One of the pleasures of a visit to Japan is a soak in an onsen. Onsen are not merely hot spring baths, but Japanese cultural icons. There are three onsen close to Kumano Hongu Heritage Center, each with a unique atmosphere and history.
Links (Tanabe city Kumano Tourism Bureau)
Yunomine Onsen 湯の峰温泉
With a history of over 1800 years, Yunomine Onsen is considered one of Japan’s oldest hot spring areas. The small Tsuboyu bath is located in a small cabin by a creek that flows through the village. It was used for hot water purification rites and is the only hot spring bath that one can bathe in that is registered as UNESCO World Heritage. Yunomine Onsen is an outstanding example of how nature’s gifts have been revered and used in the local spiritual traditions.
Kawayu Onsen 川湯温泉
Kawayu Onsen is a natural wonder where hot mineral waters bubble to the surface of the river. Simply by digging a hole in the gravel river bed, hot spring waters seeps in creating a small bath. Using the water from the river visitors can adjust the temperature to their liking. In the winter (November ~ February) the river is transformed in a large bath called the Sennin-buro.
Wataze Onsen 渡瀬温泉
Wataze Onsen is the site of two large modern onsen facilities. One is called Watarase Onsen and features the largest outdoor bath in Eastern Japan. Kurhaus has 8 styles of baths in the same building. Close by are bungalows and a campsite.