Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Photo Tour through the Tiny Town of Shibu Onsen, Japan

Shibu Onsen is an adorable, tiny town in the middle of nowhere. We literally had to take planes, trains and automobiles to get there, but it was definitely worth the hassle. Our visit to this town came about because of Micah’s obsession with visiting the nearby Snow Monkeys, and we are so glad we had the chance to visit.

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

While the town feels almost a bit worn down, it has an old world charm that can only be found in a well-loved, traditional spot like this. To get there, we took the Shinkansen train from Tokyo Central Station to Yokohama Station where we then piled into a local bus for a short ride to the center of town.

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

The journey took us a better portion of the day, and when we arrived we made our way to the hotel to drop off our bags before heading out to see the monkeys.

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen is a town focused on the healing powers of the Japanese onsen. There are nine different onsen and two foot baths, each filled with a different hot spring water to cure a variety of ailments. Eight of the nine onsen are only accessible to residents and overnight guests, while the ninth bath is open for use by daytime visitors.

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Both residents and overnight guests can be seen walking around town in their yakuza robes and wooden geta sandals.

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

If you want a fun souvenir, you can purchase a passport book to record your onsen visits. At the entrance of each onsen, there is a stamp station where you can record your visit. It is said that if you visit every bath, you will have good fortune.

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

If you do decide to visit an onsen, be sure to read up on the proper etiquette beforehand. You have to bathe completely nude and wash yourself at the stations before getting in. The water is hot, and I mean hot! You are allowed to add cold water to cool it down, but be respectful if there are locals or others already enjoying the bath. Also, you are not allowed to enter if you have a tattoo–there is a long history on why it’s not acceptable, but basically it comes down to the fact that tattoos are typically associated with gangs and illegal activity in the Japanese culture.

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to visit any of the public onsen, but I did manage to hop in our Royaken’s onsen before bed. The onsen all close at 10pm and we were at dinner with some friends until about 10:30 p.m. While I wouldn’t have traded that night for anything, I would have loved to hop in and experience at least a few of the public onsen, as well.

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

We did get to dress up in our traditional garb and go for a little walk around town, though. It was a chilly evening, but it was still fun to clickity clack around town with our wooden shoes and robes! Here’s a look at Shibu Onsen after dark:

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Shibu Onsen, Japan, Asia, Photo Essay, Wander The Map

Have you ever been to a Japanese Onsen?

8 Comments
  • Stephanie
    Twitter:
    Posted at 22:41h, 30 June Reply

    What a great experience! I just recently moved from Japan and going to onsens was pretty much my favorite thing to do every winter. These pictures bring back so many great memories. I’ve been to many onsen resorts, but I’m sad I never made it to see the snow monkeys. I had to leave something for when I come back!
    Stephanie recently posted…The 20 Best Travel Movies Ever & Their Gorgeous Film StillsMy Profile

  • Anne Sutherland-Smith
    Twitter:
    Posted at 05:08h, 01 July Reply

    Jenna, we are already booked in to a ryoken in Shibu Onsen for September, and fortunately we should have enough time to enjoy the onsens! It will be the last stop on our two week itinerary.

    I agree that it is a bit more difficult to get around so we have actually booked a hire car from Nagano station, because as a family of five people when I was researching it looked like it will be the easiest option to get around, visit the snow monkeys and one extra stop which is Togakushi (don’t mention the Little Ninja Village to my 6 year old son – he is very excited to go there!).
    Anne Sutherland-Smith recently posted…12 Rocking 2WD Road Trip Routes to Escape Sydney These Spring School HolidaysMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 21:15h, 14 July Reply

      So glad to hear you will get to enjoy a ryoken and onsen–what a great way to end the two weeks in Japan! Booking a car from Nagano sounds like a good idea, especially since you have a family of 5. Will be much easier to get around that way–it was a little tiring taking all the trains and transfers! Togakushi sounds like fun–I think we will have to check that out next time 🙂 Hope you have a wonderful time in Japan!!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony in Kyoto, JapanMy Profile

  • Suze The Luxury Columnist
    Twitter:
    Posted at 05:53h, 03 July Reply

    Thanks for your insight into the onsen, it is absolutely fascinating. I haven’t yet been to Japan but visiting these would be top of my list there now
    Suze The Luxury Columnist recently posted…Maasai Colour – Look Good, Do GoodMy Profile

  • Hans
    Posted at 16:00h, 14 July Reply

    What a cute little town … I’ll be sure to add it to my visit list when I get to Japan!
    Hans recently posted…Wales Top 6 Summer Getaways!My Profile

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