No matter where you go in Japan, every region is blessed with hot springs; but this guide introduces little-known hot springs particular to the Tohoku region that come recommended by locals.
1. Mt. Osore, Aomori Prefecture
Mt. Osore is famous for its “itako,” blind women who are spiritual mediums; however, there is also a temple at the foot of this mountain with bathing facilities. It takes about ¥500 to enter the temple grounds, but since the bathing fee is included, you can freely soak in the hot spring. The refined bathing facilities are constructed of wood, while the hot water is a bluish, milky color. Tour the Mt. Osore sacred grounds, soak in the hot spring, and refresh your body and mind. After soaking in the water, it’s also nice to flop down on the no-charge, open tatami mats and take a break.
Mt. Osore contains a beautiful lake called Lake Usori. The lake encircles the mountain, and the mountain trekking course is very pleasant. It’s also fun to visit the temple and soak after hiking the mountain.
2. Ubayu Hot Spring, Yonezawa City, Yamagata
The second spot is Ubayu Hot Spring, located near the border of the Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures. This is a quite secluded area. Access is poor, and you have to drive up a narrow mountain road; however, the draw lies in an experience of lush, wild beauty. This is a mixed-gender open-air bath — truly the middle of the mountains! The bath is surrounded by rugged mountain rocks, and the mist that arises while you’re bathing gives the scenery a mysterious atmosphere. If you’re going on a day trip just to bathe, it costs ¥600. This is a happily reasonable price for a hot spring buried in the mountains. There are also rest areas and lodgings, so this hot spring is recommended for people who want to take their time soaking in the water.
3. Yubia, Tendo City, Yamagata
With a slight change in direction, our final spot is “Yubia.” Although located away from the city in a rural area, it’s surrounded by open fields, so access is relatively easy. The greatest appeal of Yubia is its low prices! You can use the facilities for a mere ¥300 per adult; what’s more, they’re comparatively new and attractive, and the building includes a souvenir shop, restaurant, etc. If you pay a separate fee, you can use the rest areas and relax there all day. The abundance of bath varieties include jet baths and saunas, and we particularly recommend the large and pleasant open air bath (“rotemburo”). Dozens of people can enter this bath with room to spare, so you can soak comfortably. It’s very soothing to sit on the rock area, feel the outdoor wind, and soak in the hot water. There are also many washing areas, so you won’t need to wait your turn; and of course there are shampoo and body wash, as well as free coin lockers and lockers for valuables. Altogether, this bathhouse is very comfortable. The surrounding countryside harvests rice in fall, and you can see Mt. Gassan and Mt. Hayama from afar. Just wandering around this area melts away stress. Wouldn’t it also be fun to join the locals in the hot water for cultural exchange?
This post is also available in: Japanese