By Karen Zheng
Strong winds raged on alongside the weeping skies. Outside, the relentless rain fell upon the windowpane and onto the ground. A faint melody of raindrops went pitter-patter while I looked out at the green plants that seemed to be overly quenched of their thirst.
There was a sort of melancholic beauty to the scene that lay afore me. Yet, I was in no hurry to head outdoors. I doubt I could even if I wanted to. Soaking lazily in the indoor sulphur bath of Kurama Onsen, I felt safe and warm despite the high typhoon alert.
Located in the traditional village of Kurama, the Kurama Onsen is set in an idyllic, mountainous environment that is less than an hour by car from downtown Kyoto. It is also easily accessible by the Eizan Line, whereby there are free shuttle services at the Kurama station.
If one does not wish to stay over, a day trip is a great idea. There are generally two packages for the hot bath facilities; i.e. the use of indoor and outdoor onsens or the use of outdoor bath. The latter is a popular choice, as it is more cost-effective. Do remember to bring your own towel or be prepared to purchase one.
I was spared the dilemma of choosing between the two packages, as the outdoor bath was closed due to the typhoon alert. Nonetheless, I was happy to soak indoors at a discounted price. The kind receptionist also allowed me to visit the outdoor bath area just to have a look.
The main differences between the outdoor and indoor bath facilities lie in the bath products, locker facilities (outdoor requires ¥100 refundable deposit) and the view. While the indoor bath area includes a small sauna room and three hot pools, the outdoor onsen has two pools and allows one the unique experience of bathing “in the wild”.
Yet, I would not trade to be anywhere else but in the Jacuzzi hot bath that claims to alleviate a wide range of ailments such as high blood pressure, nerve problems and even diabetes!
According to the Kyoto City Health and Hygiene Research Center, Kurama sulphur hot springs have been certified to contain natural minerals that provide the abovementioned health benefits. The fact that it is also good for backaches and beautifying skin made me loathed to get out of it.
It was my lucky day, as I had the whole facilities to myself for most of the time. Besides the Jacuzzi pool that provides a happy and warm bubbling experience, there are two other pools of varying temperatures.
Alternating amongst the three different pools, my silly imagination started to run astray and I found myself to bear strong resemblances to the dipping ramen! I must be getting hungry.
Next to the reception is the dining area whereby there is an English menu upon request. I was looking forward to a good lunch after seeing many positive web reviews for their food. In my overzealous state, I ordered too much (as usual) but! I finished my meal without a scrap because the food tasted so good.
On my way back, it seems that the train has stopped operation due to the bad weather. The kind staff at Kurama Onsen drove us to the nearest bus stop to get on our way. Like so many service-orientated personnel in Japan, the team at this spa hideaway was helpful in spite of our language barrier.
Nestled within lush greenery, the compound of Kurama Onsen is not big but it evokes a quiet charm that beckons people to re-visit it soon.
Because there’re so much more. Be it places, people or the most trivial of matters, there are much more if only one cares to explore further. I would love to hear your story and share some good ones with you. Come travel with me. Be inspired.