Let’s enjoy the cultural asset that Japan is proud of.
Text & Photo / Haruka Muta
A splendid stone wall, a pine tree which is taken care of really well, and dignified Noki-karahafu style entrance. Moreover, their dressing room and bath room are registered tangible cultural properties.
Funaoka Onsen will surprise you if you visit here for the first time because of its gorgeousness.
In 1923, Funaoka Onsen was created as a part of ryori-ryokan (a hotel for Japanese cuisine), Funaoka-ro.
You might wonder why this is called Onsen (hot spring) even though it is actually Sento (public bath) style. The reason is coming from the effort of the second owner. In 1932, he installed the first electric bath in Japan in order to earn the name of Onsen. After that, he brough himself to Tokyo and got permission to call themselves as “Special bath, Funaoka Onsen”.
The fourth owner, Mr.Yoshio Ono said, “The second owner told everyone that this electric bath was superb and he didn’t want to keep it to himself so that he allows everyone to start off their own to spread how good this is.” I am really admired that the electric bath which I see everywhere in Japan actually started from here.
After that, Japan got into World War Ⅱ. No one travels around anymore so that Funaoka-ro was almost going out of business.
In 1947, after the war, they stared Sento as their new business.
There is still a huge nameplate on the bakery’s mural outside says, “Special Funaoka Onsen”.
The reason why Mr.Ono, the fourth owner, has a lustrous skin is because he takes a bath everyday?
Not just only the exterior is amazing.
What I want you to see is the Ranma (transom window) in a dressing room. All these sensitive works are made by a sculptor of the Imperial Household Agency. Each place has different designs. Some are very happy things like cranes and turtles, others are designs of festival at a neighbor shrine like Aoi Matsuri Festival and a parade of the portable shine from Imamiya shrine.
Aoi Matsuri Festival at Kamigamo-jinja Shrine and Shimogamo-jinja Shrine is a motif. Goshoguruma (a court car) is very distinctive on this design.
The most peculiar design here is the sculpture right between man’s entrance and woman’s entrance. A theme is coming from Shanghai Incident and it has a powerful appearance out of its soldiers, cannons, fighter planes, and a fleet. The reason is that the second owner went to Shanghai Incident as a solider and came back with injuries.
Well-known three brave soldiers at Shanghai Incident.
When you look above from Shanghai Incident ranma, Kurama-Tengu is staring at you. If you look closer, you see Ushiwakamaru and Karasu-Tengu (Tengu which has crow wings)
Funaoka Onsen is located at the entrance of Kurama-mountain so that I think this sculpture is dedicated to the local legend.
You cannot deny that there are very beautiful and colorful tiles which has flower designs. These tiles are well-known as ‘Majolica tile’ produced in Majorca Island in Mediterranean sea. It was a huge trend between Taisho era to early Showa era that Funaoka-ro started their business.
Especially, it is very exquisite to see both walls all the way to the bath room.
The surface has three-dimensional look. When you touch them, you feel what I am talking about.
Finally, I am able to talk about the bath itself. I talked about all the deep history of sculptures and everything so far, but there at the bath room is very bright and modern.
They have a medicine bath, bubble bath, waterfall bath, and sauna. A lot of varieties.
Moreover, there is a brilliant outside bath and I give a glad shout all the way up to the sky. One is made out of Hinoki cypress, other is made out of rocks. (It changes daily into Man’s bath and Woman’s bath) It used to be a courtyard, but Mr.Ono made it into outside bath.
I see dragons, turtles, and nude status everywhere.
By the way, before they opened this Funaoka-ro, Ono family used to own Niwaishi-ya (a store sells garden rocks). Starting with a splendid stone wall, all these brilliant rocks are installed when they started.
“A business wasn’t good from Taisho to the beginning of Showa era, and we all lost our customers at that time. So, this is the true reason why we started this ryori-ryokan business. I left the stone walls there as my good memory. Those, Kibune-ishi and Kurama-ishi, are very precious stones that nobody can get anymore.”
There are so many things that you want to see here, but my strong impression here is all these rocks everywhere around.
I have seen so many famous architecture here in Kyoto, but this is the only place that you can enjoy while you don’t wear anything. I would like you to have a great moment that you can’t have anywhere around.
If you also look for a stay around, there is a guesthouse managed by Kyomachi-ya in 3 minutes walking distance.
ADDRESS : 82-1 Minami Funaoka-cho, Murasakino, Kita-ku, Kyoto city
PHONE : +81(0)75-441-3735
HOURS : 3:00 p.m. ~ 1:00 a.m. (8:00 a.m. ~ 1:00 a.m. on Sunday)
WEBSITE : http://funaokaonsen.net/