Monday, Sept. 18 
Introduction to Kurokawa Onsen 

  We gladly left our panniers at the hostel for the day. Our first stop, just 5 kilometers down Route 442 from the Senomoto hostel, was the ticket office of Kurokawa Onsen, to buy passes for bathing in the hot springs later. Kurokawa Onsen is a beautiful little resort village consisting of 24 onsen establishments cheek-by-jowl, many of them with their own ryokans (inns) or hotels, and there are a couple of separate shops and restaurants as well. A river runs through the village, and many of the onsen settings feature the river's natural beauty. In retrospect, Kurokawa Onsen is No. 1 on the list of places in Japan we would like to visit again. 

  We looped through the charming, narrow, hilly streets before stopping at the ticket office, where a woman gave us a brochure with pictures of each onsen and sold us passes (about $12 each) good for any three onsens, anytime in the next six months. The passes were wooden disks the size of coasters, with removable stickers for each onsen, where the passes would be stamped. We had our shower stuff with us and intended to come back after our day's bike ride.
Garden near Kurokawa Onsen