August 14, 2009
by Maki Okada; Shoma Horikawa & Atsushi Nanjo
A Special Bathhouse Experience
The entrance gate to Funaoka Onsen is very large, and after passing through and entering the building the visitor is immediately struck by the beautifully tiled walls. The first thing you need to do is remove your shoes, and then pay the entrance fee at the small reception stand. If necessary, you can buy soap, shampoo, towels, etc, here too. This is a fine sento, or publicbath.
A short way along the corridor you will find two separate entrances to the bathing area with special curtains called ‘noren’ across them. The red one signifies that this is the bathing area for women, and the blue one, the entrance for men.
The changing rooms for each area are large and there are many lockers available in the rooms for storing personal belongings. Between the changing rooms, there is a wall which has a fantastic head jamb with a large, powerful, long-nosed goblin’s face fixed to the ceiling.
Funaoka onsen has a variety of baths for you to enjoy, for example a medicated bath, a cold-water plunge bath, a jet stream bath, an esthetic bubble bath, a very hot bath and even a bath with a mild electric current running through it. There are also two kinds of open-air spa baths (rotenburo), which are separated from the others, and it is possible to spend some peaceful moments here in the fresh air.
Outside the changing rooms, there is a vending machine and a space where you can rest and mingle with local people after bathing. Since most of the people who come here are very kind, even if you are visiting for the first time, you will almost certainly feel at ease. The person on duty at the small reception stand was very friendly and happy to answer all our questions.
You can get a true sense of the ‘real’ Japan from the appearance and experience of Funaoka Onsen, and after a bath, it is most enjoyable to walk around the nearby shopping street and local area and take in some sights. I thoroughly recommend you go to Funaoka Onsen, a bathhouse that has remained unchanged since olden times.
Funaoka Onsen is a very famous place, and was opened as a bathhouse in 1923 in the Taisho era. Therefore, there are many special features in this bathhouse from this time, such as wooden carvings, sculptured tiles, and other antiques.
Ranma are wooden panels used as decorative transoms above the sliding paper doors found in many traditional Japanese homes and establishments. The ones in Funaoka Onsen are particularly ornate and actually offer something of a history lesson on the Taisho era. The tiles are very beautiful, too, and present a rich and colorful mosaic of ceramic art.
Originally, the bathing areas were fixed, one side for men and one side for women, as is still the case in many Kyoto sento. However, now in Funaoka onsen, the bathing areas alternate on a daily basis. As the two sides have different features, such as an outside rock bath on one side and a cedar wood outside bath (hinokiburo) on the other, both genders can enjoy all the bathhouse has to offer. Of course, you would have to visit over two days to experience everything.
A variety of people come to Funaoka Onsen, for example, the elderly, parents with children, students, and businessmen at the end of a long workday. And it is not only local residents who make use of this unique establishment; many tourists also come, including a number of foreign visitors. At times, this gives Funaoka Onsen a really international atmosphere.
There are many images to take in when you are in the bathing area. Here are some observations (on the male side)
- Elderly men chatting amiably in the outdoor hot spring bath
- A middle-aged man with a contented look on his face watching television in the sauna
- A young man facing the wall, eyes closed in meditation, while immersed up to his waist in the Chinese medicine bath
- Two young boys gasping at the freezing temperature of the water in the cold water plunge bath
- Everybody seemed to be savoring the public bath in their own way.
There is also much to do upon leaving the bathing area. You can weigh yourself in the changing room, and dry yourself in the cooling breeze from an electric fan. Perhaps you would like to buy and drink some coffee milk while watching the television. The coffee milk is the most delicious beverage on offer, in our opinion, but there are a variety of other drinks to choose from.
In short, it is possible to enjoy Funaoka Onsen in a number of ways. You really only need to try everything to find the best way for you.
(the south side of Kuramaguchi and Senbon streets)
Tel: (075) 441-3735
Mon – Sat: 3.00 pm ~ 1.00 am
Sundays/Holidays: 8.00 am ~ 1.00 am