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