May 22, 13 | nobu Kawashima
"Kuma no Yu" - A natural hot spring made from a hollowed out rock. From our "Unexplored Hokkaido" Series
On a mountain, in a small valley, is a hollowed out rock which serves as a natural hot spring! Dark brown hot water surrounded by green foliage, right next to a swiftly flowing mountain stream. This wild, natural atmosphere is the perfect place for a hot, relaxing bath!
No shampoo or conditioner to be seen, not even a shower is available. This isn't the place to go if you want to wash up! The hollowed out rock which serves as the basin for hot water is strictly for relaxing.
Although the water is relatively shallow, it is wide enough to accommodate four or five people. Naturally this is a mixed-gender bath!
Water flows down from behind the rock wall at the rear of the pool.
But be careful not to touch it, the water is extremely hot and will cause burns.
If you're worried about whether you can take the heat, allow me to reassure you.
The hose which you can see pictured above, provides fresh water from the river located below the bath. The water flows so quickly that water easily pumps out into the bath above, cooling the water down.
Placing the hose in the hot spring allows visitors to adjust the temperature of the water until it's just right. If the water gets to cold, just remove the hose for a bit!
Hot water flows constantly from the large rocks (on the left of the above photo) through cracks and crevices into the mountain stream below (on the right of the photo).
It seems that the source of the hot water is a spring hidden behind the rocks. This sodium chloride spring is said to have special qualities that allow bathers to avoid feeling chilled when they finally get out.
Perhaps because of this same quality the rock inside the bath is quite slippery, so do be careful. Also any towel used in the bath will be dyed slightly brown, but you can take that as a sign of the high quality of the water!
It's finally time to reveal the location of this wonderful outdoor bath!
For those hot spring fans out there, perhaps the pictures have been enough to clue you off. For those who still haven't guessed, this wonderful bath can be found in the famous hot spring area, Hiratanai!
The bath's name is "Kuma no Yu" and is in Southern Hokkaido's Kumaishi, Yakumo, overlooking the Sea of Japan.
Located about an hour from central Hokkaido road Yakumo IC, from Hakodate it is about a two hour drive, from Sapporo or New Chitose Airport about four hours until you arrive. Although quite a distance from the major cities, if you do make the journey out you'll find it quite easy to find.
Head straight towards Hiratanai on highway 229 and once you see Hiratanai Manor on your right, just follow the narrow road around back for about four kilometers until you find the parking lot!
After you park it's just a short stroll down a paved road, maybe one or two minutes, until you'll spot a small hut off the path which is right next to our hot spring!
You've finally found "Kuma no Yu!"
About 10 meters further on is a sign which reads "露天風呂" that will direct you towards the bath.
Head off the paved road and follow the stairs down to the bottom of the cliff.
You'll find yourself in front of the hut from before, the one you spotted from the road!
It's a small building with a log-cabin style. This is the dressing room for the bath. There is enough space in each side, male and female, to accommodate about two people changing at a time.
Once you've changed just head down the stone steps to find the hot spring!
Don't forget that, although the path down to the hot spring is quite hard to spot, the bath itself is quite visible from the path above!
For those who bring only towels, be sure to wrap up tight! A swimsuit is the best way to be completely sure that passing sightseers won't get an eyeful of more than just nature!
It seems that some male visitors aren't afraid to enter with just a towel in hand, but for the sake of other visitors it may be best to just bring a suit!
A wide, open-air bath out in the middle of nature.
This hot spring is easy to find, and a pleasure to experience.
In the summer months it can be quite crowded, but so long as everyone is considerate about letting others enjoy the water, the experience is not one to be missed!
If you're visiting Hokkaido, and looking for something off the beaten path to enjoy, why not head off into the mountains to take a dip?
Open: From late April until the end of October.
Free of charge!
Be aware that use of shampoos or soaps in the hot spring is prohibited.
Contact Information for Yakumo Town Hall, Kumaishi General Branch's Industrial division:
(Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer - Kawashima Nobuhiro)
Some photographs are courtesy of Yakumo Town.