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Shirahone Onsen: Located in Chubusangaku National Park, its unique milky waters are worth the trip

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By Elizabeth Sok

Shirahone Onsen is located in the quiet and peaceful Chubusangaku National Park in Nagano Prefecture. This hot spring resort in the northern Japanese Alps may be small, but its unique milky waters rich in calcium and magnesium and beautiful scenery are worth a special trip.

While the village of Shirahone has a four centuries-long history, it is thought that the hot springs have been in use since the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Because of the special milky-white waters, villagers in the area noticed that the hot springs were effective at treating ailments, such as sore muscles. By the mid-nineteenth century, as the Edo period (1603-1867) drew to a close, farmers from nearby municipalities, like Matsumoto, were soaking in the onsen.

The Baths

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The waters are considered safe for children and the elderly to enjoy Image: PIXTA/ わおん

The milky and silky water of the baths comes from the mineral sediments of magnesium and calcium which turns the water an almost opaque white color. While white waters are usually highly acidic, those here contain high amounts of carbonic acid and sulfur and are considered mild and safe for the skin of children and the elderly to enjoy. As locals long suspected, the springs are said to be effective at combating gastrointestinal problems, stress and muscle tension. They are also wonderful for warming the body. It is even recommended to drink the onsen water to help with digestion! Look around for bamboo water spouts around the village for a taste.

Things to See and Do

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