Oze National Park Katashina ‘Hanasaku’s hot spring’ is a great place to enjoy a relaxing Japanese afternoon – this includes onsen (typical Japanese hot spring) with a magnificent view, a beautiful garden & delicious food.
The name ‘Hanasaku no yu’ can be translated as Hanasaku’s hot spring. Onsen (hot springs) play a big role in Japanese culture and have been used throughout history as public baths. There are hundreds, or better thousands, of onsen scattered throughout the country.
In 1998 Hanasaku’s hot spring opened as a resting place for locals and visitors to enjoy Katashina’s fresh and rejuvenating water. Katashina’s onsen is said to have healing powers due to the high mineral content of its water. There are two baths; one for males and one for females, each having an inside and outside onsen. However, as the 2 onsen vary a little and have different panoramic views, they rotate between males and females every other day.
The opening times of Hanasaku’s hot spring are from 10am – 9pm, however from November to March it closes at 8pm. The entry to the onsen costs 650 yen for adults and 450 yen for children. Shampoo and soap are supplied but remember to bring your own towel. But if you forget, you can rent one there for 320 yen or buy a small Japanese ‘face’ towel for 230 yen.
Head down the stairs and enter through the delicate Kusaki-zome curtains embellished with typical images of Katashina. These have been dyed by applying a traditional Japanese technique that only uses plants and other natural resources as dies (Kusaki-zome).
Fully undress yourself in the changing room (no swimsuits allowed). Before you enter the onsen-pool, scrub off every little piece of dirt on your body. In Japan you shower while sitting down on a little stool in front of a mirror. If you are unsure of what the “traditional onsen-routine” is, look around and just copy the others – that is what I do!Once you are clean, relax in the hot spring while enjoying the amazing view of Katashina’s mountains.
It is also a great experience at night when you can gaze at Katashina’s clear night sky filled with many starts and a big moon. Yet, I think that onsen is even better during winter. After having spent the day out on the cold and snowy pistes it is a great feeling to warm up your sore body in the hot, steamy outside onsen surrounded by snow-capped mountains and trees.
Still with a restful & peaceful set of mind, people typically like to marvel at art after a visit to the onsen – in my opinion Japanese onsen is an art of its own as well.
Hanasaku’s hot spring exhibits traditional silk screen prints from the Japanese artist Shinbo Kogure. He was born in the Gunma prefecture and produces many prints of Oze and its surroundings – very typical in Katashina.
His exhibition and pieces of art change according to the season. You can buy his art here but also small souvenirs such as postcards or letter sets, which are a little more affordable.
Furthermore, you can put on the provided outside slippers to walk on the upstairs terrace to get a better view of Katashina’s panorama. People also like to go outside to marvel at the specially designed garden by the well-known Japanese artist called Takashi Kanda.
He combined the distinct styles of Japanese and English gardens to create a landscape that is pure and natural. Kanda san was inspired by the beauty of Katashina. Thus, he ended up buying an old farm here that he is currently renovating. I went for a visit to get a taste of his big ‘ECOLOV’ project – click on the image below to read more about his inspirational work:
Originally Hanasaku’s hot spring aimed at attracting people through its onsen. However, many people just come for the mouth-watering food served in the Restaurant. If you are not a big fan of onsen, I would also still recommend you to visit Hanasaku’s hot spring for the food.
The downstairs restaurant is Japanese style and should only be used by onsen visitors, whereas upstairs is open for all visitors, yet the same food is served. They use all of the seasonal local products of Katashina and transform them into beautifully arranged healthy meals. So fresh & delicious! A lunch set costs around 1300 yen.
If you are here for a snack have a look at the ice cream made from Katashina’s products and their unusual flavours –rice, salt milk, asparagus, hanamame (flower bean), peach milk, cream cheese ice cream…
Along with the food, they serve Katashina’s natural spring water. This water is not from the tap but directly from Hariyama’s spring. They also use this to brew their tea & coffee.
This versatile place also offers various events teaching about Japanese culture. For example, to complete the traditional Japanese experience you can take part in a tea ceremony. Every month a tea ceremony teacher comes to Hanasaku’s hot spring and lays out her tatami mats in the downstairs section.
She teaches you about all of the strict rules of this culturally rich ceremony – how to walk, sit, drink, where to place the cup and what sounds to make and when. After carefully paying attention to her instructions and her example, I even got to prepare my own Matcha (green tea). This unique experience costs 200 yen per person – which is very cheap!
Furthermore, for the New Year Hanasaku’s hot spring holds ‘mochi-tsuki’, the process of pounding rice to make mochi (race cakes). A special sticky rice called ‘mochigome‘ is pounded with heavy wooden hammers. Usually 2 people swing their hammers alternately beating the rice into a smooth and sticky substance, called ‘mochi‘.
It can be eaten with different toppings – kinako (sweet roasted soybean flower), anko (red bean paste), daikon (raddish) or miso. I love it & could probably eat it every day!
Another New Year’s tradition that is held here is known as ‘kakizome‘. This entails the first calligraphy of the year. Everyone is invited to kneel in front of a long white sheet of paper and try their skills at paintbrush and ink.
Hanasaku’s hot spring also sells souvenirs – you can find small Kusaki-zome (traditional dying technique) gifts, silk screen prints, local pottery and many other regional products. Various ocal farmers bring their harvest to Hanasaku’s hot spring – so it is a good place to also buy the highland-grown produce from the end of April until November.
This is a great place to be and you should definitely swing by during your visit to Katashina. Look who else was here: OLAF!