Tanakaya (Oami) Onsen Hotel in Shiobara, Tochigi prefecture

Tanakaya onsen Hotel, also known as Oami onsen is a favorite with our group and we go there every year and stay overnight for a night in January.  This year there were 20 of us, so a little bit rowdy & noisy, but they welcome us back each year, so I guess we can’t be too bad..

From the outside, the Hotel is nothing special and in fact opens directly onto a main road.  However, don’t let that put you off, this is a real gem of a hotel and a hidden secret onsen down by the river.

The hotel itself is quite old, but the rooms are well appointed and comfortable. There are Japanese rooms and (I think western, but I always take Japanese) the beds are comfortable, bathrooms well-appointed for a very rural Ryokan.  The staff are wonderful and although they don’t speak much English, they are smiling and helpful and are very patient with foreigners, with little or no Japanese.
Then there’s the food – traditional, seasonal, fresh and just a little bit innovative. Every course was wonderful from the sashimi, pork, steak & ayu as well as all local vegetables.  Each dish is beautifully prepared, presented and tasted amazing.

Then to the main event, the onsen.  Inside the hotel there is the normal male and female onsen area.  Ladies on the 6thfloor (men on the 7th I think!)  –  in the ladies bath there are 3 different baths, all different temperatures and styles, one is like a western spa, one a more traditional onsen bath and one has stone pillows so you can lie down and rest your head.  In addition to the baths there is a dry sauna and a mini icy cold plunge pool.

But by far the big attraction here is the 2 rotenburo down by the river, 320 steps down and unfortunately 320 on the way back.  The path winds itself down to the river and there is a ladies bath and a mixed bath.  The Ladies changing area is a little basic, but protected and well, the men just have to be brave, but the baths on the edge of the river are sensational.

If you stay the night and change into the Yukata, they provide outdoor shoes for you to go down the hillside and will also help you cross the road – it can get busy!

Breakfast is Japanese with a little western, and coffee is available just outside the restaurant.

It seems to have a lot of rooms, but I’ve been there as an overnight guest 4 times and as a day visitor twice and i rarely have run into other people in the baths.

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