is a popular spot for outdoor bathing along the river’s edge. Sadly it’s closed over the winter months, I suspect the water isn’t deemed hot enough to bother. Judging by the biting air temperature I was inclined to agree.
We got lucky a little further up the river at Yaramikan, a ryokan with an onsen open to day visitors. It’s vast rotemburo sits just above river level and was wonderfully picturesque and soothing in the winter air with light, dancing snowfall. I find a lot of rotemburo to be a little over-designed, giving them what we refer to as the Blue Haven Pools touch (if you didn’t grow up in suburban Australia, then here’s what I’m taking about). The design of this bath felt natural, the use of rocks sympathetic to the stones and boulders of the Gamada riverside beside it.
Our accommodation for the few days was Kazeya Ryokan, a beautiful and understated inn boasting a handful of lovely baths supplied by the region’s waters. Our favourites were the cedar baths, with two available for a private booking any time and then one for men and women separately. The separated baths have their own little caves for you to enjoy a bit of cavernous steaming in. The inn has some great interior features; simple lightshades of bamboo baskets, a large library and hifi room and an amazing art collection from Katsuhiko Sato, a prolific and spirited artist who we later sought out in Kyoto and purchased some ceramics from. The staff are wonderful, the meals delicious and I couldn’t recommend this inn highly enough.