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onsen is an open air hot spring.
The source of the hot spring is located on the other side of the river as the bath. The source can clearly be seen from far away by the rising steam. As such, the water is very hot, and must be mixed with cold river water in order to be able to get into it without being boiled. This is all done at the little cottage where the bath is, which results in a quite nice temperature and a very nice open air hot spring.
The main bath is right in front of the cottage, and you can't miss it.
Hidden away close by is the woman's bath (which I of course haven't been
in). You will have to undress right in front of the cottage among resting
hikers, if any. But on the other hand, probably every one taking a rest
at this cottage will do so to get in the hot spring, so don't feel shy
to undress among a group of hikers.
Sennin onsen is not difficult to get to, it just takes a long time. It is located in the middle of the Takayama mountain range, so quite a lot of hiking is required. Either hike from Keiyakidaira station at the end of the Kurobe canyon railway, or hike from Murodo on the Alps Route.
If you hike from Keiyakidaira then follow the trail along the Kurobe river to Asohara onsen, and then continue up the Sennin valley along the Sennin creek. The hot spring is located half way up the valley. This hike will take you about 8 hours.
If you hike from Murodo then first hike to the Tsurugizawa cottage, and then follow the trail down the Tsurugizawa creek. If you walk on the gleicher you will be able to get down faster, but watch your steps. Continue past the Masagozawa cottage to Futamata. At Futamata start hiking up Mt. Sennin to Sennin pond. From there hike back down on the other side, and you will find Sennin onsen half way down.
I had long wanted to get in Sennin onsen in the Takayama mountain range. I had seen a little onsen mark on my map of Toyama in a spot far away from anything else, and I had imagined a hot spring untouched by human hand. My first attempt to get in this hot spring was when I climbed Mt. Tsurugi. According to the map, it is not that far from the summit of Mt. Tsurugi. My only mistake was that I climbed Mt. Tsurugi via the Hayatsuki ridge/trail, which is said to be one of the 3 hardest trails in Japan. I of course didn't find out about that until later, so by the time I reached the summit of Mt. Tsurugi, I had no energy to continue.
On my second attempt I started from Keiyakidaira and took a stop at Asohara onsen. I got up the following morning at 5:00 and left for Sennin onsen at 6:00. Since it was still early it was not yet that hot, but the weather was incredibly fine, and since I was hiking on a mountain side facing south, I soon started sweating like crazy. I was taking it easy enjoying the beautiful nature and taking photos on my way. After 3 hours in the sun, I finally made it to Sennin onsen. I had been hiking in a valley on the right side of a creek, and for a while I had been able to see steam rising further up on the left side of the creek.
The bath was located right in front of the Sennin onsen cottage, and is probably the most exposed bath I have ever been in, except it is located deep in the mountains which prevents all the stupid tourists from going. Therefore you are not likely to find too many people at this hot spring, and the one's you will meet have probably all done a special effort to get in this hot spring, and will therefore very likely have good "hot spring manners".
When I arrived there was only on older gentleman who had just retired, and had finally found time to make the hike to Sennin onsen. We had a little chat before he left, and I then had the whole bath for myself. If it hadn't been for the incredibly good weather and all the sun I had gotten on the way up to Sennin onsen, I would probably have stayed in the hot spring a lot longer, but I soon got enough of hot water, and started dreaming of taking a bath in the nice and cool creek instead.
I left Sennin onsen again feeling very satisfied that I had made it to that hot spring. I had more or less fulfilled the purpose of my hike, and I just wanted to get a view of Tsurugidake and the Kurobe dam before going back to Tokyo. I continued up the valley towards the top, and as I was almost at the top I could not just see the top of some magnificent mountain on the other side. Was this Tsurugidake? It looked so dramatic. When I had climbed Tsurugidake I had hardly been able to see the mountain for the mountain, so I only had an idea of what I had climbed. I finally got to the top of the valley to Sennin pond, and here I found a most gorgeous view of Tsurugidake. Now I was indeed satisfied, and not even bad weather could have spoiled my trip.
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