Midway through our two week trip to Japan, we made our way out to neighboring prefecture Gunma for the third time. Going for a long soak in Japan’s natural hot springs is always a good way to unwind. This time, we stayed at Hotel Kogure in the hot spring town of Ikaho Onsen.
Our hotel sat at the edge of a cliff with an amazing view of the mountains:
Ikaho Onsen is a popular destination for Tokyo residents as it’s under two hours away via Shinkansen and bus. The entire town is filled with a variety of inns, public baths, temples, traditional restaurants, a golf course, and even a farm that boasts a herd of over 300 friendly sheep that you can visit and feed.
After arriving from Tokyo, we spent a few hours exploring the town and checking out the sights before heading to the hotel to check in. I couldn’t help but feel like I was living in a scene out of a Miyazaki film.
Upon entering our room and swapping our shoes for slippers, the sliding bamboo doors opened up to a clean and dreamy space that felt like a modern twist on Chihiro’s room in Spirited Away.
Complete with a Toto toilet that lit up and automatically lifted its own lid when you walked by, this room was the ultimate picture peace and relaxation. A sliding glass door opened up to an indoor/outdoor balcony where there was a private shower and in-room hot tub.
We quickly slid into our comfy yukatas and headed downstairs to check out the hotel’s baths.
Typical of traditional onsens, the public baths at Hotel Kogure were separated by gender. Guests with tattoos are unfortunately not allowed. This was by far the most traditional experience I’ve had, as both previous visits were to co-ed ryokans more geared towards foreign tourists.
Photos are not allowed in the public bath area, what with everyone being naked and all, but our hotel had a ton of baths to choose from. The two sides for men and women flip flop throughout the day so that everyone has a chance to experience all of the baths. My favorite one was the sulfur bath in the garden where you can enjoy relaxing views of nature while taking a steaming hot soak.
After being rejuvenated by the baths, we prepared ourselves for dinner. Our hotel prepared a traditional kaiseki meal for us comprised of both locally grown ingredients and classic Japanese dishes.
As usual with kaiseki meals, I ate WAY too much… but my heart was as happy as my stomach was full.
As long as you follow a simple to-do list of eating, walking, bathing, and enjoying, your time at the onsen will be oh so relaxing. I can’t wait until we return next time to another hot spring heaven. Perhaps we’ll head north to Hokkaido… fingers crossed!