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Kawayu Onsen | Kumano's Thermal Wonder 川湯温泉

Kawayu Onsen
Dig your own Onsen!
Sennin-buro River Bath
Kawayu Onsen History
Kawayu Onsen Baths
Kawayu Onsen Accommodations
Kawayu Onsen Access

Kawayu Onsen

Kawayu Onsen is a geological thermal wonder located on the Oto River, a tributary of the Kumano-gawa River. “Kawa” means “river” and “yu” means “hot water”. In Kawayu Onsen hot spring water bubbles to the surface of the crystal clear river.  

The defining feature of Kawayu Onsen is the river. On the north side is a collection of places to stay including a diversity of ryokans, minshukus, and hotels. On the south side of the river is a green forested mountainside. The world heritage Kumano Hongu Taisha and Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes are close by.

One of the best ways to enjoy Kawayu Onsen is to soak in the soft evening light while watching the warm mist from the river rise slowly into the clean mountian air. You can dig your own bathor bathe in an prepared one.

 
 
 

Kawayu Onsen is perfect for a visit all year round. If you come in the winter months, don't miss the giant Sennin-buro bath. Summer is perfect for cooling down with a swim. Spring and fall colors are best viewed relaxing from water level.

Kawayu Onsen Map >>

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Dig your own Onsen!

kawayu-dig-onsen.jpgIf one digs a hole in the gravel river bed, hot thermal water percolates in, creating an onsen bath! 

You can regulate the temperature by diverting cold water from the river into the mix. 

Many of the accommodations in Kawayu have shovels for guests use. 

If you don't have the energy to dig your own, just use one of the pre-dug basins.

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Sennin-buro River Bath

From December to February, natures forces are adapted to create a giant bath in the river called Sennin-buro. "Sennin" means "one thousand people", implying that it is so large that one thousand people can bathe at the same time. "Sennin" also means "mountain man", or "immortal mountain hermit", a mysterious character that lives far in the mountains. "Buro" means bath.

 
 
 

Sennin-buro is approximately 40 meters by 15 meters in size, and a depth of 60 centimeters. The hot spring water is 73 degrees Celsius, but is cooled down by the river water to ~40 degrees Celsius. Temperature of the water can change often, so try out different spots to find the right temperature for you. On special days the bath is lit with lamps.

How to use the Sennin-buro Bath

Dates: December to February
Time: 6:30~22:00
Price: Free

Change Rooms: 
There are makeshift change rooms on the riverbank. For ladies it is enclosed, but for men it is open on the mountain side.

What to Wear: 
It is OK to wear bathing suits in the river baths. Some people also use a towel to wrap around themselves. Sandals are also good as some of the rocks may be sharp. Most accommodations in Kawayu Onsen have swimming suits and sandals for guests (may cost extra).

Parking: 50 vehicles (free), 200 meters down river from the bath
Notes: 
● Please refrain from bringing glass objects.
● On rainy days the bath may be closed.
● No pets allowed.
● No soap or shampoo allowed.
● Please keep area clean.

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Kawayu Onsen History

historic-kawayu.jpgThe first recorded history of Kawayu Onsen is from 1630. Its legendary founder is Kobuchi-so Inosue who was told of its existence in the form of a divine oracle. The three surrounding villages were caretakers of the hot springs. Nobody lived here because the steep mountains rising on both sides and thick forest made access very difficult. With the construction of better roads the first ryokan lodging was built here in 1720. Originally locals could bathe for free but visitors had to pay. 

As the village grew new lodgings and businesses appeared including an onsen export business. From the year 1800 to 1955 the entrepreneurial locals sold mineral water in used sake barrels. This liquid cargo was transported down river to Shingu where they were transferred to ocean going vessels bound for Osaka, eventually ending up in the bath tubs of the wealthy upper class.

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Kawayu Onsen Baths

The baths in river are free. There is one public bath and a few accommodations offer day-use bathing.

Public Baths

Sennin-buro

Please see above.

Kawayu Onsen public bath

Price: 250 yen, 12 and under 130 yen
Hours: 8:00~21:00
Open year round.

 
 
 
 

Day-use Baths in Lodgings

Kawayu Midoriya

Price: 800 yen
Hours: 13:00~21:00
Closed: Variable

Minshuku Sumiya

Price: 400 yen
Hours: 13:00~15:00
Closed: Variable
※Reservations Required

 
 
 
 

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Kawayu Onsen Accommodations

kawayu-onsen-accommodations.jpgKawayu Onsen has a variety of Japanese style accommodations including traditional Ryokan inns and family run Minshuku guest houses. Most of the guestrooms in Kawayu Onsen have views over the river.

Kawayu Onsen accommodation >>

Kawayu Onsen Access

Kawayu-Onsen-map.jpgKawayu Onsen is located a short drive from the Kumano Hongu Taisha. Daily busses travel here from Tanabe, Shingu and Gojo. 

Tanabe bus timetables #1, #2
Shingu bus timetables #3, #4
Kumano Hongu Taisha simplified bus timetable # 11


Kawayu Onsen Map >>


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