One Last Onsen

Yesterday I finally had the chance to visit the most renowned onsen in Ichinoseki, the Kanpo Onsen. A beautiful setting, a little way out of town on top of a hill, the onsen is fed by reputedly 14 different hot springs. It is regarded as the best onsen in the immediate area and one of the best in all of Iwate. As you can see from the photos, the location is simply stunning.

High on the hill - Kanpo Onsen

High on the hill – Kanpo Onsen

I found the water to be a bit hot again. Of the three onsens I have visited in Japan, I preferred the water in the onsen at Hachimantai. Nevertheless, it was an interesting and eventful experience at the Kanpo onsen. Unfortunately it was really busy, so I couldn’t sneak a photo inside. As I said, it’s a very popular onsen and there is a hotel attached. People come to stay a couple of nights there as a getaway. There are shops and restaurants and it was certainly the biggest onsen I have visited.

The front facade

The front facade

The onsen area had six separate pools. Five were inside, and one was outside in a kind of fenced off area, high above the surrounding countryside. I did feel someone might be able to see the naked men if they walked in the wrong spot, but I guess they would be a long way away so it wouldn’t matter. The outdoor pool was a rock pool, and was the best of the six as you could breath in the (very) fresh air whilst submerged in the hot spring water.

View from the onsen

View from the onsen

Inside, the air was stuffy and humid and made breathing more difficult. There were some bubbles in one pool, and in another a sort of machine that sent out electric waves, at a guess. The temperature across the pools felt over 40 – maybe 42 degrees. They didn’t advertise the temperature that I saw unlike the others I had been to. The men all ran around holding little towels over their bits, trying to prevent someone inadvertently seeing them! All the other places people have been less modest! It was kinda funny actually.

There was a young boy of 10 or less as well, and he ran from pool to pool jumping in and out and generally negating some of the relaxing properties of the spring water. Then his father (or maybe grandfather) caught up to him and whacked him across the head!

Boys to the left, Girls to the right!

Boys to the left, Girls to the right!

Done in a short time, I showered and changed and went to the loo. I was in there 30 seconds or less, when I came out there was a man collapsed lying on a cane bench with a bunch of naked men trying to bring him round. Well, I have to say every time I’ve used an.  onsen I have felt dizzy at some point. He came round and was chatting to the staff thankfully, but nevertheless an ambulance came and he was treated inside. I imagine it happens reasonably regularly, as one gets a bit dehydrated in their and many of the patrons are older than 70.

I think that may be my last onsen. They don’t seem to agree with me very well, and I woke this morning with a bad migraine – not the first time that’s happened. Actually, I make it three from three. This was the worst though, the others weren’t so bad. Still, for many people in Japan they are an essential part of life!


For more writings on Japan, my ebook –

Short Journeys: Japan.



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