other hot springs worth visiting (a part for your own private home onsen…)

onsen guide

kimono in the forest. An unforgettable memory!

this photo will inspire many! A tatami room immersed in the forest!

I received some beautiful pictures from Helen, a lucky owner of a Bartok design`s ofuro.
Here is her story:
When we travelled in Japan in 2013, we never stayed in hotels, but in Airbnb’s (of course, the price too is favorable) and once in a ryokan (in Nara). This gave us the best of all our Japan experiences on that summer!

We stayed with an elderly couple in Okayama prefecture, and I asked the woman (no English, just body language:) to show me how to tie the obi, as we had bought some old kimonos at the market in Kyoto.

This led to the most beautiful experience, as she was so engaged and happy for our interest, she collected all kimonos she had, showing them (her daughter is a textile artist, and had made a masterpiece of a hand painted kimono as an art project) and dressed us up – I think the pleasure of this was indeed mutual.

Then she persuaded us to wear them during a visit to a special restaurant in the forest, very traditional – and there we all sat, on our knees in our kimonos, eating all the strange and beautiful dishes. We will NEVER forget it. 
Well, now you got this long story (just an example, I have got so many!)…sorry for this! I just feel so passionate about making this kind of experiences available, as I enjoy them so much myself!
Good luck! I look forward to follow the project!
(see all the splendid pictures here below)


An onsen on a budget in Oita Prefecture

When planning a trip it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. We at Bartok design have taken it upon ourselves to explore the onsen areas of Japan (a tough job for sure) to find places that we can recommend. Today we’re sharing a budget option that isn’t going to make you feel like you’ve stumbled into a youth hostel.

Onsen Inn Usa, Good Stay Mizuho

If you were to find yourself in Oita Prefecture and you needed a place to rest your weary body then might I recommend Good Stay Mizuho? It’s not the fanciest of places but the owners are extremely welcoming and you are sure to have an authentic Japanese experience.

I happened to be in the area this week on another matter but knowing my interest in onsen and Japanese soaking tubs, my friend took me along to visit the owners of this Japanese-style inn. They very kindly let me take photos and explained some of the behind-the-scenes information about inns of this type.

This particular inn was renovated in 2017. It’s functional and spacious with plenty of space to relax and enjoy the retro ambience. There are three onsen baths on the ground floor. These baths are available for use free of charge by guests and you can also ‘drop-by’ to use them for a set fee of around $15 per hour – good to know if you are just passing through.

Each of the three baths is private which means you may enjoy them as a family or a couple. Their source is a natural onsen hotspring located in the town. The water is heated to a comfortable temperature but has no extra additives, it’s completely natural. The baths are emptied and cleaned daily (as was the case when I visited early on a Monday morning).

The owners told me that they have had increasing numbers of international visitors, which is really pleasing to them. They are learning to speak English and have access to a telephone interpreter if you get really stuck. You may know that there are a few hard and fast rules when using an onsen – even a private one like this – since the bath water will be used by all of the guests at the inn. The owners recognise that a lot of signage and instruction detracts from the overall experience but there is a handy poster explaining the basics: wash in the shower stall before you enter the bath, avoid wearing bathing suits, underwear or your towel in the bath, keep long hair tied up. Leave the changing area tidy before you exit, put your towels in the hamper and make sure the floor isn’t wet. These kind of baths are basically self-serve so cleaning staff don’t typically come in more than a couple of times each day, guests are expected to be courteous towards other users.

Things to do in Oita
The magnificent Usa Jingu shrine is nearby. Kitsuki City and Kunisaki Peninsular are also places to check out. Check JNTO for more info.

While I was in the area the Fukuoka Marathon was held. Were you there for it? Unfortunately I missed it but there is always next year. It was beautiful weather! On the Sunday afterwards I took a train to Oita Prefecture from the center of Fukuoka (Hakata) which took a lovely scenic route around the coast. It cost about $50 – $60 and took about an hour and a half to arrive at Usa Station.

Let us know if you have travelled around Fukuoka or Oita Prefectures. Where did you stay? What activities did you enjoy while you were there? If you are coming for the Fukuoka Marathon next year, we might see you there! If you are coming for the Rugby World Cup, we will definitely see you there! Read our post here.

An Open Air Bath for Two and a View

If you’ve been to Japan before or even if haven’t but you’re an adventurous type then you’ll be happy to know that Japan is becoming easier and easier to travel around freely. This means that previously inaccessible ryokan are now within reach. With English-language websites, online booking and staff who understand what the international tourist needs, this can only be a good thing! Yes, it’s easier than ever to discover the joy of bathing in an onsen!

Ryokan Syu ha ri

Here’s one we found that is about 3 hours from Tokyo on the Izu Peninsular, Ryokan Syuhari.

With private hinoki baths in every room, it’s well worth the trip. This ryokan has a large outdoor bath which can be booked for private groups as well as spacious in-room baths.

Izu Peninsular


Ryokan Syuhari

Ryokan Syuhari (Japanese website)

View on Google Maps (map link)

For bookings, I recommend using a service like Relux to get the best rates and to make sure there are no hidden costs.

Relux is an online booking service for prestigious hotels and ryokans in Japan with high customer satisfaction. 
We offer the best rate guarantee as well as the industry’s highest reward point rate of 5%. 
There are no membership sign up fees or annual dues.


I have some american friends who spent their honey moon in japan.
They both love ofuros but had to enjoy the hot water separately.
If you go to an onsen-ryokan, you may have a bathtub in your room also.
But the “real thing” is of course the “dai-yoku-jo” (large bath area) which is separated by sex. Here you can enjoy different temperatures of water, ishiburo (stone-bath) rotenburo (outdoor bath) goemon-buro (wood fired metal bathtub) and all the optionals including waterfalls, softly lit stone lanterns and spectacular foliage.

So my friends were separating, going to their bath area and feeling guilty to indulge longer in the hot water… You do not want to have your newlywed partner say “did you came here to spend time with me or to enjoy the thermal water by yourself?”

Please keep your ears open: there is a trick if you want to love the onsen as much (or almost as much…) as the company of your partner: you can look for a “kazoku-buro”.

Many ryokan offer family bathtubs that can be used for a limited time by your party exclusively.
Some require an extra fee, some others do not. In this case they are usually crowded and you have to reserve well in advance or wait.

Here below are some photos from the hotel “kami-no-yu” (god of hot water) in Yamanashi prefecture. The address is 17, Ryuji, Kai city. telephone: 0551-28-5000.

This one is suitable for a large family!! But do not forget to read the notice before entering…
The ofuro is inside but you can enjoy the landscaped garden from the window!


I cannot here list all ryokans that offer a “kashikiri-kazokuburo” anyway I will share some other reviews in the near future.
Meanwhile, if you are going to japan and want to try this experience, please let me know: I will be glad to look for a suitable ryokan for you.
If you want to do it by yourself, try to access googlemap with the tags selected by clicking the link below:

Then, zoom on the location you choose.
The onsen will be twice as enjoyable if you can share it together with your other half!

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