Bathing here is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you don’t want to miss.

Back in 1987, June 26 was officially registered as “Rotenburo Day” (“Open-air Bath Day“) in Japan, due to a play on the syllables “ro” (which sounds like “roku” or “six”), “ten” (which is the word for a decimal point used between numbers), “bu” (which is an alternate reading of “fu”, or “two”), and “ro” (“six”)”.

In honour of this special occasion, our reporter Seiji Nakazawa has been searching high and low for the best rotenburo to introduce to our readers, and after hours of online research and lengthy discussions with friends and work contacts, the most popular recommendations all pointed to a hot spring in Shizuoka Prefecture with a glorious view of Mt Fuji.

▼ So Seiji packed a rucksack and headed out there.

The onsen hot spring is easy to get to on a day trip from Tokyo, by simply hopping on a train to Kanagawa Station and from there, taking the JR Gotemba Line to Ashigara Station in Shizuoka. The journey is incredibly relaxing, taking you out of the urban jungle and into rural fields and mountains, so that when you hop out at the station, you already feel as if time has slowed down.

Ashigara Station is unstaffed and in a quiet location, and from here it gets even quieter, as you need to follow a mountain path to get to the onsen, which is called Choumin Ikoi no Ie Ashigara Onsen (“Townspeople Relaxation House Ashigara Onsen“).

▼ Although the hot spring is generally known as “Ashigara Onsen”, the official name lets people know that this is a town-run onsen.

Just because it’s run by the town doesn’t mean it’s a cheap place in need of repair — in fact, it’s the complete opposite, because the building is clean, modern and sturdy, made of reinforced concrete. This is a town that clearly takes good care of its residents by providing them with such a fantastic-looking facility, and the modern vibe and relaxed atmosphere continues once you step through the doors.

This is where you’ll find a thoroughly modern ticket machine, where visitors pay the bathing fee (600 yen [US$3.76] for adults), and purchase any necessary extras, like razors, towels, cleansing sets and sauna hats. Bathing fees are cheaper for nearby residents, people who are members of the Shizuoka Prefecture Municipal Mutual Aid Association, and students from Koyama High School, which is right in front of the building.

The bathing fee gets you three hours in the building, which is great value for 600 yen.

That value turned out to be even better once Seiji actually set foot inside the bathing area. There was one large bath, and the sauna room was big enough to accommodate about 12 people. One entire wall of the onsen was made of glass, giving you a stunning view of Mt Fuji, and stepping out to the open-air rotenburo made Seiji gasp in delight, because the view of the mountain was absolutely breathtaking.

▼ Seiji wasn’t allowed to take photos from the rotenburo, but he says the view looked just like this photo he snapped from outside.

It’s common for sento (local public baths) around the country to have a painted mural of Mt Fuji on one wall, so to see the real thing while soaking in hot water was like a dream come true for Seiji. Making the view even more impressive is the fact that you can see the entire breadth of the mountain, right down to its base, and Seiji says it was nothing short of spellbinding.

In fact, he says this might be the first time he’s ever seen the shape of the mountain so beautifully, from end to end, and it’s a memory that will stay with him a lifetime. 

▼ Seiji, recording his feelings of awe at the hot spring location that will forever be etched in his brain.

Mt Fuji can be viewed from a lot of places, but seeing it from this distance, and with absolutely nothing obscuring the view, will make you really appreciate the true beauty of the mountain.

▼ It even looks great from the carpark.

Seiji says this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that locals and visitors to Japan ought to treat themselves to at some point in their lives. So next time you’re looking for a jaw-dropping view of Mt Fuji, give the overcrowded Lawson a miss and head over here instead. Anyone can say they’ve taken a photo of themselves outside the Mt Fuji Lawson, but how many people can say they’ve bathed naked in front of the mountain? That’s the real Japanese experience everyone should be aiming for!

Hot spring information
Choumin Ikoi no Ie Ashigara Onsen / 町民いこいの家 あしがら温泉
Address: Shizuoka-ken, Sunto-gun, Oyama-cho, Takenoshita 456-1
Hours: 10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. (last entry 8:00 p.m.)
Closed Tuesdays (Open if Tuesday is a holiday, and then closed the next day)

Photos ©SoraNews24
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