Funaoka Onsen is a gorgeously decorated bathhouse with a retro atmosphere
Funaoka Onsen is a bathhouse in Kyoto’s Nishijin District that has very much retained its retro-modern look from the Taisho and Showa periods, and the decorations of it are so beautiful they are designated as a Cultural Property of Japan. The bathhouse was originally founded as an annex to a ryokan with a fancy restaurant, and at this time the main clientele of it were the artisans of the Nishijin District who came to the place to have some fancy food and a bath. After WWII, Funaoka Onsen concentrated on the bath side of its business, and after many extensions and renovations, the bathhouse is, to this day, frequented by public bath fans.
The roof of the stately first building is in the Japanese architectural style of karahafu, and after you go through the noren curtains inside the building you are greeted by a nostalgic atmosphere. The bathhouse has retained its historic look well, and you can see decorations and engravings everywhere. The changing rooms and bathrooms of the bathhouse use colorful Majolica style tiles, which were especially popular in Japan during the Taisho and Showa periods, and you can also see some great examples of Japanese fretwork. All this with the Japanese garden you can see from the walkway, and the many kinds of baths they have, including the open-air rotenburo baths, all make you feel like you were staying at a fancy hot springs resort, not just having a bath at a public bath. This place is not only great for those who like public baths, but also for those who like art.
There is a lot to see at the retro changing room. The walls use Majolica tiles that are now considered valuable antiques; there is a retro clock on the wall; the fretwork on the balustrade, and on the wall you can see big engravings of a Tengu and Ushiwakamaru, there is so much to see that it makes you almost forget about the bathing part of your visit.
The Kikusuibashi Bridge connects the walkways leading to the changing room and to the baths. This bridge was brought to Funaoka Onsen from Senbon Kuramaguchi. Under the bridge you can see carps swimming, and looking from the walkway, it almost looks as if you were looking at an elegant but small Japanese garden.
Enjoy many kinds of baths
The baths are in contrast with the retro changing rooms and walkways, very spacious and modern. They have all kinds of baths, and they were also the first place in Japan with a denkiburo, an “electric bath,” and they also have a medicinal bath and a jacuzzi. They have two kinds of open-air baths, one made of Japanese cypress, and the other a rock bath. The baths of men and women change every day.
Stay at a hostel
Funaoka Onsen also runs a hostel, and you can even reserve the whole renovated town house the hostel is located in (up to 10 guests). Also, the guests staying at the hostel get to go to the bath for free as many times as they like.