Yes, I am coming at you with two posts today! Consider it a humble offering for being so late with my posts, as of late.
My friend Madi lives in the University Village dorms, which are right across from the Sakura Village dorms, where I stay. Madi’s dorm area is part of what’s called the Japanese Nature and Culture House, which is kind of like a club – but only for people who live in that particular part of the University Village dorms. Every semester, the school allocates them a budget to do with as they please – as long as the activities are related to… well, Japanese nature and culture. One of their scheduled activities this semester was a trip to Nyuto Onsenyko, one of Japan’s most famous hot springs. One thing led to another, and I was able to tag along on this once in a lifetime opportunity. As a personal bonus, I also experienced my first snow!
Meetings and Pizza
We met up at the school’s bus stop around 10 AM and hunkered down for a 2-hour long bus ride. We stopped about three-fourths of the way there to grab a quick bite to eat. Being a group of college students, of course, we agreed on a pizza place – and yes. The pizza was delicious.
We arrived a little earlier than planned at the resort, but were welcomed nonetheless. We were shown to our reserved room and treated to hot green tea and red bean sweets, as we waited for our tour guide. While we wouldn’t be staying the night, we were scheduled to get a tour of the facilities and then enjoy the hot springs ourselves, with plans to return home by dinnertime. After a while, our tour guide arrived. We were shocked to find out our guide was actually the President of Tsurunoyu Onsen, Mr. Kazushi Sato!
Nyuto Onsenkyo’s Background
Here’s what I learned:
- Nyuto Onsenkyo is actually a network of eight hot springs: Tsurunoyu, Taenoyu, Kuroyu, Ganiba, Magoroku, Ogama, Kyukamura, and Miyakowasure.
- Each spring is different, consisting of different minerals. Each spring is believed to be (but not scientifically proven to be) effective for different ailments, all of them differ in appearance. For example, the water at Tsurunoyu contains sulfur, sodium chloride, and hydrogen carbonate and is considered to be good for diabetes and high blood pressure. In contrast, Magoroku is a much smaller, simple hot spring, believed to be good for chronic diseases.
- Unlike other hot springs, all of the onsens in this network are unfiltered – meaning nothing is taken or added to the water. It is 100% natural.
- We visited Tsurunoyu Onsen, which located in the Tazawako area, in Senboku, Akita. This onsen resort is ideally located near the base of Mt. Nyuto, which is covered with beech trees.
- Tsurunoyu Onsen is the oldest hot spring in the Nyuto Onsenkyo network, dating back as far as the late 1630’s; though it wasn’t open to the general public until the late 1680’s. Between the 1630’s and 1680’s this hot spring was used exclusively by the feudal lord of Akita and his men.
After giving us detailed knowledge on the hot springs and their background, we were free to wander the grounds as we wished. My friends and I entered a women’s only bath, where the water was a smooth milky blue and felt heavenly. We soaked for a while and then decided to wander the grounds, discovering a miniature waterfall, a watermill, and even a shinto shrine nearby.
My First Snow
Japan has given me many firsts: from eating raw fish to soaking in a hot spring. Yet one of my most coveted firsts, was to see snow; and Akita, did not disappoint. My first snow experience – which happened at a Japanese onsen village of all places – was so idyllic that I almost find it hard to believe.
Snow itself is interesting, with a fluffy texture that can quickly melt and become ice. I enjoyed touching it and walking in it. However, since visiting the onsen, it has been snowing heavily in Akita on and off. I can sincerely say, I wouldn’t want to live with snow for months on end. Overall, I’d give snow a B+. The experience was nice, but I miss my sandy Florida beaches and I’ve realized how much I dislike the actual cold. Florida winters have nothing on Akita’s autumns.
Until next time,