Yamaga Onsen "Sakurayu"
We visited Yamaga Onsen “Sakurayu” in Yamaga, Yamaga, Kumamoto. It is a really big building with a traditional Japanese architecture located at the centre of Yamaga. The roof style is called Karahahu. According to the manager Hidehiko Asakura, it was once demolished in 1973, but rebuilt in 2012 as the symbol of Yamaga City backed by its citizens.
Sakurayu has two entrances - the north and south gates. This is the south gate. Conventionally, people living in the south side of Yamaga use this gate. Currently, the north gate only opens on Saturday and Sunday.
The reception staff Naoko and Machiko welcomed us with a smile at the reception. As you can see from this picture, they are really kind to visitors.
This is a dressing room. There is another dressing room in the opposite side of the bath. You can use lockers to keep your valuables.
The bathroom is made with stone and wood. The design is based on the architecture of 1898 when Sakurayu was reformed by Matahachiro Sakamoto who had directed the construction of Dogo Onsen. The room is about 36.5 square meters big, and retro ad boards are hung on the wall (they are not replica, actual ones). There used to be three bathrooms until the Meiji period, the first class is called “Matsu no yu”, the second class is called “Momijiyu”, and the third class is called “Sakurayu”. Hence, Sakurayu has been for normal citizens from a long time ago.
This is the gushing point of the hot spring water. The water used to naturally flow out of the bottom of the bathtub. The current bath imitates that situation. As the bathtub is huge, a massive amount of water is also required. 500 to 600 liters of water is supplied every minute. The type is alkaline simple thermal spring, you can enjoy the smooth touch of the water.
Yoshiteru (the name of the man in the bath) lives in Omuta, and always stops by Sakurayu when he comes to Yamaga. His smile indicates how much he is enjoying the bath time. As there are no other bathers, he can use this huge bath exclusively. It would be a gorgeous experience!
You can also use a lounge after bathing.
Yamaga is also famous for traditional lanterns. Yamaga Tōrō Festival, which is the biggest festival in Yamaga, is held on August every year. In that festival, lanterns are dedicated to Omiya Shrine. That is the highlight of the festival.
In Omiya Shrine, there is a small museum where you can see the lanterns dedicated this year. Every lantern has an elaborate design. It is made by assembling countless small pieces, you may be surprised with the technique of craftsmen. The current Sakurayu building was designed by referencing a lantern made in 1974 that completely copied the original Sakurayu architecture. Without that lantern, Sakurayu might not be able to be restored.
This is Yamaga Lanterns Folk Crafts Museum. You can see lanterns made in the past.
In this museum, you can see a craftsman actually making a lantern. He is a craftsman Mr. Nakamura who has eight years of experience. His delicate brush touch was really impressive.
This is Yachiyoza that is located close to Sakurayu. It is a theater built in 1911. In that age, there are several hundreds of theaters everywhere in Japan, however, only six theaters (including Yachiyoza) are left now. Yachiyoza once closed in late 1960s due to a run-down problem. However, it was renovated and reopened in 2001 supported by the Yamaga citizens.
This is the interior of Yachiyoza. Colourful ads hung on the ceiling are overwhelming.
In Yachiyoza, various events are performed, such as a concert, Kabuki, Noh. In fact, this theater is loved by famous Kabuki actors. Its capacity is small considering the business revenue, but its history and atmosphere attract the actors.
Finally, according to Hidehiko, the history of Yamaga is the history of Onsen and lanterns, and he is responsible for reserving these cultures for next generations. He says that is a pressure, but a big motivation as well.
Address: 1-1 Yamaga, Yamaga, Kumamoto
Access (Car): 49 min from the centre of Kumamoto city. 42 min from the Kumamoto airport
Parking Lot: 200
Opening Hours: 06:00 - 24:00
Closing Days: Every third Wednesday
Price: JPY 300