Kame (Turtle) Room Introduction – a Room with an Open-Air Onsen Bath

open-air onsen bath

Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan underwent a large-scale renovation in March 2021.
We would like to introduce a newly refurbished room.
Please refer to it for your next trip to Japan.

Today, I would like to introduce one of the two guest rooms, Kame, which features an open-air private onsen bath.(the other is Hana)
It is popular among customers, especially from overseas.

It used to be located on the first floor and now has a new appearance on the second floor after being fully renovated.
It provides our guests with a Japanese-style room the size of ten tatami mats and a Showa-retro-style veranda.
It also has a shower room and an open-air onsen bath, using fresh hot spring water (natural onsen), located on the terrace.
It also features a walk-in closet. It has sets of Japanese-style beds (futons), wrapping you in a comfortable and warm atmosphere.
On the terrace, the open-air bathtub is made of a tree considered treasured in Japan, a kiso-hinoki, accommodating you with a pleasant aroma and a warm ambience.

Japanese style room

There is also a separate shower booth. This Japanese-style room features tatami mats and has a low table, floor decorations, and an alcove made by local craftsmen.

The name of the room, Kame, means “turtle.” There is a Japanese proverb that says, “a crane is 1000 years, and a turtle is ten million years.” The turtle is said to be a happy animal which symbolises longevity.

Have a pleasant stay during your holiday in the new room, Kame, with its open-air bath while warming yourself in the hot spring in this stunning countryside onsen resort.

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


Hana (Flower) Room Introduction – a Room with an Open-Air Onsen Bath

Onsen bath of Hana room

Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan underwent a large-scale renovation in March 2021.
We would like to introduce a newly refurbished room.
Please refer to it for your next trip to Japan.

Today, I would like to introduce one of the two guest rooms, Hana, with an open-air onsen bath (the other is Kame).

The name of the room, Hana, means “flower.” It is the most popular room that features an open-air bath flowing from a local spring hot water (natural onsen) source.
It also has a Japanese-style living room with low twin beds.It had minor renovations to extend the bedroom, without changing the standard layout, to make your stay more comfortable.

Twin bed room - Hana
Twin bed room
Japanese style room
Japanese style living room

This compact yet relaxing Japanese-style room has a round-shaped brazier table made by a local craftsman.
The twin bedroom is more spacious than before, so you can store large-sized luggage without it taking up too much space in the room.
It is also beautifully decorated with a framed picture. Its pattern is the same as those used to dye kimonos during the Meiji era.

The retro mosaic tiles are used in the open-air bath using fresh, natural hot spring water.
You can see the mountains of Shima Onsen with different appearances depending on the season, such as fresh greenery in spring, red leaves in autumn, and snowy scenery in winter.

Have a pleasant and comfortable stay in the newly-refurbished room, Hana, with an open-air bath while warming yourself in the hot spring during your Shima onsen holiday.

Book the Hana room with an open-air bath

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


How to Take an Onsen?|8 Rules & Manners of Japanese Onsen

Onsen rules

Today, we will be introducing the etiquette of visiting hot springs(Onsen) in Japan.

It is no exaggeration to say that Japan is known as the World No.1 hot spring country.
There are 2983 Onsen (hot spring) towns, and there are 27297 hot spring locations all over Japan.

There is a description about hot springs in Japan’s oldest history book, ‘Kojiki’, that was compiled in 700 A.D. From this we can tell that hot spring culture has been with Japanese people for a long time.

In the long history of Onsen, Japan’s own hot spring culture has changed, and in that culture, there are manners and etiquette that people follow to try not to cause any troubles for other hot spring users.

Let’s see the manners and etiquette of using hot springs in Japan with a little bit of jokes then!

Onsen etiquette and rules

Before that…
So many people are questioning whether they can go to hot springs in Japan if they have a tattoo.
We, ‘Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan’, are tattoo friendly. Therefore, anyone with or without tattoos can enjoy all of our hot springs. However, there can be no doubt that many hot spring places do not accept people with tattoos.
Please read the article ‘hot spring and tattoo’ for the further details.

Let’s see the manners and etiquette!

No swim suits

Go Naked! No swim suit.
It is Japanese traditional culture of Japan, everyone goes into a bath together
Don’t be shameful!
Let’s enjoy together Onsen Bath!
If you will hesitate, don’t worry because we have three private open air baths.

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Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan will fully reopen with a new appearance in March 2021!

Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan has been undergoing renovation work for the entire building.
It will reopen on March 15, 2021.

It will be remodelled under the theme of “putting on light makeup” while keeping the great atmosphere of Kashiwaya Ryokan.

Details on the refurbishing project are below.

Floor Plan

1. The guest room with an open-air bath “Kame” will be fully renovated. It is one of our two rooms with an open-air bath. It will be relocated from the first floor to the second floor and will provide our guests with more space with a comfortable ambience.
It will be made of Japanese Kiso cypress for our guests’ satisfaction by wrapping you in the stylish bathroom’s warm atmosphere.

2. An eagerly awaited new Japanese-style room with a footbath on the terrace is here.
It is “Hikari” with a footbath on the terrace the size of ten tatami mats. You can overlook the mountain stream of the Shima River from the decked terrace. It gives you a great view of Shima Onsen while soaking in the footbath.

3. The guest room “Hana” with an open-air bath has a new appearance.
One of the two “Hana ” rooms with twin beds have been expanded in size for a more comfortable stay.

4. Newly introduced Japanese twin rooms with a decked terrace are coming. The three rooms (Tsuki, Akatsuki and Yuhi) will be renovated to improve the toilet and water area’s comfort level. It will also become a twin room with tatami mats and low beds, providing more space.

5. Meals are served in a restaurant called “Osyokuji-dokoro.”
We will expand the current dining room to give it semi-private dining rooms. Both dinner and breakfast will be served in the dining room. We will also further enhance the cooking ingredients. We have also dealt with the smell complaint after meals in the guest room, which caused inconvenience. We will accommodate you with a pleasant environment in the room.

6. The second floor’s “Niji” has a private toilet and is exclusively for solo travelers. It will also have a private toilet closest to the private open-air bath, which used to be the size of six tatami mats and didn’t have a bathroom. It is available for individual customers throughout the year. We also have optional futons for one additional person. Along with “Akari,” we have two rooms for solo travelers throughout the year.

We will also renew the interior of the other rooms and public areas and renovate older parts of the building.
The floor plan of the new building is as follows.

We have been working hard to meet your expectations. Please have a pleasant stay at our new Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan!
We look forward to welcoming you all.

Click here to make a reservation.

Please enjoy the construction videos !

Click here to make a reservation.

We Win 2020 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Award !

We, Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan, ranked 7th out of the 25 best Japanese Ryokans, was awarded the Traveller’s Choice Best of the Best in 2020 by one of the world’s largest travel review sites, Trip Advisor.
We have received this award three years in a row from 2018 and 2019, with a total of five awards in the past.

We would like to sincerely thank all of our guests who have stayed at Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan and everyone who has supported us in their own way.

Because of the coronavirus situation, it is still not clear when international travel will retrun to normal. Nevertheless, our staff will work as a team and think outside the box so that we can continually satisfy our guests.

We are most grateful for your continual support.
We look forward to seeing you at Shima Onsen in the near future.
Thank you.
Masuo Kashiwahara, CEO
All staff members

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


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

And you can book the bus by yourself via Japan Bus Online.

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.

The Differences Between ‘Spa,’ ‘Hot Spring,’ and ‘Onsen’

Shima Onsen

When I write about Japanese ‘onsen’ in English, I use the Japanese word ‘onsen’ rather than using any related foreign words such as ‘hot spring’ or ‘spa’ (as referred in this article).
I do this because I hope that the word ‘onsen’ will become a universal common word.
In English, there are similar words, such as ‘spa’ and ‘hot spring.’ Therefore, I’m writing about the differences between the meanings of ‘spa,’ the ‘hot spring,’ and ‘onsen.’

About ‘Spa’

Foot Bath

Firstly, I’ll talk about the meaning of ‘spa.’
As a lot of people might know, the origin of the word ‘spa’ stems from the name of a spa resort in Belgium called ‘spa.’
The definition of the word ‘spa’ in the English Wikipedia is:
A spa is a location where mineral-rich spring water (and sometimes seawater) is used to give medicinal baths. Spa towns or spa resorts (including hot spring resorts) typically offer various health treatments, which are also known as balneotherapy.
spa (Dec. 6, 2019, 12:23UTC+9). In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spa

Therefore, I think that it is used as a health improvement method or a medical treatment method with warm water containing some minerals.
It is very similar to a culture called “Touji”, a custom seen in Japan for a long time.
“Touji” is a body-healing method where you stay in an onsen resort for a relatively long period (one week or more), to soak in an onsen to heal your body. As detailed in this article(5 list of Onsen benefits and effects), Japanese Touji culture has been around four hundreds of years with various healing effects. As a side note, Touji is written in two Chinese characters(湯治), meaning to ‘heal with hot water.’
I think that the spa and the Japanese onsen have a lot in common.
The word “Shima” in our Shima Onsen means “forty-thousand.” In the original meaning, Shima Onsen is said to be an onsen with effects to heal forty-thousand diseases, so it may correctly apply to the definition of the spa.

About ‘Hot Spring’

Hot spring

Secondly, I’ll talk about the meaning of ‘hot spring.’
According to the English Wikipedia: “A hot spring is a spring produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater that rises from the Earth’s crust.”
(Dec. 6, 2019, 12:29 UTC+9). In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_spring

However, there seems to be no clear definition of the water temperature as to whether it can be called a “hot” spring or not, while it always is for the Japanese onsen. It is safe to say that the spring water that has been warmed to some extent by geothermal heat can be called a hot spring.

About ‘Onsen’

private onsen
Kashiwaya’s private open-air onsen

Lastly, I’ll talk about the meaning of ‘Japanese onsen.’
The term ‘onsen’ has various meanings.
The word can refer to the onsen water itself, the (onsen) bath and the (onsen) area, and so on.
The onsen meaning as the onsen water is well-defined in Japan under the onsen law.
The onsen in Japan should meet the regulation set by the law requiring that either the temperature of the water be 25 degrees Celsius or above, or the water has a specified amount of minerals included.

I must mention that our Shima Onsen satisfies the conditions of the onsen law entirely in both terms of the temperature and the minerals.

Compared to the definition of ‘spa’ mentioned earlier, it is not necessarily a natural hot spring; it can also be used as an aesthetic salon amenity for beauty. I think that ‘spa’ and ‘onsen’ are slightly different in their definitions.

The definition of ‘hot spring’ and ‘onsen’ are slightly different as well. The onsen can still be classified as onsen even if the temperature of the water is low, as long as it contains minerals, the rules of which are less strict, compared to the regulation of hot spring.

As I write about the differences between ‘spa,’ ‘hot spring,’ and ‘onsen,’ I think all three are very similar, but not the same.
So, I will continue to use the word “Onsen” mainly rather than the other related terms from the perspective of the distinctive Japanese culture.

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


Tattoo-Friendly Onsens: Will the Day Come When These Become the Norm in Japan?

Tattoo Friendly Onsen


Since our Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan is a tattoo-friendly onsen ryokan, people with tattoos can bathe in all of the available onsens without hindrance.
However, many Japanese onsen spots and bathhouses still forbid entry to those with tattoos, and there are not so many tattoo-friendly onsens.
Will the time come for more and more onsens to cater to people with ink, and will the phrase “tattoo-friendly onsen” itself become obsolete?


Kashiwaya Instagram
tattoo friendly onsen (Kashiwaya Instagram)

In Japan, there is still a stigma attached to those with tattoos because many criminals and anti-social forces had tattoos in the past. As is seen in old Japanese traditional customs, there is an old-age association of people with ink with criminals and anti-social groups.
I wrote about it in my previous article( Are people with tattoos allowed in onsen? ), so I’d be happy if you referred to it.

On the other hand, Japanese bathing culture has long been established where you can take a large bath with others at an onsen or a bathhouse.
In Japan, the word “hadaka-no-tsukiai,” or “naked relationship” in English, means being able to talk and have a close relationship with others at an onsen or a bathhouse. The bath is a place to have excellent communication and functions as a semipublic place.

Because of tattoos marking nefarious elements in Japanese society, they aren’t suitable for these bathhouses as they cannot cater to people with tattoos. For that reason, a large number of onsen ryokans, day-trip onsen facilities, and bathhouses typically have a “no tattoos allowed” policy.
Unfortunately, as of 2019, the number of tattoo-friendly onsens is still limited.

Tattoo inhibit sign at bathhouse entrance

However, times are changing significantly.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the number of travellers visiting Japan from other countries has increased rapidly due to the effects of our national policies. Previously, the number was just under five million a year, but now it is over thirty million annually and has been continuing to rise.

Their purposes for travelling Japan are varied, such as Japanese food, visiting scenic spots, shopping, etc. Bathing in an onsen is also one of the biggest reasons.
Inevitably, the “no tattoos allowed” policy becomes a significant problem for travellers.

So, people discuss it on forums of travel-related websites, such as Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor. “I have tattoos, but can I still enjoy Japanese onsen?” and so on.

The Rugby World Cup was held in Japan this year (2019) and was the first Asian nation ever to hold the World Cup. A lot of leading rugby teams have many athletes who have tattoos as a part of their traditional culture, so the organisation that supervised the competition encouraged the athletes to hide their tattoos in public places. It gained prominent attention as a symbol of cultural conflict. You can find many related articles when you search the phrase “rugby tattoo.”

Many athletes have tattoos, not only rugby players but also other sports players. In preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, which will be held next year (2020), the Japanese government is trying to increase the number of foreign tourists as a significant national policy. We must solve the tattoo problem in onsens urgently.

Unlike the time when most of the onsen spots accommodated mainly Japanese people, now it is time for onsens to relax their policies regarding their clients’ ink to adapt more onsen lovers coming in from all around the globe to seek Japanese onsens.
Otherwise, I am genuinely concerned that our world-famous Japanese onsen culture will close its doors to the world, and only Japanese people will be able to enjoy it.

According to a survey conducted in 2015 by the Japan Tourism Agency, only 30% of onsens and bathhouse facilities were unconditionally tattoo-friendly. I heard that the number has been improving these days.

I strongly hope that “tattoo-friendly onsens” will become the norm in the next few years and this phrase will become obsolete.

open-air onsen
Kashiwaya’s Private Onsen

Lastly, I will introduce tattoo-friendly onsen ryokans, and so on.

Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan – tattoo friendly onsen Ryokan
tattoo-friendly.jp – A location finder for tattooed people
18 Soothing Tokyo Hot Springs that Accept Tattoos
50+ Tattoo Friendly Onsen In Japan – list of the tattoo friendly public baths

The “Shima Onsen Guide” WEB was launched !

shima onsen guide

We were  launched the “Shima Onsen Guide” WEB in September 2019.

Goal of this WEB is to have the Shima Onsen become known to travellers around the world, and to communicate specific information and the latest news about travel to Shima Onsen.
We will also deliver detailed information which is relevant particularly to residents of Shima Onsen.

Shima Onsen Guide

Let’s go to Shima Onsen by a rental car! You’ll have more fun!

Shiga Kusatsu Skyline


If you’re good at driving a car, how about renting a car to go to an onsen resort near Tokyo?

There are often many attractive sightseeing spots around onsen resorts.

So if you use a rental car, you’ll be able to have more fun after arriving at an onsen resort.

It’s good to directly go to an onsen resort near Tokyo from Tokyo.
Another way is to go to a closet station by a train and rent a car from there.

The recommended rental car company is Toyota Rental Car or JR Rental Car, as it has a wide network and you can book in English.


Mount Asama, Shima to Karuizawa

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