One of the reasons Japan is popular is due to its many hot springs. Since you've come all the way to Japan, you shouldn't just go to a regular hot spring, but enjoy a little-known or secluded hot spring instead. Here are 4 inns where you can enjoy those springs.
1. Masugataya (Ubayu Onsen, Yamagata)
Ubayu Onsen is a hot spring that has over 400 years of history since it was discovered in 1533. Of all the inns in the area, one that is particularly popular is Masugataya. When you finally reach the inn on the mountain path, you'll see that the building is made to look as though it's running along the mountain's surface so you can definitely expect a good time. The recommended bath is definitely the open-air bath. The bath is surrounded by various strangely-shaped rocks, including a lion rock, an old lady rock, a white elephant rock, a tiger rock, and more. You'll be satisfied by the cloudy water and the open atmosphere surrounding you. You can't see that sort of scenery every day so you should take it in while you can! Also, it's beautiful in the autumn so it's recommended to go then to enjoy the foliage. The cuisine is traditional Japanese food that uses specially selected local ingredients like Japanese beef and fish. Their sesame seed pudding, served for dessert, is considered especially delicious so please look forward to it!
2. Takarasou (Ja no Yu Onsen, Tokyo)
If you want a secluded onsen in the Kanto area, Ja no Yu Onsen Takarasou is perfect for your needs. The spring has a long history, and it has the name "Ja no Yu" because it's said a large serpent healed its wounds in the well that supplies this spring ("ja" is one way to read the character for snake). This ryokan (Japanese inn) is in the middle of the lush area of Tokyo called Okutama and when you make your way over there you'll definitely be surprised that this sort of place exists in Tokyo. The best parts about this inn are the hot, comfortable spring and the food made by the proud owner. Their traditional Japanese food uses mountain vegetables, mushrooms, fish, and other local ingredients. It's so delicious you'll end up drinking a lot because it matches the food. There's no open-air bath but the sight from the bath is lovely and you can enjoy the bubbling of the river as you leisurely soak.
3. Tsurunoyu Onsen (Nyuto Onsenkyo, Akita)
Nyuto Onsenkyo refers to the area where 7 inns for 7 famous hot springs are on the foot of Mt. Nyuto. Because of that, it's not a lively sightseeing area full of clamor but it's a place where you can enjoy secluded baths. The recommended inn is the Tsurunoyu Onsen, which is the oldest one in the area since it was first opened in 1688. The inn's "honjin" (an inn designated for use by a daimyo) is built with a thatched roof, something very rare for Japan nowadays. The rooms have irori hearths, which are hearths set into the floor that can be used for heating or for cooking, so you can make some great memories of your trip! There are four onsen on the grounds, but the most recommended one is the mixed-gender open-air bath. The stone bath is so big 30 people could easily fit, and it'll cure you of all your tiredness from your trip. The water is slightly white so you can enjoy the strangeness of it. You can enjoy regional cuisine for dinner such as Yama no Imo Nabe (stew made with mountain yam), mountain vegetables, and grilled fish that are Akita specialties!
4. Kiyotsukan (Kiyotsukyou Yumoto Onsen, Niigata)
This secret spring near the famous hot spring Kiyotsukyou was built in 1897. There are 3 buildings so it looks like a really luxurious inn but actually there are only 12 guestrooms. This is so you can spend a quiet, leisurely time here. The open-air bath placed at the front of the main building faces the mountain stream from Kiyotsukyou, so it's an onsen that faces incredible nature. It's good to go when everything is lush in summer, but if you go in winter after snow has fallen the gap of the cold air and the hot water might be really comfortable. The meals offered are Japanese food made with local mountain vegetables and river fish. It's all low-calorie, well-balanced meals that are easy to digest. If you're someone that has been eating and drinking without abandon since you're on vacation, this is a chance to give your body a rest. Please enjoy the nutritious food as you relax to your heart's content.
It's fine to stay in nice hotels and hospitable Japanese inns, but since you've come all this way it would be good to experience the fresh air of an open-air bath of an inn in the middle of the mountains!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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