Mount Nyuto’s Oldest Source in Akita
Tsuru-no-yu Onsen is a small hot spring resort part of Nyuto Onsen village, located in the mountains in the east of Akita prefecture in the north of Japan. Hidden in the heart of nature, the rustic wooden buildings shelter several hot baths, and even one large outdoor mixed pool. In winter, the snow covering the landscape adds its magical dimension.
In Akita prefecture’s Semboku City, not far from Lake Tazawako and the feudal city of Kakunodate, Mount Nyuto is home to several natural hot springs, whose oldest and more secluded is called Tsuru-no-yu.
According to the legend, the source was discovered a long time ago by a hunter who saw a tsuru crane healing its wounds in the warm waters of a river. The exploitation of the hot spring 🌸 really began in the 17th century (around 1638 ~ 1661) when the areas’ feudal lords used to bath here to rest.
A most secluded yet comfortable place
Nestled in altitude high in the mountain, Tsuru-no-yu used to be one of those Japanese onsen ♨️ which were kept secret very closely. In the heart of Nyuto Onsen village, the source’s popularity grew among tourists because of its wonderful natural landscape. Its location far from the city and its few traditional wooden buildings crowned by a thatched roof are still preserving the rustic, ancient and secret character of Tsuru-no-yu Onsen.
Surrounded by a lush green vegetation in summer or totally covered in snow in winter, Tsuru-no-yu Onsen is undoubtedly charming for anyone arriving by its only road through the forest. You know you’re there at the little parking lot surrounded by wooden buildings, with a gate sided by 2 tall lanterns 🏮.
Then, head to the front desk, where you can choose between 2 types of stays:
- Enjoying the baths on a day-trip; or,
- Staying overnight (advance reservation required).
Experience the outdoor mixed bath
Several onsen with various properties can be enjoyed, such as:
- Shiro-yu, the "white bath";
- Kuro-yu, the "black bath"; and,
- Konyoku, the mixed bath.
Konyoku bath is arranged outdoor in a rotemburo fashion, and is the unusual highlight of Tsuru-no-yu Onsen. As a matter of fact, mixed onsen are rare in Japan, and even if nakedness is not a problem, most of the shared baths usually separate men and women.
Once immersed in the bath, people can relax as their bodies are somewhat hidden from view thanks to the milky-like opaque water. Moreover, women’s entrance is separated and uses a long water corridor so they don’t have to walk around naked. The water temperature is cooler than in the indoor pools and therefore suitable for a longer bath, enjoying the sight of steam escaping the hot spring and the view on the natural landscape.
Indoor, the Shiro-yu and Kuro-yu baths are hotter with a water springing at a 60°C temperature, in comparison of which the preliminary shower seems cold. The natural waterfall Taki-no-yu is available for bathing from spring to fall 🍁.
As a reminder, it is required to undress and shower before each shared bath. Towels are provided to cover when walking between the pools but they are not to be used in the water.
Half-boarding at a rustic inn
Tsuru-no-yu Onsen also accommodates visitors for a half-board stay in a typically Japanese ryokan inn with tatami rooms and local traditional cuisine served for dinner and breakfast. Toilets 🚽 are common for most of the rooms ; and there is only one type of suite with private ones.
For the inns’ customers, the access to the baths starts from 3 p.m., after the day-trip visitors left. Bathing in the onsen at sunset and at nightfall, only lit-up by a few lamps, is a unique experience and worth the overnight stay. In winter, the snow covering the facility and the coldness of outside temperatures compared to the baths bring a vivid and even magical additional contrast.