The UNESCO World Heritage site of Yunotsu (it's Chinese characters are "onsen port") is a small, historic port in Shimane Prefecture.
It was from Yunotsu harbor that silver, from the nearby Iwami Ginzan mines, was shipped to Edo (now Tokyo) in the 16th and 17th centuries. Yunotsu also handled supplies that were needed to develop the mines and support the thousands of miners, and those that served them (including a large number of prostitutes to satisfy the miners' carnal needs and monks to deal with the many funerals, as an Iwami Ginzan miner's life was usually very short).
The silver from this area of Shimane was traded overseas as well as used domestically and Japanese silver coin "Soma Silver" could even be found in Europe. The Iwami Ginzan mines were directly controlled by the Tokugawa regime and the whole area was fenced off to deter intruders.
Nowadays, Yunotsu port is a small fishing port and also transports fine sand from the area to the Mazda car factory in Hiroshima to be used in making engine moulds.
The main village of Yunotsu has become a growing tourist area, known for its historic buildings and onsen hot springs, since the UNESCO World Heritage listing. The hot water in the village was forced to the surface following an earthquake in 1872.
The most famous of the onsen in town is Yakushiyu, which dates from 1919. The original, wooden Taisho-era bath-house is now the rather posh Shinyu gallery and cafe, which serves excellent curry and pasta, by the way, but no alcohol.
The Yakushiyu bath house next door to the gallery was recently awarded the highest ranking by the Japan Spa Association for its water quality and management. Only about a dozen onsen hot springs in Japan have received the top ranking.
After taking a bath on the ground floor, visitors are invited to walk up to the roof-top terrace to relax and take in the lovely view of the town below.
Yakushiyu bath house
Hours: 5am - 9pm daily
Admission: 300 yen adults; 150 yen children.
Hours: 9am - 9pm
Tel: 0855 65 4894
The one, narrow road through Yunotsu can become jammed with traffic, so it might be wise to park near the harbor and walk up to the onsen area past some picturesque temples.
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