Located almost at the top of the Shimokita Peninsula (下北半島) sticking up from Aomori Prefecture towards Hokkaido, Maruhon ryokan (まるほん旅館) in Shimofuro (下風呂) is a bit out of the way for some tourists, but certainly worth the visit which we did as part of our road trip through Aomori.
Reservations are only taken via their website and not via Booking.com or Rakuten Travels or similar sites, no English language option is available on the site but with the on-the-fly translations these days, this isn’t really necessary. Like so many Japanese locations catering mainly to the Japanese, the ryokan is cash-only.
When you check their website, you find that there are different options for the food and we went for the anglerfish (アンコウ目) plan; this was totally worth the extra expense. When you have to drive a few hours to get to a special location, there is no point in skimping out, right? Depending on the season there are different plans available.
Right next to the ryokan is plenty of free parking. Shimofuro is a tiny village with a harbour with lots of fishing boats for nice photographs and a tiny park on the side of the harbour with some nice views. Overlooking the village is a Shinto shrine on the hill.
The water in the onsen is very milky and hot. If you just read my review and looked at the photos of an old building, nothing gorgeous, you might not be convinced that this ryokan is worth a few hours drive, let me then tell you that this is one of the secret onsen of Japan normally just shared between insiders. I won’t say more.
Opposite the ryokan is a public bath and up the road is another one, both of them are mostly frequented by the locals every day, you buy a token at the machine outside and hand the token to the person sitting at the entrance inside. We used both of them and it was a lot of fun to mingle around the people of the village. One thing you have to know, the water in those baths is hot, scaldingly hot! There are two baths, one is a little colder and the other is almost boiling. It took a long time before I got used to the hot water enough to enjoy the hottest of them. I was very proud of myself and told one of the local fishermen that the water was so hot yet felt so good, and he told me with a straight face that it was just tepid. After a night out at sea, I bet I would be frozen to the core too. 🙂