Bessho Onsen: Onsen with more than 1,000 years of history
Ueda Dentetsu Bessho Line and Bessho Onsen
Located in Ueda City, Nagano Prefecture, Bessho Onsen is an old hot spring town with more than 1,000 years of history. Because the original charm of the hot spring town has been preserved through the centuries, it has become the setting for many movies and television shows. The mildly alkaline quality of the spring is considered to help skin become silky smooth. You can enjoy soaking in these waters on daytrips to the many Japanese inns (ryokan) or bath facilities in town.
Bessho Onsen Station
In olden days, the area around Ueda City, including Bessho Onsen, flourished with the burgeoning silkworm industry, and several well established ryokan, founded in the Edo era (1603-1867), remain popular today. The center of the town’s prosperity were the public bathhouses, 3 of which are still open: Oyu, Daishiyu, and Ishiyu.
Foot Bath “Nanakuri”
Ishiyu appears in the popular historical novel “Sanada Taiheiki” (Saga of the Sanada Clan), written by Shotaro Ikenami (1923-1990). Daishiyu is famous because, according to legend, the great Buddhist priest Ennin (otherwise known as Jikaku Daishi, Head of the Hieizan Enryaku-ji Temple near Kyoto) bathed here. Finally, Oyu’s popularity partly rests on its open-air bath, which is rare for a public facility.
In front of Ishiyu, there is a stone monument inscribed with Shotaro Ikenami’s handwriting.
In addition, people can enjoy a relaxing day in the baths of “Aisome no Yu,” a facility run by Ueda City, which also has a restaurant and a tatami room.
Aisome no Yu
This area is also famous for matsutake mushrooms. In autumn, matsutake dishes can be eaten at many restaurants, and also at seasonal matsutake-specialty shops called “matsutake goya.”
Matsutake mushrooms are famous in autumn.
For sightseeing, the town is home to a large number of ancient temples, such as Anraku-ji, Joraku-ji, and Kitamuki Kannon.
Hakkaku Sanju no To (Octagonal Three-storied Pagoda) of Annraku-ji Temple is a National Treasure. It is the only wooden octagonal pagoda in Japan.
Approach to Kitamuki Kannon
The giant 1,200 year old katsura tree called “Aizen Katsura” on the grounds of the Kitamuki Kannon Temple. It is also known as a “sacred tree of marriage.”
Two-storied pagodas of Joraku-ji Temple are designated Important Cultural Properties.
Nearby Shiodadaira is also dotted with old temples and shrines. At Ueda Castle Park, located 30 minutes by train, Senbon Sakura Matsuri (the 1000 Cherry Blossom Festival) is held in April and the Autumn Leaves Festival is held in November every year.
Cherry Blossoms in Ueda Castle Park
Tokyo Sta. → 1 hr 30 min by Hokuriku Shinkansen → Ueda Sta. →30 min by Uedadentesu Bessho Line → Bessho Onsen Sta.
*Due to Typhoon 19 on October 13, 2019, Chikuma Bridge of the Bessho Line was damaged and now a substitute bus service operates between Ueda and Shiroshita stations.
Bessho Line Mirai Oen Project, a project aiming for complete reconstruction
Bessho Spa Tourism Association
*The information herein is as of February 2020.