Komako-no-yu, Yuzawa

Public baths named after the geisha from "Snow Country"

By Rufus Starbuck    - 3 min read

Yuzawa is full of hot springs and they are one of the main draws for the town. Almost every hotel has a hot spring bath and spa area to be enjoyed by its guests and many accept non-guests too. If you don't fancy paying the 1,000 yen or so that a top hotel charges for a dip in their onsen then one of the town's public onsen might be a better choice for you.

Yuzawa town runs five public onsen; Yama-no-yu and Komako-no-yu in the town itself, Iwa-no-yu in Iwappara, Kaido-no-yu in Mitsumata, and Shukuba-no-yu out in Tashiro. The public onsen tend to be smaller and not quite as flash as their hotel counterparts but they are cheaper and still provide the authentic onsen experience. I was lucky enough to get a ticket that allows entrance to each of the five town onsen. You can buy these from one of the visitor centers and they give you quite a hefty discount but unless you have your own transport and are really keen on hot spring baths it might be a bit of onsen overkill for most people. Yama-no-yu and Komako-no-yu are both walkable from the station and will tick all the boxes.

Komako-no-yu is at the far end of town close to the Yuzawa Kogen Ropeway and Nunoba Ski Resort. On the one side you have the huge concrete bullet train track towering over you, but look the other way and the view improves with the local mountains. Shoes off, buy a ticket from the vending machine (and a towel if you need it) and then it is bath time. 

The bath can probably hold a dozen people, so isn't huge. It has large picture windows down one side of the room which give great views onto the mountains. They were a lush green when we went in early summer. It's apparently 42 degrees in the water so was a bit on the warm side for me but nothing a few cold showers couldn't sort out.

Emerging from the baths pink and glowing, there is a small tatami resting room and a couple of massage chairs. There is a big old people's home just next door so expect to find a couple of grannies have a post-bath nap most of the time. There is also a display cabinet with old photos and explanations about the novel "Snow Country". The baths take their name from the female lead in the book, Komako.

There are some local fruit juices on sale in the lobby if you are need of some re-hydration and refreshment. Apple is the safe choice but tomato or carrot are also available for those that prefer vegetables in their drinks.

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Rufus Starbuck

Rufus Starbuck @rufus.starbuck

Hanging out in the mountains of Niigata. Arrived by accident and yet to leave. Seem to spend far too much time eating... 

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