Category Archives: Tips and FAQ

Japan Expressway Pass: Exclusive Expressway Discount Pass for International Visitors

Previously, we wrote an article about how traveling by rental car gives you significantly more options on how to enjoy yourself once you arrive in a hot spring area, since there are many picturesque sightseeing locations around hot spring areas like ours that are inaccessible by public transportation.

Today, we wanted to share some more delightful news for international visitors who plan to travel Japan by rental car!

Starting October 13, 2017, you can purchase a pass that allows you unlimited access to expressways all across Japan.
It’s called the Japan Expressway Pass, and it will cost 20,000 yen for 7 days or 34,000 yen for 14 days of unlimited access.

The pass will be available at 275 rental car shops across Japan.
Unfortunately, you cannot purchase the pass in Gunma Prefecture, which is where Shima Onsen is located.
However, it will be available at rental car shops in Haneda Airport and Narita Airport, which are the airports closest to Shima Onsen, as well as in other major international airports.

Japan Expressway Pass Shop List

People with non-Japanese passports and Japanese citizens with permanent residence in other countries will be eligible to use this pass.
(Please note that you will also need a driver’s license that allows you to drive in Japan.)

All you need to do in advance is reserve an expressway electronic toll collection (ETC) card and a rental car that is compatible with the Japanese Expressway Pass from a shop that offers the pass.

Pick up your rental car from the shop on the day of your reservation, and please enjoy a pleasant journey by car.

(Please note that the pass cannot be used on expressways in certain areas, such as the Tokyo metropolitan area or Hokkaido.)

Traveling Japan by car allows you to enjoy the countryside that cannot be accessed by public transportation, so your trip is sure to be a deeply memorable one!

Japan Expressway Pass: Click here for more details

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

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Fascinating less traveled countryside and rural areas in Japan

shima onsen
‘Sekizenkan’ in Shima Onsen, one of the model of ‘Spirited Away’ movie

Lately, tourists from foreign countries seem to like to go to the countryside, or rural areas more than sticking to the “golden route” in Japan.

Outline

Traditionally, the places that tourists from foreign countries visit are famous cities or tourists destinations, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Mt.Fuji, Hokkaido, and Okinawa.

But recently, the number of tourists, especially individual travelers who prefer countryside or rural area to such famous spots is increasing.

The Japanese government is encouraging this trend to help reactivate rural areas.

Shima Onsen is an ideal place where visitors can enjoy an authentic onsen culture with a peaceful atmosphere in the countryside.

Also Shima Onsen is easy accessible from Tokyo.

enjoy bikes
Shima Onsen town

Text

The total number of lodgers who came from foreign countries to Japan reached a record 70 million in 2016.

80% of them stayed in descending order in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Okinawa, Chiba, Fukuoka, Aichi and Kanagawa prefecture.

Most of these regions are known for sightseeing, and are destinations on the “Golden Route”.
Meanwhile, the numbers of lodgers staying in Gunma prefecture where Shima Onsen is were just 210,000, 0.3% of the total.
(From the statistical survey by Japan Tourism Agency)

To get more visitors from foreign countries, we the managers of small onsen ryokans in the countryside are working hard to attract them.

The Japanese government helps us by promoting rural areas as nice places to visit and also help enhance community revitalization.

For example, according to ‘Tourism Vision to Support the Future of Japan’ drawn up by the Japan Tourism Agency in 2016, the Japanese government is actively making a plan which aims to double the number of foreign tourists visiting the countryside in Japan by 2020.

With this, the amount of money spent by foreign tourists in Japan is estimated to more than double from about JPY 3.5 trillion in 2015 to JPY 8 trillion by 2020.
(From the survey by the Japan Tourism Agency & Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management)

The Japan Tourism Agency gives tourists information about recommended tourist routes in the countryside, such as hot spring tours, visiting Japanese Sake breweries.

The Japanese government has started to support improvements to local areas which encourage foreign tourism.

Fish market, Ishikawa Pref.

Questionnaires filled out by foreign tourists who visited Japan for the first time showed that the tours they would like to do next were ones in which they could experience nature, fishing or rural areas, the four seasons, Japanese history, and the traditional cultures in the countryside.

This indicates they take more interest in the countryside and rural areas in Japan.
(From the survey by the Japan Tourism Agency)

There are many kinds of regional unique sceneries, food cultures, and onsen cultures in Japan.

Japan has wide range of climate conditions because of its length from north to south.

Japan also has a long history.
This history and climate affect the Japanese culture and landscape which can still be seen in the countryside and rural areas, but is sometimes difficult to see in the urban environment.

rural area
Magome-shuku in Gifu
Shibu-Toge, Gunma pref.

For example, you can enjoy beautiful nature like the amazing blue water of the Shima river which is called “Shima Blue“, In this region you can experience onsen culture as it was after the war, feel a peaceful atmosphere not found in big cities, and communicate with the warm hearted people of Shima Onsen.

Shima Blue (Oku-Shima lake)

However, we have some problems we have to resolve when hosting foreign tourists who don’t speak Japanese.

Public transportation information for coming to the countryside is insufficient.

We need more signs and guides in English and other foreign languages.

Currently we are developing communication systems like Wi-Fi in the countryside.

People in the countryside may not understand English. They may only speak Japanese.

Still, the countryside and rural areas in Japan are worth visiting.

We would like you to visit the traditional Japanese countryside in your next trip to Japan.

We are sure it will enhance your Japanese experience.

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

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Let’s travel to Shima Onsen with a money-saving Japan Rail Pass

JR express KUSATSU
JR express KUSATSU

Shima Onsen is in a rural Onsen resort area near Tokyo ( about 150 km north of Tokyo).

There are several ways to get from Tokyo to Shima Onsen; by expressway bus direct to Shima Onsen, car, or a combination of train and bus.
(See ACCESS & MAP link in the blog).

Coming to Shima Onsen by the rail and bus option can be very economical if foreign travelers use one of Japan Rail (JR) passes available to them.

These passes are exclusively for non-resident foreign tourists, and offer excellent value for the money.

We would like to introduce you to the available JR passes with which you can enjoy unlimited train travel (on available routes) around Shima Onsen area.

We would like you to find a JR pass that matches your travel plans. We hope you can enjoy your travels in Japan with one of these bargain passes.
Continue reading

Details Access to Shima Onsen : Approximately 3 Hours from Tokyo

Onsen Ryokan entrance

“Shima Onsen” is closer from Tokyo, where you can enjoy old-fashioned country taste of Japan. It is an Onsen resort, where we live.

Shima Onsen is located in Gunma Prefecture, which is at Kanto region in Honshu in Japan. It is located at approximately 150km in a straight line from Tokyo.

It will take about 3 hours by trains, a direct bus, cars, and so on to visit us.

Here is the detailed guide for the access.

Train and Local Bus

Train map to Shima Onsen

Continue reading

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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Japan Romantic Road: Would you like to travel countryside In Japan by a car?

Mount Asama, Shima to Karuizawa
Mount Asama, Shima Onsen to Karuizawa

Overview

If you have been visited Japan several times and are thinking to drive in Japan, Japan Romantic Road is recommended.

Japan romantic road
Japan romantic road

Japan Romantic Road is a rural road with the total length of 320 km (200 mile), which connects Nikko, Tochigi and Ueda, Nagano, through our Gunma.

Our Shima Onsen is located around the middle of the road.

There are many sightseeing spots, such as rural Japanese landscape, three national parks, lakes, mountains, Onsen, ruins, and much more.

If you would run through all the route, it will take at least 2 nights and 3 days.

But if you spend more time, you can much more enjoy rural Japan and highlands. So you will get more satisfied. Continue reading

Enjoy Hanami at Shima Onsen! When is the best time to see cherry blossoms here?

Sakura in Shima Onsen

“Hanami” is Japanese traditional custom, which means to admire cherry blossoms.

It is not an exaggeration to say that all Japanese are looking forward to the time of cherry blossom.

Sakura 2015

We, living at Shima Onsen, are not an exception. We always talk about Ohanami when It comes to a cherry blossom season at Tokyo (late March), such as “When do cherry blossoms at Shima Onsen bloom?”, “Do they bloom beautiful this year also?”, “When should we do Ohanami this year? “, and so on.

There is no so-called “Ohanami attractions” at Shima Onsen, where all over the place is covered with cherry blossoms.

Instead, there are various kinds of cherry blossoms bloom in mountains, such as wild cherry trees, weeping cherry trees, Yoshino cherry trees, double cherries, and so on.

They dye mountains with pink dots and tell the arrival of spring to the mountain village.

Sakura at Kashiwaya Ryokan

You can view weeping cherry trees from private open-air baths of Kashiwaya Ryokan.
You can also enjoy Yoshino cherry trees planted on the front riverbanks from deck terraces.

Sakura at Shima Onsen town

In addition, you can enjoy double cherries at the Shima Onsen town.

The double cherries around “old Nakanojo Municipal third elementary school,” an old wooden school building that had been closed down, are very impressive.

林昌寺のシダレサクラ

Nakanojo

A weeping cherry tree at “Rinshoji,” an old temple near Nakanojo Station which is the nearest station of Shima Onsen, has height of 16m and is spectacular.

It has been designated as a natural monument of the town.

The altitude of Shima Onsen is about 650m, so the flowering period of cherry blossoms is later than that of around Tokyo, even it is at the same Kanto region.

Weeping cherry tree at “Rinshoji” near Nakanojo Station is for about 15 days from April 10.

Within Shima Onsen, wild cherry tree, weeping cherry tree, and Yoshino cherry tree are about 25 days from April 20, and double cherries are about 10 days from May 5.

(The full bloom season changes depend on the weather of the year.)

Please enjoy cherry blossoms slowly at Shima Onsen!

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

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Please Use These Images When You Get Lost from Tokyo to Shima Onsen

UsefulImages

When you go to Shima Onsen by the public transportation, you may get lost or cannot find way easily, even though you looked for the way in advance.

Then, here’s what you can utilize.

Download these images in advance then you’re ready!

Please utilize these images.

When you get on a highway bus, Shima Onsen-go, from Tokyo

Direct bus from Tokyo

When go to a bus stop from Tokyo Station.

I want to go to a highway bus stop in front of “Seven Eleven Nihonbashi 3 Chome Shop” on Tokyo Yaesu Street.

AT Tokyo station,Yaesu

Once you get on a bus (show this Image to a driver)

Dear a driver of Shima Onsen-go,
Thank you for driving a bus for our customer.
He/she is our customer.
He/she is getting off at Onsen-guchi.
Please take care of him/she.

Shima Onsen Go

When you take Shinkansen, JR Agatsuma Line, and a bus

Hokuriku Shinkansen

I’m heading to Kashiwaya Ryokan at Shima Onsen, Gunma.
I use Shinkansen to Takasaki Station.
From Takasaki Station to Nakanojo Station, I use JR Azuma Line.
I get on a bus bound for Shima Onsen and get off at Seiryu-no-yu bust stop.

From Tokyo by Shinkansen

When you take an express, Kusatsu-go, from Ueno

Limited Express Kusatsu

I’m heading to Kashiwaya Ryokan at Shima Onsen, Gunnma.
I use JR express “Kusatsu-go” from Ueno Station to Nakanojo Station.
I get on a bus bound for Shima Onsen and get off at Seiryu-no-yu bust stop.

From Tokyo by Express train

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

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How to get the direct round trip bus from Tokyo

Direct bus from TokyoDirect bus bound for Shima Onsen departs at from near Tokyo Station. (Tokyo Yaesu street)

We have a package plan including this bus, dinner breakfast and bed.

Package with bus, dinner and breakfast

This is the bus information

1) Time schedule:

Tokyo to Shima Onsen
#1 9:00 12:30
#2 10:40 14:25 (during winter to spring )

Shima Onsen to Tokyo
#1 10:45 14:45(during winter to spring )
#2 13:45 17:30

2) Bus stop at Tokyo:

When you get on the bus with our bus package, you don’t need the tickets.

Please tell your name to the driver or show this image.

Shima Onsen Go

The map of the bus stop at Tokyo is below,

The bus stop is in front of Seven-Eleven Nihon-Bashi 3cyoume shop.

The address is
3 Chome-4-13 Nihonbashi,Chuo-ku Tokyo.

AT Tokyo station,Yaesu

Because that bus is the public bus, it will stay only a few minutes at the bus-stop.
So please wait with margin.

“ETC Card” is essential when using a rental car in Japan

ETC card

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.

When you travel by a rental car, you will utilize the highway network that covers every corner of Japan.

As highways in Japan are paid, it is recommended to obtain ETC( Electronic Toll Collection ) card, which is useful to pay the fee.

Concerning ETC card, refer to the following link.
http://www.go-etc.jp/english/index.html

How to obtain the ETC card; there is a rental service for short-term users.

As English is available, you can rent an ETC card for 324JPY per day (February 2016 currently) also at Toyota Rental Car that I recommended in the previous blog.

Just set the ETC card in a vehicle-mounted device, then it automatically calculate fees. So you just liquidate collectively when you return the car.

They often sell valuable ETC cards, which are season limited or region limited.
http://www.go-etc.jp/english/expressway/index.html

When you rent a car, rent an ETC card at the same time. Then enjoy the drive travel !

Related article:
Let’s go to Shima Onsen by a rental car! You’ll have more fun!
Drive trip in a car. Watch out road closures during winter.

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

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