Gunma Prefecture Minakami Hoshi-Onsen
Split logs float in a grand quartered tub
If I were asked to choose the cream of the crop of large communal baths, the one that would spring to mind is Hoshi Onsen’s Hoshi no Yu. This bath is in Chojukan, an onsen inn situated in the middle of nowhere on the border of Gunma and Niigata Prefectures. The defining feature of this onsen is the large solemn rectangular public bath, divided into four sections in a genuinely classic style and impressive in its sense of audaciousness without resorting to frivolous interior design tricks, allowing one to forget the minutiae of life and surrender one’s body to a sense of security and relaxation. Going clockwise, the water to the far left of the entry is at the lowest temperature, and while each consecutive bath is warmer, even the warmest one is still rather lukewarm.