Sugatani Onsen hot spring in Nagahama
It’s off the beaten path in a quiet area at the foot of low mountains near Mt. Odani. It’s not touristy like Ogoto Onsen Spa in Otsu and not crowded (at least on weekdays). Perfect place to warm up, relax, and think about new projects for this new year.
For only 1,000 yen (500 yen for kids), I could bathe in natural hot spring waters in two indoor baths and one outdoor bath (rotenburo) with a view of the sky and trees on the mountain. I brought my own towel so I didn’t need to rent a towel for 200 yen.
The outstanding thing is that the hot spring water is brown due to the high amount of iron mineral (siderite). It adds to the authenticity of the hot spring. The water supposed to be good for a variety ailments such as sore muscles, stiff shoulders, digestive problems, and eczema. The water temperature was also perfect, not too hot at all.
The brown hot spring water is famous for being a favorite of Ichi (Oichi), wife of Lord Azai Nagamasa and younger sister of famous warlord Oda Nobunaga. Ichi (1547–1583) and Nagamasa (1545-1573) lived in nearby Odani Castle in the 16th century. She had a turbulent life in turbulent times of warring warlords. Her three daughters, Chacha, Hatsu, and Go went on to marry very prominent samurai. Samurai retainers from Odani Castle also bathed in the water to heal their war wounds.
The hot spring facilities and guest rooms (room rates start at around 16,000 yen per person) are very nice and still look quite new. The building was newly constructed in fall 2004 to replace the old one (now closed) which still stands further behind the new building. I’ve been to the old onsen building and bath and this new facility is totally different and a great improvement. The lobby is spacious and inviting. There’s also a small gift shop, massage chairs, banquet room, and restaurant. I chatted with the reception desk clerk and he told me about the declining population of Sugatani. He even encouraged me to move to Sugatani. One benefit of that would be daily access to this healing water.
For non-guests, bathing hours are 11 am to 9 pm (日帰り入浴). Shampoo and soap are provided in the bathing area. Note that on weekends and holidays after 3 pm, priority is given to guests staying at the onsen so day-trip visitors might have to wait to get in the bath.
If you don’t have a car, you can go to JR Kawake Station (two stops north of Nagahama Station on the JR Hokuriku Line) and give them a call (0749-74-2235) to pick you up. You can also call them from the foot of Mt. Odani (after visiting Odani Castle) to pick you up. Note that they don’t speak English.