There are many renowned hot springs in Kyushu. Ureshino hot spring (嬉野温泉 Ureshino Onsen), in Saga prefecture, is one of them.
It’s said to be one of the top three hot springs in Japan that make your skin beautiful.
Now, Ureshino is getting a little more famous for one of the inn’s radical and artistic porcelain bathtubs.
The name of the inn is Seiunso (静雲荘(sei-un-so): meaning Quiet Clouds Inn).
They have a bathhouse with five rooms. Each room has either two porcelain bathtubs or the combination of a porcelain bathtub and a wooden bathtub. I rented a room with two porcelain bathtubs (photo above) for one hour for 2,600 yen.
This bathhouse is named by the inn owners “Shiawase no Yu (幸せの湯: Bathhouse of Happiness)
The porcelain bathtubs are Arita-yaki (有田焼: Arita porcelain). The inn owners had them made by a kiln in Arita city, which is not far from Ureshino. Porcelain made by kilns in Arita city is called Arita-yaki.
Arita porcelain (有田焼) and Imari porcelain (伊万里焼) are basically the same things. So, you can think that these bathtubs are actually Imari porcelain. It ‘s very confusing – even many Japanese don’t know what Arita is and what Imari is (I did not know myself until just recently. I wrote about Imari porcelain in Imari Kiln Village, Where Imari Porcelain Came From, but I will write more about Imari sometime soon later).
The entrance of the Bathhouse of Happiness. The porcelain bathtub statue is an eye-catcher. The wooden panels below the tub says “First in Kyushu” and “Arita porcelain, open-air baths for families, Happy Baths”. Sei-un-so has two buildings: one is the regular inn and the other is this bathhouse.
Photos of the five rooms: the name of the two rooms with two porcelain bathtubs in each are Peony and Wisteria; the names of the three rooms with a porcelain bathtub and a conventional-style rectangle wooden bathtub are Tea Flowers, Camellia, and Cherry Blossom.
The explanation on the board goes:
Our popular porcelain bathtubs have been featured in many TV shows. 2,600 yen for 2 adults, 3,200 yen for 3 adults, 300 yen for child (age 3 – 12). Rent for one hour. For 30 minutes increment, 800 yen (2 adults), 1,100 yen (3 adults), 150 yen (child). Towels and bath towels included.
If you want to rent one of the rooms just for yourself, you will have to pay for two people (2,600 yen). That’s what I did – I was traveling alone. A little pricy, but I really wanted to try it, so I paid 2,600 yen. And I do not regret I did it !
I chose the Peony room.
Actually only one of the two bathtubs was peony-designed. The other tub was bamboo tree-designed. They were both beautiful.
They drain water completely every time after use by customers (I hope they scrub the inside of the tubs). My bathtubs were very clean. As soon as the owner took me to the room, she started filling the two bathtubss with water from the faucets. The water coming from the faucets is, of course, hot spring water.
You can try a tea bath, a Japanese sake bath, and/or a soy milk bath.
If you want to try any of them, you tell the owner when you arrive at the front desk. They sell tea bags, sake, and soy milk for use at the front desk.
I purchased a tea bag. I wanted to try a tea bath, because Ureshino is famous for good tea as well. I am assuming the tea bags sold there contain 100% Ureshino tea leaves (I forgot to verify that with the owner).
You can enjoy tea baths and sake baths in other hot springs, but the owner told me that this inn is the only place in Japan that offers soy milk baths (Really? No other places in the whole country? Is it so difficult to offer soy milk baths? )
I drop the tea bag in one of them. The color of the water starts changing.
The owner said it would turn very yellow after a while.
Toward the end of the one hour, it became very yellow. It looks like tea in a tea cup. I was taking a bath in tea in a gigantic tea cup!
I sat in the big tea cup for a long time.
I did not add tea, sake, or soy milk in the other one. I alternated the two baths. I felt really really good in the tea bath…Was that my imagination? Did some component(s) in the tea leaves make me feel particularly good? Something must be doing something good, otherwise tea/sake/soy milk baths would not be popular.
Water of Ureshino hot spring is known to feel very pleasant to your skin. They say once you experience the feel of the Ureshino hot spring water, you will not be able to leave Uresnio (i.e. you will be addicted to the water there). It’s a little exaggeration, but I think there is some truth in it (I am feeling I will become a repeater).
I took a closer look at the tub. It’s very well made — it’s painted beautifully. I am not an expert of porcelain or anything, but I think I will be able to tell if it’s poor quality.
Enjoy the mini Japanese garden, sitting in the tea cup bath.
The room has a small private dressing area.
Between the porcelain bathtub and the entrance door, there is a shower.
This is an open-air bathhouse. It makes me wonder if it’s a bit too cold to take a shower here in winter (just to sit in the bathtubs would be OK).
One hour is up (one hour is enough). I leave the room. In the hallway I see this sign saying “Our porcelain bathtubs are specially made to order. They cost one million yen each”.
One million yen x 7 bathtubs = 7 million yen in total. They made a pretty big investment. I am impressed by their boldness. They are the only hot spring inn in the entire Kyushu that has done it. You might think it’s such an easy idea that a few other inns would do the same thing? Maybe other inns had the same idea but never executed it for various reasons. Often, coming up with an idea is one thing, and executing it is another thing.
This is pretty creative. Who said Japanese are not creative? Yes, they may not be good at creating totally new things. But this is definitely creative – porcelain tea cup baths.
The hallway. The rooms with the porcelain bathtubs are on the left side.
Of course you can stay here overnight (the building next to this bathhouse is the regular inn). They offer an overnight package with free one-hour trip to the Bathhouse of Happiness. They also offer a daytime package called Kyukei Plan (休憩プラン：meaning take-a-rest plan) that gives you a free one-hour trip to the Bathhouse of Happiness and a subsequent two-hour meal in a private room.
The lobby and the front desk of the bathhouse.
After the bath, I was cooling off in the lobby. Then I noticed on the wall a lot of autographs by TV reporters.
NHK, FBS, KBC, RKB….NHK is the national TV station. FBS, KBC, and RKB are local Kyushu TV stations. NHK must have sent its Kyushu regional team (they have regional teams all over Japan). The owner said they have been very busy with visits of TV reporters.
In fact, both the day before and the day after my visit there, they closed the bathhouse because more TV reporters came. I was lucky! I was on a tight itinerary and that day I visited Ureshino was the only day I could do it.
They are pretty crowded on weekends. Even if you want to or can go there during a week, I recommend you call them at least a few days in advance to make sure that they won’t be closed on the day for interviews by mass media people.
By the way, I had one complaint.
I felt the porcelain bathtubs were a little small. The diameter of the tubs is 88 cm, so they are pretty big. I am 168 cm (5’6″), big for a Japanese woman, and I am not fat. I could not stretch my arms and legs in them. If you a big man, you may feel even tighter.
I mentioned that to the owner. I felt she did not really want to hear that (of course, if you had invested 7 million yen) She said, ” Other people told us the same thing. So, to prove that the bathtubs are big enough for everybody, we have a photo in our website of a sumo wrestler nicely fitting in one of them. Please check it out”.
http://seiunso.spa-ureshino.com/siawase_yu.htm (all in Japanese)
Yes, I see it.
That’s not what I am talking about. I am saying if you like to stretch your arms and legs in a bath, you will feel frustrated.
As I was talking to the owner, I realized that for a big man, a room with a porcelain bathtub and a conventional-style wooden bathtub would be good. Enjoy a tea, sake, or soy milk bath in the porcelain bathtub, and then switch to the wooden bathtub to stretch your arms and legs in it. Alternate it to your satisfaction. Or if you are with your wife/girlfriend and she is small, let her enjoy the porcelain bath and you will stay in the wooden bathtub. If both you and she are both big, then I don’t know….
Distant view of Sei-Un-So. The one-story house in the front is the bathhouse. It’s like an annex to the main building which is a regular inn. (I think the exterior walls of the main building needs some work…)
Big signs of Bathhouse of Happiness in the inn’s parking lot.
Ureshino Onsen seems to be somewhat struggling. They seem trying very hard to boost business. I see a lot of promotion of Ureshino, with trilingual signs and brochures (English, Korean, and Chinese), like many other places in Kyushu. The owners of this inn are also trying hard by bold investment in the porcelain bathtubs. Wish them the best.
I am a fan of Imari porcelain. I squeezed my visit to Ureshino in my tight itinerary, because I had to try sitting in porcelain tea cup bathtubs once in my life. And I am very glad I did it (some people may think I am silly)
If you are a fan of Imari and Arita porcelain ware, why don’t you try it, too?
Ureshino is about two hours from Fukuoka by bus or by train and bus.
1) There are express buses, Kyushu-go (高速バス 九州号), from JR Hakata station to Nagasaki. They stop at Ureshino Onsen Bus Center (嬉野温泉バスセンター). You won’t have to change buses, which is nice.
Website of Express Bus Kyushu-go:
http://www.nishitetsu.ne.jp/kyushugo/time.html (in Japanese only)
2) If you’d rather take trains, take JR trains to Takeo Onsen (武雄温泉) first. About 1 hour from Hakata to Takeo Onsen. Then, take a JR Kyushu Bus (JR九州バス) from the south exit of JR Takeo Onsen station to Ureshino Onsen Bus Center. It takes 30 minutes.
Website of JR Kyushu Bus:
http://www.kyushu-bus.net/2_hsg/kitou/ureshino1.htm (in Japanese only)
The official website of Ureshino Onsen has good directions, but in Japanese only…
Ummm…. They are adding English, Korean, and Chinese to more and more signs, brochures, and websites, but they still have a long way to go.