Ohsawa Onsen - essence of Japaneseness

Jisui-bu of Ohsawa Onsen with its open-air bath "Ohsawa-no-yu". Toyosawa River is flowing beneath the Crooked Bridge

Ohsawa-no-yu seen from the Crooked Bridge
Ohsawa Onsen is a part of Greater Hanamaki Onsen. There is only one inn at Ohsawa Onsen along Toyosawa River. However, this inn is large and consists of three sections: Sansuikaku, Kikusuikan and Jisui-bu. Sansuikaku is a modern and luxury hotel furnished with all comforts. Kikusuikan is a wooden inn with thatched roof. Here the feudal lords of Nanbu Domain used to stay. "Jisui" means self-catering and "Jisui-bu" is a space for self-catering guests and keeps the traditional style of a hot-spring guesthouse for cure guests very well.

Like other old hot springs in North Japan, Ohsawa Onsen is associated with the legendary commander Sakanoueno Tamuramaro (758-811). However, this legend is not very reliable. It is certain, on the other hand, that the lords of Nanbu Domain frequented Ohsawa Onsen for hot-spring cures in the Edo era (1603-1867).

For many Japanese people, Hanamaki is associated with a famous writer Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933) who was born and spent his creative life in the same town.

The corridor leadig to Ohsawa-no-yu
Kenji was a frequent visitor at Ohsawa Onsen. A photo taken on the occasion of a Buddhist seminar held in Ohsawa Onsen is displayed beside the Crooked Bridge connecting opposite banks of Toyosawa River. Kenji is a schoolboy on the photo.

Kikusuikan, where we spent a night, is said to be about 200 years old. Though guestrooms are equipped with TV, guests have to share an outside bathroom with other guests, which was the usual way in traditional inns. However, the overnight fee for one person is only some 8,000 yen (80$) and this includes dinner and breakfast, use of five different hot-spring baths and yukata and tanzen (Japanese style bathrobe and nightwear), as well as a hand towel and a tooth brush and a small tube of tooth paste. Also Kikusuikan's kitchen is innovative and offers new menus for their guests and the results are satisfactory. All in all Kikusuikan is a very attractive hot-spring inn.

Among the five baths of Ohsawa Onsen, Ohsawa-no-yu, the large open-air mixed-bathing bath is very famous in Japan and attracts many bathing guests. However, at the beginning of March, in particular on weekdays, there were not so many guests and I could enjoy there the good quality of the hot spring, the murmur of Toyosawa River and the provincial Japanese atmosphere.

Clockwise from top-right:
Entrance of Jisui-bu, waiting room beside the reception, kiosk and kitchen for self-caterer

Bent Bridge in front of Kikusuikan. Besides the bridge stands an explanation about Miyazawa Kenji in Ohsawa Onsen with an old photo.
Ohsawa-no-yu is part of Jisui-bu. Jisui-bu is indeed a very rustic and for me a highly nostalgic place. Time-worn timbers and planks of the building, furniture and old equipment keep the fine and cosy atmosphere of the old days. As I explained above, Jisui-bu is the section for self-caterers and its basic overnight fee is under 3,000 yen (30$).

A water wheel was used to pump hot-spring water for Kikusuikan.
Users of this section are asked at the reception what they need to borrow from the inn in addition to the room. They can get bedding, TV, cooking utensils and others for additional payment. For beginners at self-catering, there is also a popular restaurant. So, you don't need to cook. You can eat there at reasonable prices. There is also a kiosk and you can buy there materials for cooking and any other things you might use during your stay.

Onsen is really something I miss in foreign countries. In particular, such an onsen as Ohsawa Onsen is the essence of Japaneseness.