While you may wonder who in their right mind would enjoy immersing their body in hot water during the hot Japanese summer, you'd be surprised to find that many folks would! After suffering through a hot, humid day, what could be more relaxing than stepping out of the onsen (hot spring) into surrounding air that now feels cool and refreshing against your skin? And that glass of cool barley tea or ice cold beer never tasted better!
One of the best places to enjoy summertime onsen is the beautiful, bucolic Okuhida Onsen Town in Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture. About one hour's drive from the JR Takayama station, Okuhida lies at the base of the northern Japanese alps and is the name of the general area which includes five luxurious hot springs resorts (Hirayu, Fukuji, Shin-Hirayu, Tochio and Shin-Hotaka), each with their own special character.
During the summer, there are many festivals and activities that make a visit to Okuhida truly memorable. Among those, the fireworks festival at Tochi Onsen, the "Enman" night market at Hirayu Onsen, and the "Ideyu" traditional summer festival at Shin-Hirayu are all not to be missed. Additionally, you won't want to miss the Fukuji Onsen Summer Festival held from July 25 - August 25. Each night the "henbetori" traditional lion dance, designated an important cultural property by the city, is performed to everyone's delight.
A popular place for foreign travelers to stay while in the region is the Yumoto Cyouza ryokan which offers affordable yet luxurious accommodations, impeccable service and great food in a rustic, traditional atmosphere.
Access to Okuhida is convenient from both Tokyo and Osaka using a JR train and transferring to an express bus. The trip lasts about four hours, and it's a nice way to relax and start winding down even before you hit the hot springs!
For more information about Okuhida Hot Springs Resorts, please visit here.
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