Honzawa Onsen: Japan’s Highest Rotenburo

Soaking up the Atmosphere at 2,150 metres

Having recently travelled over Nobeyama Station the highest train station in Japan (1,345 m) I was fortunate again last week to kick back in the country’s highest outdoor hot spring (rotenburo) at a lofty 2,150 metres (7,050 feet). Located in a somewhat inhospitable river valley beneath the Yatsugatake mountains in Nagano Prefecture, the Honzawa Onsen measures little more than 2 x 3 metres (6.5 ft x 10 ft). Accommodating up to five adults, in its sulphur infused waters it remains a year around drawcard especially during the winter months where solitude is almost guaranteed. Being a mixed open air rotenburo with no discernible changing area means it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but for a quintessentially Japanese experience it’s hard to go past. The downside of its remoteness means getting to the hot spring generally necessitates an overnight stay at the Honzawa Onsen campsite or mountain lodge.

  Access: from Koumi Station (JR Koumi Line) take a bus for Inagoyu Hot Spring and get off at the Lake Midori bus stop (780 yen). From here it’s a 3.5-hour hike which passes by Lake Midori. Entry fee 600 yen.
Sign post for the open air bath
Sign post for the open air bath.

Rather precarious path to the rotenburo
Rather precarious path down to the rotenburo.

Sulphur infused waters
Honzawa Onsen’s sulphur infused waters.

View up the river valley
View up the eroded river valley.

Wooden planks to retain heat
Wooden planks to retain the heat.

Japans highest outdoor rotenburo
Japans highest outdoor rotenburo at 2,150 metres.