A traditional ryokan with wooden buildings and tatami floors with rooms overlooking the river. After crossing a bridge and taking a short walk, remove your yukata and immerse yourself in the hot springs waters, completely surrounded by Takaragawa Onsen’s natural beauty.
Takaragawa Onsen is an enchanted place, the most beautiful onsen I have ever been to, where the warm thermal waters pamper and relax you, while you breathe in the beauty of nature around you. With pools along the river and the passing of the seasons as a backdrop, Takaragawa Onsen seems straight out of a fairy tale, an enchanted place you never thought really existed.
Located about three hours north of Tokyo, in Gunma Prefecture, an area famous for its many onsen towns, such as Kusatsu Onsen or Ikaho Onsen, and it is one of the best places to escape from the hectic life of Japan’s capital and immerse in nature and reconnecting with yourself.
Unlike almost all onsen in Japan nowadays, the baths here are not divided by gender. Men and women can enter together while wearing the special ‘swimsuit’ provided by the facility, making it a perfect choice for both those who are not ready to soak naked with strangers, and for couples who would like to enjoy Japanese onsen together.
The Takaragawa Onsen welcome day bathers as well, from 10am to 2pm, paying a ticket of 2,000 JPY, but I highly recommend staying overnight at Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku to enjoy the onsen and the full ryokan experience.
Leave your shoes at the entrance, grab one of the soft toweling bathing suit, and once you reach your traditional room with river wied, slip into the light cotton yukata. Drink a cup of tea and prepare yourself for one of the most beautiful onsen experiences ever.
A bridge and an open-air path descending along the river lead you to the area of riverside thermal baths, among the largest in Japan. Stone baths immersed in nature interspersed only by the wood of the buildings where you can take off your yukata and put on your bathsuit on and the stone lanterns that light up as the sun goes down, giving an extra touch of magic to an already enchanted place.
The pools have different temperatures and it is extremely pleasant to soak up to the neck and let the body numb in the warm embrace of the thermal waters, then sit on a rock and let the cool mountain breeze brush against your skin.
With the lapping of the river always in the background, the sun goes down behind the mountains, the light becomes softer and the interiors begin to light up: it is time to return to the ryokan where a delicious kaiseki dinner awaits you: the traditional Japanese cuisine consisting of several courses of local and seasonal products, served in a harmonious way in a countless number of small plates.
As always happens in such cases, you’ll get up from the table really full and two steps in the fresh evening air help the digestion. There are very few lights, only those of the rooms and those from the lanterns, but a torch is provided for those who wish to return to the outside onsen and dive at night. The pools remain accessible and the starry sky shines above them.
Futons have appeared on the tatami floor of the room and the sound of flowing water gently accompanies you into a deep, relaxed sleep.
In the morning, it is wonderful to get up early, when the sun has not yet risen, reach the onsen with sleepy eyes and let the warm water activate the muscles of the body, while the colours of dawn light up the sky.
After a traditional breakfast of rice, vegetables, and grilled fish, it is time to change back into western clothes and shoes, leaving this magical world to return to the real world….
How to get to Takaragawa Onsen
The fastest and most convenient way to get to Takaragawa Onsen is to take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Minakami or Jomo Kogen and reserve seats on the free shuttle (available only to overnight guests) to the Ryokan. The shuttle leaves at 13:00 and 15:00 from Jomo Kogen and 15:15 from Minakami; the next morning it leaves the ryokan at 09:30.
For those arriving at different times or wishing to access the onsen during the day, there are local buses that connect Minakami station to Takaragawa Onsen in about half an hour for JPY 1,150.
For those arriving by car, there is a large free car park.
What to do nearby
At Takaragawa Onsen, you go there to relax in the onsen and enjoy the ryokan, and in the immediate vicinity, there are no activities or things to visit.
But nearby Minakami is a popular location for outdoor sports such as rafting and bungee jumping, and not far away is the Yuzawa ski resort. We took advantage of this and combined our experience at the Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku with rafting on the Tone River, one of the three most important rivers in Japan, which crosses the valley and the center of Minakami.
Nearby is also Takumi no Sato, a village surrounded by rice fields, where you can walk and buy local products, but also participate in activities such as making washi paper, frames with dried wildflowers, making soba, and so on.
Other amazing onsen in Japan:
And if, like me, you are a spa lover, you can find all the articles on the spas I have visited around the world in the hotspring section of the blog.
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