Totsukawa Onsengō, Nara: Steaming Hot Springs Surrounded by Lush Nature
Hidden Hot Springs Deep in the Kii Mountains
In a secluded part of southernmost Nara Prefecture, right on the border with Wakayama and Mie, lie the hot springs of Totsukawa Onsengō. The three hot springs of Totsukawa, Kamiyu, and Tōsenji that make up this remote resort sit in the middle of the Kii peninsula, nestled in a valley among the peaks of the Kii mountain range. The village of Totsukawa, designated as a national People’s Recreation Spa by the Ministry of the Environment, has for a large part remained untouched: Fully 96% of the village’s land is natural forest.
In 2004, all of the village’s hot springs resorts announced that they would cease any use of chlorine and use only free-flowing spring water, with no recirculation, in their baths. Though the village has around 20 different resorts offering lodging, there are also four public baths for visitors looking just to enjoy the free-flowing waters on their way through.
At the Totsukawa hot springs—located along the shores of the Futatsuno Dam reservoir, south from the village office—visitors will find a plethora of ryokan inns and shops. The wellspring, said to have been discovered in the late seventeenth century by a charcoal-maker, is located upstream along the Kamiyu River, a tributary of the Totsukawa. The silky water here is easy on the skin, and it is said to aid those suffering from digestive ailments and diabetics when ingested.
The Kamiyu hot springs are upstream along the Kamiyu river, in the deepest mountains of the village. Their atmosphere of true seclusion is complete in the summer, when after the sun sets the area is illuminated by nothing but the stars in the sky and the many fireflies that flutter through the air. Rotenburo outdoor baths located in dry riverbeds cement the feeling of oneness with nature.
The Tōsenji hot springs are located in a gorge at the center of Totsukawa village. The deep valley, bathed in lush green all around, provides visitors with gorgeous views. Other tourist draws in the area are the Tanize Suspension Bridge, at 297 meters in length one of Japan’s longest pedestrian suspension bridges, and the 32-meter-high waterfalls of Sasanotaki.
Access to Totsukawa Onsengō (from Osaka)
By car: Take the Hanshin Expressway to Matsubara Junction, the Hanwa Expressway to Mihara Junction, and the Minami-Hanna Road to the Shindō Ramp (about 26 km from Matsubara, or just over 20 min). Exit and take the Keinawa Road (National Route 24) to the Gojō Interchange (about 19 km, 20 min); turn right on National Route 310, and drive through to National Route 168 to Tōsenji Onsen (about 65 km, 1 h 30 min).
By rail and bus: From Namba Station, take the Kintetsu Limited Express for 35 minutes to Yamato Yagi Station. From Yamato Yagi, take the Nara Kōtsū Bus for 4 hours to the Totsukawa Village Office stop. (Note that only three buses leave each day, at 09:15, 11:45, and 13:45.)
Totsukawa Tourism Association
http://totsukawa.info/joho/totsukawa_onsen_gou/2totsukawa_onsen.html (in Japanese only)
Totsukawa Village Traveling Guide
(Originally written in Japanese. Banner photo: Totsukawa Hot Spring. © Pixta. Photo courtesy of Totsukawa Tourism Association.)