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Kawarage Oh-yu-daki is a free, open air, mixed hot spring.
The hot spring is a waterfall ending in a little pool. The water is not too hot, a little whitish, and gives off a smell which is not too strong or bad. If you soak in the water too long you will eventually get to smell like the water.
There is a little shelter with separate rooms for men and women to change clothes and undress, with shelves for the clothes. Most of the people get into Kawarage Oh-yu-daki wearing a swimming suit.
The waterfall is at the end of a little trail. It takes about 10 min.
to walk down there. The last part of the trail is downhill into a little
If you are coming from Yamagata city, go north on route 13 all the way to Akita prefecture. Go past Ougachi town, but not all the way to Yuzawa city. On the right you will find a road leading into the mountains. Take this road and follow the signs for Doroyu onsen and Kawarage. Do not go to Doroyu onsen, but take a smaller road deep into the mountains for Kawarage Oh-yu-daki. At the end of this road you will find Kawarage hell, and lot's of parking space, and even a nice big lawn where you can camp. Behind the toilet on the parking lot is a little trail. Follow this trail down to Kawarage Oh-yu-daki, or get in the little stream any place.
I was in Kawarage Oh-yu-daki the first time in October of 1994. I arrived around 4 p.m. after 10 hours on my Harley, and was a little cold and pretty tired. I stopped at the parking lot and looked around the area. The sun would soon go down, and I wanted to get in the hot spring before it got dark. I got my stuff off my Harley and started down the trail. As I went over a little concrete bridge, I could see a few people in the river upstream from the waterfall. When I got all the way down to the waterfall I could see only two Japanese men. Everyone had already left. They were both naked, so I stripped down and got in. The water was nice and warm, just what I needed after my trip. I dove under the waterfall and let it massage my tired shoulders. One of the men started speaking to me in English. His English was pretty good, but I answered in Japanese anyway. When the other man found out that I could speak Japanese, he got interested also. I found out that they were touring the hot springs in northern Japan in one of the men's car. They were obviously happy to find someone new to talk to, and told me that it gets a little lonesome driving only two in a car. They should try and go alone for 10 hours. They told me that they were from Sekiyado and Noda down in Chiba, and asked if I knew where that was. I knew very well where Noda is since that is were my ninjutsu instructor is living. I told them that I came to Japan to practice ninjutsu. One of the men asked me if I knew Hatsumi-sensei, and told me that he went to school with one of his students, Ishizuka-san, some 30 years ago. What a coincidence; that is my instructor! Imagine I drove 500 km up north and met one of my instructors old school mates in a hot spring!
three of us were all alone in the hot spring and we enjoyed the water
for yet a while. The waterfall had cut kind of a hole a little
up the cliff where one could sit like in a chair and have the hot
water crushing down on one. We all enjoyed this for a while. The
sun had already gone down, but we were not in a hurry. There was
a big open lawn where people already had put up their tents, so we
decided to do the same. We had a little party in my tent where I
made miso soup and one of the men made green tea. He had brought
all the equipment, the little thing to stir up the tea and that extremely
sweet Japanese candy. It was quite an experience to have a Japanese
tea ceremony in a tent deep in the mountains.
We got out of our sleeping bags early the following morning and got under the waterfall again before too many people showed up. My new friends took off to their next hot spring, and I went so see the nearby Kawarage hell. There after I went to a nearby mountain in search for another unknown hot spring, which was marked on my map. I found the spot, but there was no water hole to get in, and it was not possible to make one. The hot water was all led down to the nearby Doroyu onsen in a thick plastic tube. Too bad, so I went back to Kawarage Oh-yu-daki and jumped in once more before I went back to Tokyo.
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