If you want to take a dip in a natural hot spring while in Matsumoto without an expensive stay at a ryokan, check out Shiraitonoyu in Satoyamabe. It’s easily accessible by bus (and possible by bike) and super cheap at only ¥300.
What I like about this bathhouse is that it’s not super touristy. Rather, it’s mostly filled with the locals who love to come and gossip to each other about the latest news (on the women’s side at least!).
Although Shiraitonoyu isn’t as «fancy» as the more expensive hot springs or ryokan baths, the water feels great, doesn’t have any sulfur-y odors, isn’t too hot, and the indoor bath is quite spacious.
There is also an outdoor bath that is made from stone and has a covered roof.
If you go, there are a couple of neat things to keep an eye out for: a copy of one of Shiraitonoyu’s original advertisement flyers and the spring spouts used in the original bathhouse (I’m assuming it got remodeled at some point). Both are displayed directly above the front desk.
The flyer boasts about the superb quality of the hot spring water. I’m not sure when the flyer was first printed, but the price for bathing used to be only 13 yen!
The original spouts through which the spring water would flow into the baths are interesting too. There are four shapes: A rose, a child, a ram, and a turtle.
Shiraitonoyu opens very early (6 a.m.-ish) and closes on the late side (10 p.m.), making it convenient to go according to your schedule. It can get very crowded in the morning, evening, and on holidays though. Personally, I love going right when they open because you almost have the whole bath to yourself and the water seems to feel hotter and «fresher,» if you will. For more info on hours and access, see our Shiraitonoyu page.
By the way, the hot spring water is drinkable and there is a spout in the park directly behind the bathhouse. Try filling up your water bottle with some natural hot spring water while you’re at it 😉