Home > Kyoto This Month >> Girljin in Japan

Girljin in Japan By Rachel Tranter Davies

Yunohana Onsen in Kameoka
Thaw the February Chill with an Afternoon at Kyoto's Best Hot-Spring Hotspot

Onsen is a much-loved aspect of Japanese culture. Kyoto, although famed for temples and shrines, is surrounded by beautiful mountain villages dotted with secluded onsen that are perfect for wiling way a few hours or evenings. Yunohana Onsen in Kameoka is the perfect example of a hot spring town nestled amongst rice paddies in the mountains around 30 minutes from central Kyoto. Legend has it that this hot spring resort was used to heal injured samurai warriors in the civil war period centuries ago.

There are a number of ryokan in the area, a particular favourite in the area is Sumiya Kihoan (www.sumiya.ne.jp), an elegant establishment that once regularly welcomed John Lennon and Yoko Ono as guests. Sumiya offers both overnight stays and a day spa experience with Kyo-kaiseki lunch, as with many of the ryokan in the area; an ideal way to partake in one of the best-loved ancient Japanese cultural traditions.

At Sumiya, the chic decor, a modern take on traditional Japanese design with dark wood panels and off white walls, interspersed with stunning ikebana creations is just what you’d hope to find in such a situation. The onsen is even better. Beautiful outdoors springs bathed in clean, open air and surrounded by nature. The Japanese have long known of the benefits the act of bathing can bestow upon the body and mind. Different onsen have different healing powers depending on the minerals in its water; at Sumiya and the other ryokan in Yunohana Onsen, the pools are radium rich and believed to relieve neuralgia and arthritis, soothe chronic digestive diseases, fatigue and even alleviate gout.

Onsen in Japan are very rarely mixed-sex bathing. You must bathe nude and as such springs are separated into male and female baths to preserve one's modesty and get the full enjoyment from the experience. At Sumiya there's a secret mountain onsen ''Yama-no-Kakure-Yu'' that can be hired privately for families or couples to enjoy mixed bathing. Hidden in the mountains surrounded by lush greenery, it's totally relaxing and in tune with the natural world that surrounds you.

Only a half-day excursion from central Kyoto, visit Yunohana to sit and soak your troubles away, eat traditional Japanese cuisine using seasonal ingredients and enjoy the rustic surrounds that are the perfect escape from the bustling city below.

Rachel is a food, drink and travel writer. Originally from England, she recently relocated to Japan and is now finding her feet in Kyoto. You can find her blogging tweeting and instagramming her experiences at Girljin in Japan.