With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Dogo Onsen

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 16, 2015

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

All Pictures

We must have passed over thousands of these things to get to Shikoku.

But I have to work on the 7th

Winter is coming. This means that Mark will have about 2 weeks off from work. He wanted to go to Vietnam or Taiwan, but I talked him out of it. There are still many things in Japan we have yet to see. It would be cheaper to stay in Japan than to travel abroad.

So I made all these elaborate winter plans to travel to Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, and some other cities you may have heard of. All this city hopping would end with a day in Matsuyama, soaking in one of Japan’s oldest onsens on the 7th of January. After I showed Mark the schedule, he informed me that he had to work on the 7th. So I had to end the trip without a visit to Matsuyama.

“Are you guys in line?”

I was really sad. This onsen was an easy 3 or 4 hour drive away. There were two 3 day weekends in November. I suggested we went then, but retracted the idea. Holidays mean crowds. “Well,” Mark interjected, “I have to take a day off of work to go to Hiroshima and pick up our new registration cards. Can we do it then?”

We sure could!

Mark knows what time it is.

So we woke up freakishly early on a Tuesday and got to the government building in Hiroshima just as it opened. Mark was 3rd in line and got his and my new registration cards in 20 minutes. This is the least amount of time I have ever spend in a government building while actually getting something done.

I do have other shirts; I swear!

Mark handed my new and old cards. When I looked at the photos on the cards I noticed that in both pictures I wore the same green t-shirt. What a coincidence I thought.

“I don’t even wear that shirt very often.”

“Like today?” Mark asked.

I looked down at my chest. I was wear the green shirt. “Apparently, this is my interact-with-the-Japanese-government shirt.”

We took our new ID cards and headed to Costco for lunch. Then we set off for Shikoku.

Good information can be hard to find in Japan.

If we were rich

If we were rich, we would have taken the car ferry from the Port of Hiroshima to Matsuyama Kanko Port. We would have taken the 11:20 boat and reached Matsuyama at 14:00. We would have taken naps, played cards, and eaten instant noodles all while traveling. The cost for the tickets for 2 passengers, was about twice that for the toll for the many bridges it takes to get to Shikoku from Honshu. But no matter how hard I searched the website, I could not find the fare for bringing our car on the ferry.

I have learned to never do anything in Japan without knowing how much it will cost in advance. Whatever I think it should cost as a reasonable non-millionaire, will be a shamefully low underestimation of what the price will actually be. Sometimes there are deals to be had, but relying on this will leave you poor, frustrated, or stranded when you quickly run out of money.

I know the bridge toll would cost about 4,000 yen each way to get to Shikoku from Hiroshima prefecture, so we budgeted for that. The ferry might have been slightly more expensive, but I could not tell for sure before hand. I prefer not having financial surprises.

Reading the complicated onsen instructions.

This is not my first rodeo

I’ve been to many onsens in Japan before. They are all quite similar and usually go like this.

  1. Put your shoes in a locker or cupboard. If you have to pay for the locker, the money is usually refunded when you leave.
  2. Pay to enter theonsen.
    • This is where you can rent or buy a towel as well as purchasing any soap or shampoo you may need.
    • Some onsens let you use their shampoo and body wash for free.
    • When the soap and shampoo is not free they can be quite overpriced. I always bring my own just in case.
    • You can always bring your own shower supplies and towel.
  3. Go to the locker room for your gender.
  4. Put your stuff in a locker.
    • Keep the key with you for the rest of your stay.
    • You can take the key into the shower area and into the onsen.
  5. Take off all your clothes.
  6. Take a shower.
  7. Get into the onsen.
  8. Make sure your hair is up in a bun or ponytail. Your hair should not be submerged in the onsen water.
  9. If there is a unisex area, put on a swimsuit before you go there.
  10. When you’re done, take another shower. Dry off a little before going back to the locker room. You should not be dripping wet in the locker room.
  11. Get dressed. There is usually a hair dryer you can use. Take your stuff out of the locker.
  12. Give back whatever locker keys you still have.
  13. Put your shoes on by the door.

Laminated instructions

My guess is that this onsen has a lot of non-Japanese visitors who have never been to an onsen before, because there were instructions in English everywhere. I was even handed a little booklet at the information center with step by step instructions.

This onsen was a bit different. There were times when I was a bit confused as to what to do.

Let’s go in!

First we put our shoes in lockers. Then we bought our tickets and headed in. We got the Tama-no-Yu 2F (red) tickets, which was the 1,250 yen. It let us use all the pools and came with a tour of the royal family’s bath.

We followed the red line on the floor to our area. But first I needed to use the bathroom. I went to the first bathroom I found, which was on the first floor. When I came out I was surprised to see an attendant waiting for me. I had used the wrong bathroom. With my ticket I was to use the bathroom on the second floor only.

The 2nd floor lounge

Mark and I were taken to the “Lounging Room” on the second floor. There a lady explain in Japanese what we were to do. At this onsen, we put our stuff in the baskets on the mats and only put our valuables in the locker. This locker does not come with a refund when you give back the key.

There are 3 different robes. Each robe pattern corresponds to the type of ticket the wearer purchased. The cheapest ticket, the Kami-no-Yu 1F comes with no robe. That ticket only gives access to things on the first floor.

My red ticket robe and belt

Next we took our robes and towels and headed to the showers. Mark went his way and I, mine. I was escorted to a locker room and was left to myself. I disrobed and put everything in the locker. I entered the shower and got clean.

There was a small bath in the shower, so I hopped in. Soon I was the only person there. I looked around the one hundred year old onsen and anticipated what amazing onsen I would sit in next. When I got too hot I got out.

I went back to the locker, put the robe on, took my stuff out, and headed to the lounge area. (I read in the booklet that you are allowed to wear your underwear under the robe.) I wanted to look at the booklet again to see where the amazing onsens were.

As I put my stuff down and picked up the booklet, and lady brought me tea. I wasn’t ready for tea yet. I was actually on my way to go to the next onsen. I left the tea to get cold.

I was told to go to the first floor for the next onsen. I went there and put my robe and underwear in the locker. I took another shower and stepped into the pool. It had about 10 people nakedly soaking in its water and 5 more washing at the showers. There were tiled pictures on the wall. When I got too hot I got out, rinsed off, dried, and walked back to the locker room. I put my robe and things back on and went back to the lounge.

I asked about the second onsen. In my mind I had only seen one. The lady told me that the first one was the one in the shower; the tiny one. I had seen all the onsens.

You have no idea what I have just seen!

I went back to sit by my basket and wait for Mark. I drank my cold tea as a group of men entered the lounge. A lady went over to them, like she had come over to Mark and me, and explained to them how this onsen worked.

They stood up and some put on their robes. I expected them to leave, but no. They pulled down their pants and took off their shirts. One man stood there shirtless and in thermal underwear trying to get the attention of an attendant to ask a question. She and Mr. Long-johns talked for a few minutes before he put on his robe and took off his long-johns.

I sipped at my now empty cup of cold tea trying to look like I saw nothing. “Why are grown men undressing in front of me!?”

cookies and tea

Eventually Mark came back. He drank his tea and ate his cookies and told me all about his adventures. He seemed not too impressed with this onsen. I had to admit that I too wished we were back in Beppu. The onsens there were not just cheaper but, way nicer. There were two onsens here, but they were the same temperature.

In Beppu, you get more variety. The onsens come with different water levels and temperature. You have indoor and outdoor onsens. Some even come with a sauna or a mud bath. Can I get some bubbles?

relax as you watch old men undress

The lounge was nice though. I sat next to a flat screen that played mellow music and showed flower petals being scattered. I could not fully relax in the room though. There was too much talking and undressing.

I heard you like kitsch…

Afterwards we walked around the little town. There were many shops selling overpriced non-sense. I thought about my mom. Her birthday is coming up and I need to get her something soon. But, not here…

All Pictures



How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.







  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Dogo Onsen Honkan

in The Dogo Onsen

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°51’07.4″N 132°47’11.0″E
  • If you are leaving from Hiroshima, you can take a ferry.


5-6 Dogoyunomachi, Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture 790-0842, Japan


  • +81 89-921-5141



  • Level 1:
    • 410 yen, 6:00 to 23:00 (entrance until 22:30)
    •  60 minutes.
    • Kami no Yu bath (Bath of the Gods)
      • on the first floor
  • Level 2:
    • 840 yen, 6:00 to 22:00 (entrance until 21:00)
    • 60 minutes
    • includes:
      • everything from level 1
      • rental yukata
      • tea and crackers
      • access to a public tatami room on the second floor for relaxation
  • Level 3:
    • 1250 yen, 6:00 to 22:00 (entrance until 21:00)
    • 60 minutes
    • includes:
      • everything from level 2
      • access to Tama no Yu bath (Bath of the Spirits)
      • a rental towel
      • a tour of the Emperor’s bathing facilities
  • Level 4:
    • 1550 yen, 6:00 to 22:00 (entrance until 20:40)
    • 80 minutes
    • includes:
      • everything from level 3
      • access to a private tatami room on the third floor for relaxation
      • Botchan Dango sweets are instead of crackers
  • Tour of the Emperor’s bathing facilities only:
    • 260 yen, 6:00 to 21:00 (entrance until 21:00)


  • 6:00 ~ 22:00 or 23:00 depending on which level of onsen tour you get
  • Dogo Onsen Honkan is closed one day in December for end of the year cleaning.



  • The most famous part of DogoOnsenistheDogoOnsenHonkan (道後温泉本館).
    • It’s a wooden bathhouse from the Meiji period.
    • It was used as inspiration for the movie Spirited Away.
    • This onsen is gender-separated.
  • There is a stone called Tama no ishi at Dogo Onsen which is said to be the footprint of Sukunahikona no Mikoto, a god who was healed by the onsen’s water.
  • As with most onsens in Japan, you can bring your own soap. shampoo, conditioner, and towel or you can rent them.
  • Be sure to stop by the information center to pick of free maps and get some advice for activities.


One Response to “Dogo Onsen”

  1. […] trip. We would have entered near Kobe, driven by Naruto, stopped off at Matsuyama to check out the Dogo Onsen, then headed home via a bridge near […]


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