8 of the Best Hot Spring Towns in the Tohoku Region

The chillier climate of the Tohoku region, located in northern Japan, makes it the perfect place to enjoy soaking in rejuvenating “onsen” (hot spring) waters. One of the great things about hot spring towns is that even if you are staying at only one of the local inns, you can still visit and enjoy the other inns’ onsen as well! With a plethora of luxurious and relaxing onsen to choose from, we have selected eight of the most famous and popular Tohoku hot spring resort areas, along with recommendations for ryokan inns that allow you to not only enjoy the Tohoku hot springs, but also a quintessentially Japanese atmosphere!

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1. Akiu Onsen (Miyagi Prefecture)

The historic Akiu Onsen has been a source of relaxation in Tohoku for over 1,500 years. This stunning Sendai hot spring town is only a 2-hour Shinkansen bullet train ride away from Tokyo, making it the convenient choice for day trips. It’s known for being one of the top 3 hot springs of Japan due to its soothing atmosphere and highly moisturizing natural spring water. Akiu Onsen’s scenic location by the Natori River and Rairaikyo Gorge also makes it an enticing place to explore.

Recommended Ryokan Near Akiu Onsen

・Oshu Akiu Onsen Rantei

Oshu Akiu Onsen Rantei offers three styles of rooms to guests – Western, Japanese, and a combination of both – some of which also come with a beautiful mountain view. Its onsen have the distinction of being the only “tatami hot springs” in Miyagi Prefecture. This gives them a unique look and also helps prevent slipping on the floors. For dinner, guests can choose between extravagant Japanese-style courses, while a daily buffet is available for breakfast. The ryokan is very family-friendly, with a kid’s menu, rentable items for children’s use, and a playspace for kids available.

・Saryo Souen

The star of Saryo Souen is its magnificent 26,000-square-meter Japanese garden. This garden has features such as a koi pond, traditional Japanese structures, and a wealth of foliage. The ryokan itself is expansive and complex, with several Japanese-style detached rooms that afford you peace and quiet, each facing the garden. The onsen are all open-air or semi-open-air, with each bath designed with natural materials throughout. The ryokan serves a “kaiseki” course meal with specially selected ingredients based on the season.

2. Zao Onsen (Yamagata Prefecture)

Zao Onsen is a unique Tohoku hot spring town – visitors come here not just for the onsen, but also to have some winter fun at the nearby ski resort. If you’re an avid skier or trekker, this makes for a convenient arrangement – you can simply relax your muscles at the hot springs after a long day of activity. Additionally, there are foot baths scattered across the area to relax tired feet in. The “springs of beauty” of this Tohoku onsen area greatly help with this thanks to its natural regenerative properties. The mystical Frost Covered Trees of Zao are also an extremely popular wintertime sight.

Recommended Ryokan Near Zao Onsen


Wakamatsuya’s unbeatable location means you’re only a 3-minute walk away from both the Zao Onsen Ski Resort and the Zao Onsen Bus Terminal. This ryokan has a reputation for being one of the favorite spots of Japanese poet, Mokichi Saitou. You can see how the ryokan’s fantastic mountain views might have inspired his creative mind. Guests can stay in Japanese-style rooms or in Western-Japanese fusion rooms. The ryokan has a full range of onsen available – outdoor baths, indoor baths, and a rentable private bath, the last of which is open 24 hours a day and can be used for free without a reservation.

・Omiya Ryokan

Omiya Ryokan’s guestrooms have a unique stylishness to them. They’ve taken the aesthetics of Japanese-style rooms and added a retro flair inspired by Taisho-era (1912 – 1926) Japan. The warm yet muted retro colors beautifully match the Japanese style of the rooms. This same attentiveness can also be seen in their food menu, featuring specialties like Yamagata beef and locally brewed sake. The indoor baths, foot baths, and open-air baths all make use of free-flowing hot springs, however, do take note that when visiting during the winter, the latter two options are closed due to snow.

3. Asamushi Onsen (Aomori Prefecture)

Located right next to Mutsu Bay, Asamushi Onsen is a great two-in-one destination for tourists visiting Tohoku thanks to its onsen and beach combo. The eastern side of the area has narrow alleys, inns, and restaurants that retain the feel of an old Japanese hot spring town. The hot springs are said to have a moisturizing effect on the skin – something you can experience through the various onsens across the town. Meanwhile, the beach resort side is a popular spot in the summer where visitors try out windsurfing and fishing.

Recommended Ryokan Near Asamushi Onsen

・Nambuya Kaisenkaku

Nambuya Kaisenkaku takes full advantage of its proximity to Mutsu Bay to provide guests with an excellent waterfront view. Their popular Outlook Baths overlook the bay from the top floor of the ryokan and can also be used by daytime patrons who are not staying at the ryokan from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm. The styles of the rooms are split into Japanese and Western rooms, both of which have modern amenities such as TV, air conditioning, and refrigerators. Every night, guests can enjoy a “shamisen” (traditional string instrument) performance at the hotel lobby and a Japanese cuisine dinner buffet using seasonal local ingredients.

・Yanagi no Yu

Yanagi no Yu’s open-air cypress baths have been relaxing guests for more than 200 years. This Tohoku ryokan uses onsen water that’s believed to be good for certain types of ailments. Everything about this ryokan adheres to a traditional Japanese style – from its quiet structure and garden to its guestrooms and the various art pieces on display. It’s also one of the most conveniently located ryokans in the area, only a 4-minute walk away from Asamushi-Onsen Station.

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4. Higashiyama Onsen (Fukushima Prefecture)

Higashiyama Onsen is not just a hot spring town, it’s also a great spot to experience the historical culture of Fukushima. Founded in the 8th century, this Tohoku hot spring town is steeped in history.  The area is known for its flourishing geisha tradition, locally known as “geigi.” Higashiyama Onsen’s geigi make appearances in yearly festivals and guests can also reserve and watch a performance from their ryokan. Aizu Bukeyashiki, a popular samurai residence, is also within walking distance. The grounds contain several historical buildings that demonstrate the way that samurai families lived their lives long ago.

Recommended Ryokan Near Higashiyama Onsen

・Onyado Toho

Onyado Toho is a hotel that’s famous for its luxurious outdoor onsen with unparalleled views of the Aizu castle townscape. One of their open-air hot springs is even multi-layered, offering different ways to relax. The hotel incorporates modern elegance with traditional Japanese styles beginning from the reception all the way to the rooms, which are available in both Japanese and Western styles. A vast selection of dishes is served at the hotel restaurant, including ones that use local ingredients like Aizu horse meat and locally-grown rice.

・Shosuke-no-Yado Takinoyu

Located by a stream, Shosuke-no-Yado Takinoyu was designed to blend in with the beautiful surrounding nature. There are a couple of waterfalls that can be viewed from the ryokan’s onsen, creating a truly relaxing atmosphere. They have both indoor and open-air baths in addition to private baths available to all guests. The ryokan has both Western and Japanese-style rooms along with a variety of facilities such as restaurants, shops, a karaoke lounge, an outdoor noh stage, and a kids' playroom.


5. Sakunami Onsen (Miyagi Prefecture)

Surrounded by trees and greenery, Sakunami Onsen is one of the best places to see Miyagi Prefecture’s natural beauty. It completely transforms with the seasons – from the bright red-orange colors of the autumn foliage to the snow-covered landscape in the winter. This area’s selection of outdoor onsens takes advantage of this fact, offering amazing views of the Tohoku nature, also allowing guests to enjoy the symphony of natural sounds such as the running water and rustling of the leaves. These onsen also make use of water that’s said to be quite gentle on the skin.

Recommended Ryokan Near Sakunami Onsen

・Sakunami Onsen Yuzukushi Salon Ichinobo

This Tohoku ryokan is best appreciated for its outdoor facilities. It not only has impressive outdoor baths facing Hirose River, but also a sundeck with lovely views of the surrounding nature and a relaxation area with a fireplace. In addition to the stunning public onsen, there are several rooms that come equipped with private open-air baths. Guests also have access to a herbal steam room for further relaxation, a luxurious dinner buffet that can be enjoyed with local wine at the ryokan restaurant, and a hearty breakfast menu to prepare oneself for the day ahead.

・Lala Resort Hotel Green Green

Similarly situated near the Hirose River is Lala Resort Hotel Green Green. The facilities in this hotel are as fun as its name, with a bowling alley, a pingpong table, karaoke room, and a poolside pub. They have several rejuvenating baths, including a large stone outdoor bath, a reservable private bath, as well as women-only options such as a cave bath. A buffet of assorted Western, Chinese, and Japanese dishes like sashimi, sushi, and Sendai’s specialty beef tongue is available for dinner. There is a Japanese course cuisine option also available for dinner, and the hotel also hosts several restaurants as well.

6. Nyuto Onsenkyo (Akita Prefecture)

Tucked away in the mountains of Tohoku, the seven hot springs of Nyuto Onsenkyo will immerse you in the natural beauty of Akita Prefecture. Visiting in winter when everything is blanketed in snow makes the view even more picturesque and the Tohoku hot spring water feel even more rejuvenating. Each onsen in this area has its own hot spring source with unique mineral properties and atmospheres that help you enjoy rustic baths while being surrounded by the Tohoku nature.


Recommended Ryokan Near Nyuto Onsenkyo

・Tsurunoyu Onsen

Tsurunoyu Onsen is one of the oldest hot spring resorts in Nyuto Onsenkyo, dating as far back as 1638. Its hot spring baths were said to be used by 17th-century era lords of Akita as a place for physical therapy. The ryokan’s long history is preserved in the walls of its Japanese-style rooms that come complete with traditional low furniture and tatami mat flooring. There are four hot spring baths with different properties, including a large open-air bath that’s especially popular for its snow-covered winter ambiance.


Kyukamura has both indoor and open-air outdoor baths, the latter of which is surrounded by a quiet beech forest. This Tohoku onsen’s two types of natural hot spring waters are believed to help with things like skin-related ailments and high blood pressure. You can choose between a Western or Japanese-style room during your stay. The ryokan also serves the best of Akita’s local ingredients at the daily breakfast and dinner buffets.

7. Ashinomaki Onsen (Fukushima Prefecture)

Known for its beautiful valleys, the rolling mountains that surround Ashinomaki Onsen give this area a unique landscape. It’s located between major Tohoku sightseeing spots such as Ouchijuku, a town preserved in an Edo-period (1603 – 1867) style, and Aizu-Wakamatsu, a samurai castle town. They can both be accessed within 30 minutes by train from Ashinomaki Onsen, so it’s worth adding them to your sightseeing itinerary when visiting this side of Tohoku.

Recommended Ryokan Near Ashinomaki Onsen

・Ashinomaki Prince Hotel

Views of the Aizu mountains can be seen all around Ashinomaki Prince Hotel’s grounds, but they’re perhaps best enjoyed from the large open-air bath. This bath is tucked behind bamboo fences, giving you a level of privacy while still being open enough to gaze at the mountain views. The hotel has indoor hot springs with a child-friendly dressing room and a tent sauna that diffuses aroma oils. They have the distinction of being a pet-friendly hotel with rooms that allow pets and special amenities that are useful to have when staying with a pet.


Ookawaso skirts along the edges of Aga River and is surrounded by lush hills that become a sight to behold in autumn. The hotel has two buildings that separate the styles of the guestrooms. The Yoimachitei building has more modern, Western-style rooms while Tsukimitei focuses on traditional Japanese aesthetics. Aside from the kaiseki course meal offerings, you can enjoy other aspects of Japanese culture during your stay -- a daily shamisen performance is held towards the evening and there’s also an occasional “mochitsuki” rice cake-making show, after which you can enjoy freshly made mochi.

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Osawa Onsen (Iwate Prefecture)

Osawa Onsen is a small, riverside hot spring destination that consists of three main ryokan connected by bridges and corridors. Due to the ryokans' close proximity to each other, the area is popular amongst tourists who want to wander to and from the different onsen. It’s a great place to see the changing of seasons through its beautiful foliage. The river running along this Tohoku hot spring tourist spot makes for the perfect background noise as you soak in the hot springs.

Recommended Ryokan Near Osawa Onsen

・Osawa Onsen Sansuikaku

Osawa Onsen Sansuikaku is a charming ryokan with a great view of the nearby hills. The ryokan is a combination of new and old structures, with the oldest building dating back to over 200 years ago. Rooms are divided into Japanese and Western-Japanese fusion styles. The relaxing baths overlook the river and include a dual indoor and outdoor bath, a semi-open-air bath, and three reservable private baths. The ryokan also has plenty of amenities to offer to their guests, which include a karaoke bar, private karaoke rooms, a restaurant, and a souvenir shop, along with face and body relaxation treatments.

Relax in the Best Tohoku Hot Spring Destinations’ Rejuvenating Waters

Due to the area’s climate and rich nature, Tohoku onsen are popular destinations for many travelers. Many of these Tohoku hot spring towns feel removed, yet are actually quite accessible from major Tohoku sightseeing destinations. Tohoku’s hot springs are the perfect way to relax and forget the stresses of everyday life. Unwind while soaking in the hot water of the Tohoku onsen and listening to the sounds of the surrounding nature.

Thumbnail: weniliou / Shutterstock.com

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Tohoku Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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Jen Laforteza
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