This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support.
Yunomine Onsen is one of my favorite places in Japan and there are lots of fun things to do there. Here is why you should visit Yunomine Onsen and how to plan your trip to this hot springs mountain village…
I absolutely ADORED Japan. I spent a month traveling the country on a budget and it was truly a dream trip for me. But, as it was my first time in the country, I mostly chose the well-known and touristy places to visit – Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nara, Osaka… they were all great but definitely not undiscovered by the tourist masses.
But Yunomine Onsen, a tiny mountain village with hot springs, definitely felt more off the beaten path. And although I only spent one night there, I loved it so much and wished I had spent longer.
Toby and I visited Yunomine Onsen while hiking the five-day Nakahechi Kumano Kodo route – one of only two UNESCO-listed pilgrimage hikes in the world. We got there in the afternoon after hiking most of the day and I was instantly smitten.
About Yunomine Onsen
Yunomine Onsen is located in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula south of Osaka and has been an important village on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route for over 1,000 years. Pilgrims stopped here to perform hot water purification rituals in preparation for worship at the Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine nearby.
The hot springs were discovered around 1,800 years ago and it is believed they are the oldest hot springs in Japan. Today the village is still a popular place for pilgrims to rest and soak in the healing waters while hiking in the footsteps of ancient Japanese emperors.
Things To Do in Yunomine Onsen
For such a small village, Yunomine Onsen actually has a lot of things to do in and around it. Here are the highlights…
Soak in Tsubo-yu, the Only UNESCO Hot Spring in the World
Yunomine Onsen is home to Tsubo-yu, the only UNESCO-listed hot spring in the world, and possibly the oldest hot spring in Japan. It is located in a small hut right on the river flowing through the village. The pool itself is small and carved into the rock, barely fitting two people.
Its waters are said to change color multiple times a day and legend states that centuries ago a famous military commander with an incurable disease was healed by the hot spring’s waters.
You have to pay at the little booth in front of the main Yunomine Public Baths. It is first-come, first-served for a 30-minute time slot and you are given a number. This number goes on the outside of the shack and you need to keep an eye on this to see when it is your turn. We had to wait about two hours.
Soak at Yunomine Public Baths
As well as soaking at Tsubo-yu, you should also soak at the Yunomine Public Baths right in the center of town. There are a few different pools you can choose from including a male and female public bath, a male and female medicine bath, or a private bath.
A soak in the medicine bath or the public bath is included in your Tsubo-yu ticket.
Cook Eggs and Sweet Potatoes in Thermal Water
Nearby to Tsubo-yu, also on the river, there is a square pool surrounded by a wooden fence and filled with boiling thermal water. You can actually cook sweet potatoes and eggs here – definitely one of the more unique things to do in Yunomine Onsen!
There is a small shop nearby that sells eggs and sweet potatoes in net bags and there are guidelines for how long to cook each food item. You submerge the bags with your goodies inside and tie them to the wooden frame. Set your timer and come back when your cooking time is up. We ate our onsen eggs for breakfast the next morning and they were delicious.
Spend a Half Day in Hongu To Visit Important Sites
I highly recommend spending half a day in the nearby town of Hongu, a short bus ride away. There are a couple of important shrines in town that you should visit, Kumano Hongu Taisha and Oyunohara.
At the top of a long set of stairs surrounded by cedar forest, Kumano Hongu Taisha is one of the three grand shrines along the UNESCO pilgrimage trail, the Kumano Kodo.
Oyunohara was the original site of Kumano Hongu Taisha before a flood washed it away in 1889. Now, the site is home to a giant 33-meter-tall torii gate, the tallest in Japan.
You should also visit the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center and its small and interesting museum. There are also a couple of restaurants in town for lunch.
Hike Sections of the Kumano Kodo Trail as Day Hikes
Although I hiked the full Nacahechi route of the Kumano Kodo trail, Yunomine Onsen is a great place to base yourself to do sections of the trail as day hikes. It isn’t easy to get accommodation along the trail unless you plan months in advance so this is a great alternative if you can’t book places to stay along the full route.
With the extensive bus system in this region, it is easy to hike the three sections of the Kumano Kodo trail between Hongu and Takijiri-oji from Yunomine Onsen. You could also hike the two sections between Nachi and Hongu on one long day, although the bus connections aren’t as good along this part of the trail.
I recommend hiking to Hongu and taking the bus up to Hosshinmon-oji, an important Shinto shrine, then hiking back down to Hongu through the forest and local villages.
Make sure to pick up free brochures and maps about the Kumano Kodo trail from the information desk at Kii-Tanabe station when transiting.
Visit Another Nearby Hot Spring
Along with the hot springs in town, there are a couple of other hot springs nearby that are also worth a visit.
Kawayu Onsen is a thermal hot spring where hot water bubbles through the pebbled bottom of the Oto River. You can dig your own hot springs pool in the shallows of the river to soak in or if you are visiting in winter there is a large thermal hot pool formed on the river.
Watarase Hot Springs Hotel is home to a number of hot springs baths surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. Although it is a hotel, day-use guests are also welcome here.
Eat at the Only Restaurant in Town
There is only one restaurant in town and it’s a small and unassuming local spot next to the Yunomine Public Baths. If you don’t want to cook, this is where you are going to end up in town to eat. I really enjoyed the udon with tempura and Toby liked his ramen.
Where To Stay in Yunomine Onsen
We stayed at J Hoppers Guesthouse right in town in a private room and I really enjoyed our short stay at this lovely hostel. There are three free onsen baths here for guest use on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as a well-equipped guest kitchen and cozy lounge.
Ryokan Adumaya is another solid option in town and has an open-air bath and traditional Japanese rooms. You can also order dinner and breakfast onsite.
Guest House Takiyoshi is also in town and is a ryokan that offers traditional tatami rooms, breakfast, and an onsite onsen.
How To Get To and Around Yunomine Onsen
The cheapest way to get to Yunomine Onsen if you don’t have the JR Pass is to take a bus from Osaka Station to Kii-Tanabe. The bus takes 3 hours and you can book it online here. Select Osaka to Wakayama then for the stations select Osaka to Tanabe. This is what we did and it was comfortable and on time.
Alternatively, a faster way to get from Osaka to Kii-Tanabe is by taking the train. The train costs almost double what the bus does and takes 2 hours 20 minutes.
Once you get to Kii-Tanabe, you will need to take a local bus to Yunomine Onsen. There are five buses a day so check the local bus timetable. It takes just under two hours to get there. Use this timetable to get around Yunomine Onsen too, including to Hongu, Hosshinmon-oji, Watarase Onsen, and Kawayu Onsen.
Enter the bus at the back and take a ticket, then when you are getting off give the driver your ticket and they will tell you how much to pay. Make sure to have coins for payment as you won’t get change. The cost to get from Kii-Tanabe to Yunomine Onsen is around ¥1800.
The Best Insurance For Your Japan Trip
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your Japan adventure, just to be on the safe side.
Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with – you can choose to have it auto-renew every month, or purchase a fixed plan.
If you liked this post, why not check out some more of my Asia content:
- The Best Places To Visit Jodhpur in 2 Days
- Why You Should Experience Holi in Jodhpur
- Best Forts of Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle
- Ultimate Sri Lanka Packing List for One Month
- Why You Need to Visit the Bagan Pagodas in Myanmar
- Exploring the Centuries-Old Batad Rice Terraces: A Philippines Must-Do
- Trekking Kalaw to Inle Lake: The Best Trek I Have Ever Done
- Thong Nai Pan: A Quieter Side to Koh Phangan
- Why You Should Visit the Perhentian Islands in the Shoulder Season
- The Best Things To Do in Kampot – My Favorite Place in Cambodia