Sukayu Onsen (酸ヶ湯温泉), Aomori-ken

Another great onsen that we visited during our road trip around the different onsen of Northern Tōhoku was Sukayu Onsen (酸ヶ湯温泉) on top of a mountain in Aomori Province. It is very popular with outdoor people and a lot of people took the cable car from Sanroku Station (山麓駅) to Sancho Park Station (山頂公園駅) and skied down to Sukayu Onsen to stay and to relax in the baths.
The major attraction of Sukayu Onsen is the awesome bath around the lobby area: it is a very large mixed bath but the men and women area is split down the middle (watch the signs) and a part on the women’s side is shielded off. If that still sounds like a show-stopper to use this bath, if modesty is still an issue: early morning the bath is women-only and at any time of the day women who don’t feel like being nude with the male visitors can use a yugi (湯着) which is a piece of clothing that covers everything up perfectly and which can be bought in the shop, if you didn’t bring one. The reason for insisting on this is that this is a great bath and should be enjoyed by all, Sukayu Onsen did everything to make it enjoyable for all.
There is another bath, gender separated, certainly worth the visit too but concentrate on that main bath, you’ll be telling stories about that one to the people who stayed at home!

Self-catering is an option but we had selected the dinner in the restaurant. The dinner was pretty standard ryokan but it tasted excellent, probably because of the exercise we had had that day. Breakfast was buffet-style and loads of people were already queuing up before the restaurant opened in the morning to get out and have fun as soon as they could. I love it when there is curry and spicy pickles for breakfast and plenty more!
Our room was new, spacious, non-smoking and clean, but there are different options and price-classes available. I’m still amazed how big this ryokan is as there were corridors shooting off left and right.
We took a 45 minutes massage that night and left very relaxed.

This was the one onsen that had the most tourists visiting of our road trip. There is a direct bus from Aomori Station to this ryokan and it was very busy with Japanese and non-Japanese tourists alike, However, at no point it felt that Sukayu Onsen was too popular with the tourists during our stay. We had rented a car (recommended!) and were lucky to time our arrival differently from the arrival of the bus so check-in was easy, but the lobby was very busy each time a bus arrived. If that happens to you, relax and park yourself in front of the TV and await your name being called to wrap up the check-in process and being shown to your room. A very well organised ryokan.
Immediately next door is a soba restaurant and a ski rental, basically, it is a place you don’t want to leave, ever.

Our Taiyo-ji Temple book at Taiyo-ji Temple

In the spring of 2013 we visited Taiyō-ji for a temple stay (shukubo) and loved it, we visited again in the winter of 2014-2015 and confirmed that Taiyō-ji does give the best shukubo in Japan. After those visits I had collected quite a number of photos and compiled that into a book and we sent a copy to the temple. Last week, friends of us visited the temple, and behold, our book was there and well read.

I am very happy that the book was well received by the monk of Taiyō-ji and all the visitors. We had not asked our friends to check on the book, suddenly we were happily surprised with photos of it on Facebook. 🙂

Fujisan ryokan (鉛温泉 藤三旅館) in Hanamaki, Iwate

The first onsen that we visited during our road trip around the different onsen of Northern Tōhoku was already a whopper: Fujisan ryokan (鉛温泉 藤三旅館) in Hanamaki (Namari area), Iwate. The ryokan has two parts: a more shabby area for long-stay visitors who can cook for themselves if they desire and a newly renovated area for guests who come to enjoy the food and the larger and better rooms. Both parts have their appeal but it is certainly worth staying at the more stylish area and pick the option with the excellent, traditional food in the restaurant area.

But what makes this ryokan almost unique in Japan is the large bath where you not sit in, but need to stand, even as a tall person. There are other baths too including a rotenburo, very enjoyable baths, but the standing bath is quite the experience: You enter through one of the doors to immediately decent about 20 stone steps to enter an area to undress. On the other side is another door with similar steps. In between is a large stone oval bath with a small ridge about 50 centimetres in to help you get in and out of the bath. When you get into the bath, the hot water is excellent. As the bath is quite far down in the building, when you look up, the church-like view of the tall roof with the tiny window at the top is unexpected for a building in Japan..
It is a mixed bath with women only access for an hour every day and open 24 hours a day.