Hot springs town – Unzen Onsen

My journey in South of Japan continues to a small seaside town – Obama (or Obama onsen) . In Japanese Obama means “little beach”. It takes more than 3 hours to get there by car from Karatsu. Obama is a hot springs town, famous for having the hottest and most active springs in Japan, located next to the seashore so it allows to see the beautiful sunset, which makes Obama more popular place to visit in the evenings.

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The hot spring steam…
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everywhere in Obama

In Obama I stay in another ryokan, Kunisaki, a traditional Japanese inn with onsen facilities. My first onsen experience was probably more than 10 years ago, in Hakone, another small town next to Tokyo, famous for the hot springs resorts. I fell in love with Japanese hot springs since then, so I really enjoy my time here, at Kunisaki, especially the outdoor facilities.

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Kunisaki – a Japanese Inn or ryokan in the evening
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The entrance to the private house at Kunisaki Inn

The first night in Obama, due to all rooms in main building fully booked, the owner of Kunisaki kindly reserved a beautiful 2-story house for us, only few steps away from the main building. This house with the private onsen, outdoor and indoor.

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One of indoor hot spring facilities at Kunisaki main building
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and the outdoor onsen at the private Kunisaki house

Next morning at the bus station office, after selecting the destination with fare on the electronic board, we quickly got tickets from a vending machine. Minutes later, our bus arrived but it seemed we still need another ticket (just ticket, no payment), at the bus entrance, from a small box next to bus driver. Later I was explained but still not very clear!

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Unzen onsen town 
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The scenery is impressive…the land of hot springs!

It takes around 30 minutes by public bus to reach Unzen Onsen, most renowned for its outdoor hot spring fields and healing properties of its sulphuric waters, but at the same time there is another dark side – the Unzen Hells. Due to the heat (even over the boiling point) and the unpleasant sulphuric smell, the white gas…this area used to be the place where many Christian martyrs has been executed in 17th century.

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Despite the unpleasant smell, hot spring here in Unzen has superb quality thanks to some “chemical antiseptic properties”, the water is good for beautifying skin, reducing the back-pain, muscle pain, releasing the fatigue, diabetes…Anyway besides the hot springs Unzen still has a beautiful nature, especially during Autumn or Spring.

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We spent nearly one hour wandering, following the hiking path, it seemed the autumn arrived with a bit late this year, I was expecting more glorious picture with the various shades of red-orange-yellow colors here, in the park, but I’m not disappointed because tomorrow we go to another side of the national park, up to Unzen mountain – the scenery is terrific beautiful!

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My hiking path in Unzen Onsen
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The National Park Unzen established in 1934, in 1956 it changed to Unzen Amakusa National Park 

My friend was about to take me to a hotel nearby for the famous Japanese curry for lunch but unfortunately it was not open, so we decided to go back to Obama town and there, again, we were also late for lunch, all closed! Instead of curry we ordered some cakes, ice cream at the popular pastry-coffee shop “Chez Amour”, Castella cake from this shop was so good! Hopefully I will share about it in another post as this sponge cake is one of the famous specialities from Nagasaki.

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Castella from Fukusaya shop …since 1624!

I continued my afternoon with museum visit, to learn about Obama history, about the exploring hot spring system in the past, and then enjoyed the foot spa, at the longest one in Obama, right in front of the sea, and later the public onsen at the sunset with only 200 Yen.

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The hot springs system in the past in the museum

Actually Obama is famous for its hottest and most active springs in Japan, some of them could reach 80-100 °C and producing over 15,000 tons of hot water daily.

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My free foot spa in Obama town with the sea view!
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and later with only 200 Yen  I can enjoy hot spring next to the sea while admiring the sunset!

And what after the onsen? The dinner with super fresh sashimi! And for the first time I tried a piece of whale sashimi. I didn’t know until I was told by my friend! Oops!

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Dinner time! Sashimi!
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Two pieces of red meat on the right – whale sashimi!

My first day in Obama was full of energy, I enjoyed every moment, discovered many things. With friend I feel so easy without any hesitation, especially when I don’t speak the language. It brought me back to the past, more than a decade, it was quite hard for me to manage in Tokyo by myself, especially in Shinjuku, for the first time when most of the signs only in Japanese but now – different picture!

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Fishing at the sunset in Obama

As mentioned earlier, Obama is located next to seashore, so the sunset at the horizon is specially beautiful! One photo I took while we were walking along the beach, another one on the way back from Unzen mountain.

My next post will take you to the other legendary place – Unzen mountain, one of the most destructive volcanos in Japan, still active, the last recent eruption was in 1996. Several scientists, journalists who tried to document the eruption were the victims…but the natural beauty is indescribable! Will see you there, on the mountain!

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The beautiful sunset at Obama Onsen

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