Ginzan Onsen. When an unexpected trip out of town can turn into a pleasant surprise.
Japan is a country rich in places capable of leaving a mark for their simple and natural beauty. Ginzan Onsen is an example.
No mall, no department store, no starred restaurant. Just a small group of Ryokan (traditional Japanese hotels) gathered around the flow of a river, on the delicate hills of Yamagata prefecture.
The name “Ginzan” could have misled you.
We are not in the most fashionable and rich area of Tokyo. Instead, we are in a small Onsengai who, in order to be reached, requires the voluntary guidance of very kind retired grandpa, and a 60s van that struggles to climb the mountain. (Car cannot circulate and, if it wasn’t for their help, reaching by foot would take lots of time).
The Onsengai are small and silent towns made up mainly of Ryokan, which offer accommodation, food, but above all, natural Onsen. They are the ideal places where Japanese couples retire during the weekend to escape from the chaos of the city and work, or where pensioned spend a few days of well-deserved rest.
Only by walking through the streets of these small “towns” you will fell bring back in that dreamed Japan, made up of kimonos, Zen gardens, traditional music and, impressive wooden buildings. Suggestive Ryokna in fact, give vitality to an area completely immersed in nature that, every month, is colored by the different seasons.
The name Ginzan means “Silver”, and is linked to the presence of mines scattered among the mountains that surround it (not far from the center it is possible to visit one, built over 500 years ago). To find them, just follow the main road and, after passing a picturesque 22-meter waterfall, take the marked path that will transport you through a beautiful and dense vegetation.
If you decide to make only one day visit, you can relax in one of the two public Onsen or simply immerse your feet in the special small pools called “warashiyu” in which an (unexpected) hot thermal water will allow you to relax (just if your tolerance level of hot is high).
The first Ryokan was built in 1689, a period in which the silver mines started to be closed and the area began to be famous for his thermal resort. After the flood of 1913, however, the city was completely destroyed and rebuilt in 1925 with the structures still present.
At a glance, you will notice that all of Ginzan Onsen’s buildings reflect traditional Japanese architecture: exposed wood, white plaster walls and pointed roofs. All buildings except one.
At the center of the complex, in fact, there is the Fujita Ryokan, a hotel recently rebuilt by the famous architect Kuma Kengo. If the idea of having a modern building in the middle of tradition makes you feel unhappy, know that this Hotel is perfectly incorporated with the surrounding environment thanks to its traditional design.
If, on the contrary, you are fascinated by the idea of this structure, you will be impressed even more by its interior. A true work of art.
Reaching Ginzan Onsen
Reaching Ginzan Onsen will take time, especially if you are in Tokyo. I therefore advise you to add it to your travel stages only if you intend to visit the north of the country and in particular the prefecture of Yamagata.
If instead you have a llok at this magical place, maybe spending the night in one of its Ryokan, here are the directions from Tokyo:
From Tokyo Station -> JR Yamagata Shinkansen to Oishida Station. In Oishida you can take a bus that will take you to Ginzan Onsen.
Have a good trip
Ele & Yo