An onsen town celebrated in japan‘s oldest book of poetry
Yugawara, the southernmost town in Kanagawa Prefecture, is a picturesque onsen resort known for its breathtaking views of Sagami Bay. This charming town has a rich history and is famous for its appearance in the Manyoshu, Japan’s oldest collection of poetry. Dating back to around 759, the Manyoshu is a revered literary work that contains poems composed by various poets during the Nara period. Yugawara’s natural beauty and mild climate have long been a source of inspiration for renowned Japanese authors, including Soseki Natsume and Ryunosuke Akutagawa.
How to Get There
Yugawara is conveniently accessible by train from Tokyo. Travelers can take the JR Tokaido Line from Tokyo Station to Yugawara Station, which takes approximately one hour and 45 minutes. The scenic train journey offers glimpses of the beautiful Japanese countryside, making the trip to Yugawara an enjoyable experience in itself.
Ancient clans and an ancient tree
Yugawara is not only known for its natural beauty but also for its historical significance. The town is home to several historical sites that date back to the Kamakura period, which spanned from the 12th to the 14th century. One notable site is Joganji, a temple where members of the Doi clan, who ruled over Yugawara during the Kamakura period, are buried. The temple also houses a 900-year-old juniper tree that has been designated as a Natural Treasure. This ancient tree is a symbol of longevity and resilience, standing tall as a testament to the town’s rich cultural heritage.
Exploring Yugawara’s Natural Beauty
Yugawara is blessed with an abundance of nature, making it a perfect destination for those seeking relaxation and tranquility. The town is surrounded by lush green mountains and offers stunning views of Sagami Bay. Visitors can take leisurely walks along the Yugawara Promenade, a scenic trail that winds through the town and offers panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape. The promenade is especially breathtaking during cherry blossom season when the trees lining the path burst into vibrant shades of pink.
In addition to its natural beauty, Yugawara is also known for its hot springs. The town boasts numerous onsen ryokans, traditional Japanese inns that offer hot spring baths to their guests. Soaking in the mineral-rich waters of Yugawara’s hot springs is believed to have various health benefits, including relaxation, improved blood circulation, and relief from muscle fatigue. Visitors can indulge in the ultimate relaxation experience by staying at one of Yugawara’s onsen ryokans and enjoying the therapeutic effects of the hot springs.
Cuisine and Local Delicacies
A visit to Yugawara is incomplete without sampling the local cuisine. The town is known for its fresh seafood, which is sourced directly from Sagami Bay. Visitors can savor an array of seafood dishes, including sashimi, grilled fish, and seafood hot pots. Yugawara is particularly famous for its “katsuo no tataki,” a dish made from lightly seared bonito fish. The bonito is first marinated in a special sauce and then seared quickly over a flame, resulting in a smoky and flavorful delicacy.
For those with a sweet tooth, Yugawara offers traditional Japanese confections known as “wagashi.” These delicate sweets are made using traditional techniques and often feature seasonal ingredients. One popular wagashi in Yugawara is the “yugawara yokan,” a type of jelly made from red bean paste and agar. The yugawara yokan has a smooth texture and a subtly sweet flavor, making it a delightful treat to enjoy with a cup of green tea.
Exploring the Cultural Heritage
Yugawara is not only a place of natural beauty but also a town rich in cultural heritage. The town has several museums and art galleries that showcase the works of local artists and craftsmen. The Yugawara Art Museum, for example, exhibits a diverse collection of contemporary Japanese art, including paintings, sculptures, and ceramics. Visitors can immerse themselves in the world of Japanese art and gain a deeper understanding of the country’s artistic traditions.
For history enthusiasts, Yugawara offers the opportunity to explore its samurai heritage. The Yugawara Castle Ruins is a historical site that was once the residence of the Doi clan, the rulers of Yugawara during the Kamakura period. Although only the stone walls and some remnants of the castle remain, the site provides a glimpse into the town’s feudal past. Visitors can walk through the ruins and imagine what life was like for the samurai who once inhabited this stronghold.
Festivals and Events
Yugawara is a town that loves to celebrate its cultural traditions, and throughout the year, various festivals and events take place. One of the most famous festivals in Yugawara is the Yugawara Hina Matsuri, also known as the Doll Festival. Held annually in March, this festival showcases a display of intricately crafted dolls dressed in traditional costumes. The dolls represent the imperial court of the Heian period and are displayed in homes and public spaces throughout the town. The festival is a time of joy and celebration, and visitors can immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere by attending the various parades and performances that take place during the event.
Another popular event in Yugawara is the Yugawara Lantern Festival, which takes place in August. During this festival, the town is adorned with beautifully crafted lanterns that illuminate the streets and create a magical ambiance. Visitors can stroll through the lantern-lit streets, enjoy traditional music and dance performances, and sample a variety of local street food. The festival culminates in a spectacular fireworks display over Sagami Bay, creating a truly unforgettable experience.
Yugawara offers a range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs and preferences. From luxury resorts to cozy guesthouses, visitors can find the perfect place to stay and enjoy their time in this charming town. For those seeking a traditional Japanese experience, staying at an onsen ryokan is highly recommended. These traditional inns offer comfortable tatami rooms, delicious kaiseki meals, and access to hot spring baths. The attentive hospitality and serene ambiance of the onsen ryokans make them a popular choice among both domestic and international travelers.
Yugawara is a hidden gem in Kanagawa Prefecture, offering a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and relaxation. Whether it’s soaking in the rejuvenating hot springs, exploring the town’s historical sites, or indulging in the local cuisine, Yugawara has something to offer every visitor. With its rich history and literary connections, Yugawara is a town that has captured the hearts of artists and poets throughout the ages. A visit to this charming onsen town is sure to leave a lasting impression and create memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.
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