A stopover to soak up some Japanese culture

We're a couple in our mid-60s who will be returning from a trip to Britain in September, and stopping over in Japan. We arrive at Narita on a Sunday at 2.20pm and leave the following Wednesday at 7.50pm. We would really like to stay in onsen/ryokan accommodation and soak in the hot springs for that time. Do you have any suggestions as to how that might be achieved, with recommendations for train travel?
- D. Grainger, Canberra.

Japan has about 3000 onsen - natural hot springs - and the Japanese were enjoying the soothing effects of communal soaking for many centuries before it occurred to Californians to do likewise.

Hoshi Onsen could be just your cup of green tea. Bathing at Hoshi Onsen takes place at just a single ryokan, Chojukan, which is a beautiful, traditional ryokan in mountainous country about 2½ hours from Tokyo by train.

Built in 1875, the ryokan sits on both sides of the narrow Nishi River, joined by a covered wooden bridge. The detail in the 37 guest rooms is refined and exquisite, and scrupulously maintained by the Okamura family, the sixth-generation descendants of the original builders.

At its heart is an indoor mixed-gender bath. From 8pm to 10pm the bath is reserved for women. There is also a smaller women-only bath, open all hours, and an outdoor hot-spring bath with separate bathing times for women and men.
Scroll down the webpage mentioned above to find directions from Tokyo. If you want a window on the Japanese soul, nothing beats a skinny dip.

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