Hitoyoshi Onsen "Ganjyoji Onsen"
We visited Hitoyoshi Onsen Sagara-han “Ganjyoji Onsen” in Ganjōjimachi, Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto.
Takao welcomed us at the reception. He is now 86 years old and has been working as a reception staff member of Ganjyoji Onsen from 1957 when it opened. Hence, he has been loved by many locals and frequent visitors. During our interview, many people greeted him when they passed the reception.
The dressing room is simple. In the compartments on the right side in this picture, frequent bathers keep their bath kits. The number of the kits indicates this bath is used by many locals as a part of daily life.
Look at this gourd-shaped bathtubs. It’s so lovely! The hot spring water first pours into the small bathtub, then flows into the big one. The temperature of the small bath is 45°C (113°F), and the one of the big bath is 43°C (109.4°F), it is cooled down while flowing into the big bath. The women’s bathroom also has the same bathtubs.
You can find a painting hung on the wall. It shows the Hitoyoshi castle and its moat, and a ship cruising down the Kuma river. Before 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes, another painting was hung, however, it was changed to the current one with the hope for the restoration. The women’s bathroom has the almost same painting, only the angle of the castle is different.
The hot spring water gurgles out of the faucet. The water is a sodium bicarbonate saline spring and slightly yellow-coloured. It is drinkable and said to be good for stomach flu. It can also be used as a moisturiser which makes the skin smooth.
Katsuhiro (left) likes to go around hot springs in Hitoyoshi, and Yoshimitsu (right) comes to Ganjyoji Onsen everyday. In this picture, Yoshimitsu is trying to persuade Katsuhiro not to go other hot springs and to come to Ganjyoji Onsen only.
She is the owner Taeko. She really loves her hometown, locals, and this onsen. She hopes Ganjyoji Onsen will continue to serve as a hub for social interaction in the local community. She especially takes care of seniors living alone, and tries to greet and contact them if they don’t come to Ganjyoji Onsen.
Also, local vegetables are sold in the lounge. Ganjyoji Onsen provides the display space to local farmers for free. You can buy eggs, potatoes, okras, rices, garlics, etc. cheaply.
Taeko also runs a restaurant called “Sagara-han Den” next to Ganjyoji Onsen. This building used to be used as a girls’ high school, and has an elegant interior. If you visit Ganjyoji Onsen, we recommend you to have a stopover here.
According to Taeko, local kindergartens have a class to learn how to bathe in a traditional way without using showers. We were surprised to hear that. In Hitoyoshi, which is renowned by hot springs, people have established a process to inherit their cultures and traditions.
Finally, the history of Hitoyoshi is closely related to the history of the Sagara family. In the Ganjyoji temple, there are tombs of the family, the biggest one is of the first feudal lord Nagayori Sagara. This big monument implies how the family had contributed to the success of Hitoyoshi.
Name: Ganjyoji Onsen
Address: 402-1 Ganjōjimachi, Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto
Access (Car): 1 hour 13 min from the centre of Kumamoto city. 1 hour 12 min from the Kumamoto airport
Parking Lot: 10
Opening Hours: Daily 06:00 - 23:00
Price: JPY 200