In Wakoto Peninsula, situated on Lake Kussharo, you'll find various tourist attractions such as hiking trails, campsites, Wakoto Onsen open-air baths, Wakoto communal baths, Oyakotsu Hell, and the hot spring pump house near Wakoto Onsen. The hiking trails encircle the entire peninsula, allowing you to visit all these spots.
Location: 〒088-3341, Teshikaga, Kawakami-gun, Hokkaido, Wakoto, Kussharo Lake shores
Looking at the map, you'll see "open-air bath" and "public bath" listed side by side. As someone who loves hot springs, my expectations are high.
The entrance to Wakoto Peninsula has a spacious parking lot, which is convenient. There's also a tourist information center called Wakoto Field Center. However, I realized later that there are no shops or vending machines for drinks beyond this point. So, if you're heading for the hiking trails that encircle the peninsula, it's a good idea to buy some beverages in advance.
If you walk from the parking lot towards Wakoto Peninsula, you'll find the Wakoto Onsen open-air bath just a few minutes away. Suddenly, I come across elderly men completely naked.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Exhibitionists? No, maybe just bathers in the open-air bath? But it's all completely visible from the road. On closer inspection, there's a small stall that looks like a changing area. Other than that, there's nothing, and there are no privacy screens.
At first glance, it looks like a small pond. When I tried to take a full photo, I could only capture about one-third of it because it would have included elderly naked men. Surprisingly, despite being an open-air bath, no one was soaking in it. They were just standing there naked by the pond. And it's no wonder, as the water is scalding hot, too hot for anyone to enter.
This is supposed to be a mixed-gender hot spring, but there are probably not many women willing to enter this fully exposed open-air bath. If the temperature were more suitable, it might be acceptable to go in with a swimsuit. In its current scalding state, this open-air bath is limited to only a few daring souls.
Guests from the nearby auto campsite who had planned to enjoy this hot spring will likely be disappointed.
It seems that there are other hot springs in Wakoto Peninsula, so I gather my spirits and begin my hike around the peninsula. Indeed, the transparency of Lake Kussharo is incredible. It's crystal clear, with an emerald green hue, and I can even see the fish swimming beneath the surface.
The forest has an untouched feel to it. While the ground isn't too steep, I unexpectedly realize that the peninsula is quite large. It seems like it would take a fair amount of time to hike all the way around.
This is the open-air bath directly facing the lake, known as "Oyakotsu Hell." It was easy to spot from the hiking trail due to the rising steam.
The slope is quite steep, making it uninviting to walk down. It seems like a place to visit by canoe or SUP from the lake. You can see the boiling hot spring water gushing out from the slope.
Further along, there was an observation deck. From the deck, I could enjoy a panoramic view of the lake.
I passed by a place called "Wakoto Onsen Pump House-Side Hot Spring." It appears that hot spring water is flowing, but there's no specific spot for soaking. You might be able to dip your ankles at best.
Around the point where I had almost circled Wakoto Peninsula, I found the last hope - the Wakoto Communal Bath.
There's a proper building! Inside, there's a spacious changing room and an indoor bath that's about 3m x 2m. The large window provided a view of only the lake.
There is only one changing room and bath, so it's a mixed-gender bath. Fortunately, I was lucky as there was no one else there. During my hike, I only encountered one other person. The door at the entrance of the building had a lock, but I couldn't understand the system or the purpose of locking it, as it would prevent others from entering.
There is electricity in this building, so the lights in the changing room came on. As expected, the hot spring was scalding. Since there was no running water, I couldn't even dilute the hot water. There was a ditch in the corner of the bath with a wooden board stuck into it. It seemed I could adjust the temperature by removing or inserting this board.
When I pulled out the board, water from the lake started flowing in. Here, a new mystery arose. The water coming in from outside was even hotter than the water in the bath! It appeared that when the bath's water is too hot, they use the wooden board to dam it up, preventing hotter water from entering – a tricky mechanism.
In reality, this ditch isn't a place for water drainage but a channel to bring in the hot spring water from outside.
I could see some mud at the bottom of the bath, but when I dipped my hand, it wasn't an unbearable temperature. At this point, there was no turning back; I had to take a dip. It was hot, but just bearable. I soaked for a few minutes, up to about my navel, and that was enough.
Wakoto Peninsula was an interesting place. It was worth visiting, but I'm not sure if I'd go again.
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