This place has many different kinds of ryokans, varying greatly in terms of size, cost, and style; some are small and family-run with as few as four rooms, while others are large hotels featuring up to ninety rooms.
There are about thirty-five ryokans, big and small, in Shima Onsen alone. You can enjoy Shima Onsen’s hot springs at any of these hotels.
Small, family-run ryokans, “minshuku,” are available at reasonable prices. There are also retro-style ryokans constructed traditionally out of wood. Large hotel-like facilities in the modern fashion are also available.
The area around the hotels is largely divided into five places. In order from south to north, these include the Onsenguchi area, the Yamaguchi area, the Arayu area, the Yuzuriha area, and the Hinatami area.
The Onsenguchi area is relatively quiet, giving you a moment to escape from the crowds. It is located at the entrance of Shima Onsen.
There are many well-known ryokans in the Onsenguchi area; Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan, which has received numerous TripAdvisor awards, draws a lot of people from all over the world with its popularity. Chikuyokan offers travellers an overnight stay, meals not included, for those on a budget. Shimakan is famous for being popular among renowned authors such as Osamu Dazai, who stayed there to write.
The Yamaguchi area, which is the source of many of the town’s hot springs, is farther up from the Onsenguchi area and has uniquely styled inns. This area includes Tsubataya Ryokan, which is the smallest but cosiest in Shima Onsen with only four rooms, and Yamaguchikan, which is a large and long-established inn.
In the Arayu area, located in the northern part of the Yamaguchi area, is Sekizen-kan Ryokan, which is listed as a cultural asset. It is said to have served as a model for the ryokan in one of the greatest animated Japanese films in Japanese history, Spirited Away. This area is also home to Shima-tamura Ryokan, which has a three-hundred-year history of its own. There are also several small minshukus and ryokans in the nearby shopping district.
There are four characteristic inns in the Yuzuriha area, such as Shima-yuzuriha-sou, an inexpensive inn operated by the local government. You can stay here at reasonable prices and it is a hotel that offers a glamorous camping (“glamping”) experience as well as other services.
The Hinatami district on the outskirts of Shima Onsen is considered to be the birthplace of hot springs in the area. It has popular ryokans such as Hinatamikan and Tsuruya. There is also a family-run ryokan, Nakanojo, for accommodating yourself in a relaxed atmosphere. The nationwide chain hotel, Itoen Hotel, is also here.
While Shima Onsen is a well-known popular place for onsen lovers, they get very few customers from overseas yet. For that reason, they are not well-versed in dealing with international travelers well.
Please keep in mind that only a limited number of these ryokans and hotels have English-speaking staff and accept credit card payments. However, there are many positive points to staying in this area. You can feel a true sense of belonging to the local people and the Japanese countryside. The people of Shima Onsen are very friendly and welcome people from all locations with the utmost kindness. You can choose between these various unique establishments and stay at your favorite ryokan or hotel.
What’s more, it is interesting to note that thirty-two of the thirty-five inns’ managers were locally born and raised in Shima Onsen.
Throwing yourself into a new culture and meeting and talking to the friendly (if a little shy) locals can be a rewarding part of travelling. You can find out some local history and knowledge known only by the locals.