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onsen is an open air and mixed hot spring.
The water at Babatani onsen is very hot and a little milky white. Next to the ryokan are two concrete baths. One is very large and very hot, the other is a little smaller and almost as hot.
There is only one little shelter next to the bath to undress in and put one's clothes. Since there are no segregated dressing rooms nor baths, the woman's usually get in after dark.
A little down the river towards Shiroumadake is the source of the hot
spring, and here it is possible to dig your own bath and get in for free.
There are 3 ways to get to Babatani onsen. The easiest way is to take the littletrain from Unatsuki onsen to Keiyakidaira, and then from there walk the rest of the way past Meiken onsen to Babatani onsen. If you are a little more adventurous and like mountain hiking, then try the trail from Shiroumadake, but be prepared for a very long hike. The hike is not difficult, as the trail is quite good, but it gets quite narrow at the end.
If you are really into hiking, then try the trail from Karamatsudake. This trail is shorter than the one from Shiroumadake, only 12 km, but worse, and not so popular.
A few weeks after having hiked around in the Tateyama mountain range I had a 4 day week-end, and could not resist going back to the mountains. This time I wanted to hike down to the Kurobe valley from the Nagano side.
My friend and I left Tokyo Friday night and arrived at Hakuba village at 5:30 in the morning. We took a taxi half way up Happo-san to where the trail started. The trail would lead us to Karamatsudake, and from there we could either continue south, west, or north. The hike up to Karamatsudake was not so tough, and I soon arrived. After having enjoyed the beautiful view of Tsurugidake, Tateyama, Shiroumadake, Yaridake, and Hotakadake from Karamatsudake, I went back down to the cabin and cooked lunch. My friend had brought a lot of baggage, and he finally arrived as I was cooking my lunch. Since he had so much baggage, we decided to split there, and I continued alone down the trail to Babatani onsen.
The weather was incredibly good. There was not a cloud, and the sun was baking down on me. The trail I was hiking on was not among the best trails I have been on. I was hiking on the side of Karamatsudake, and the trail mostly consisted of loose rocks, which could slide down from under my feet any time. After an hour of this, the trail finally got down into the forest, and the trail got a lot better, but it was still incredibly hot. I continued down and down until I came upon a sign saying "Water this way. 7 mins. down, 8 mins. up". I had already used a lot of my water so I definitely wanted to get some more if I could, so I went down the little trail. The trail soon turned into something looking like a tiny dried out creek, and it was quite difficult to walk in. The last part of the trail, I had to crawl down the side of a cliff down to a larger creek with beautiful clear and cool water. I took a little rest and filled my water bottles, and though "Nature is so generous".
After getting back up from the creek, which by the way only took 6 mins., I continued along the trail and soon came to a clearing in the forest. It looked like there had been some people there recently looking for gold or something, because there was a spade and other equipment standing around. It felt pretty strange seeing things like that in the middle of no-where. Here I also saw the first sign giving me an idea of how long I had hiked, and how long I had to go. The sign said 5 km to Karamatsudake, and 8 km to Babatani onsen. So I had only 8 km more to go.
The trail now started going up a little mountain, which was just what I needed now that I was starting to get tired. The trail went up, and up, and up, and at one point I was walking on a ridge and could see how Shiroumadake was all covered in clouds. I finally got the the top, and the trail now started going back down again. I would soon come upon a little emergency cabin, and from there it would only be 5 km down to Babatani onsen. The hike down to the emergency cabin felt so long, but I finally made it. I continued down the trail, and at one point I could suddenly hear some larger animal in the forest a little ahead of me. I could not see what kind of animal it was, but for what ever reason, all I could think of was a bear. The bears on Honshu are usually not dangerous, but I already had enough excitement for one day, so instead of trying sneak up on the animal, I started making a lot of noise so the animal could hear me and run away. A little later I came to a little clearing in the forest where I sat down and drank some of the delicious water from the creek, and I could now suddenly see a little red faced monkey in the middle of the clearing.
I had now only the final descent down to Babatani onsen, which turned out to be a tiny trail on slippery rocks. I was now getting really tired, having hiked from 6 in the morning, and slippery rocks was not exactly what I had been looking forward to. The final descent turned out to be really long, and about 6.5 hours after having left Karamatsudake, I finally arrived at Babatani onsen totally exhausted. I went directly to the ryokan, passing two guys who had just dug their own bath further down the river. I would love to have done that myself, but I was just so tired I went right to the ryokan's rotemburo and soaked there until I gained a little power again.
When I got in the bath there were about 5 guys sitting in the small
bath, and one older gentleman got in the large bath which turned out to
be really hot. When I was finished washing all the sweat off me I also
went for the hot bath and sat there with my legs in it trying to get back
to life. The hot water really felt good on my legs. Getting the legs, and
the rest of the body in the water was quite painful, as the water was
really hot, but when I first got down there, it felt really good, and
my legs came back to life.
The next morning I got up at 5:00 and I seriously considered taking the little train from Keiyakidaira out of the mountains instead of hiking back up to Shiroumadake as I had planned. That hike was supposed to be a 9.5 hour hike up, but usually people only take that hike down, because it's too long a hike going up. I was concerned that I would not be able to make it because of the long hike the day before, but the hot spring had worked wonders on my legs, and I felt really good and strong, so I started up the trail for Shiroumadake.
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