Where is the most famous hot spring in Japan, where naked foreigners wade in the mixed-sex “roten” (outdoor) baths?
It’s Takaragawa Onsen located in the renowned Minakami hot spring village in Gunma, a 150-minute drive from Tokyo. The facility boasts 4 open-air baths in its vast property, of which 3 are “konyoku” (mixed bathing). After checking in at the reception and heading for the “roten” bath, a facility staff comments, “There isn’t a single day that we don’t have foreign customers. But they walk everywhere naked and it’s quite embarrassing.”
A white couple appears. The naked man, with a can of beer in one hand, is already looking tipsy while the woman has herself wrapped in a towel that still exposes her breasts and buttocks.
A frequent visitor from Tokyo in his 50s describes the scene. “It seems they feel less inhibited when there are more fellow nudists. Even the women who come covered in towels – they get naked in no time at all.”
Two customers from Saitama in their 40s who said this was their third visit to the onsen were obviously enjoying the sight. “This is about the only place where you can have a close encounter with naked blond-haired women. It appears that the hair on the head may be blond but the color below could be different,” laughed one.
Since when did this remote onsen resort become a paradise for foreigners?
Yoshio Ono, president of Osenkaku, which manages Takaragawa Onsen, explains that there had been many foreign customers from before, such as Philippe Troussier, former coach to the Japanese national soccer team. “However, the number of foreign customers has increased from late last year, and there are weekdays when over 70% of our guests are from overseas. They’re well-mannered too,” he says.
According to research conducted by an international tour information company, Takaragawa Onsen has been chosen in Spain as the third most popular Japanese tour spot. In other countries as well, this facility is ranked as the most popular hot spring resort.
But there is another reason why, besides the popularity among foreigners, this phenomenon of naked foreigners walking everywhere is attracting so much public attention.
When searching on the Internet by typing in TAKARAGAWA ONSEN in English, numerous nudist sites show up. For example, one website named “Nudist Resort” has a message board with a posted comment referring to the facility as “convenient with explanations provided in English.”
It can be speculated that such information is spreading across nudist communities around the world – hence the flocking of nudists to Takaragawa Onsen.