Category Archives: Shima Onsen

Shima Onsen and Spirited Away – a Surprising Connection

Sekizenkan Honkan
Sekizenkan Honkan

Did you know that right here at Shima Onsen, there is a building said to be have inspired the setting for the famous animated film, Spirited Away? Today we’re going to talk about the little-known connection between Spirited Away and Shima Onsen.

Manga, TV anime, and animated films are one aspect of Japanese culture that we Japanese are very proud of. One Piece, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Captain Tsubasa are just a few examples of manga and anime titles that are popular all around the world. And you often hear Studio Ghibli, the producer of so many feature-length animated masterpieces, touted as one of the most beloved names in Japanese animation.

Among Studio Ghibli’s many works, Spirited Away (winner of Best Animated Feature Film at the 75th Academy Awards) is one of the most famous of all. The setting for this movie is the supernatural bathhouse for spirits called “Aburaya,” run by the witch Yubaba.

In the book, Ghibli no kyokasho 12 (the Spirited Away volume in a series of books about Ghibli films), it says that “there is no specific bathhouse in existence on which Aburaya’s design was based.” Despite this, the question of where director Miyazaki got his inspiration from is a question of great interest to the Japanese.

The Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum and the Meguro Gajoen hotel are commonly believed to have influenced Spirited Away, and even Studio Ghibli recognizes this influence. Among other locations said to have influenced Spirited Away are Dogo Onsen Honkan, Shibu Onsen Kanaguya, Tsurumaki Onsen Jinya, and finally Sekizenkan Honkan, located here in Shima Onsen.

Shima Onsen’s Sekizenkan Honkan, designated one of Gunma’s Important Cultural Properties, was built in 1691 and is said to be the oldest wooden bathhouse (Ryokan) in Japan. As such, the nostalgic atmosphere of the period is perfectly preserved there. As an Important Cultural Property of Japan with as much prestige as Nikko’s Yakushido, Sekizenkan Honkan is one of the most historically significant structures in Shima Onsen.

Sekizenkan Honkan
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Shima Onsen Ale, Shima’s Original Craft Beer

Shima Onsen Ale beer

Many of us enjoy travelling all around the world, and there’s one drink you can find just about anywhere you go. That’s right – beer!

I myself never miss a chance to try the local beer, no matter what country I’m in. In Japan, Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo, and Suntory are the four biggest breweries, and the most popular beers among them are, of course, Kirin Ichiban Shibori and Asahi Super Dry.

But here at Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan, we have much more than your standard beers; on top of Kirin and Asahi, you can enjoy Yebisu on tap or “Shima Onsen Ale,” our very own locally brewed beer and the feature of today’s blog post.

As the name implies, Shima Onsen Ales are ale-style beers made in Shima Onsen. Shima Onsen Ale brews the following 3 beers, listed from palest to darkest:
– Blond     Maya Hime
– Amber     Oketsu
– Stout     Yoru no Otozure

Shima Onsen Ale line-up

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Winter in Japan: Open-air Onsen, Scenic Snowscapes, Skiing and More!

SnowInShimaOnsen

As we’ve written before on our blog (see links below), the Japanese take pride in the distinct charm of each of the four seasons.

The cherry blossoms of spring and the dazzling autumn leaves, the electrifying buzz of the cicadas in summer and the calm, sheer white snow of winter beckoning you to come play!

Hanami
Autumn Leaves

The winter season is upon us now, so you may be asking yourself: what is there to do here in Japan? Well, let us give you just a few ideas!

In winter, you can enjoy snowy landscapes stretching over a wide range in Japan, from Hokkaido in the far north to the more central Northern Kanto where Shima Onsen and our Kashiwaya Ryokan are located. Although it depends on the conditions in each region, generally the snow season is from December until March.

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Nakanojo Biennale , Contemporary Art Exhibition

Nakanojo biennale

Nakanojo biennale

Nakanojo Biennale is a big contemporary art festival held once in two years at Shima Onsen and it’s around town, Nakanojo with a theme of “Celebration of Onsen + Home + Art.”

Pictures, sculptures, and photos are exhibited at everywhere at Shima Onsen town and Nakanojo town, such as no longer used old wooden school buildings.

In addition, there are various workshops and performances are held during the period.

In 2017, 154 groups of artists will be invited from September 9 to October 9.

Sawatari Onsen Art

It will require about three days and two nights to move by a car and enjoy thoroughly the arts widely exhibited at the city of around Nakanojo Station, onsen town of Shima Onsen and Sawatari Onsen, Kuni and Isama districts, which have been certified as the most beautiful villages in Japan.

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Dinner Menu for Winter is now available.

There are lots of delicious vegetables in Gunma.

Including those vegetables, lots of prefecture’s and winter ingredients are combined, such as Gunma Ueno village pork & boar, Sakekasu of Kimusume, Okkirikomi.

1.Aperitif
Japanese Sake based plum liquor

2. Kashiwaya Original dish
Konnyaku & Hanamame

3. Small bowl
Walnut Tofu with soy sauce paste

4. Grilled dish (served later)
Grilled duck and Ebiimo taro with Jyukkoku Miso and magnolia leaf

5. Center Plate
Shima Onsen grill of seasonal vegetables with Kimusume Sakekasu(Sake lees) dip

6. Boiled Dish
Yuba and shrimp steamed bun,served with garlandchrysanthemum

7. Hot pot
Okkirikomi style hot-pot with Inobuta and Gunma Vegetables

8.Small dish
Monkfish liver steamed with sake

9. Boiled rice
Rice with Maitake mushroom

10. Soup (served later)
Japanese dashi soup with Spanish mackerel Manju

11. Pickled Vegetables

12. Dessert
Tsumagoi Yogurt Mousse, Wasanbon lusk and Rose wine flavored berry Sauce

Torioi Matsuri (Bird Catcher Festival) and Dondo Fire Festival

Torioi Matsuri

There are some traditional festivals that have spread around at Shima Onsen and around Nakanojo.

As for them, I will introduce at this blog gradually.

Today, I will write about “Torioi Matsuri” (Bird Catcher Festival) and ” Dondo Fire Festival “.

Torioi Matsuri (Bird Catcher Festival)

Torioi Matsuri is the biggest festival in this area which is held every year on January 14th mainly in the shopping district around Nakanojo station in 20 minutes by a car and bus from Shima onsen.

It is a heroic festival, where many big drum floats come out and young people walk around while making cheerful sound.

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Drive trip in a car. Watch out road closures during winter.

Drive in Winter

In my previous blog, I wrote an article to recommend using a rental car for traveling areas close to airports and major cities, such as onsen near Tokyo.

By using a rental car, you can travel more freely at the destination suburbs.

Gradually more and more foreign customers also visit our Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan by rental cars.

For such customers, watch road closures information during winter.

Our Shima Onsen is located in Gunma, which is next to Shibu-Yudanaka Onsen in Nagano famous with snow monkeys, Tochigi with Nikko, Niigata with Naeba Ski Resort and so on.

The boundaries between those prefectures often pass through mountain roads.

In addition, some of main roads are closed during winter due to snow.

Kashiwaya winter scene

Also on the other day, a customer tried to visit us by a rental car from Nagano side.

But he had to take significant detour as the planned road was closed during winter.

Since this kind of information is hardly transmitted to customers overseas, it will be a sudden problem when they try to visit us with GPS and maps.

Although you can obtain information in Japanese through Japan Road Traffic Information Center, it seems that they do not transmit the information in English.

The winter road closures, which seem to be related to customers to Shima Onsen, are the following two sectors.

Route 292, From mid-November to late April
It is a road, which passes from Shibu-Yudanaka Onsen in Nagano famous with snow monkeys to Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma, through Shiga Kogen.

Route 120, From late December to late April
It is a road, which passes from Nikko in Tochigi with Nikko to Katashina in Gunma, through Konsei Toge.

If you’re planning to drive to snowy places during winter, obtain winter road closure information in advance and act with spare time, such as by inquiring to hotels and ryokan you are planning to stay.

Related article:
Let’s go to Shima Onsen by a rental car! You’ll have more fun!
“ETC Card” is essential when using a rental car in Japan

If you interested in Japanese style Onsen, Please click here
Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan >

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Autumn leaves. The Japanese natural highlights, along with cherry-blossom viewing

Autumn leaves

Oku-shima area

Japan has distinctive four seasons of spring, summer, fall and winter.

In addition, Japanese people have been strongly rooted to cherish the change of seasons.

It can be shown in Kigo of Haiku.

There is a way to express seasons, called “24 Seasons,” which has divided the four seasons further into 24 seasons.

We are really enjoying the change of seasons.

Although we can enjoy spring, summer, fall, and winter in Japan, among them, the highlights are cherry blossom viewing in spring and autumn leaves in fall.

Autumn leave season is a popular tourism season for both customers from overseas and from Japan, as well as cherry blossom season in spring.

The best season of autumn leaves starts from around mid-September at high altitude places and Hokkaido.
In Kyushu, you can enjoy it until mid-December.

Ochiai street

Shima Gawa river

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Shima Blue is the treasure of Shima Onsen, which we are proud of in the world

Shima Blue at Okushima lake

As you can know because it is inside Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, Shima Onsen is the treasure box with rich nature.

In addition, among the nature at Shima Onsen, we are proud of the color of the water of Shima Gawa River the most. We call it “Shima Blue.”

We cannot expressed it in words. Because it is amazing blue that can be seen only here, please visit it once.

Shima blue

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