Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Yubara Onsen Sunayu – The Unique Hot Springs in Okayama

Experience your first mixed-gendered onsen bath at Yubara Onsen Sunayu (湯原温泉砂湯) in Maniwa City for free! This outdoor hot spring that is at the end of Yubara Onsen Town is just in front of the Yubara Dam (湯原ダム), making it one of the reasons that it ranks first among the best outdoor open-aired bath in western Japan.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the natural hot spring is flowing from the dam. But that isn’t the case. The onsen is actually gushing out from the bottom of the pool!

The gravel and sand in the pool are thus moved around by the flow of the hot springs. This is why the locals named it Sunayu (suna means sand in Japanese).

© Maniwa Tourism Bureau

As you get into the onsen pool and step on the gravel, the gas accumulated just underneath the gravel is forced out by your body weight. This is when you might find yourself becoming the bubble creator (´▽`*) and one of the most exciting things about Yubara Onsen Yunayu!

Deeping your body in the warm hot spring water and closing your eyes, the songs from the birds and the sound of the water flowing in the Arashi River (旭川) on one side of the onsen pool is the melody perfect for relaxation. The nature around the onsen pools simply makes the spot an even better place to chill out. With the cherry blossoms, the autumn foliage, and the winter snow scene, no wonder Sunayu was chosen to be the Yokozuna in the West!

Yokozuna means sumo grand champion in Japanese. It also can be used when the subject matter is the best among its peer.

There are a total of three onsen pools at Yubara Onsen Sunayu. The Chōju-no-Yu (長寿の湯), meaning the hot spring for longevity, is the hottest of the three. The Bijin-no-Yu (美人の湯) and Kodakara-no-Yu (子宝の湯) have temperatures slightly higher than our body, and the pool is relatively more spacious, giving you more space to move around or stretch your body freely.

Female Bathing Clothes

As the onsen pools in Sunayu aren’t hidden in deep mountains but are visible to anyone who walks by, to make it more comfortable for female guests to utilize this facility, special rental bathing clothes can be rented out from the below spots for 2,000 yen. Upon returning the bathing clothes, 1,000 yen will be refunded to you.

  • Yumoto Onsenkan (湯本温泉館) until 10 pm
    • If you are a Ryokan guest, the bathing clothes can be rented out for 500 yen.
  • Yubara Onsen Information Centre (湯原観光情報センター) until 6 pm

You can also enjoy the hot spring with a bathing towel.

Whether male or female, you are welcome to wear a bath towel when indulging in the onsen (^_-)-☆.

Yuzu Onsen at Yubara Onsen Sunayu

On the winter solstice each year, 626 yuzu (small citrus fruit) are thrown into the hot spring water because of the myth that if you bathe in hot water with yuzu on the day, you won’t catch a cold (=゚ω゚)ノ. Putting whether the myth is true or not aside, it is just heaven to be able to warm up the cold body in the onsen that has the sweet and sour citrus fragrance!

The Yuzu Onsen will be held on the 22nd of December in 2023 from 11:26 am to 2 pm.

For more photos of the Yuzu Onsen, please refer to Maniwa City’s website HERE.

Yubara Onsen Sunayu’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • This onsen is free to access and it is open 24/7!
  • To get to Yubara Onsen Sunayu, from JR Chūgoku-Katsuyama Station (中国勝山駅), take the Maniwa Community Bus bound for Hiruzen Highlands (蒜山高原) and get off at Yubara Onsen (湯原温泉). From the bus stop, it is a 15-minute walk.

HERE is the current timetable for the bus service for your reference. The timetable is in Japanese, so please use the Japanese characters of the bus stops’ names to read it. If the link doesn’t work, refer to HERE and click on the PDF under “蒜山久世ルート (蒜山高原休暇村~真庭市蒜山振興局~湯原温泉~中国勝山駅~真庭市役所)”.

Find out where else to Go in Maniwa City

Maniwa City, where Yubara Onsen Sunayu is located, is also known as one of the best places to be during cherry blossom seasons. Spots such as the cherry blossom tunnel and a gigantic cherry tree that is a thousand years old up on a hill are the places you won’t want to miss out on when you visit Japan when the flowers are blooming. There are even a few places where you can enjoy the cherry blossoms and the fall foliage at the same time (*’▽’).

Click the photo to find out how to get to this gorgeous spot!

And if you happen to come to Japan in summer, let the fireflies in limestone cave or along the river astonish you at night before you rest up in your hotel room (=゚ω゚)ノ.

To know more about where else to go around Hiruzen Highlands, check out our Maniwa City article!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *