An onsen that you can only enter during certain periods once or twice a day. It’s surrounded by a wall of rocks, the other side of which is the ocean. When you’re in it you feel as though you are bathing in the ocean – did you know such an experience was possible on an island that is part of Tokyo?
With a population of just 600 people, the small Tokyo island of Shikine-jima is an onsen paradise. One of those is Jinata onsen, which is located at the bottom of a V-shaped valley and can only be entered at certain times of the day.
An onsen you go through a steep cliff to get to
You don’t need to come to Shikine-jima to find onsens with an ocean view. But this onsen is unlike any other.
Jinata onsen is an onsen submerged in the sea. Its water is gensen, which means the water here is not drawn from other sources (as is common with onsens), but it is the source. It’s a rare onsen that can only be entered 1-2 times a day.
I was a solo traveler this trip, but arriving at the parking lot I bumped into a couple I had met earlier at my accommodation, and we decided to go together.
Shikine-jima is so small that many choose not to rent cars. That said, there are a lot of steep hills, so some rent electric bikes, while those who are more athletic opt to walk. It’s a small island abundant in nature and fun to explore by foot.
I parked my car and began walking down a line of steps with the couple. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the view. While it wasn’t a particularly long set of steps, as a city dweller all that was going through my mind was the thought of having to climb back up afterwards, even as I was making my way down.
Then, all at once we reached a point where our field of vision could see far and wide, a valley appearing right in front of our eyes.
Not expecting a view so beautiful on an island as small as this, I couldn’t help but exclaim out loud.
We continued climbing down the steps towards the ocean awaiting us on the other side of a wall of rocks. Once past those rocks, we arrived at our destination – Jinata onsen.
There, we were shrouded in steam rising from various spots. The reddish brown color of the water here is a rarity among the islands of Tokyo, and unique to Shikine-jima. Jinata onsen is also known as the bath for internal medicine, helping to alleviate nerve pain, cold intolerance, and joint pain.
Beyond the reddish brown onsen stretches the blue ocean in all its grandeur. The 80 degree hot spring water mixes with ocean water to reach the perfect temperature. I had heard that there would not be a dressing room, so I came prepared with a swimsuit already worn under my clothes. I tested around for a spot with optimal temperature.
I entered the water where it was closest to the ocean. The temperature was perfect – around 42-43 degrees centigrade. To avoid getting the reddish brown minerals on my swimsuit, I dipped into the water without touching my bottom onto the earth.
I was so close to the ocean that right next to me was cold ocean water. I could reach out and touch it with my hands if I wanted. Looking at the ocean from this height, it felt as though the onsen I was bathing in was the ocean itself.
Why just twice a day?
Why, to such a spectacular onsen, can you only go in 1-2 times a day? The reason is because Jinata onsen reaches optimal temperature by mixing with ocean water, so it’s only good for an hour to an hour and a half during high tide.
The temperature of the source water is 80 degrees. You’d burn yourself if you tried to go into that, so don’t even try! It’s best a short while after high tide when ocean water mixes into it.
The best times to go in to Jinata onsen
So when is it high tide? It differs one day to the next, but ask the Shikine-jima Tourism board or the staff where you are staying, and they will give you a rough idea. Rather than going straight there, it’s best to check beforehand.
Access to Shikine-jima and Jinata onsen
Shikine-jima, unforgettable for its cobalt blue waters, is 3 hours on the high speed jet ferry, and 9 hours by large passenger ship. Both are operated by Tokai Kisen and departs from a port in Tokyo’s Hamamatsucho. The high speed jet ferry leaves daily in the summer, but not during the colder seasons when you will have to take the large passenger ship.
9 hours on a boat? You may be thinking, but as the ship departs late at night, you can hop onboard after work to arrive the next morning, allowing for plenty of time to play the day you arrive. The return leg departs in the AM, but you will be back in Tokyo before 8 in the evening, so even if you need to transfer to a Shinkansen to continue on with your journey, you will be able to make it in time.
How about relaxing your tired body in Shikine-jima, Tokyo’s tiny onsen paradise? The onsen, nature’s own medicine, and the amazing view is sure to heal your cold winter body.