For most travelers in Japan, the highlight of a trip to the hot springs is the rotenburo, or open-air bath. The idea of an alfresco dip is so appealing that drawing visitors to your hot spring inn or hotel becomes several degrees harder if you don’t have outdoor tubs.
But you shouldn’t write off indoor hot springs entirely, as they boast a couple of advantages. Having a roof over your head makes them a good choice for a rainy day, and being climate controlled means less shivering once you step out of the water. Plus, if you’re heading to Gunma Prefecture, soon one indoor hot spring will give you the chance to soak in the company of Hello Kitty.
Japan’s hardest working feline is branching out into yet another new venture as part of a tie-up with the Shima Grand Hotel. Situated in the Shima Onsen hot spring district, the hotel’s bathwater flows directly from the spring’s source, and because of its high metasilcic acid content acts as a natural skin-beautifying moisturizer.
On the top floor of the hotel’s Seishokan wing you’ll find the women-only Meruhen no Yu bath. Along with a unique circular design, the bath features a large bay window that provides a sweeping view of the lush, green mountains.
From January 9, the Meruhen no Yu is getting even more visual appeal, in the form of new Hello Kitty decorations, which will let you relax while gazing at the Sanrio icon.
▼ Don’t worry, Kitty-chan’s just a drawing, so she can’t see you.
While only guests of the hotel have access to the Meruhen no Yu, anyone is welcome to stop by the hotel’s Café Furo Resta, also scheduled to open January 9. Once again, Hello Kitty plays a starring role in the decor, appearing dressed in both kimono and hakama, the billowing pants which were especially popular among young women during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Aside from dining on fare such as curry and Japanese desserts made with locally grown sweet beans, visitors will be able to take pictures with the retro-clothed Kitty, and, of course, special limited-edition Hello Kitty merchandise is likely to be on sale as well.
▼ Artist’s rendition of Café Furo Resta – Final patrons may not match color shown
While you’re in Gunma, you might also want to pick up some candy shaped like regional mascot popularity poll winner Gunma-chan, who with Kitty-chan is proving that along with quiet and scenic, Gunma Prefecture is pretty cute, too.