The Japanese onsen booth is both a gas station and a hot spring vending machine

We pump healing waters to get there.

You can find many unstaffed vegetable stalls in the peaceful countryside of Tokigawa-cho in Tokyo’s neighbor Saitama Prefecture.

However, when our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma was driving through the area the other day, he came across a rather unusual type of unstaffed stall. There were no vegetables at this roadside stall – instead it was onsen water sales.

▼ This sign, which says “onsen boothin large letters, first alerted Masanuki to the unusual location.

Masanuki had never seen an onsen booth before, but now that he knew there was one, there was no way he would pass by it without trying it. So he stopped at a nearby home improvement store to buy a plastic jerrycan for 800 yen (US$6.27) and returned to the stall to refill it.

As he got out of the car with his jerrycan in one hand, Masanuki felt like he was walking towards a gas station. The stand itself even has a big red sign on the front that says “No open flame” in large bold letters.

▼ According to a sign on the door, the maximum purchase limit per customer is 200 liters (52.8 gallons), the volume of a standard household bathtub.

Once he approached, Masanuki realized that the machine looked like a hybrid between a gas pump and a vending machine, because you had to insert coins to use it. Onsen water is sold in 5 liter (1.3 gallon) units, priced at 50 yen each, so he fed 200 yen into the machine in exchange for 20 liters (5.3 gallons) to add to your bath at home.

▼ The machine only takes 50 and 100 yen coins and does not give change.

After inserting his coins, Masanuki followed the instructions on the machine to wait five seconds before pressing the big red button. Then he walked over to the pipe and inserted it into his tank.

The liquid gushes into its receptacle in the same way as gasoline, but without any unpleasant emanations.

His reservoir filled up in the blink of an eye, during which time Masanuki saw a notice board with useful information about the water he was receiving. According to the nice sign, the source of the water is a spring called “Toki no Yu“, which has a temperature of around 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit).

The spring is a cold sodium chloride type, with a pH value of 8.9, which is alkaline. Water is said to have a high concentration of salt, who increases core body temperature and provides a high heat retention effect after bathing, with the added benefit of make the skin smooth.

All of this information made Masanuki even more excited to return home and bathe in the healing waters, so he lifted his jerry can and waddled to the car with his purchase.

▼ The water is heavy, so Masanuki recommends parking your car right in front of the stand, which unfortunately he didn’t.

The walk to his car was a bit of a workout, so by the time Masanuki got home, he felt he deserved a nice long bath. He pulled out the pamphlet he had picked up at the booth, which said add 20 liters of hot spring water to a 200 liter bath that is approximately 70% fullto give you the effectiveness of a moderate hot spring.

▼ So that’s what he did.

Using the wonders of his electronic bath panel, Masanuki pressed the “reheat” button to help the colder water from the onsen to combine with the new hot water and bring the overall bath temperature to 40 degrees Celsius.

Once the water was up to temperature, Masanuki entered his own private hot spring.

It was absolute paradise. His bath water now had a smooth texture he had never felt beforeand it delivered on its promise to warm him from deep within, keeping him warm longer after he got out of the bath.

The difference was noticeable, just with 20 liters of onsen water, so Masanuki wondered if he should go back to the stand to fill up with 200 liters next time. Although then he would have to find a way to lug it up the stairs to his apartment.

It was then that Masanuki wished to live closer to the onsen booth, and perhaps in a ground floor apartment, so that he could enjoy onsen life every day of the week. Maybe the next best thing for him would be to visit Tokigawa Shikisaikanthe one-day hot spring facility near the onsen stand, which uses the same spring water.

▼ Tokigawa Shikisaikan was built inside an old folk house.

It is a beautiful place where you can enjoy communal baths inside and soak your feet in a foot bath on the terrace while admiring the garden and listening to the murmur of the river.

▼ The hot spring facility (top on the map below) is a four-minute drive from the onsen stand.

So if you’re looking to enjoy the hot spring life just over an hour’s drive from the heart of Tokyo, Tokigawa has you covered. Well, not literally, unfortunately, but if that’s what you’re looking for, there are onsen resorts that will deliver water to your doorstep…literally!

Tokigawa-cho Onsen Booth / ときがわ町温泉スタンド
Address: Saitama-ken, Hiki-gun, Tokigawa-cho, Otsuki 870-3
Open: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Holidays: Wednesdays and the New Year holiday period

Photos: ©SoraNews24
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