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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The Slopes Near Shima Onsen: A Skiers Paradise, a Snowboarder’s Dream!

Norn Minamai

Japan is world-renowned for its abundance of ski resorts and top-notch powder snow.
Niseko in Hokkaido and Hakuba in Nagano are particularly popular among international visitors and residents.
In fact, many come to and live in Japan for the sole purpose of enjoying some of the best slopes in the world.

Of course, some visitors may have other things in mind when visiting.
Some prefer just a taste of the snow while enjoying the scenery, shopping, or onsen. Shima Onsen offers the perfect solution to such visitors.

Although there are no ski resorts in the direct vicinity of Shima Onsen, it takes a mere 2 hours by car to get to the world-class slopes in Naeba or the powdered dreamland of Karuizawa.
Imagine taking a day-trip to a snowboarder’s paradise and returning to relax your weary muscles in Shima Onsen’s healing waters.
For international visitors who decide to rent a car, such a day-trip could be the perfect way to spend your time here at Shima Onsen.

Check here for car rental information

Read on for more information on the many ski resorts in the Shima Onsen Area!

Ski Resort(Naeba)
Naeba Ski Resort

Naeba Ski Resort is a world-renowned ski resort which has hosted the Alpine Ski World Cup in the past.
Although located in the neighboring Niigata Prefecture, the ski resort is surprisingly close—only an hour and a half by car!
Just take the Kan-Etsu Expressway’s Tsukiyono Interchange (IC) to get there in a flash.

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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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We got the 2018 Traveler’s Choice Hotel Awards

Travelers choice 2018

Thank you for your support!

We, Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan placed 9th in the Japanese Inn category of the 2018 Traveler’s Choice Hotel Awards, which is run by TripAdvisor.

This follows on our success at the end of last year, in which we placed fourth in TripAdvisor Japan’s “Picked by Travel Enthusiasts! The Most Popular Japanese Inns Among Foreigners 2017” ranking.

All our staff will continue to work together and do our utmost to ensure that guests have a wonderful experience out our inn.

Traveler’s Choice Hotel Awards 2018

Thank you.
Masuo Kashiwabara

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

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Are people with tattoos allowed in onsen?

Kashiwaya Onsen

Yes, we are tattoo friendly onsen ryokan!

In Japan, people with tattoo are often rejected to take onsen. You must feel unreasonable in spite of taking all the trouble of visiting Japan to take onsen. Aren’t there any ways to take onsen even with tattoo?

In fact, at ryokan with private onsen and rooms with open bath, such as Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan, you can enjoy onsen in peace even with tattoo because there is no chance to have somebody sees your tattoo.

Differences in Perception of Tattoo in Japan and Abroad

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Ryokan that has Rooms with Private Onsen and Open-air Bath

Private open-air Onsen

Overview:

There are more ryokan that have guest rooms with private onsen and private open-air bath recently.

At those ryokan, you do not need to take onsen with other people.

So you can enjoy onsen even if you are from foreign countries, where you do not have habit to take a bath with other people.

Also, even if you have a tattoo, you can enjoy onsen without problems.

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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

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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.
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