Fukiage onsen - where locals mix with tourists in a natural onsen under the trees. Together they experience ‘hadaka no tsukiai’, or nude socialising, which is a delight in Japan once we are ready to feel relax about our bodies.
At Fukiage onsen, there are no changing rooms or signs saying ‘no tattoos’ and if you wish to wear a swimming costume, that’s not a problem either. Men and women bathe together and while many Japanese people hold a small ‘modesty towel’ to cover themselves, this is not required. There is a portable toilet at the car park, but nearer to the onsen, the experience is one with nature.
Fukiage onsen is located in Tokachidake, Daisetsuzan National Park, in the centre of Hokkaido. Geologists record mineral levels and temperatures at Fukiage onsen to help predict volcanic activity in the region. The name Tokachidake means ten-peaked volcano, and the region has beautiful fumaroles where sulfuric steam rises up from the earth.
As beautiful as Fukiage onsen is, what makes it special also makes it dangerous to a degree. The Tokachi mountain range is an active volcanic system and the last major eruption was in 1962, when five people were killed by falling debris. A more serious eruption in 1926 sent a deadly mudflow to Kamifurano and 140 people were killed in this tragic natural disaster. Actual lava has not flowed from Tokachi’s volcanoes since the 1600s but they are far from dormant. But nothing in life is without its risks and the waters are very soothing.
Fukiage onsen is about a 30 minute drive from Kamifurano and less than an hour from Furano in any season. Every day there are three return buses from Kamifurano station to Fukiage onsen and other stops in the area. From Kamifurano, you can connect with the bus and train lines between Asahikawa to the north and Furano to the south.
Skiing into Fukiage onsen while touring the back-country of the Tokachi mountains is an unforgettable experience for nature lovers. There is a walk of about 40 metres down a mountain path that can be challenging when snow covered, so hike with caution. If you walk along this path in spring, summer or autumn, make a bit of noise because there are plenty of bears in Daisetsuzan National Park. If they hear you coming, they are likely to clear out of your way.
For those who enjoy a very hot onsen, the top bathing areas at Fukiage are nearest to the hot spring’s source so the water here has the highest temperature. At night there is no artificial lighting so carry a torch to walk safely along the path. Once you are comfortable in the waters enjoy the starlight and listen to the sounds of nocturnal Japanese nature.
There are a few accommodation options near Fukiage, all modestly priced. There are ryokan style Japanese inns as well as Hakuginso, a mountaineer’s lodge. All of these have fine onsens of their own. There is a public restaurant at Ryounkaku ryokan, which is also the last bus stop enroute from Kamifurano. There are no shops except hotel gift shops in Tokachidake, so plan ahead to avoid being hungry. For a modest fee you can prepare your own meal at Hakuginso.
If you feel too shy for a soak ? Just walk down and dip a toe in these magical waters. Soaking in Fukiage costs nothing and will enrich your skin with minerals and your mind with memories.
Google map lets you experience Fukiage in winter, check out the link.