8 Best Luxury Accommodations in Tohoku, Japan For a Memorable Getaway (2021 Edition)
Tohoku is a nature-rich region that is as yet relatively undiscovered by tourists despite being easily accessible with its main city Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture, just 1.5 hours from Tokyo on a "shinkansen" (bullet train). This article recommends hotels in all six prefectures of Tohoku where you can enjoy the region's many charms, including its grand nature, "onsen" (hot springs), and regional cuisine. A variety of accommodations with thorough COVID-19 prevention measures, such as secluded villas and annexes of traditional inns, are introduced together with information on surrounding tourist sites.
Jul 07 2021 (Jun 06 2022)
Aomori, the northernmost prefecture of Japan's main island of Honshu, is a nature-rich area known for Shirakami-Sanchi, a World Heritage Site that crosses over into Akita Prefecture to the southeast, and Hakkodasan, a set of 18 volcanic peaks of which the 1,584-meter-tall Odake is the main peak.
Oirase Gorge, one of Aomori's top nature spots, has just the bare minimum of maintained paths so that visitors can thoroughly enjoy its rich nature and observe its ecosystem.
The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, which is one of the three largest festivals in the Tohoku Region, is held across the prefecture during July and August. The sight of "dashi" (festival floats) decked with up to four tons of decorations being paraded around the streets is astounding.
Aomori is also blessed with the bounty of the mountains and seas. In particular, it is Japan's number one producer of apples, with a staggering 60% of all apples in the country coming from this prefecture.
1. Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya
Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya aims to be a place where guests can experience the historic and natural scenery of Aomori. Its vast 727,000m² grounds include a park with lush, green vegetation, ponds, and old houses that present the natural seasonal beauty unique to the Tohoku Region.
A unique feature of this hotel is the opportunity to thoroughly experience the traditional culture of Aomori Prefecture which is also known as "the snow country." Floats and decorations used in Aomori Nebuta Matsuri can be found throughout the hotel, and there is also a show introducing the charms of Aomori's festivals.
There is a selection of room types available, including Unkan (first image above) which offers a park view and has a private bathroom with a bathtub made of Aomori Hiba wood, Aomori Nebuta Room (second image above) that is adorned with decorations from the Nebuta Matsuri, and Azumashi which is decorated with a variety of traditional crafts from Aomori and available as a Japanese-style room or a Western-style room.
The onsen baths have slightly viscous natural hot-spring water flowing directly from the source and are great to enjoy in the morning.
The open-air bath Ukiyu (first image above) seems almost to be floating on a nearby pond and is perfectly situated for guests to immerse themselves in the seasonal beauty of the surrounding landscape. In the winter, visitors can witness the wonderfully mystic view of the Neburi Nagashi Toro, an event where a Nebuta float and lanterns float on the ponds around the Ukiyu.
In the indoor bath Hibayu (second image above), not only the bathtub but also the walls and ceilings are made with Aomori Hiba wood, healing one's body and soul by its refreshing and soothing woody scent.
Nanbu Magariya (third and fourth images) offers guests delicious breakfast options such as freshwater fish grilled in an "irori" (sunken hearth) as well as a special multi-course "kaiseki" meal in the evening incorporating "Nanako Hacchin," fifteen types of seafood that have long been prized in Aomori.
At Noresore Shokudo, a buffet-style restaurant designed to look like a traditional Japanese house, a kaccha (the regional dialect for "mother") dressed in a kappogi (a white apron with sleeves) serves guests regional dishes freshly cooked in an open kitchen.
Hoshino Resort Aomoriya is a wonderful place to leave behind the stresses of life in the city and enjoy the gentle passage of time with the warm hospitality of the people of Aomori and their culture that has been protected over generations.
2. Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel
Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel is the only hotel located on the bank of the Oirase Keiryu stream, a natural treasure within Towada-Hachimantai National Park. Guests at this hotel can relax by observing the moss-covered stones, the sound of the pristine water flowing in the stream, and the surrounding forest thick with natural vegetation. This hotel is also known for holding many works of art by Taro Okamoto, famous for his innovative and dynamic art, including an 8.5-meter-tall, 5-ton bronze fireplace (second image above) in the lobby.
There is a selection of guest rooms available, including the Mountain Stream View Japanese-style Room (first image above) that is decorated simply to maximize the enjoyment of the nature outside, the Modern Room which is a Western-style room designed to relax in without shoes, and the Mountain Stream View Room With Open Bath (second image above) where you can soak in a bath with a view of the Oirase stream. The rooms are wonderful places to relax and let nature embrace you by quietly enjoying the sounds of the nearby stream, the trees swaying in the wind, and birdsong.
A special feature of this hotel is the open-air baths with stunning views. It is a wonderful place to enjoy the clean morning air (see first image above) and has particularly beautiful views of the fall foliage on the mountains (see second image above). So, its baths are perfect to revel in the grand nature of the Oirase stream which changes by the time of day and season.
Aomori Ringo Kitchen (first image above) is a buffet restaurant where you can experience the many charms of apples, which Aomori Prefecture is famous for. In addition to innovative dishes like the Marinated Salmon with Apple Purée (second image above), in which the salmon pairs wonderfully with the crunchy texture of the apples, and Apple and Chicken in Cream, there are tasty options such as the Piping Hot Apple Pie.
At the French restaurant Sonore, guests can enjoy the sound of the flowing Oirase stream together with French cuisine made with seasonal ingredients and fantastic French wine from the world's leading vinters. Dinner at Sonore starts with aperitifs and amuse bouche served on a terrace overlooking the Oirase stream (second image above). The aperitifs enjoyed with a view of the stream glimmering in the setting sun is an experience unique to this restaurant. Don't miss out on it!
Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel offers a variety of unique seasonal activities. The first image above is of bike rides along the Oirase stream on electric "E-BIKE Rental" bicycles. The second image is of the Illumination of Frozen Waterfalls Tour. The frozen waterfalls, which can only be seen in Oirase in the winter, are lit up by a van equipped with lights so that guests can enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing this magical work of art.
Stay at Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel and you are guaranteed to have special experiences that will make your trip to Aomori a memorable one.
*Some activities are currently on hold. Check the hotel's official homepage for more details.
Akita Prefecture is located to the southwest of Aomori Prefecture and to the west of Iwate Prefecture. Shirakami-Sanchi, the World Heritage Site that is the pride of Akita Prefecture and Aomori Prefecture, is one of the world's largest virgin beech forests and is well worth visiting. The first image above is of Dakedai Nature Observation Woods, which has well-maintained paths suited for walks. Some of the paths are even wheelchair accessible.
The Omagari Fireworks Festival* in Akita Prefecture (second image above) is one of Japan's three major fireworks festivals and is said to have the best quality fireworks. It stands out from the rest because it has daytime showings as well.
The prefecture is also full of nature and cultural attractions, including the famous secluded hot springs of Nyuto Onsen; Kakunodate, sometimes called the LIttle Kyoto of Michinoku (old name for the Tohoku region), where many old samurai houses remain; and Japan's deepest lake, Lake Tazawa.
*Held annually on the last Saturday of August. The date is August 28 for 2021, but announcements have not been made on whether it will be held or cancelled.
3. Yukemuri no Yado Inazumi Onsen
Yukemuri no Yado Inazumi Onsen is an onsen inn with a vast premise of over 33,000 ㎡ in Akinomiya Onsenkyo, a spa town that is said to be the oldest of its kind in Akita Prefecture. It is in an area surrounded by mountains, near the border of the three prefectures of Akita, Miyagi and Yamagata. This is a place blessed with beautiful nature and rich natural hot springs.
Recommended at this inn are the four detached rooms—Ran-tei, Kan-tei, San-tei, and Ren-tei—collectively called "Amanoza." Each room has its unique characteristics, so choose the one that best suits you. They are all equipped with an indoor bath made of Hinoki cypress as well as an open-air bath, all with natural hot spring water that comes straight from the source.
The rooms are perfect for anyone who wishes to enjoy their own private time and space, taking in the surrounding nature through the windows while bathing or from the terrace.
Multi-course kaiseki cuisine made with seasonal local vegetables is served for dinner. The ingredients change together with the seasonal scenery. Enjoy the Tohoku seasons through your eyes and taste buds.
Iwate Prefecture is located to the southeast of Aomori Prefecture and is Japan's second largest prefecture after Hokkaido. It faces the Pacific Ocean and the coastline can roughly be divided into the northern part with steep cliffs and southern part with a ria coastline with numerous inlets. Jodogahama Beach in the first image is particularly popular for its beautiful landscape.
The Konjikido Golden Hall (second image above) at Chusonji Temple in Hiraizumi is registered as a World Heritage Site and is well worth a visit.
Iwate Prefecture is also an area full of nature and history, including Mt. Iwate, sometimes referred to as "Nambu Kata-Fuji" because it looks like Mt. Fuji with one side split off and Koiwai Farm, Japan's largest private farm located on the southern foothills of Mt. Iwate.
4. Bessou Kakei
This is a hotel with just six villas on the 23,000 ㎡ grounds which are located on top of a mountain. With no houses or facilities within 500 m, it is a wonderful place to enjoy a private space in a rich natural environment.
All guest rooms* are made in the sukiya-zukuri style—a Japanese architectural style characterized by delicate and simple yet refined designs—using Aomori Hiba wood. The building is void of any unnecessary decorations so that guests can thoroughly enjoy their own special time surrounded by the refreshing scent of the wood and with no distractions.
*There is one villa in the style of an old Japanese house.
Each room comes with a large open-air rock bath (first image above) with views of a lake below and mountain ranges far beyond. What a wonderful feeling to relax and soak in the natural hot spring water that flows directly from the source, while enjoying the changes in the sky and mountains! There is also an inside bath (second image above) made with Aomori Hiba wood and Towada stone.
The greatest feature of this facility is the fantastic views that take advantage of its location up in the mountains. On a sunny day, there are views of Mt. Iwate and the Ou Mountains (Japan's longest mountain range running north to south across the Tohoku region), which are particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset.
Located to the south of Iwate, Miyagi is the prefecture in which Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku region, is located. It has long flourished as the center of Tohoku.
Matsushima (first image above), which has been popular since ancient times as one of the Three Best Views of Japan*, consists of more than 260 islands with greenery that contrasts beautifully with the colors of the sea and sky. The Peacock Room of the national treasure Zuiganji Temple, which is also in this area, has beautiful golden sliding doors decorated with pine trees and peacocks and is well worth seeing.
The Sendai Tanabata Matsuri* which, together with the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri introduced earlier, is one of the three largest festivals of the Tohoku region, has been held in Miyagi since the turn of the 17th century. At the time of the festival, the entire city of Sendai is adorned with colorful decorations. Miyagi Prefecture is also known for its cuisine, such as the beef tongue ("gyutan" in Japanese) that Sendai is famous for.
*1: In addition to Matsushima, the Three Best Views of Japan include Amanotatehashi in Kyoto and Miyajima in Hiroshima.
*2: Held August 6 - 8 annually. The schedule for 2021 is not yet determined.
5. Saryo Souen
This is a traditional Japanese inn with a beautiful 26,000 ㎡ Japanese garden in Akiu Onsen, which has long been referred to as the "inner parlor" of Sendai. It is a place to feel the colors, breeze, and scents that are uniquely Japanese in a grand space.
Recommended are the ten villas available, each with their own unique design. For example, there are two large Japanese-style villas: the Asahi with a large corridor on the outside and a private open-air bath, and the Shikishima, which has two Japanese rooms, an open-air bath and an inside bath. Choose the one that suits you.
Akiu Onsen, which is considered to be one of the three great hot springs of Japan for the benefits its water brings, has long been a popular hot spring, said to help with chronic skin conditions and gastrointestinal issues. The image is of the men's open-air bath in the inn. The natural hot spring water is piped into the open-air baths in the villas as well as the indoor baths so that guests can relax and refresh themselves in the healing water.
Dinner is multi-course kaiseki cuisine which is traditionally served before tea ceremonies. It is a great opportunity to enjoy seafood from the Pacific Ocean, off the shores of Sanriku (Aomori, Iwate, and Miyagi prefectures), which is famous for its bountiful seas, and wonderful vegetables from the Ou Mountains.
Yamagata Prefecture, which is located to the west of Miyagi Prefecture, is full of gourmet food, including the famed Yonezawa beef, soba noodles, and cold ramen noodles. There are also many tourist spots, such as Yamadera Temple (official name: Hoshuyama Risshakuji), which is the prefecture's foremost "power spot" (a place believed to endow visitors with refreshing or healing energy); the approximately 600-year-old, 29-meter-tall five-story pagoda on Mt. Haguro; and Zao, famous for its frost-covered trees in the winter. In particular, Ginzan Onsen, which retains a facade quite like the Taisho Period (1912-1926), is a charming town that you won't want to miss.
6. Ryokan Kosekiya Annex
Kosekiya Annex is the recommended accommodation if you want to stay in Ginzan Onsen. It is a small hotel but boasts a Japanese-style wooden architecture that evokes a sense of times past thanks to the interior decorated with "Taisho Romance" (a style popular during the Taisho Period that mixed Japanese and Western elements) furniture and fixtures.
The rooms consist of the special Romance Guest Room made by renovating the top floor, Japanese-style guest rooms on the river side with two rooms overlooking the town and Ginzan River, and quiet Japanese-style rooms with beds on the mountain side.
The rooms overlooking the river are recommended for the views in the evening when the gas lamps along it are lit up and the sound of the flowing water adds to the romantic atmosphere.
The hot springs consist of two indoor baths with natural water coming straight from the source. The bathtubs are small but have the feel of an old-school bath. The first image is of the Hokkori-no-Chika-Yu with beautiful stained glass and the second image is of the Nukkuri-no-Kintaro-Yu, where the hot water flows out of a stone statue. The large public bath, open-air baths, and open-air lie-down baths at the affiliated Ginzanso are also available for guests to enjoy at no extra cost.
Dinner is a Japanese-style set meal made with seasonal ingredients sourced locally from Yamagata. The Obanazawa beef, which is highly regarded by those in the know, is particularly tasty. For lovers of Japanese beef, there is the option to increase the portion of roasted Obanazawa beef or order shabu-shabu—a kind of Japanese hot pot featuring sliced meat parboiled with vegetables—made with this premium beef.
Meigetsuso is a hotel that sits quietly at the foot of a mountain. All of its rooms are designed like villas. There are seven guest room types ranging from A to G, but each room, even those of the same type, is decorated individually. The first image above is of Hiiragi, an F-type room. It is a spacious 134 ㎡ room with a semi open-air bath, living room terrace, and a view of the peaks of Mt. Zao.
Onsen range from the semi open-air bath pictured above in the D-type Tsuzumi room to large shared single-gender indoor baths and open-air baths, private open-air baths made with Zao stone, and family baths. Both the private open-air baths and family baths can be used without reservations if available.
Another feature of this hotel is that all meals are served in the guest rooms. Dinners are authentic multi-course kaiseki cuisine made with carefully selected seasonal ingredients from the sea and mountains. Breakfasts are Japanese style and served in the guest rooms.
At this hotel, you can relax and enjoy Japanese cuisine made with local Yamagata ingredients in the comfort and privacy of your own room.
Located to the south of Miyagi Prefecture, Fukushima is Japan's third largest prefecture following Iwate Prefecture. Aizu-Wakamatsu, a castle town surrounding Tsuruga Castle—the only Japanese castle with red roof tiles—has many historic spots including Sazaedo Temple, a strange three-storied, hexagonal pagoda with a double-helix structure, as well as great food such as Aizu-Wakamatsu ramen which is popular around the country.
There's also Goshikinuma (second image above), an area consisting of numerous ponds of different colors, such as emerald green and cobalt blue. This area has not only achieved a star in a world-famous travel guidebook, but offers truly magical scenery.
8. Auberge Suzukane
This is an inn where all seven guest rooms are independent suites. Each guest room has unique decor. Both images above are of the Renewal Silk, a room designed around the concept of "heat haze". The color emits pure and gentle vibes, like silk shimmering in the light of the sun.
The local hot spring water, which stems from Bandai-Atami Onsen, can be enjoyed in the indoor bath of each guest room (first image above) as well as the single-gender open-air baths (second image above). Bandai-Atami Onsen was founded 800 years ago and is known for its amazing beautifying effects.
Dinner is as luxurious as the name of this inn, and consists of multi-course kaiseki cuisine by award-winning chef Tomoki Tsukita.
Breakfast also consists of wonderfully elaborate dishes and has been voted the best breakfast of all accommodations in Fukushima Prefecture. Relax and thoroughly enjoy the lovely breakfast here!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.