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onsen is a free, open air, and mixed hot spring.
The water is yellowish and ranges from very hot to cool, depending on where you get in. If you get in close to the source, you will probably burn yourself, while if you get in the sea where the hot spring water is emptying out, you may not be able to stay in for more than minutes before you start feeling cold.
Near the hot spring is a little wooden shelter with separate rooms for
men and woman to change in. There are also shelves and even a few baskets
where you can put your clothes in while enjoying the hot spring.
Jinata onsen is located on Shikinejima which is one of the 7 islands of Izu. From Takeshiba pier near Shinbashi in Tokyo take the ferry for Ohshima, Shikinejima, etc. The ferry leaves every night at 22:00 and you will arrive at Shikinejima the following morning around 8:00. Walk to the southern side of Shikinejima, where you will find the hot spring.
I had known about free hot springs on the 7 islands of Izu, but had more or less given up on going to them, untill my colleague Perry and I one day decided to go. Some girl had told us about a free hot spring on Shikinejima, so we decide to go there rather than any of the other islands of Izu. We left Tokyo at 22:00 Friday night, and spend the night on the ferry with a lot of people, trying to get some sleep. The ferry reached Ohshima at around 5:00, and almost all the passengers got off. The rest of the way to Shikinejima there was plenty of room.
When we arrived at Shikinejima we looked around to find out where to go, and to our disappointment we found out that the hot springs were all located on the other side of the island, the southern side, which meant that we had to walk all the way across the island. Since we had brought tent, sleeping bags, coocking equipment, etc., our backpacks were quite heavy, and we weren't exactly looking forward to walking across the island with all our stuff, but we didn't really have a choice, so we took off. In half an hour we had made it to the other side of the island. It's not that Perry and I walk fast, it's rather that Shikinejima is quite small.
We immediately found one of the free hot springs. It looked really good. the water was nice and hot, and there were no one around. We put down our bags, and started thinking about getting in. As we were doing so, some old guy showed up and started pulling out a lot of equipment near the hot spring. The he went into the hot spring and pulled the plug so all the water started running out. What the h.... was going on here? Just as Perry and I were about to get in the hot spring this impolite old guy lets out all the water! The guy started cleaning the whole hot spring with a pressure washer, and it turned out that it took him almost a whole day. That was certainly nice. Closing down the hot spring on a Saturday where there are people who wants to use it. If that is how the natives treat their visitors, then no wonder there were so few people who got off at Shikinejima.
Perry and I soon started loking for the 2 other free hot springs, and found them very easily. One didn't seem to be too hot, while the other, Jinata onsen, looked perfect. We found it right by the sea after going through a narrow canyon. The water was very hot, but some one else was in the hot spring already, so we decided to join them. After having tired several of the many pools, we finaly tried the one where there already was an old guy. He was there with his friend, and it looked like they spend several days just lying around in the hot spring, and swiming in the sea. Perry and I spend the whole morning in the hot spring, and I managed to get myself a sun burn.
Around noon we decided to go and get some lunch and then check out the rest of the island. We were pretty hungry by then, so we headed "back" to the village and found some thing that looked like a restaurant. Inside was a guy who didn't seem too interested in serving us, but we were to hungry to get discouraged by that, so we went in and got some lunch. After lunch we went for a hike around the south western part of the island, which seems to be nothing but cliffs and forrest.
It was now getting late, and we went back to Jinata onsen to pick up all our stuff. When we came back, we found that some one had dumped a load of dirt on the source of the hot spring and stopped the flow of water The hot spring was all empty. It really seemed like some one was doing his best to spoil our week-end. We grapped our stuff and went back to the little village where we found a supermarket which was still open. Here we bought some food, which we were going to "cook" on the beach. Since neither Perry or I are great cooks, we bought stuff like cup noodle, which any idiot can make. While we were shopping, the owner of the supermarket approached us, and started telling us about some special vegetable from the 7 islands of Izu. This vegetable supposedly has some good effect one one's blood circulation, etc. He explained that it was very good for tempura, and wanted to give us some.
After having spend the night on the beach listening to two cats trying
to kill each other, Perry and I finally went back to the harbour Sunday
morning and got back on the boat around noon. The weather was nice, so
we got a little extra sunshine on the boat before we arrived in Tokyo around
20:00 in the evening.
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