Famous Hot Springs in Japan: Ibusuki Onsen (Kagoshima Prefecture)
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Ibsuki Onsen is one of the most renowned hot spring resorts in southern Kyushu. Ibusuki has been called “Hawaii of the East” because of its abundant nature and mild climate. What makes Ibusuki particularly famous is its unique bathing style, “Sunamushi,” or sand baths. Bathers lie down on the beach and are covered with sand moderately warmed by hot springs that flow underneath the sandy beaches.
Sunamushi, or sand bathing, was already locally popular in the 17th century. Having gradually been developed as a tourist site, Ibusuki is visited today by more than 2 million tourists per year.
The water contains mainly sodium. There are over 800 spring sources and the total amount discharged is about 120,000 tons a day. Most of the hotels and inns are concentrated in the area spreading from Surigahama district, where Sunamushi spa is located, to JR Ibusuki Station and Mt. Uomi-dake.
Sunamushi is said to have an effect of doubly or triply activating blood circulation compared to normal hot springs. Other effects of excreting toxins and inflammatory or pain producing substances, as well as of refreshing the body and mind, are also expected.
◆ “Sunamushi,” or Sand Bath
1. Go to Sunamushi first thing in the morning!
You might want to experience the famous “Sunamushi,” or sand bath, soon after checking out of your hotel. A 10-minute taxi ride from the town center will take you to Sunamushi Kaikan Saraku, where you can enjoy sand bathing in the best location, just in front of the sea. You put on a provided Yukata, or cotton kimono, drape a towel around your neck, and lie down on the sand. The staff will shovel warm sand over you. Don’t move for approx. 10 minutes to be thoroughly warmed. Then take a shower to wash off the sand.
*A roofed Sunamushi place is available at high tide or on rainy days.
Sunamushi Kaikan Saraku (砂むし会館 砂楽)
Address：5-25-18 Yunohama, Ibusuki-shi, Kagoshima (鹿児島県指宿市湯の浜５-25-18)
Opening Hours：8:30 – 20:30 (Facility closes at 21:00); Closed 12:00-13:00 due to cleaning everyday except weekends and national holidays
Fee：Entry Fee: 1,080 yen
2. Buy a one-day “Nottari Oritari My Plan” sightseeing bus ticket
Refreshed by Sunamushi bathing? Next you can go to JR Ibusuki Station to buy a one-day bus ticket named “Nottari Oritari My Plan,” the hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus service in Ibusuki. The tickets are sold at Ibusuki City Sightseeing Association located within the station premises.
Nottari Oritari My Plan (のったりおりたりマイプラン)
Phone Number：+81-99-259-2888 (Iwasaki Corporation)
Fee：One-day bus ticket fare: 1,100 yen for adults, 550 yen for children
3. Lake Ikeda
Lake Ikeda, approx. 65 minutes by bus from Ibusuki, is the largest lake in Kyushu, and was created as a result of rain water collecting in the crater of an old volcano. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful scenery of Nanohana, or rape blossoms, in spring, and sunset cosmos in summer with the background of Mt. Kaimondake, also known as Fuji of Satsuma. The lake is famous for the sightings of Issie, a mysterious creature in a parody of Nessie of Scotland’s Loch Ness.
Lake Ikeda (池田湖)
Address：Ikeda, Ibusuki-shi, Kagoshima (鹿児島県指宿市池田)
Phone Number：+81-993-22-3252 (Ibusuki City Sightseeing Association)
4. Somen Nagashi Lunch at Tosenkyo, one of Japan’s best 100 natural water sources
After strolling around Lake Ikeda, take a bus on your empty stomach and go to Tosenkyo gorge, the birthplace of the famous Somen Nagashi, or flowing noodles. A carousel–style motorized big bowl is set on the table, in which Somen noodles are swirling around. Catch the Somen with chopsticks and enjoy the refreshing flavor of noodles and the water, that was selected as one of Japan’s best 100 natural waters in this era.
Somen Nagashi at Tosenkyo operated by Ibusuki-shi (指宿市営唐船峡そうめん流し)
Address：5967 Kaimon Juccho, Ibusuki-shi, Kagoshima (鹿児島県指宿市開聞十町5967)
Opening Hours：10:00 – 19:00 from March to June / 10:00 – 17:00 in October / 10:00 – 20:00 in August / 10:00 – 15:00 from November to February
5. Flower Park Kagoshima
After lunch, get on a bus again and go to Flower Park Kagoshima, where a vast garden filled with beautiful seasonal flowers will welcome you. Don’t miss the panorama of Kinko Bay and Kaimondake volcano from observation points in the park.
Flower Park Kagoshima (フラワーパークかごしま)
Address：1611 Yamagawa Okachogamizu, Ibusuki-shi, Kagoshima (鹿児島県指宿市山川岡児ヶ水1611)
Opening Hours：9:00-17:00 (Last Entry at 16:30)
Holidays：(Annually closed on December 30 & 31)
6. JR Limited Express “Ibusuki no Tamatebako”
The last event of your Ibusuki trip should be riding the unique black-and-white-painted JR limited express train, named “Ibusuki-no-Tamatebako (Ibusuki’s treasure box),” running between Ibusuki Station and Kagoshima Chuo Station (reservation required for all seats). Enjoy the beautiful scenery of Kinko Bay and Satsuma Peninsula from the train, the interior features natural wood and some “ocean view” seats are arranged. Try Ibusuki’s specialties sold in the train like cider and custard puddings.
Hana-no-Onsen Hotel Ginsho
Soak in the rooftop outdoor bath “Tenku Noten Buro (Heavenly Bath)” and experience the feeling of flying in the sky. After bathing, a traditional Japanese Kaiseki dinner will be ready for you. Famous Satsuma-age, or fried flat fishcake, is cooked and served on the table. Other local specialties, such as Kagoshima pork, fresh seafood, etc. are generously served.
Hana-no-Onsen Hotel Ginsho (花の温泉ホテル 吟松)
Address：5-26-29 Yunohama, Ibusuki-shi, Kagoshima (鹿児島県指宿市湯の浜5-26-29)
Ibusuki Onsen Ibusuki Hakusui-kan
Genroku Bath, modeled on old public baths loved by common people in the Edo period, is also loved by today’s hot spring fans. Sunamushi sand bathing is also available. Exquisitely prepared Japanese, Western or Italian cuisines are served for dinner. Guest rooms and public spaces are designed in a sophisticated, Japanese style.
Ibusuki Onsen Ibusuki Hakusui-kan (指宿温泉 指宿白水館)
Address：12126-12 Higashikata, Ibusuki-shi, Kagoshima (鹿児島県指宿市東方12126-12)
The best time to visit is from February to March when the lovely Nanohana (rape blossoms) are in bloom.
Healthy Land Tamatebako Onsen is a spa complex equipped with an indoor swimming pool and a restaurant. Enjoy the breathtaking view of Kaimondake Volcano, as well as the fantastic sunset view on the sea, from the outdoor bath.
Healthy Land Tamatebako Onsen (ヘルシーランド・たまて箱温泉)
Address：3292 Yamagawa Fukumoto, Ibusuki-shi, Kagoshima (鹿児島県指宿市山川福元3292)
Opening Hours：9:30-19:00 （Last Entry 19:00）
Holidays：(Closed on Thursdays. If Thursday falls on a national holiday, closed on the following day.)
By Train: 55-min from JR Kagoshima Chuo Station by limited express or rapid train to JR Ibusuki Station.
Ibusuki Onsen (指宿温泉)
Address：2-5-33 Minato, Ibusuki-shi, Kagoshima (Ibusuki City Sightseeing Association) (鹿児島県指宿市湊2-5-33（指宿市観光協会）
Required Time: Half a day
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