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October 11, 2005 – A journey to Tazawako, Japan in Asia

Tazawako: Traditional Ryokan And Onsen

After sleepy Matsushima Bay, we headed back to Sendai, grabbed the backpacks and got on a bullet train heading for Tazawako – this time reserved! Tazawako is known for its deepest lake in Japan as well as exceptional scenery, especially during the time when the leaves on a majority of the trees in the mountains change into a bright red in autumn.

the leaves had just started changing a little bit

Took a UGO bus ride from the Tazawako JR Station and then headed for the Kogen Onsen bus stop. Passed the deepest lake, Lake Tazawa, which also has a legend of a beautiful woman turned dragon. The lake and surrounding areas are pretty reminiscient of Lake Tahoe. From that bus stop, we took a courtesy bus towards Nyuto Onsen.

The stay at the pretty modern (on the inside) ryokan, Yamanoyado Bekkan, was just nice – nothing spectacular in comparison to the other Japanese-style inns we stayed at, and definitely not worth the price (costed twice as much as Yokichi and Minshuku Iwatakan).

Yamanoyado Bekkan was the only ryokan available in the Nyuto Onsen area for the time period we were in Japan. Even though it was pricey, we were fortunate enough to get it in order to see a mountain area of Japan. What attracted me to that particular area in the first place is that it's pretty much an entirely different part of Japan (for instance, I saw these cute old Japanese couples in hiking/backpacking outfits!), and for the onsen experience.

The first onsen experience was indeed worth the trip when we were at the sister property, Tsurunoyu. Now I can see why Tsurunoyu was fully booked for the season – you do get the full experience of staying in a very old-traditional (and I mean very old and traditional – you take your meals in your room, have a real irori in your room, oil-lit lamps, no electricity, etc.) in addition to having access to the main Nyuto Onsen hot springs.


private onsen at Yamanoyado Bekkan, with hot springs source from Nyuto

Although pictured here is a private hot springs, only public ones that are separated by gender are available at Tsurunoyu Onsen (this is the case with most of the onsens in Japan). Note that everyone goes nude in these. I was planning to go in with a swimsuit on, but that would have probably been considered very rude. All I could say is, I've never felt freer in my life in that sense. On another note, remember to take off any non-gold and non-stainless jewelry, else you'd have a pleasant surprise afterward (though mine was pretty cool looking).

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