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Yugawara Onsen: Unwinding in the Mountains and Hot Springs to Escape Tokyo

Updated: Jan 19

Travel to Japan often leads travelers to major cities like Tokyo or Osaka. Still, the hustle and bustle of urban life can leave one yearning for moments of tranquility. Welcome to Yugawara Onsen, an enchanting destination nestled in the mountains of Kanagawa Prefecture, offering a rich history and the healing power of its hot springs.


Relaxation and the Onsen Tradition in Yugawara Onsen

Ancient Japanese texts such as Kojiki and Nihon Shoki and local records depict hot springs as ideal locations for purification rituals (misogi) and exorcisms (harai). Yugawara Onsen was even mentioned in the Man'yoshu collection of poetry dating back over 1,300 years - reflecting its timeless love and significance to Japanese people.


Whitecaps in the Chitose River close to Yugawara Kanagawa
Even the small river offers a relaxing spot to spend the afternoon.

Yugawara first gained popularity during the mid-Meiji period (1880s-1890s). Its quiet serenity attracted the Japanese intelligentsia searching for hidden treasure and refined tranquility. Some historic hot spring inns along the Fujikawa River date back over 130 years. Offering guests a nostalgic journey into history and tradition, these inns add another layer of charm that transports guests back in time - creaking wooden floorboards, tatami mat rooms, and classic architecture all evoke elegance from times past. In Yugawara Onsen, you can relax in the countless onsens and enjoy an authentic sense of history and Japan's rich cultural heritage.


The "Healing Water" of Yugawara Onsen. The water is greenish with steam rising from the hotspring.
The natural hotsprings at Yugawara Onsen's famous "healing water".

The Healing Secrets of Hot Springs

Onsen accommodations often showcase certificates of hot-spring analysis, revealing diverse types of onsen water, from simple hot springs to sodium chloride and saline springs. The primary component of Yugawara Onsen, the saline spring, thoroughly warms the body, ensuring a lasting effect due to excellent heat retention. Said to have been designated by historical documents as "healing water," Yugawara was even chosen as a recuperation destination for wounded soldiers! Additionally, female visitors benefit from smoother skin thanks to gypsum content, which enhances dermal fiber elasticity, prevents wrinkles, and improves overall skin health benefits.


Sunlight coming into the hot spring bath at Yugawara Onsen
Yugawara Onsen, the perfect place to get away from the business of the cities.

Yugawara: Beyond a Charming Retro Town

Yugawara transcends retro town vibes with year-round festivals and events showcasing lively local culture. The mild weather, not too hot in summer and not too cold in winter, invites exploration of beautiful places like waterfalls, small local cafes, and museums. The entire area is covered in lush deciduous forests with Japanese maples, creating a picturesque landscape.


Green moss and foliage on rocks along and within the Chitose River in Kanagawa
It's easy to get lost for hours along the river. The peace that it brings is quite infectious.

As autumn unfolds, Yugawara becomes a vivid mix of reds, oranges, and yellows that stuns everyone visiting this town. Forests filled with Japanese maple trees adorn this picturesque scene as their vibrant hues captivate visitors - perfect for strolls through town or along riverbanks! During this season, Yugawara celebrates the beauty of nature with various festivals and events that showcase the lively local culture. These gatherings add a festive atmosphere to the town and offer opportunities for visitors to engage with the community and immerse themselves in Yugawara's rich traditions. Whether participating in a traditional ceremony, enjoying local performances, or sampling seasonal delicacies, autumn in Yugawara provides a multifaceted experience beyond the visual splendor of the changing leaves.


An offering box to ask for wishes at a small Shinto Shrine.
A cute offering box in the small town.

Late February to early March marks the blooming of plum trees in Yugawara, a spectacle that adds another layer to the town's ever-changing scenery. Approximately 4,000 plum trees burst into full bloom by the end of March, creating a breathtaking display of delicate blossoms. This period is not only a treat for the eyes but also a celebration of nature's renewal and the imminent arrival of spring.


Culinary Paradise

As you explore Yugawara, discover various sushi spots and Japanese restaurants serving seasonal menus - try grilled fish, donburi rice bowls, or sashimi!




But that's not all Yugawara has in store. Explore Western-style restaurants and stylish cafés, some even honored with Michelin stars for their culinary excellence.


Although Yugawara is known for its seafood and traditional Japanese dishes, it's also an ideal place to try some excellent bread. The water, drawn from the rich surrounding nature, gives Yugawara's bread a unique and delightful taste. Its charm is so irresistible that news has spread, attracting bread enthusiasts from Tokyo and other parts of Japan who are eager to experience this particular local delight.


Yugawara offers a unique experience whether you want relaxation, cultural immersion, or a connection with nature. The expert tour planners at Untold Japan will create a customized itinerary to ensure your trip is an adventure of a lifetime. Enquire today to start planning your tailor-made tour of Japan.

 

Kristina is an avid traveler, seeking out the lesser-known spots to combat over-tourism in Japan. She creates social media content on Instagram @sugalenin and writes on her website Inner Japan.

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