Niseko's Goshiki Onsen
Hokkaido's Niseko area is mostly famous for its great skiing, but it's a hot spring paradise as well. And you can't bring up hot springs in Niseko without talking about Goshiki Onsen Ryokan.
Located at a high elevation deep within the mountains of Niseko, this ryokan (Japanese-style inn) is surrounded by native Japanese white birch forest stretching as far as the eye can see.
Natural sulfur spring water flows from Mount Iwao-nupuri, and the quality of the water rivals that of some of the best onsen (hot springs) in Japan, including the famed Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma Prefecture. And if you come in the fall, you'll get a chance to bathe outside amid beautiful fall foliage.
Getting to Niseko from New Chitose Airport takes about two hours by car (available for rent at the airport). It won't feel like such a long drive, though, as you'll spend most of it gazing at Hokkaido's jaw-dropping scenery.
The picture above is the main building of Goshiki Onsen Ryokan. It really has a unique flavor. However, I decided to stay in the bekkan (annex building), and I definitely recommend booking it!
The main outdoor bath is famous in Japan, and has been featured in a number of magazines. The hot spring water comes naturally from the base of Mount Iwao-nupuri.
Cloudy white patterns dance about in the light-blue-colored water. It has an acidic flavor similar to lemon, which is normal for an acidic spring such as this. Some people say baths with higher acidity tingle a bit, but I didn't feel this at all. The water has a very soft texture and a characteristically smooth feel.
There's an indoor bath as well, and both are worth a try.
Karamatsu-no-Yu is the main building's other bath, located toward the back. It was built as an add-on to the main building, and is casually called the "new annex."
Compared to the main bath, this one is smaller and feels more personal. It also has one indoor and one outdoor bathing area.
The water in the outdoor bath is the same as the water in the main bathing area, but the indoor bath has white nigori-yu—thick, cloudy water that's very popular with onsen enthusiasts.
A Japanese white birch forest stretches out before your eyes when you enter the outdoor bath. Enjoy the blissful silence as the only sounds you can hear are the water pouring into the bath and the occasional rustling of foliage being blown in the wind.
Night in the Bekkan
I took this picture from the main building facing toward the bekkan (annex), which is the white building. It's located a short distance away from the main building.
The small pool you see directly in front of me is also an onsen. Named Hana-batake (Flower-field) Onsen, spring water emerges naturally from within the earth. The annex has its own baths, indoor and outdoor, and they use water from the Hana-batake spring.
Because it's a bit newer, the annex looks and feels very clean. It's a simple building, and the price is very reasonable, but I still found that all of my expectations were met.
The annex's bath water, which comes from the Hana-batake spring, is markedly different from the water used in the main building's baths (however, the chemical properties are very similar, as is the technical name for the water). But since these baths are so close to the source of their water, it's as natural as can be!
When hot spring water interacts with air, it undergoes a chemical change. It oxidizes, changing its composition. An example of this is the nigori-yu water in the main baths. This is the case with all hot spring water, with the exception of "moor"-type water, which contains organic elements from vegetation making it non-transparent. All hot spring water is clear before coming out of the ground, but becomes cloudy shortly after it's exposed to air.
The water in the annex baths is so fresh from the ground that it's actually still clear! There are hints of blue and green, but it's not at all murky—it's top-grade stuff.
Taking all of this into consideration, I recommend staying at the annex for the best Goshiki Onsen Ryokan experience. All I can say is that Goshiki Onsen Ryokan is truly one of the best hot spring hotel experiences available!
Read full story: trip101.com
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