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Mar. 4, Tue.

Tochigi: Secret World of Samurai and Hot Springs

Storyteller and Children

Yunishigawa Onsen(hot spring)

Kamakura Snow Domes

The hot spring resort of Yunishigawa is associated with an historic episode from the 12th century. Defeated in the Dan-no-Ura Battle, a group of fleeing Heike samurai settled deep in the mountains of present-day Tochigi Prefecture, where they found a source of hot springs. The warriors' descendants still dwell in the town. Yunishigawa Onsen has long been beloved by hot spring fans, but it experienced a drastic drop in visitors due to rumors following the nuclear accident of 2011, in neighboring Fukushima Prefecture. But the local community rallied, turning misfortune into an opportunity to encourage and inspire people. On Journeys in Japan, model and reporter Akane Nakajima visits the village. Interested in martial arts and the way of the samurai, she tries to identify with the samurai spirit through exchanges with Heike descendants.

Heike no Sato
Theme park introducing the history of Heike clan in Yunishigawa.
Address: 1042 Yunishigawa Onsen, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: (+81) 288-98-0126

Honke Bankyu
Traditional hot-spring inn.
Address: 749 Yunishigawa Onsen, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: (+81) 288-98-0011
www.bankyu.co.jp (in Japanese, English)

Yunishigawa Kan
Traditional inn run by Hiromi Ban who is also a storyteller.
Address: 785 Yunishigawa Onsen, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: (+81) 288-98-0316

Kamakura Festival
Open through March 9.

Access Map

It takes 2 hours from Tokyo's Tobu Asakusa Station to Kinugawa Onsen Station by the express train, "Spacia". From there, board a local train for Yunishigawa Onsen Station.

Date :
Jan. 26-29, 2013
Traveler :
Akane Nakajima (Model, Reporter)
Japan's warriors are called samurai, or bushi. They had a highly ritualistic moral code and aesthetic. For me, that's what sparked my fascination with the history and the culture of Japan. When I was in middle school, I was introduced to traditional martial arts, such as aikido. Being half Japanese, I wanted to dig into my roots while finding out what being a warrior was all about. Eventually that's what led me on a journey to historic Yunishigawa in Tochigi Prefecture.

It was my first time to visit the legendary place, and I was deeply impressed by the locals and their family ties stretching back to the Heike clan. The clan had been defeated by the Genji and fled. They had to live discreet lives in the mountains to avoid detection. I heard examples of that. For instance, in the past, they couldn't keep chickens for the noise and they couldn't fly carp streamers for children's day, as that was how they'd been caught out previously. I learned about this history through the townspeople. I was also fortunate to see the Kamakura snow festival. Many of the townspeople have worked together to make the festival happen. My journey was very fulfilling because it gave me insight into what a true "Warrior's spirit" means.