Shirahone Onsen : Awanoyu

Shirahone Onsen

Saw Awanoyu in a Japanese magazine and I had to come! Awanoyu 泡の湯 is a hotel that's part of Shirahone Onsen 白骨温泉. Came here only for the day outdoor hot spring. Some info said the outdoor hot spring is only open to visitors on weekends but I checked the calendar on the hotel website - it's actually open most weekdays so I called to confirm beforehand and it was open (本館 大野天風呂) even though we went there on a Monday. There's another outdoor one (外湯) that's not open though.

The 30-minute 松本電鉄 train from Matsumoto leaves for Shin-shimashima (新島々) at 7:16 from platform 7. Discount return tickets for the train+bus is 3500 yen and can be bought at the machines at Matsumoto Station. Bus from Shin-shimashima right outside the station leaves at 8:05. Very narrow and windy roads in the mountains past Norikura 乗鞍 ski resort. Bus arrives right outside the hotel (Awanoyu = 泡の湯) around 9:30 but the outdoor hot spring for visitors opens from 10:30-13:30 so we were told to wait "outside" because it would get busy for check-out even though there was no one in the lobby and it was -5 degrees out. It was very cold and there was snow on the ground.

machine to get tickets
Shirahone Onsen snow
mountains in the backdrop

Visitors have to take a separate entrance than hotel guests (just down the road). It's 820 yen per person, plus 100 for the locker, 250 for the face towel, and 700 for the bath towel (all optional). The big mixed outdoor hot spring bath was beautiful in the snow, just like the amazingly gorgeous photos online. The water was not very hot and the floor was a bit slippery so be careful.

Women wear towels to enter even though the water is opaque (I was a bit confused because it's not really written anywhere) - you can still see down your own chest though. There were more people just after it opened but barely anyone left after 12. Bare minimum in the changing room - 1 hair dryer and some Q-tips but no lotion or anything else so bring your own. The whole place is kind of dated - I guess they don't really care to make an effort because the outdoor onsen is so famous and does look really nice. On the women's side, there is a small but beautiful outdoor bath - the water is also not very hot (~38 degrees). There are 2 indoor baths, 1 lukewarm pumped with carbonated gas, the other hotter at 42 degrees. Nice wooden interior. For women, there's a separate entrance to the mixed outdoor bath from the women's baths/changing room, so you've got to get dressed to walk over to the other entrance then undress again.

We spent 2 hours at the place altogether. There is a hot food vending machine and also drinks but visitors can't stay there past 2 pm. You can walk 1 km downhill to the last bus stop, "Shirahone Onsen" (白骨温泉), where there is an info center with a heater and maps as well as a souvenir shop (closes early), a restaurant, and bathrooms nearby. There are some trails but not much else to do other than other onsen hotels. The bus back to Shin-Shimasima with connecting train back to Matsumoto is at 3:45 pm, arriving Matsumoto at 5:52 pm. Schedules can be found on Alpico's website, in Japanese, but basically there are only 2 buses a day that goes to Shirahone and back.

not much going on in the town

killing time waiting for the bus