Watch the clear stream of Shima River from the giant open-air bath at Gunma's Shima Yamaguchikan

Review of Shima Yamaguchikan | Shima 3876-1
  • Trip101 Review
Updated Aug 16, 2016

Shima Onsen is a quaint hot spring town surrounded by the nature of Gunma prefecture. You can either go there by car in about 2 hours and a half on Kanetsu Highway from Nerima IC, or by train in 2 hours and 10 minutes from Ueno Station to Nakanojo Station and then transfer to a 40-minute bus. Shima Onsen is beautiful in all four seasons. Let me introduce one especially good open-air bath.

Shima Yamaguchikan is famous for the daily picture story show held by the owner


Shima Yamaguchikan is famous for the traditional “kamishibai” picture story shows organized by the lady owner every night. They take place at the Tawaramachi Square on the 4th floor of the hotel and are one of the best entertainments for the guests. There are also other seasonal events held throughout the year, like making sweet bean rice cakes or organizing night fairs. Upon your arrival you’ll be welcomed warmly by the staff. They all wear sedge-woven hats which create a pleasant atmosphere.

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Relax and contemplate in the stylish Tsukimidai Lounge

The interior is very stylish. There is a Tsukimidai Lounge on the 3rd and the 7th floors where the lights are dimmed in the evening. From the windows you can see not only the moon, but also Shima River, the waterfalls and lush green or autumn colors depending on the season. The place where you dine depends on your accommodation place, but one great restaurant inside the hotel is “Tani no Chaya” which is a half-private room. The food is cooked in a big furnace which is rather rare to see in a restaurant. I was impressed by how large it was in real. From some seats you can have a great view towards Shima River while you eat. This will definitely be a dinner that you’ll remember.

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An open-air bath inside the river!?

Shima Onsen was traditionally developed as a hot spring for treating stomach problems, rheumatism, movement disorders, wounds and many others. In fact, its name comes from the belief that the hot water here heals 40 000 diseases. On the photo you can see the symbol of Shima Yamaguchikan – the giant open-air bath “Odaimoku”. It’s so close to the river, giving you the feeling that you’re almost soaking in the clear streams. The experience of bathing in the hot water while listening to the murmur of the stream is fantastic. This bath is very large and you’ll feel at ease insides. By far the best open-air bath in Shima Onsen.

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Even more luxurious – the private hot spring

There are 4 private baths at Shima Yamaguchikan. On the photo you can see “Hakuju no Yu”. It can be used even by people on wheelchairs. There is also an indoor bath of the same size. Both are for private use and you can spend a leisurely time here. Latest research shows that Shima Onsen’s hot water gushes out after spending 60 years inside the ground. This means it’s very rich in minerals and good for the skin. In fact, it has fruits acid which is considered one of the most important ingredients for cosmetics. Women will definitely like this hot spring.

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A hot spring for drinking? Health treatment from within your body

There are two places to drink the hot spring water. On the photo you can see one of them, called “Shio no Yu”. It’s located in the middle of Shima Onsen, across the post office on the main shopping street. You’ll recognize it by the roof and the construction which resembles a gazebo. From ancient times Shima Onsen’s water is believed to be good for your stomach and your skin. Therefore you can try and drink some of it during your stroll around the little town.

“Shio no Yu” hot water drinking place Hot spring name: Meiji no Yu Water type: calcium-sodium sulfate Good for treating: chronic stomach and bowel diseases, chronic constipation, chronic cholecystitis, gallstones, obesity, diabetes, gouts.

There are also 2 foot baths and 6 public baths. One of them I recommend is “Gomuso no Yu”, because it uses hot water from the hot spring which established the legend of Shima Onsen. There is a temple with a foot bath in front of it, so you can visit several things at once.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in shima and also compare the prices with airbnbs in shima


Many visitors come to Shima Yamaguchikan even only for the giant open-air bath “Odaimoku”. Once you enter it, you’ll understand why people come back to this place. The four spacious private baths are ideals for couples and families. Shima Yamaguchikan is a hotel which treats its guests with good-quality hot springs, delicious food and hospitality. It’s an ideal place to enjoy Japanese hot springs.

This article was originally published on Sep 23, 2015

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