Photo: SoraNews24
travel

Japanese onsen stand is part gas station, part hot spring vending machine

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By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

You can find a lot of unstaffed vegetable stands in the peaceful countryside of Tokigawa-cho in Tokyo’s neighboring Saitama Prefecture.

However, when our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma was driving through the area the other day, he came across a rather unusual type of unstaffed stand. There were no vegetables to be found at this roadside stall — instead, it was selling onsen water.

▼ This sign, which reads “onsen stand” in big letters, first alerted Masanuki to the unusual spot.

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Masanuki had never seen an onsen stand before, but now he knew one existed, there was no way he was going to drive by without trying it. So he stopped off at a nearby home improvement store to buy a plastic jerry can for 800 yen and drove back to the stand to fill it up.

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As he got out of the car with his jerry can in one hand, Masanuki felt as if he were walking up to a gasoline stand. The stand itself even has a big red sign on the front that reads “No Open Flame” in big bold letters.

▼ According to a sign on the door, the maximum purchase limit per customer is 200 liters, which is the volume of a standard household bath.

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Once he got closer, Masanuki realized the machine was like a hybrid between a gas pump and a vending machine, as you had to insert coins to use it. The onsen water is sold in 5-liter units, priced at 50 yen each, so he fed 200 yen into the machine in exchange for 20 liters to add to his bath at home.

▼ The machine only takes 50 and 100-yen coins and doesn’t give change.

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After inserting his coins, Masanuki followed the instructions on the machine to wait five seconds before pressing the big red button. Then he went over to the hose and inserted it into his tank.

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The liquid gushed out into his receptacle in a similar way to gasoline, but without any nasty fumes.

His tank filled in the blink of an eye, during which time Masanuki caught sight of a noticeboard that had useful information about the water he was receiving. According to the cute sign, the source of the water is a spring called “Toki no Yu“, which has a temperature of around 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit).

The spring is a cold sodium chloride type, with a pH value of 8.9, which is alkaline. The water is said to have a high salt concentration, which raises the core temperature of the body and provides a high heat-retaining effect after bathing, with the added benefit of making the skin smooth.

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All this information made Masanuki even more excited to get home and bathe in the health-giving waters, so he lifted his jerry can and waddled back to the car with his purchase. The water is heavy, so Masanuki recommends parking your car right in front of the stand, which he unfortunately didn’t do.

The walk to his car was a bit of a workout, so by the time Masanuki got home he felt he deserved a good long soak. He whipped out the pamphlet he’d picked up at the stand, which said to add 20 liters of hot spring water to a 200-liter bath that’s around 70 percent full, to give you the effectiveness of a moderate hot spring.

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Using the wonders of his electronic bath panel, Masanuki pressed the “reheat” button to help the colder onsen water combine with the new hot water and bring the overall bath temperature to 40 degrees Celsius.

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Once the water had come up to temperature, Masanuki stepped into his own private hot spring.

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It was absolute heaven. His bathwater now had a smooth texture to it that he’d never felt before, and it delivered on its promise to heat him up from deep within the core of his body, keeping him warmer for longer after stepping out of the bath.

The difference was noticeable, just with 20 litres of onsen water, so Masanuki wondered whether he should return to the stand to fill up on a full 200 litres next time. Although then he’d have to figure out a way to lug it up the stairs to his apartment.

That’s when Masanuki wished he lived closer to the onsen stand, and perhaps in an apartment on the ground floor, so he could enjoy the onsen life every day of the week. Perhaps the next best thing for him would be to visit Tokigawa Shikisaikan, the one-day hot spring facility near the onsen stand, which uses the same spring water.

▼ Tokigawa Shikisaikan has been built inside an old folks' house.

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It’s a beautiful spot where you can enjoy communal baths indoors and soak your feet in a foot bath on the deck while gazing out at the garden and listening to the murmuring of the river.

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▼ The hot spring facility (top in the map below) is a four-minute drive from the onsen stand.

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So if you’re looking to enjoy the hot spring life just over an hour’s drive from the heart of Tokyo, Tokigawa is ready to deliver. Well, not literally, unfortunately, but if that’s what you’re after, there are onsen resorts that will deliver water to your home…literally.

Information

Tokigawa-cho Onsen Stand / ときがわ町 温泉スタンド

Address: Saitama-ken, Hiki-gun, Tokigawa-cho, Otsuki 870-3

埼玉県比企郡ときがわ町大字大附870-3

Open: 9:00a.m.-5:00p.m.

Holidays: Wednesdays and the New Year’s holiday period

Photos: ©SoraNews24

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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