Of the thousands of breathtaking hot spring areas in Japan, Lonely Planet ranked Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku at number one, declaring it the country’s Best Riverside Onsen. Located in Gunma Prefecture, it has been used as the backdrop of the Japanese movie “Thermae Romae II,” and boasts vast rotenburo (outdoor baths) that stretch out under an expanse of picturesque trees and surrounding nature. It's no surprise that travelers from all over the world visit to enjoy the almost surreal beauty of this onsen.

At Osenkaku, there are four main baths, three of which are konyoku, or mixed-gender baths. But over 60 years ago, the baths at Takaragawa Onsen were actually open to very special guests... of a different species.

This footage, taken in the year 1953, reveals these special guests. Jumping into the hot springs and frolicking around are two cubs, looking like they mean no harm, but terrifying the other human guests regardless. Some don’t seem to mind sharing a bath with them, and reach over to show a little bit of affection.


Albeit adorable, these little bears take the notion of “mixed baths” to a whole new level. But they aren’t exactly random bears that just so happened to find a giant hot spring to dive into — they were actually raised by the owner of this particular onsen, after both their parents passed. It partially explains why they’re so eager to swim among the other guests, use their towels to dry off without hesitation, and even imbibe in some refreshing drinks afterwards.


Takaragawa Onsen is now bear-free, and you can visit the hot springs to spend a relaxing day soaking in the vast onsen without any furry interruptions. We can’t say we would mind, though — an encounter with bears as friendly as these little cubs will surely prove to be a hot spring experience of a lifetime.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.