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Oyu Onsen Town
Oyu Onsen is located just east of Koide in Uonuma City, Niigata Prefecture. Uonuma boasts six ski and snowboard resorts, but what makes Oyu Onsen so special is the number of ryokan within walking distance of the ski slope. The area enjoys incredibly heavy snowfall each year, and the winter sports abound.
After visiting the Secchu Hanamizuiwai Festival, which is only a station away, I made my way to Koide Station and hopped on the bus towards Oyu Onsen, to enjoy a relaxing soak in the rotemburo (outdoor bath) and a good nights sleep in my traditional tatami room.
The Onsen Ryokan
I stayed at Murakami-ya Ryokan, which was a welcome rest, after having spent the day standing in the cold. The ryokan provided me with a comfortable room, warm bathes, and a delicious breakfast, as well as a free shuttle bus to Koide Station the next day. The ryokan is part of the Oyu Onsen hot spring resort, and is very foreigner friendly. Not only do they have an English website here.
But they also have English maps of the building in the elevator, to easily find you’re way around.
The Ryokan also boasts a karaoke room, (which unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to try) two private bath onsens, a large bathing room, and an outdoor bath.
They have both Western and Japanese style rooms, as well as party options, and seasonal options for tours of the surrounding area. In the winter you can purchase a ski pass to Okutadami Maruyama Ski Resort as part of your accommodation for a discount, and during the warmer months you can purchase round trip tickets to Oze National Park along with your accommodation. Check out their website for more information.
After checking in to the ryokan, I was led to my room, a Japanese style tatami room outfitted with yukata (often people wear them to the onsen, or while walking around the building), extra quilts, a rack to dry my clothes on and a personal bathroom. I was a bit overwhelmed by the size of it. The tatami room alone was bigger than my entire apartment, but regardless of the size it was comfortable, warm, and a futon had already been prepared for me. I gratefully stripped off my wet ski gear, grabbed a towel, and headed to the private women’s onsen which was located on the 2nd floor in the basement.
The Private Onsen
The private onsen were located on the second floor, in the basement of the building, and they didn’t require any sort of reservation, which was a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around. Instead, I was told to simply knock on the door and see if it was available for use. It was open, so I ventured inside, making sure to lock the door behind me.
The room was small, but very comfortable. I had never been in a private bath before. The intimacy of the small space, the darkened lighting and stone walkway lining the tub, created a very unique atmosphere. The water wasn’t quite as hot as other onsen I have tried, and after my cold day I would have preferred something hotter, but despite this, the solitude and peace worked their magic. I was warm, relaxed, and ready to sleep.
The next morning I woke up bright and early, but before setting off on my next adventure I had a chance to try the rotemburo bath, or outdoor bath, which was unique to this ryokan. Not all of the onsen in Oyu Onsen town feature an outdoor bath, which makes Murikami-ya Ryokan a bit special in this regard.
I have always preferred the outdoor baths because of the beautiful views, and the fresh air, a wonderful compliment to the hot water. They are often placed in high places, or next to rivers, so the atmosphere is usually very relaxing as well.
I had made reservations the night before so I stopped at the check in counter after waking up in the morning. There I found my name and reservation time printed on a slip of paper next to the bath key. Feeling confident (I had studied the elevator map extensively) I grabbed the key and rode the elevator to the eighth floor before disembarking.
There were two curtains, one blue denoting the men’s tub and one red, the women’s tub. Confused (I had thought this was a private bath!) I checked inside the women’s room. This led to the large women’s bathing room. I warily tried my key in an unmarked door across the hall. It didn’t fit, and I was pretty sure the bath wouldn’t be squeezed into a closet.
Feeling a bit flustered and deflated I turned toward the elevator to head back to the lobby and ask the desk clerk. That was when I saw it, a THIRD curtain! It was green, and marked with the same kanji (Japanese characters) printed on my key. I had found it!
I pushed back the curtain and made my way up the last flight of stairs to the outdoor bath. Unfortunately the weather was incredibly snowy, and visibility was low, but I can only imagine how beautiful the view must be in summer or autumn. I was happy to just enjoy my warm soak, while snowflakes settled on my head and shoulders.
After my dip in the rotenburo I found my way to the third floor for breakfast. The meal was included in my accommodation fee, and after my morning bath I was incredibly hungry.
The room was large, and each table had a room number placed on it. I found my way to room 717, where already there was a large array of food prepared. Natto, baked fish, miso soup, salad, soft-boiled egg, rice, and boiled vegetables were prepared and dished out to each guest. The meal was huge and I was forced to leave some of it behind, but it was a healthy and hearty way to start my day.
Usually dinner is also provided in the accommodation fee, but because of the time I arrived I was not able to enjoy an evening meal. However usually, dinner is the real treat. Be sure to get to your ryokan on time so you have the chance to try the famous local rice, as well as wild vegetables, meat and grilled river fish lovingly prepared by the ryokan staff.
The Oyu Onsen Town
While I waited for the shuttle bus to arrive and take me back to Koide Station, I had the chance to wander around Oyu Onsen a bit. The area surrounding Murakami-ya Ryokan was quite charming. Everything was built onto steep hills (although that could have just been the giant piles of snow) and I found my way to some of the other nearby bathhouses. Not too far away I found an outdoor foot bath, with small minnows darting around in the water. I was tempted to try it out, but the thought of taking off my boots and socks in the frigid air made me change my mind.
I followed the curving path that led back to the main street, the roads were lined with different hot spring houses, and other ryokan similar to mine. From the road I could see the ski lifts on the nearby mountain.
I also learned that in the summer time, Oyu Onsen Town sets up a local outdoor beer garden in the small loop of buildings. So be sure to make a trip in summer to check it out.
Take the Joetsu Shinkansen to Urasa Station.
Take the JR Joetsu Line bound for Nagaoka. Get off at Koide Station.
By Bus, From Koide Station :
You can take the Minami Echigo Bus bound for Tochiomata Onsen or Oyu Onsen.
The bus stops at the first bus stop from the entrance of Koide Station (There are only 2 bus stops in front of the station).
Get off the bus at Oyu Onsen and it takes about 20 minutes), and walk straight for about 300 meters towards a large white sign on the side of the road.
By Shuttle Bus:
Alternatively, you can request a shuttle bus from Koide Station when you make your reservations with Murakami-ya Ryokan. Just let them know the time you wish to be picked up, and there will be a blue and white shuttle bus waiting to pick you up.
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|Address||304 Oyuonsen, Uonuma 946-0088, Niigata Prefecture|
304 Oyuonsen, Uonuma 946-0088, Niigata Prefecture
|Opening Hours||15:00 - checkin|
|Price Range||9,000 - 15,000 yen per person|