Famous Ryujin: the beautifying hot spring
Who doesn’t want to look young forever? Let’s go!
In this article:
- learn about one of Japan’s top-beautifying onsen: Ryujin hot spring
- read where to park comfortably for the night in the middle of the mountains
- how you easily combine this adventure in your own camper trip
Better than a bottle
Actually it is unfair; all your daily work of creaming and patting and pampering your skin can be outdone by a short series of soaks in Ryujin hot spring. That’s what they claim at least. Well, we know that lots has been written about fake Japanese hot springs lately, but true of not, the water in Ryujin feels smooth and great. And the setting on a river bank in a mountain gorge in the middle of nowhere makes it even better! Definitely better than a bottle!
The public Ryujin hot spring or bath inside a Ryokan?
As in most onsen villages, you can opt for the commoners way by bathing in the public hot spring, or splurging on a visit to a Ryokan, or Japanese inn. The latter offers generally higher end facilities and a more quiet experience. Especially during the day when most of its guests are not in.
And as a suggestion, you can have a great and authentic Japanese set meal in a Ryokan. Lunch is very much value for money as generally the price is much much lower while the quality is equal. The only difference is that there will be a few dishes less. And since we talk about hot springs here, often when you buy lunch in a ryokan, you can get a better deal on their onsen. In all a great way to spend an afternoon 😉
The public facilities of Ryujin hot spring are fine. Arguably better, at least for river views, than the private ones which have their baths at lower levels. As usual, men and women bath separately but both have similar pools and space. Their is a big indoor bath overlooking the valley. And a smaller outdoor pool with an even better atmosphere because you hear the river crashing by below. And in our case, feel the typhoon rushing through the mountains!
Typhoons and shelter
In September and October we have typhoon season in Japan. The Kansai seems to get more of this than the Tokyo-region, probably due to its more southernly location. Most typhoons pass in the (far) south of Japan. Effects of typhoons on your travels are usually minimal, but it is worth to be aware of them. They will be in the news, which you will not follow, and locals will discuss them, which you will not understand. Don’t worry, there is a practical website to keep an eye on and we have more advice on safety and campers all packed together here. In short, the wind is just one thing. It is the large amount of rainfall that makes it dangerous, especially in the mountains where landslides can easily occur. Blocking or washing away sections of roads. With campers on them. So don’t take it lightly.
During my last trip to Wakayama, it was not typhoon season but a typhoon came anyway. We were in magical Koyasan and wanted to ride the ‘Skyline route’ across the mountains via Ryujin hot spring. It was rainy and we understood locally that this was the outer ring of a typhoon making landfall on our peninsular later that night. Driving high mountain roads with lots of wind is not a good idea, especially so with a ‘big’ and light camping car. However in Koyasan they said ‘you have another 3 hours’, the wind seemed manageable and the drive would not be more than an hour. Without stops. So I had some quick thinking to do.
We took the Skyline route. Also because another other route would mean a major detour. And staying another night on Mt. Koya, in the rain, was not very tempting. Obviously, the only views of the sky we had were raging clouds and over 50 shades of grey. Normally you can see Shikoku, the next big island, from here. Under normal conditions, it is a great road for campers, with several viewing points and newly surfaced like the rest of Japan. But honestly, I was happy to put it behind us and reach Ryujin hot spring. Nice and quiet, in a deep crack in the mountains. No wind!
Practicalities: where to sleep
Ryujin onsen is a very small place. The main road bypasses it with a short tunnel. You can perfectly ride the narrow old road though. There is a large parking area just outside the hamlet. Unsurfaced and empty. Not appealing but telling us that on some other days this place does get busy. Some inns have small parkings, most don’t. All is built against the mountainside, overlooking river, so there is simply no space. Opposite the public bath, across the river, is another large parking. You get there from the main road only. But it has a cool pedestrian bridge swinging across the raging river to the onsen! Walk that bridge, if only just for the view.
If there is space, the top spot to park and sleep is right in front of the public Ryujin hot spring entrance. There are just 3 spaces. It is sheltered from rain and wind and if you can have the left one, you can almost hop into the super clean public toilet building without getting rained on. Another great example of why a camper in Japan is The Right Way to travel! More details you can find summarised in the Ride Summary below this article.
Shops? Nearly nothing, so arrive stocked. There are some vending machines and restaurants of course.
Combine your trip
Tip: use the Go Camper Japan!-map on this page for an overview of all destinations in Japan that we have explored and documented. The ones in this area are on it too.
Now you are in the central mountains of the Wakayama peninsular, or Kii Peninsular as it is actually called. You have many great places to visit on the way to and from here. Actually, the southern Kansai might well be one of my favourite spots in all of Japan.
- To the north in the middle of the mountains you will find Mount Koya, or Koyasan. Ancient temples and the most sought-after cemetery of the country. A must-visit high in this area. Take the Skyline route and count 2-3 hours for the beautiful drive and stops.
- East, easily within a day’s reach, are the many hot springs of Hongu. Like Kawayu, hot-spring-inside-a-river. And Yunomine town. Another must I am afraid..
- South, about 2 hours away, is coastal scenery with high cliffs, fishing ports and beach-side onsen. All the way to Ise and the most important Shinto shrine in Japan (head east along the coast). Can I say ‘must’ again?
- (South-)West is more coastal scenery. Some good beaches around Shirahama. With hot springs on them. West would be a nice coastal return to Osaka/Nara/Kyoto.
And there is lots more. Like the ancient pilgrim trails of Kumano. And the Nachi falls, the highest falls of Japan. Or a great little museum about whales in Taishi, including a great dolphin and whales show.
Create your unique trip. Go Camper Japan!
a good page about this hot spring, and much more info about this amazing area, Kumano
why hot springs are important for us, camper travellers. And how to use them
see some more images as Google has them for you
Ride Summary: your details about this trip
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