Hot Spring Heaven

12:50 AM

Have you ever visited an onsen?
Going to an onsen is one of my favourite things to do in Japan.

The best onsens use natural mineral-filled water to fill their hot baths.

It is possible to rent a small private bath, but most are public (though usually separated by gender).

Most foreigners are at first a little apprehensive about public nudity but soon everyone relaxes together and enjoys collective refreshment.

Last weekend I went to the onsen village of Naruko, in Miyagi.

Naruko has many types of onsen: public, private, hotel, foot bath, hand bath.

I stayed in the Naruko Kankou Hotel with my friend and highly recommend it.

The package was 27,000 yen per person and included train fares, one night accommodation, dinner, breakfast, high tea sweets buffet, 2 free desserts from village shops and free entry to the onsen of many hotels in the area.

Our journey started on the shinkansen, where we had a sweet breakfast of matcha (green tea) ice cream. I love this flavour so much!

After transferring to a local train line, we snacked on Rilakkuma strawberry rice puffs and limited edition apple Hi-chew. Yum!

The train journey took us through the countryside. We were lucky to still be able to see many cherry blossom trees.

When we arrived at Naruko, this is the first thing we saw. A public foot bath. It's free and perfect for travellers who want to take a rest. The water is cloudy because of the sulphur in the water (which is really good for your skin).

Outside Naruko station are murals representing the town.

A hand-drawn map of the area.

Naruko is the home of the famous kokeshi doll. These dolls represent children, often ones who die at a young age. Despite these sad connotations, they are a very popular souvenir. Here, large sized dolls are used as fence posts.

Kokeshi designs can turn up in unusual places.

The entrance to our hotel room. In the typical Japanese manner, we leave our shoes by the door before stepping on the tatami mats.

This room was so big for only two people! It is traditional Japanese decor, with low table/chairs, tatami mats and sliding screens on the windows.

The screens on the window were so beautiful, we were tempted to leave them closed the whole time!

Our room was provided with a Japanese tea set, green tea and snacks. I have studied tea ceremony a little, so I served the drink while we rested.

The delicate pattern on the cup shows the dying, death and rebirth of a leaf.

Local speciality sweets.

The doorway to the female onsen. I couldn't take any pictures beyond here because that would breach etiquette but this was a very high class onsen. It had 3 types of baths and lots of free beauty products to try.

 A panoramic shot of the hotel lobby showing a patterned kimono, gift shop and reception.

The main street of Naruko town. It's very quaint and has the same old fashioned vibe you get from Kyoto.

A very quaint little onsen.

A mural outside a bar.

Another public footbath. This one was squeezed in between two buildings, I don't know how they did it!

A sakura tree and a kokeshi style phone box. Typical Japan, typical Naruko.

Dinner was traditional Japanese ryokan (guest house) food. Usually this would be served tiny course by tiny course, but because the hotel was so busy during Golden Week we ate it all together.

Delicious local mushrooms.

No matter how full I feel, there's always room for dessert.

When we got back from dinner, the staff had moved the table and chairs and laid out our futons. Such wonderful service!

Breakfast was also elaborate, including an onsen-boiled egg.

One of the cafes where we were given free desserts. It was a cafe/souvenir shop/museum/live house and the owner claimed to be Eric Clapton!

Called the onsen "from Hell", this foot bath was close to boiling. We could only use it for a few seconds at a time but it was funny watching people tip their toes in and by shocked by the temperature!

Although I had been to onsen before, this was my first time in a dedicated resort town.

The relaxing atmosphere was wonderful, such a change from city life.

We managed to visit four onsen and several hand and foot baths.

My skin feels so soft from all the minerals.

Onsen are generally not expensive to visit so they are my number one reccomendation for tourists coming to Japan.

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  1. Hi! I love your pics and hope to visit an onsen one day. :D Thanks for showing some love and following my blog! I am following you as well.

    P.S I heart milk tea too <3<3<3

  2. I am so glad I found your blog, I really want to visit Japan some day and you provide such great advice! Lovely!

  3. it looks like such a fun and relaxing time. I really wish I could visit a place like that for sure :)

  4. Shop N'Chomp - Thank you for following me! It's really encouraging as a novice blogger. Well, I really enjoyed your blog as soon as I found it. I hope you can visit an onsen sometime!

  5. Winnie - ah! You're so sweet, thank you! I was a little bit hesitant of straying away from fashion posts so it's good to know that this can be useful for people. If there is anything about Japan you want to know about, please tell me!

  6. Bianca - if you can't make it to an onsen yet you could always try DIY. Just run an extra-hot bath for yourself and add some good-quality salts. Then dip in and out as you feel like over the space of an hour or so!

  7. ice cream for breakfast is the best! i love onsen but i always get so self concious! haha

  8. mr. pineapple man - don't be self-conscious! Everyone has their flaws and nobody cares! At least we are not wrinkly Japanese obaachans!