For the past several years, Japan’s summers have been incredibly hot. In fact, from the end of the rainy season in late June through August, we often say “atsui desune” (“it’s hot, isn’t it”) instead of more standard greetings like “konnichiwa.”
Though the locals here think it’s quite warm in Shima Onsen, those who come visit from the hotter Kanto Plain area always tell us how cool it is here.
Part of the reason it’s so cool here has to do with our elevation (about 650 meters). However, an even bigger factor is the fact that the Shimagawa River, famous for its Shima Blue water, runs alongside the onsen town.
The water of Shimagawa River is cold even in summer, and the wind that blows from the river envelops Shima Onsen Town. It’s just like a natural air conditioner!
There are many areas near the river in Shima to enjoy the cool weather.
Ishigashira no Sawa is located across from Asahi Bridge, and its water runs into the Shimagawa River.
Ishigashira no Sawa is very close to Kashiwaya Ryokan, making it perfect for a morning or evening stroll. You can play in the water there, and there is also an abundance of fish that you can catch. If you are in the area now, you can enjoy the bamboo lanterns as well.
About 1.5 meters down-river from Kashiwaya you can see natural pools in the Shimagawa River called oketsu. Recently you can even see people swimming in these pools.
Step away from the lights of the central Shima Onsen area and National Highway 353 on a clear night, and you can see a beautiful night sky filled with stars and a beautiful moon.
The picture above was taken on a calm August night around 10pm at Okushima Lake, the northernmost point of Shima Onsen.
We were able to take a truly fantastic photograph of the starry night sky directly above the dam embankment where you can clearly see the Milky Way. But you don’t have to go that far to see a sight like this. Take a backroad near Kashiwaya Ryokan to get away from the streetlamps, and you can see a gorgeous night sky like that in the pictures below.
Both of these photos were taken at a location just a 3-minute walk from Kashiwaya Ryokan. Of course, the view of the night sky from our open-air baths is also excellent!
When you come visit Shima Onsen, why not try taking a picture of the gorgeous stars.
And don’t forget to share your pictures to Instagram if you take a good one!
In Japan, there are fresh seasonal fruits you can eat during any time of year. Apples, grapes, tangerines, strawberries, peaches, Japanese pears–you name the fruit, and you can find it in Japan. What’s more, there are fruits in season all year round due to the diligent efforts of our farmers.
And wherever you go, there are also tourist friendly orchards that allow you to pick your own fruit!
In Japan, all-you-can-eat fruit-picking is very popular. You just pay the entrance fee, go into the orchard, and pick as many fruits as you can eat. Popular even among international visitors, you can enjoy fruit picking right here in the Shima Onsen area.
In the Shima Onsen area, we especially recommend apple picking.
Nakanojo, where Shima Onsen is located, is a big producer of apples, and there are many growers in the area. The different varieties of apples are harvested from August all the way through November, and the apple-picking season for visitors also coincides with this period.
In early August you can enjoy the Tsugaru (notable for its fresh, sweet flavor) and Sansa (balanced sweet and sour flavor) varieties. October is the season of the juicy and deeply flavorful Akibae, as well as the bright red Yoko variety developed here in Gunma. And finally, the world-famous Fuji variety is ready to harvest in November.
Fuji apples are the most representative of Japanese apples, making up a majority 55% of all apples harvested in Japan. In recent years, they have been produced in other countries (notably, China and USA), and it is said that they are the most commonly grown apple variety in the world. The Fuji apple is about the size of a baseball and has a superbly sweet flavor. A hybrid of the Red Delicious and Ralls Genet varieties of apple, it first came to the market in 1962.
Being able to eat as many of these amazing apples for just one coin (500 JPY, or about 5 USD) is a dream come true to fruit lovers!
For apple-picking in the Shima Onsen area, we recommend Kanai Farm, Shirogami Fruit Park, and Jindaira Farm, all of which are accessible via public transportation (local bus bound for Nakanojo Station).
The fee for all-you-can-eat apple-picking is only 500 yen. If you want to take any of your apples home, extra fees will apply.
In the Shima Onsen area, you can also enjoy strawberry, peach, blueberry, and many other varieties of fruit picking during various seasons.
We hope you enjoy the diligently cultivated flavors of Japan’s gorgeous countryside when you visit.
Shima Onsen is a sprawling hot spring (or onsen) town located along the Shima River. The town area covers about 3km north to south. However, if you measure from the southermost oketsu (mysterious indentations in the riverbed that Shima is famous for) to the northernmost Shima River Dam, the onsen covers a length of 6km.
Now, this distance is only a short car ride, but on foot it might be a bit daunting. That’s why the mode of transportation we recommend for traversing Shima Onsen has to be…bicycle!
What’s more, we offer free rental bikes to our guests at Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan, so please don’t hesitate to use them!
Kashiwaya Ryokan is located at an elevation of about 634 meters, the same as Tokyo Sky Tree in Asakusa. The elevation at Okushima Lake is about 770 meters, so to get there you would climb 130 meters. Climbing up the dam itself Is roughly 70 meters, which means it’s only about 70 meters from Kashiwaya Ryokan to the bottom of the dam (the Hinatami area).
In other words, it’s a very gentle slope that you can take your time climbing without getting too tired out.
From the central town area to Arayu District is about 2km, or 10 minutes, and from Kashiwaya Ryokan to Okushima Lake should take about 30 minutes.
We had biking trip to Okushima Lake, so be sure to check it out!
Let’s start on our bike ride to Okushima Lake!
Onsen guchi Area
The area around Kashiwaya Ryokan is known as the entrance to the hot springs (Onsen Guchi).
2min, 450m –
Handmade soba and udon noodles at Tsuchiya.
3min, 800m –
Ichiriki Sushi, Shima Onsen’s only sushi restaurant.
Washinoya sells alcohol, craft beer and foodstuffs like a convenience store.
Enjoy a free foot bath at Okinaya.
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.
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
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.
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 2019, 150 groups of artists will be invited from August 24 to September 23.
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.