Yunomine Onsen: Wakayama Onsen
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Yunomine Onsen is believed to be one of the oldest hot springs in Japan and is intimately connected with the Kumano Pilgrimage. The legendary founding dates back 1800 years and was used for hot water ablution rituals. The onsen culture of Japan is rich, but nowhere is it so deeply integrated with spiritual tradition. There are innumerable legends of pilgrims being healed from diseases and disabilities here.
Tsuboyu is a small bath in the creek, enclosed by a rustic wood cabin located in the center of the village. Its waters are said to change color seven times a day. Because of its connection with hot water purification rituals, it was registered as part of the UNESCO World Heritage property “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”. It is the only World Heritage hot spring in the world that one can bathe in. Tsuboyu is a private bath that can fit one or two people at a time, and can be reserved for 30 minutes.
Down the creek from here is the Yuzutsu public cooking onsen basin, where locals and visitors boil vegetables such as spinach and bamboo shoots. But by far the most popular food cooked here are eggs. After about 13 minutes in the 93 degree Celsius water, onsen tamago, or hot spring eggs, are ready to eat. Next to Yuzutsu is Toko-ji Temple, which is dedicated to Yakushi, the Medicine Buddha known for his almighty healing powers. Inside is a statue made of hot spring mineral deposits about three meters tall, and is vaguely shaped like a human figure. There is a hole in its chest. It is believed that the original onsen water gushed from this divine cavity, and subsequently that is how Yunomine received its name; “Yu” means “hot water” and “mune” means “chest”. “Yu no mune”, or “the chest that gives hot water”, over time changed to “Yunomine”.
Adumaya Ryokan is the oldest accommodation in Yunomine Onsen, and has been visited by a long list of famous people, including members of the Japanese Imperial family. The rooms are traditional Japanese style, each featuring a different kind of wood around the tokonoma enclave. Drawing from the history of healing at Yunomine Onsen, the intricate dishes are all made with the local hot mineral water. This cooking technique brings out the colors of the ingredients, as well as increasing the mineral content, making for delicious healthy cuisine. The indoor baths are made of wood which has been deeply engrained over the years by the hot spring water. A lofty ceiling with giant beams adds to the authentic atmosphere. The serene rock-lined outdoor baths allow guests to escape from worldly stresses and melt away into a deep state of relaxation.
Train from Nagoya to Shingu (~3 to 4 hr depending on train, 6,680, unreserved seat)
Bus from Shingu to Yunomine Onsen (~1hr 15min, 1500)
Website: www.adumaya.co.jp (Japanese)
For more information contact:
Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau