Hirayu Onsen in Takayama
Hirayu Onsen is believed to have been used since the late 16th century, during the Sengoku period. It was the first village in the area to be designated a national hot spring resort in 1964.
Okuhida Onsengo is a collective of five hot spring villages in Takayama, Gifu. The five onsen villages are Hirayu Onsen, Fukuchi Onsen, Shin-Hirayu Onsen, Tochio Onsen, and Shin-Hotaka Onsen.
Kasagatake Takayama | 663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Hirayu Onsen was discovered in the 1560s and is the largest and oldest of the hot spring resorts in Okuhida Onsen. Legend says that when the Shogun Shingen Takeda attacked Hida, an old white monkey guided his vassals to these hot springs in the mountains.
Tsurunoyu Onsen Outdoor Bath | Markmark28, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Today the area is well known for its outdoor baths with views of the mountains. The water is supposed to be good for your skin, pain caused by damaged nerves, and sensitivity to the cold. There are a variety of ryokan and public bath houses to enjoy the mineral rich onsen.
Hot Spring Eggs
Eggs boiled in hot spring water are called Onsen Tamago. In many hot spring resorts, including Hirayu Onsen, hot spring eggs are a specialty. They come either soft-boiled or hard-boiled, but the most common is soft. They’re also called ondo-tamago or shortened to ondama in some areas.
Hirayu Onsen Eggs | 663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Where to Soak
Just south of the Hirayu Bus Terminal is the Hirayu no Mori Foot Bath Tower. Here you are free to sit and soak your feet in onsen water under a lighthouse looking tower before making your way into town. There is also a small foot bath on the west side of the bus terminal.
Hirayu Onsen Foot Bath Tower | 663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
There are four public baths. In a place a little far from the center of the hot spring town, there is an open-air bath called Kami-no-Yu, which originated from Hirayu Onsen.
How to Get There
To reach the Okuhida Valley, you can take a bus from Takayama or Matsumoto. From Takayama, buses depart hourly and take about 60 minutes. From Matsumoto, there are only four departures a day, which take 90 minutes.
Hirayu Bus Terminal | 663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons