-･- From My Everyday Life to Japanese Culture -･- Why don't you see the real Japan, not the typical foreigners' version.
My friend and I visited Bessho Onsen (別所温泉, Bessho hot spring resort) at the end of February.
It’s one of the oldest hot spring resorts in Nagano Prefecture, which appears in Makura no Soshi (枕草子, The Pillow Book written during the 990s and early 11th century). It’s in Ueda City, and it takes about 2 hours from Tokyo Station (about 90 minutes by Nagano Shinkansen and 25 minutes by Ueda Dentetsu Bessho line).
Open 6:00 – 22:00 except the first and third Thursday, 150yen per person
The resort has had a reputation for spring quality (Simple sulfur spring) for a long time, and some earliest springs are still used for communal bathhouses in the village. The picture above shows one of the bathhouses, Taishi-yu (大師湯) located in the central part of the resort area.
All customers at Taishi-yu except us were locals. I often visit communal bathhouses in hot spring resorts and sometimes make an effort to be respectful to locals because of a clubby atmosphere. But they were friendly, so we could relax and enjoyed the water. When I left, the front desk person, an elderly man, stuck his chest out in a proud manner and said, “Our water is great, isn’t it? We pour it directly into the bath. It’s 100% fresh hot spring water.” Well, the most famous bathhouse in Bessho Onsen recycles water. He meant that. When I told him I knew that, so I chose Taishi-yu, he nodded in satisfied fashion.
Bessho Onsen has been developed by the help of Kitamuki Kannon (北向観音, a temple of Tendai founded in 8th-9th century). Kitamuki literally means facing North, and its hall is facing North for real, which is a rare construction style for a sacred hall. According to Bessho Onsen Tourism Association, it is said that if people visit Zenkoji Temple (善光寺, one of the most famous temples in Japan located in Nagano City) which faces south, to pray for their future and happiness after death, and do not pray for the present by visiting the north-facing hall, their devotions will be unbalanced.
Because of people visiting Kitamuki Kannon (it’s rather minor) along with the famous Zenkoji Temple, there is an endless line of visitors to the resort.
Chouzu (手水, the water that purifies hands before visiting a shrine or temple) is the hot spring water!
There are traditional Japanese inns with atmosphere in the resort. We stayed in Uematsu-ya (上松屋旅館) founded in 1869. The rebuilt building doesn’t have a traditional atmosphere, but the water is really great!
Indeed, in Japan there are excellent hot spring resorts as abundant as stars.