Soaking in a rotenburo (open-air hot bath) is one of truly great Japanese experiences, and some way to finish a day. Don’t confuse us with the famous Jigokudani snow monkeys at Nagono. We are actually at Kawayu Onsen, a relatively remote village on the Oto-gawa in Wakayama Prefecture.
Spectacularly nestled under extremely steep mountainsides, the village is made up of around 12 accommodation places, from the upmarket to affordable. Hot mineral water percolates to the surface along the Otogawa, creating hot baths literally in the river.
A giant outdoor bath is created each winter (sennin-buro). We were here in June, so were able to move about from the Kameya Inn to the riverside hot baths without freezing. Soaking in the rotenburo for a while, then cooling down with a dip in the river steps away.
Kawayu is a great stepping off point for the Kumano Kodo World Heritage pilgrimage trail. Getting here is in two steps. Firstly, train from either Shin-Osaka or Nagoya along coastal lines deep into Wakayama Prefecture. Secondly, a bus from either Shingu or Kiitanabe right into Kawayu. Easy.