By Nate Hill
When I usually go to an onsen that is buried deep in the mountains of Kochi, it is because someone told me about it or I saw an advertisement in a pamplet somewhere. However, I discovered Wakamiya Onsen after getting lost on the scenic route to Jinzan Park in Tosayamada. I am glad I stumbled upon it, because I think that probably added a certain mystical element to my visit that I would not have otherwise had.
Heading north into the mountains to catch a back road over to Tosayamada, I ended up driving too far. There wasn't a good place to turn around, so I checked the map. There was a road coming up that would take me back down the mountain. The scenery was so beautiful on that sunny day, that I was actually quite happy to get lost.
When I reached the turn off, I remembered one thing I always seem to forget. It is really difficult to tell anything about a road from most maps. The road I imagined in my mind was much different from the narrow, steep road that now lay in front of me. At times, the road seemed like it might not be wide enough for my small car, but there literally was no turning back.
After winding my way down for quite a while through tall cedar and bamboo forests, I wondered when would come across some sign of civilazation again. At one point, I drove under the expressway that towered overhead and thought, "There goes society," as all the cars up there chose to bypass this almost inaccessible world I now found myself in.
It was at this point that I discovered Wakamiya Onsen as flags lined the road, begging me not to pass it by. I decided to comply, eventhough all I could see from the road was yet another ramp downward, facing the opposite direction (it would be much easier entering from the south).
I made my way through the gate, noticing a sign warning me of wild boars and also of their traps and if I should find myself caught in one, it was not the owner's fault. Unless the boars were really big, I thought I'd probably be alright in my car.
When I got down to the parking lot, it was surprsingly large, as was the facility. There was also a host of little Chiba dogs and said wild boar (caged) to greet me. The building was not at all what I imagined. In the middle of all of this beautiful landscape and nature was a very blocky mustard yellow building.
I went inside and had something to drink and a little snack. The interior of the restaurant area seemed in some ways new and very old at the same time. I decided not take take a bath because I didn't want to get to Tosayamada any later, but I looked at some pictures. Both the indoor and outdoor bath were quite small, but nice in a quaint kind of way. The Japanese style rooms for staying the night were also very nice looking. Apparently, they refurbrished everything in 2002.
Something about the whole atmosphere of the building and the surrounding area felt really strange. But that feeling was also nice made me want to explore a little bit more. That will have to wait for another trip, though. Next time, I will be sure to go up from Tosayamada directly.
Bad news for our boar friend in the parking lot, by the way. I saw "wild boar ramen" on the menu. That was potentially his friend.
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I've been living in Kochi since 2006. I enjoy taking every chance I can to ride my bicycle, camp, swim in rivers, relax on the beach, and explore the surrounding mountains -- all of which can easily be done in Kochi. We're out of the way, but worth it.I'd love to connect with you on Twitter @KochiJPTouristor Facebook.