The Healing Powers of Yunomine Onsen

By Alena Eckelmann    - 3 min read

Yunomine is a small hot spring village near Hongu Town in the south of Wakayama Prefecture. The story of the onsen’s discovery about 1,800 years ago strongly relates to its reputation of being a place for healing.

As legend has it, hot spring waters were streaming out of a stone statue of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Healing and Medicine, that was found here. This Buddhist image of Yakushi is now venerated at Toko-ji Temple in Yunomine.

There is indeed a hole in the statue at chest level and it is said that the water came gushing out from there. True or not, this story gave the onsen its name. Yunomune, literally “hole in the chest”, changed over the years into Yunomine and the place became known as a place for healing.

Apart from famous Tsubo-yu, a small log cabin set atop Yunotani River, there are many other places where you can enjoy a hot spring bath. Many minshuku and ryokan located along the Yunotani River have actually their own onsen baths and their guests can use them for free.

There is not much to do in Yunomine in the evenings except for taking a relaxing stroll along the river before enjoying dinner at the minshuku or ryokan. If you fancy an appetizer though, then why not try onsen eggs.

There is an open hot spring well next to the river where boiling-hot onsen waters will cook your eggs and vegetables while you wait. You can get the raw eggs and vegetables at a small local store just across the road. They are put into nets and hung into the over 90 degrees hot water from a frame around the well that protects curious visitors from getting too close to the hot matter.

Yunomine is located in the heartland of Kumano and in the heydays of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimages the onsen waters were used for purification rites – hot water purification that is, in contrast to the more common cold water purifications which took place in rivers and under waterfalls.

The Dainichi-goe and the Akagi-goe are two sections of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes which have their trailheads here in Yunomine.

The Dainichi-goe is a short trail of only 3.4km that links the Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the Kumano Three Grand Shrines, with Yunomine. While it is short, it is not for the unfit as it involves a steep climb over a mountain pass.

The 5.9km long Akagi-goe trail leads from Yunomine to Funatama-jinja and then in a loop of 8.2km back to the Kumano Hongu Taisha.

Both sections of the Kumano Kodo combined make for a nice roundtrip walk from and to the Hongu Taisha that can be done in a day. However, you would miss out on a relaxing overnight stay in picturesque Yunomine that involves a soothing soak in magical onsen waters with the potential to cure your every illness - if you believe in legends that is.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Born East of the Wall and South of Berlin, I am celebrating my 15th year anniversary in Japan in May 2020, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the beautiful Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home.I have been a JapanTravel Partner since the conception of the platform in 2011! In Tokyo I worked in market research at AIP Corporation and in business education at JMEC. For the last 10 years I have been a guide for foreign visitors at Venture Japan, on top of being a Freelance Writer and a Business Researcher.  Apart from work, I trained at the Yoshinkan Aikido Dojo and at the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Dojo for several years each, and I ran the 1st Tokyo Marathon and enjoyed cycling around Tokyo. During the last 10 years I am working with local authorities to improve their hospitality to foreign visitors and I have participated in many monitors as a media representative.  My current interest is in Japanese nature and spirituality. I love spending time in the forest and mountains, and I love visiting temples and shrines.   I am a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails  and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and licensed guide for Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy).  As a guide for walking tours, I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail and the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage trail.  Being grounded during this COVID-19 crisis, I enjoy gardening, baking bread in my new Japanese bread-maker and going for walks around 'my' village.  Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

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Carol Akiyama 5 years ago
I love hot spring towns where you can see steam rising up!