Kawayu Onsen Fujiya (Review)
Hot Baths by the River in Tanabe
Kawayu Onsen Fujiya is a 4-star hotel in Kawayu, an onsen village located in Tanabe City, in the mountains of Wakayama. Facing Oto-gawa River, the ryokan inn offers the traditional Japanese experience of natural hot-springs during the pilgrimage of the Kumano Kodo.
The first written documents attesting the existence of Kawayu Onsen ♨️ thermal resort date to the 17th century. At the times, the natural site was only visited by the locals for its hot springs on the banks of the Oto-gawa River. Pilgrims on the Kumano Kodo could enjoy staying in the first accommodation facilities only a century later. Kawayu is now a small rural village of about fifty permanent inhabitants and provides a dozen of lodgings, which are either ryokan inns or minshuku guest houses.
Traditional ryokan inn in a rural setting
Kawayu Onsen Fujiya is a typical Japanese ryokan inn located on the fringe of the village. With an accommodation capacity of about 150 persons and about thirty rooms, it conveniently shelters families or groups of travelers. It also has a more luxurious Japanese suite and 3 western-style rooms with a private rotenburo outdoor bath. The decoration is simple and does not clutter the rooms, allowing for enough space to open a suitcase or store luggage. The staff is friendly but not fluent in English.
As for the onsen facilities, Fujiya possesses the following baths:
- Private bath on balcony in specific rooms,
- 2 indoor shared baths, tubs are in wood for one and marble for the other, men and women baths are separated;
- 1 shared bath with a stone pool, opening on the river; and;
- 1 private outdoor bath, more modern, in concrete, with payed booking per hour, ideal for couples or tattooed guests.
A large restaurant hall accommodates lunch and diner. The kaiseki type menu is composed of several Japanese and regional dishes. It includes the traditional raw fish served as sashimi, vegetables cooked as tempura fritters but also meat such as nabe pork hotpot, a hearty dish for winter. The quantity is fulfilling enough for a good night of sleep. On the next day, a Japanese style breakfast is served, with rice, fish and green tea; a Western-style course with eggs, bacon, toasted bread and coffee is also available.
Sennin-buro, the great bath in the river
Fujiya is particularly appreciated for its location on the bank of the river and facing the part of it that was arranged as an outdoor pool. It is indeed possible to dig holes in the riverbed for bathing. In summer the cool temperature of the water allows to refresh and in winter the steaming water offers a true well-being moment in the open air.
From December to February each year, the village builds a large shared bath in the river, called Sennin-buro. Men, women and children share this natural pool and enjoy together the springs of Kawayu. A swimsuit is required to enjoy this particular bath, and it is possible to rent one if necessary (¥150 / ~US$1.10 for men and ¥300/ ~US$2.20 for women).
The hotel 🏨 Kawayu Onsen Fujiya offers a service of quality thanks to its staff who is wonderfully caring with the customers. However, there is a slight downfall as the establishment looks somewhat quite old and not enough maintained. The high prices are due to the remote location in the mountains rather than to the luxury setting or spotlessness of the facility.