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Onsen 2

If you ask a Japanese if s/he likes to soak in onsen (Japanese hot springs), it's likely that you'll get the answer "Yes!" Onsen is a byword for relaxation and healing. There are a lot of famous onsen resorts all around Japan.

In spite of the (psychological) popularity, onsen resorts seem to have had a hard time attracting sufficient tourists in recent years. Onneyu, which we visited last weekend, can be one of those spots that have seen better days. Now there are only two major hotels there. Along the onsen street, you can see a couple of abandoned hotels, creating a gloomy and eerie atmosphere around the area. Fortunately, the two big hotels seem to be in good shape and stable enough to provide excellent service.

On the way to Onneyu lies a town where I lived from 3rd through 8th grade. We dropped into the town to buy some cold medicine, because I felt like I was catching a cold (Again!). At the first drugstore, I couldn't find the type of medicine I wanted -- I have never seen a drugstore that has such a little selection... At the second, they had just what I was looking for. Good or bad, the store had an old-fashioned air. Because of the popularity of out-of-town types of stores, which have large parking areas, many conventional stores as in a shopping district near the train station are having a difficult time surviving. I felt the main street was very narrow. I felt the downtown was aging.


I can never decide what I miss more about Japan, the food or the onsen. At least, we can buy some kinds of Japanese foods here in Texas. But nothing comes close to the onsen experience. I lived in Beppu-shi for two years; it's onsen heaven.

When my son and I returned to Japan for a visit, in 1996, we decided to stay a couple of days in Noboribetsu. We enjoyed our time there more than any other part of our trip. True, Noboribetsu is nothing more than a small street lined with hotels and tourist shops. But the baths, the mountains, the food...fantastic.

Though I live in Hokkaido, I've been to Noboribetsu only once. Your post made me want to go there again. I also want to visit Beppu Onsen, which I've never been to. :)