Explore Iwate: 10 Hot Spring Hotels and Ryokan to Embrace the Charms of Iwate Prefecture
- Published: Mar 23 2023
Iwate Prefecture, nestled in the heart of the Tohoku region, hosts a wide range of attractions, from awe-inspiring natural landscapes to iconic World Heritage sites. The region is also renowned for its delectable local cuisine, steeped in age-old traditions. In this article, we present our 10 picks for hotels and ryokan in Iwate Prefecture, each immersing guests in an authentic Japanese experience complete with rejuvenating hot springs and sumptuous food!
10 Hot Spring Hotels and Ryokan in Iwate Prefecture
Shikitei, located in Morioka, Iwate’s central capital, is a traditional ryokan flaunting the coveted hot spring waters of the 900-year-old Tsunagi Onsen. These waters are renowned for their alkaline and sulfuric properties, believed to make one’s skin firmer and reduce sebum. Guests can fully indulge at the shared baths, which includes a gorgeous open-air bath.
For those seeking a more opulent stay, Shikitei also has guestrooms with private open-air baths, offering guests the pleasure of bathing in seclusion. Options range from Japanese-style rooms with traditional furnishings to Japanese-Western fusion rooms with a proper bed plus tatami flooring.
As the name “Shiki,” meaning “seasons,” implies, dinner is served as a Japanese course meal emphasizing the flavors and ingredients of each season. In the traditional dining room, guests can savor a plethora of dishes featuring seafood from the Sanriku Coast, vegetables grown in the vast lands of Iwate, local rice, wagyu beef, and plenty more.
2. Hotel Taikan
Hotel Taikan, also located in Tsunagi Onsen, runs a complimentary shuttle bus service to and from JR Morioka Station, making it ideal for travelers without access to a car.
The hotel's hot springs are known for their purity and natural temperature, free from any artificial heating or dilution. Gushing out at a rate of 700 liters per minute, several bathtubs are generously filled throughout the facility, including a spacious indoor bath and an open-air bath with a scenic view of the surrounding mountains.
The guestrooms flaunt Japanese-style decor and a classy yet relaxed ambiance, with some equipped with beds for added comfort. Others even have private hot spring baths attached, for a carefree and indulgent soak.
After bathing, feast on a buffet-style dinner featuring freshly prepared seasonal ingredients, or a Japanese-style course meal to thoroughly savor each delicacy. Hotel Taikan caters to travelers of all kinds, from solo adventurers to small groups, families, and even large tours.
3. Hotel Shion
For those wanting to fully enjoy the waters of Tsunagi Onsen, Hotel Shion is an essential Iwate experience! From silk baths with skin-cleansing micro-bubbles to cypress bathtubs bursting with soothing aromas, plus tranquil wooden bathhouses, private bathrooms, and more, there’s plenty to explore.
Hotel Shion sits beside a picturesque lake, and many of the baths present breathtaking views. Guestrooms likewise flaunt splendid vistas, so you can alleviate travel weariness while gazing upon the tranquil lake and magnificent mountain backdrop. Besides conventional Japanese-style rooms, you can also opt for fusion rooms equipped with beds.
Hanamaki is a popular tourist destination in the heart of Iwate with twelve hot spring resorts offering a wide variety of natural geothermal water. Yukaen is an inn situated in Yamanokami Onsen, which is characterized by an abundance of thick, lotion-like water that is gentle on the skin.
The inn draws water from four distinct hot springs types, and the baths themselves are just as diverse, including a spacious open-air bath, a bath with a sauna, and two cozy indoor baths.
Yukaen’s interior was crafted by a renowned temple carpenter, and exudes a serene ambiance, adorned with flourishes like intricate lattice-patterned ceilings, “fusuma” sliding doors, and “ranma” transoms. There are a range of rooms suiting all preferences, from traditional Japanese-style to grand suites with living rooms and sunrooms.
Visitors can also explore the sprawling garden, replete with numerous species of plants and trees, and witness the changing of the seasons from verdant summer foliage to autumn leaves and even snow!
5. Hotel Shidotaira
Tucked beside the picturesque Toyosawa River, Hotel Shidotaira is a part of its namesake Shidotaira Onsen. Here there are two unique hot spring types; a simple spring that leaves the skin feeling silky smooth, and a chloride spring that prevents sweat from evaporating and is said to be highly effective in retaining heat.
Hotel Shidotaira has several bathhouses, with the 25-meter-long bathtub of “Tenga-no-yu” being the most impressive. While soaking, visitors can listen to the sound of the gentle stream and admire the stunning natural splendor. The two-story atrium also has a semi-open-air bath that overlooks the mountain stream, ceramic and cypress bathtubs, plus private baths to complete your journey into bliss.
Guestrooms range from simple, modern bedrooms and peaceful Japanese-style rooms to suites offering magnificent views of the forest and river, plus universal rooms with ramps for the elderly and wheelchair users.
For dinner, the hotel serves a mouthwatering buffet with a smorgasbord of dishes for guests to tuck into while watching the chefs work their magic in the “live kitchen.” The hotel also has a dedicated area with children and baby food, alongside a kids' room for some after-dinner playtime.
6. Osawa Onsen Sansuikaku
Osawa Onsen is a historical hot spring with a rich history dating back 1,200 years and adored by some of Japan's greatest writers. Within Osawa Onsen is Sansuikaku, a traditional ryokan, and Toujiya, a self-catering accommodation housed in a 200-year-old building. Six bathhouses line the mountain stream, and guests are welcome to use all of them freely.
Unwind in the open-air and indoor baths and immerse yourself in the magnificent mountains, which present spectacular seasonal views. Other options include private baths and retro indoor tiled baths, giving guests plenty to do during their stay.
After a soothing soak, dive into a leisurely dinner of Japanese cuisine arranged to reflect the flavors of the season. As the menu changes monthly, each ingredient is at its peak freshness, and guests always have a surprise to look forward to.
7. Hotel Koyokan
Hotel Koyokan is cleverly arranged to allow guests to move between three adjacent facilities via connecting passageways to tour multiple baths at their own leisure (private baths are also available for a fee).
Selections include a spacious open-air bath, a roomy indoor bath, a sauna, and an aroma-esthetics salon. The accompanying outside terrace is also a great space to cool down between soaks. Tour them all, find your favorite, and enjoy the hot springs of Iwate to your heart’s content!
You can choose between warm Japanese-style or spacious Western-style rooms, both with mountain views to fully embrace the ever-changing seasonal scenery.
For dinner, you can opt for either a buffet or a Japanese course meal, both incorporating a hoard of local ingredients. The “yukata” kimono rental service (for women only, separate fee) is also popular, offering a variety of delightful designs!
8. Yamayuri no Yado
Yamayuri no Yado is a part of Dai Onsen, a hot spring village in Hanamaki with a rich 1,200-year history and charming, old-time atmosphere. Narrow streets lined with traditional inns make for an enthralling stroll, and the soothing sounds of the surrounding forest and murmuring river will ease the stresses of everyday life.
All of the baths are fed by spring water that naturally flows out of underground wells on the premises. It is gently alkaline with a silky smooth texture, and can be experienced in both an open-air and indoor bath for complete rejuvenation.
For something more private, guestrooms with attached semi-open-air baths are also available. Savor the wonders of this historic hot spring alone or beside loved ones, without fear of interruptions from other guests!
After your bath, treat yourself to a delicious dinner in the refined “irori” sunken hearth style. Feast on the Sanriku region's freshly caught seafood, paired with seasonal local vegetables and Maesawa wagyu, a highly sought-after brand of beef with a refined sweetness and umami flavor characteristic of Iwate.
9. Matsurube Onsen Kamikura
Kamikura is an oasis of calmness nestled at the foot of Mt. Kurikoma, on the border of Akita and Miyagi prefectures, and encompassed by pristine virgin forest. The lavish use of large trees inside weaves together a soothing atmosphere that enhances your relaxation. The hot spring water, soft on the skin, is pumped into both the open-air bath (closed in winter due to snow) and the indoor bath, which feels even bigger thanks to the rows of large glass windows. Bathing here is even said to help alleviate several ailments like poor circulation and joint pain.
Guestrooms are mostly designed in traditional Japanese style, providing a peaceful stay enhanced by nature-abundant views from the windows.
In addition to its famous hot springs, the inn runs a number of activities taking advantage of its location, such as kayaking, winter snow trekking, and star-gazing. Immerse yourself deep in the idyllic wilderness of Iwate to fully forget the stresses of urban living.
Hiraizumi is a World Heritage Site renowned for its collection of gardens and ruins deeply entwined with local culture. Shizukatei is just a 15-minute drive from Chuson-ji, one of the site’s most famous ancient temples, and is the ideal base for exploring the area’s many attractions.
Shizukatei’s airy baths boast free-flowing hot spring water sourced from 500 meters below the ground. Rich in carbonic acid ions and radon, this so-called “natural skin lotion” has a soft, silky feel that will leave you feeling fresh for hours afterward.
Fresh soba noodles, handmade from locally grown buckwheat flour and spring water, are the pride of the dinner menu. The restaurant also runs a farm cultivating over 80 types of vegetables, fruits, and buckwheat each year. With freshly harvested vegetables as the centerpiece, dishes showcasing Iwate's natural bounty, like Sanriku seafood, local wagyu beef, and wild mountain vegetables, can be enjoyed without reserve.
Ease Your Stress With Hot Springs, Nature, and Good Food in Iwate
While seemingly out of the way, Iwate Prefecture is actually easily accessible via bullet train from Tokyo Station, taking around 2 hours and 10 minutes, and from other parts of Japan by airplane. With such convenience, anyone can visit and discover the many attractions that Iwate Prefecture has to offer, so use this guide as a base and start booking!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.