Ginzan onsen 銀山温泉
Ginzan onsen in the snow
A ryokan at Ginzan onsen
A river runs through Ginzan Onsen
The silver onsen
Onsen, or hot springs, are an institution in Japan. Natural hot spring baths with water from volcanic sources have been known for centuries to have certain therapeutic value. They are found throughout the country, and every Japanese person has been to one. Ginzan Onsen, a village in Tohoku, is famous for its thermal baths.
A village with just one street
Ginzan Onsen is a village in Yamagata prefecture, located in a mountainous region, which was founded as a result of the discovery of a silver mine, as its name indicates (ginzan meaning "silver mine" in Japanese). The town then continued to develop around local hot springs. It consists of a single street, on both sides of which there are ryokan, or traditional Japanese inns, three or four floors high. Traditional restaurants and souvenir shops complete the picture of a pedestrian street - cars have no access - full of ancestral buildings evoking ancient Japan, a sight further enhanced in winter months, when snow falls to whiten the old roofs.
Read more : Ryokan
There are no outdoor onsen in Ginzan Onsen. Each hotel has their own hot spring baths, open to visitors who can access the baths without having to pay for a nights stay (for a price between 300 and 1500 yen). Two public baths, with an entrance fee of 300 to 500 yen, are also open in the center of the city, as well as a free of charge ashiyu, or foot bath. In addition, there is another public bath, but this time for private use, called Omokageyu, which opens its doors to visitors for 2,000 yen for 50 minutes.
Read more : Onsen, Japanese hot spring baths
More than hot water
Ginzan Onsen has other pleasures to offer. After a good swim, walkers can follow the course of the Ginzan River, which crosses the city, before stopping at Shirogane Park. The 22-meters-high Shirogane-no-taki waterfall at the back of the city, is not to be missed! After the waterfall, and after a 15-minute walk through the forest, you'll find the nobezawa-ginkodo (the cave of the silver mine). It opens onto an entrance made by logs. The interior of the mine is illuminated, and can be visited on a 30-minute tour. There, you can discover excavations over 500 years old, made at the time when Japan was still living under the power of the Tokugawa shogunate. Note that the path to the mine is not passable during winter and early spring, due to snowfall.
So, how about an onsen trip to the mountains?