NIPPONIA No.26 September 15, 2003
Special Feature*
Japan, a Paradise of Hot Springs
Most Japanese people are so fond of hot springs that they are willing to go almost anywhere just to soak in a thermal pool, perhaps deep in the mountains at some out-of-the-way spa, or right in their own city, where they can enjoy a similar resort atmosphere during their time off. These pages introduce different types of hot springs, each with its own charm to satisfy the Japanese spa lover.
Written by Torikai Shin'ichi
Photos by Kono Toshihiko
Other photo collaboration: Tokyo Dome Corporation

Therapeutic Bathing in a Peaceful Mountain Valley
Tsuru-no-yu Onsen, Akita Prefecture
Mount Nyuto rises 1,478 meters above sea level, on the prefectural boundary between Akita and Iwate in northern Honshu. The Nyuto Hot Springs are scattered around the foot of the mountain, looking much like spas did in the good old days.
The oldest spa is Tsuru-no-yu Onsen. The name means "Crane in the Hot Spring" and comes from the legend of a local hunter who, long ago, saw a crane bathing in the spring to heal her wound. A small shelter was built at the spring, and people have been coming ever since. The spa is in a quiet place, deep in the mountains.
According to records still held by the inn, in 1638, the feudal lord of Akita visited the spring, hoping the waters would cure his ailment.
It was common for local farming families to gather there after the autumn harvest, and stay for about 10 days. They would cook their own meals at the inn and relax in the therapeutic waters. The inn began serving meals in 1953, and since then tourists have been coming from near and far.
Recently, more visitors from Japan's large cities have been coming,attracted after hearing of the spa's traditional architecture and design. Some of the roofs are thatched, and each guest room has an irori fireplace in the middle of the floor, like in days gone by. If you soak in the outdoor hot pool and listen to the breeze whispering through the nearby beech forest, your cares will disappear, as if you are escaping the passage of time.

This spa has four types of pools, which visitors hope will cure a variety of ailments including cuts, high blood pressure and eye complaints.
Prices for a one-night stay with two meals start at 8,000 yen.

Getting there:
About 3 hours on the Tohoku Shinkansen from JR Tokyo Station to JR Tazawako Station. From there, about 50 minutes by bus to Nyuto Onsen-kyo. If arriving directly from overseas, first take the Narita Express train from Narita Airport to JR Tokyo Station (about 1 hour).
Japanese-language website:

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