Mimasaka Hot Springs 美作三湯
Open-air hot springs in an idyllic riverside town
The three famed hot spring resorts of Mimasaka in northern Okayama —Yubara, Okutsu and Yunogo— have alkaline properties known for their healing effects on the body; rejuvenating the skin, soothing muscle aches and helping to restore energy. All three offer their own versions of this healing, invigorating experience, and each deserves a visit.
- Taking part in the Salamander Festival
- An evening stroll through town dressed in a yukata
- Watching fireworks in the heart of a rural onsen town
How to Get There
Yubara Onsen: Take the Chutetsu bus bound for Hiruzen from Tenmaya Bus Center in Okayama City to Katsuyama Station. From there, catch the Maniwa City Community bus (“Maniwa-kun”) from Katsuyama Station to Yubara Onsen.
Okutsu Onsen: Take the Tsuyama Line from Okayama Station to Tsuyama Station. At Tsuyama, take the bus bound for Okutsu.
Yunogo Onsen: Take the Tsuyama Line from Okayama Station to Tsuyama Station. Transfer to the Kishin Line. Take the Kishin Line to Hayashino Station. Then take a 10-minute taxi ride to the hot spring.
Yubara Onsen, a haven for salamanders
Yubara Hot Spring is just downstream from Yubara Dam. Although it is a public onsen, it feels private and secluded because of its pristine natural environment. The onsen waters bubble up from the riverbed, making the river sands billow, creating Yubara's "sand baths."
The open-air Yubara Onsen is free of charge, with unisex bathing as well as a bathing area for children. The adjacent Municipal Yumoto Onsen-kan has a more traditional setting, including sauna, jacuzzi and family baths.
During your stay, take a walk through the town and visit the local shops, folk museums and culture centers. Learn about the unique qualities of the region, including the town's mascot, a giant salamander.
The Hanzaki Giant Salamander Festival, held at the beginning of August, is a large annual area event that celebrates both its celebrity amphibian and the success of the town.
Okutsu Onsen, where locals still wash their laundry
Okutsu Onsen is famously named bijin-no-yu, or "bath of beauty." While traditionally the reference has been to the qualities of the water and its effects on a woman's skin, it is more a reflection of the idyllic life found in this great onsen town.
Okutsu is famous for the tradition of local women washing laundry in the river while moving in a rhythmic dance and wearing colorful regional costume. Their dance is still performed for visitors on Sundays and holidays, excluding the winter months.
If you are in the area between late October and mid-November, join the Okutsu Maple Leaf Festival's opening ceremony held at the Okutsu Shinko Center. The festival includes the night illumination of Okutsu Gorge, where the changing colors of the leaves mark the arrival of autumn.
Yunogo Onsen, fit for a heron
Local legend has it that a white heron with an injured leg came to these waters to heal its wound. Since then, the onsen has been called Sagi-no-yu, the "heron hot spring."
Yunogo Onsen village offers both refreshing waters and the chance to walk around dressed in a kimono. Yunogo has a romantic “Fantasy Illumination” event on December 24 and 25. On New Year's Eve you can watch a spectacular fireworks display in a scenic natural setting.
The darling of northern Okayama
There are plenty of reasons to visit the big three hot springs of northern Okayama. The healing waters, beautiful landscape, picturesque towns and the warm welcome extended to visitors all make the list.