By Peter Sidell
I never would have discovered this place if it were not for the help of a good Japanese friend. She knew I loved hot springs and food so she combined the two by bringing me to Tanuki Yu. The location is slightly off the well trodden tourists paths of Kagoshima City. Take an Iwasaki bus headed for Hanano Danchi from either Kagoshima Chuo station or Tenmonkan shopping district and get off at Sennenbashi stop (approximately 25 minutes). You can easily spot the onsen by looking for the building with a raccoon dog logo.
The restaurant area on the first floor is spacious and gives you a nice view of the garden. Their signature dish is the Free Range Chicken Steak set, with chicken meat imported from neighboring Miyazaki prefecture. The chicken arrives sizzling on a hot plate with a generous helping of green onions and garlic slices. The texture of the meat is firm and slightly crunchy with just the right amount of seasoning. For 1050 yen, you get hiyayakko (a cold tofu dish), vegetable soup, rice, and some pickled radish to go with the chicken. The soft and refreshing tofu was a welcome change to the strong flavor of the chicken steak.
The onsen area has a large changing room with a heated floor for the winter. Tanuki Yu prides itself on having unaltered hot spring water which is a light emerald green. The type of onsen water, myoubansen, has traces of aluminum and is said to help with eye afflictions and skin problems. I found the water inside to be a little too hot for my liking so I moved outside. The outside pool was surrounded by natural greenery and the cool mountain air made the water temperature perfect. Sitting there listening to the sounds of running water and chirping birds, you can really feel your stress melt away.
True to its namesake, Tanuki Yu is filled with tanuki (raccoon dogs). From the little statues in the garden to the painted doorway, the little raccoon dogs add a mischievous air of jolliness. Come visit these little creatures for a relaxing hot spring visit away from the bustle of downtown Kagoshima City! Don't forget to take a look at the fruit and vegetable stands outside, they have some great prices on local produce.
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