Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami, Japan

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com

Having been spoiled by the calmest winter I've ever experienced in my life since moving to New York City at 8 years old - I was really itching to see some snow this year in Japan. Upon a quick search, it was easy to locate a bunch of snowy destinations and snow peaks perfect for a day of snowboarding, skiing, or any other winter-related activities within hours away from the center of Tokyo. But I was looking for something a bit more relaxing. Of course, there is no shortage of onsens and ryokans that are available in Tokyo but finding one that was close to some snow took some digging. I came across Takaragawa Onsen and I was immediately mesmerized by the open-air bath. So alas, I dragged my boyfriend here for a weekend get-away to celebrate our monthnaversary (no idea why we still do this after like 6 years, but I know there are others doing this still, so I don't feel too cheesy sharing).

During the booking process, we quickly learned that this onsen actually boasts the largest open-air bath onsen in all of Japan, making us even more excited to see it in person.

Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma station, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comBiggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comBiggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comBiggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com
Neutral winter outfits, camel coat and Dr. Martens boots, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comCamel coat portraits, wood and glass door close up portrait, camel double face coat, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com

Getting to this onsen was a bit of a journey though. Instead of using the JR/Shinkansen trains, we got a package that provided a kaiseki-style dinner and breakfast along with roundtrip bus rides from Shinjuku Station. Taking the train would have saved us about 2 hours from the entire journey, but, it would mean that we would have to trek our way to the location of the onsen without their shuttle service. Compared to taking the train, the bus ride lasted about 4 hours total, with stops several times throughout at some pretty cool rest stops. My boyfriend and I agreed that this was probably just as fun as the stay at the onsen to be quite honest. It's not every day that you can take a long drive through rural parts of Japan without worrying about driving and just catching up and stopping for snacks. Plus we actually went on a weekday (Thursday) meaning there was no tourists in sight and only 6 other guests on a 40 person bus with us.

Using the hotel's mode of transport ensured that we would arrive on time for check-in. Meaning we didn't have much time to really explore the grounds before our dinner promptly at 6:30 pm.

Kaiseki dinner, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comKaiseki dinner, sake tasting, sashimi course, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com
Ryokan stay, wooden japanese room, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com
Couple in ryokans rooms, snow window onsen, onsen room with snow backdrop, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com

Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comBiggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com

Sleeping early allowed us to wake up pretty early the next morning to go soak in the onsen, finally. To our surprise, there are actually 4 open-air onsens in the vicinity. One each specifically for each gender, and two co-op baths (I believe). The photos above are of me in the gloriously acclaimed "biggest open-air bath onsen" in all of Japan. It was such a cool experience to be able to float around in warm water with snow and a river surrounding me. It was also really calm and peaceful since there weren't many people in around (hence being able to take these photos despite being in an onsen). It is also worth noting that you are given a yukata to wear for walking around and between the baths when you check in. Girls are given a short dress to bathe in the co-op baths too!

Alas, my snow cravings were satisfied and I didn't even feel that much burdened by it - instead, it made me even more relieved. If you're looking for a close to nature experience in Tokyo the next time you visit, then I highly recommend this little gem. I can only imagine how pretty it is during the foliage fall season.

For more of my Japan adventures, click here.