This is supposedly one of the onsen that Miyazaki modeled “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” after. (“Spirited Away” to us non-Japanese folk)…
The only thing moving in this town during the daytime is the steamy vapor of the onsen water, creeping through the air. You can walk around and hear the slow hiss all around you. A bird here and there, an occasional local resident visiting one of the public bathes, a car racing up the street…….. These sites and sounds are few and far between, as the town seems almost deserted. Shops are closed and antiquated, with an amazing origami shop filled with every color and texture of paper imaginable. A little, green paper elephant stares at you from behind the glass and you just *know* he comes to life when it gets dark. It certainly has a bit of an eery feeling that even a beautiful, warm, sunny day can’t shake.
The interesting part is, whatever onsen you stay at, you receive a public key to 9 different public bathes in this little town. They ask you walk down the streets in your geta and yukata to “feel the experience”. Not wanting to anger the onsen gods, we did as instructed.
Popping into each of the 9 bathes, it felt as if someone was there before us, preparing everything for our coming and magically disappearing long before we got there. You are happy the chair is warm, but left wondering who was there before and when will they come back to reclaim their seat. Where was everyone hiding?? Or was it right to say “everyone” and not “everything”?
As night grew closer, you could imagine this deserted town becoming populated by the spirits of the onsen, just like the movie. I wasn’t sure if I was fitting the town inside the movie though, as I really WANTED this to be the same place. It certainly was fun though, to be nice and warm under a futon with the smell of tatami lulling you to sleep, faintly hearing the spirits preparing the bathes for tomorrow…………..
Who knows if this place really inspired him, but it sure is nice to imagine it that way.
And no, I won’t tell you where this was, unless you email and ask me!!