Naruko Onsen: Mysterious hot springs in Miyagi that change into seven different colors!
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Naruko Onsen is a famous onsen (hot spring) area located near Mt. Kurikoma in Miyagi and is quite a rare and mysterious site in Japan where the hot spring water will change into seven different colors depending on the weather. Of the 11 different types of natural hot springs in Japan, nine can be found at Naruko gushing forth from over 370 lines of thermal sources! Most of the accommodations and onsen facilities make use of the abundant amount of high quality hot springs and draw water straight from the sources into the baths. According to some magazines, Naruko Onsen surpasses that of the famous Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma for the number one onsen area in eastern Japan.
In order to freely explore the different onsen facilities around the Naruko area, all of the accommodations offer geta (traditional Japanese outdoor sandals) that you can borrow to walk around the town.
The Naruko Onsen village has over 1,000 years of history. The hot springs were discovered in 837 when Naruko Volcano had a major eruption spewing forth large amounts of thermal water. Now located there is the Onsen Shrine along with the “Taki-no-Yu” (Waterfall Bath) public onsen, which has been a place of rest and recreation for the local people for hundreds of years.
There are various health effects to enjoy in the 9 different kinds of hot spring water. In the source of Naruko Onsen’s “Taki-no-Yu” are found minerals such as acidic alum vitriol and hydrogen sulfide which can have great effects in healing skin disease, burns, and cuts.
1. Morning Bath of the Gods!
After you check out of your accommodation, get a “Yu-Meguri” (Onsen Tour) ticket (click Definitely Don’t Miss This for more) to use for your morning bath! Naruko Onsen is well known for its public baths that have been used for countless generations. You definitely don’t want to miss the holy hot spring waters of “Taki-no-Yu” that have been gushing out from Naruko Onsen Shrine for over a thousand years.
The cloudy white waters of these onsen will make your skin smooth and beautiful. You can tell the quality of some of the springs by the sulfurous odor which resembles boiled eggs. Many people claim the waters have healed small wounds and have even helped them during pregnancy making it a place invaluable to the daily lives of the locals. Furthermore, people here have lived with these onsen for over 1,000 years! The baths open from 7:30 so you can even visit them before you check out of your accommodation. Many other people often use the baths, so remember to follow proper onsen etiquette.
Address: 84 Naruko Onsen Yumoto, Osaki-shi, Miyagi（宮城県大崎市鳴子温泉湯元84）
Phone No.: +81-229-83-3441
Open: 7:00 – 22:00
Open all year round
2. Next is Waseda Sajiki-Yu
This onsen is located at a 3 minutes’ walk from Taki-no-Yu. Let’s head to an onsen with some different minerals. Waseda Sajiki-Yu is a unique onsen known for its emerald green waters which was found by a student from Waseda University excavating for hot springs. The attractive building was even designed by the university students of Waseda. The facilities also have beautiful resting rooms with tatami mats, so you can relax after getting out of the bath.
Address: 124-1 Naruko Onsen Shin-Yashiki, Osaki-shi, Miyagi（宮城県大崎市鳴子温泉字新屋敷124-1）
Phone No.: +81-229-83-4751
Open: 8:30 – 22:00
Open all year round
3. Lunch at a Long-Standing Soba Restaurant
After all the morning onsen-hopping, you’re bound to be hungry. So let’s go get some lunch at the “Soba Dokoro Kohana,” buckwheat noodle restaurant that opened way back in 1915. Naruko Onsen is located in a mountain valley so the local vegetables are delicious! The large nameko mushrooms (slippery textured mushrooms) are especially tasty in the scrumptious tempura fried wild mountain vegetable soba bowl. The restaurant is also known for its cheerful chef who provides a relaxing atmosphere.
Soba Dokoro Kohana（そば処 小花）
Address: 87 Naruko Onsen Yumoto, Osaki-shi, Miyagi（宮城県大崎市鳴子温泉湯元87）
Phone No.: +81-229-83-2126
Open: 11:00 – 22:00
Open all year round
4. Tour some baths from the local ryokan (Japanese-style inn)!
If you’ve got your Yu-Meguri ticket, then you can get into some really fancy baths in the local ryokan. Of the many available, we want to recommend one that you definitely shouldn’t miss, (check Recommended Accommodation) the highly acclaimed Naruko Hotel. This onsen boasts the best water of all the hot springs in the Naruko area. The secret is its water that comes from three different sources. One of those sources can be found bubbling out from the small geyser in front of the hotel.
The hot spring water of the wide, open, large bath and the outdoor bath will change seven different colors like emerald green, milky white, clear, cloudy green, and so on. This isn’t due to the use of different hot spring sources but is rather a mysterious phenomenon that is affected by the time, weather, and temperature of the day! Most of the hot springs around the Naruko Onsen area share this phenomenon but due to the intelligent construction of Naruko Hotel, it’s really easy to see the difference in colors. The richer these hot spring minerals are in the onsen that are produced from thermal activity underground, the stronger one can see the phenomenon of the changing colors. This is proof of the high quality waters used in Hotel Naruko! Let’s jump in and soak in the mysteries of nature.
5. Delicacy of Naruko: Kuri Dango
The kuri dango (sweet chestnut dumplings) are a delicacy in Naruko Onsen made of sweet boiled chestnuts wrapped in soft rice cake dough doused in a sweet warm soy sauce. You can enjoy these delicious treats in the “Mochidokoro Fukase” shop, which is a space that looks just like an old traditional Japanese home. But be careful, these treats need to be eaten within hours of being made so they can’t be taken away as souvenirs.
Mochidokoro Fukase（餅処 深瀬）
Address: 24-2 Naruko Onsen Yumoto, Osaki-shi, Miyagi（宮城県大崎市鳴子温泉湯元24-2）
Phone No.: +81-229-83-2146
Open: 12:00 – 21:00 (20:30 last order)
Open all year round
6. Cute wooden Kokeshi dolls as souvenirs
Kokeshi are cute dolls carved from wood famous to Miyagi and started in the region of Naruko. In the Sakurai shop, you can paint your own colors on the dolls. How about one of these as a precious memory for your trip?
Sakurai Kokeshi Shop（桜井こけし店）
Address: 26 Naruko Onsen Yumoto, Osaki-shi, Miyagi（宮城県大崎市鳴子温泉字湯元26）
Phone No.: +81-229-83-3460
Open: 8:00 – 21:00 (Hands-on experience open from 9:00)
Open all year round
The Naruko Hotel is a long-standing establishment founded over 140 years ago. The onsen here are known for water that changes seven different colors depending on the time and temperature, and also has a reputation for being the best place to enjoy the highest quality of hot spring water in the well renowned Naruko Onsen area. The evening buffet is prepared right before your eyes and ranked as one of the most delicious in the entire country.
Address: 36 Naruko Onsen Yumoto, Osaki-shi, Miyagi（宮城県大崎市鳴子温泉湯元３６）
Phone No.: +81-229-83-2001
◆Four Seasons Inn Masuya
The Four Seasons Inn Masuya was opened in 1915. This hotel facility is most proud of the outdoor bath that has fantastic unbroken views of the Naruko Onsen town and surrounding mountains. Here, one can also enjoy a delicious genuine Japanese banquet feast.
Shiki-no-Yado Masuya (Four Seasons Inn Masuya)（四季の宿 ますや）
Address: 82 Naruko Onsen Yumoto, Osaki-shi, Miyagi（宮城県大崎市 鳴子温泉字湯元82）
Phone No.: +81-229-83-2212
The “Yu-Meguri” (Onsen Tour) ticket (1,300 yen) is a discount ticket sponsored by the local public baths and inns you can purchase at every ryokan or at the Naruko Tourism and Inn Information Center. The ticket expires after six months and you can make up the price of the ticket by visiting over four different facilities over the course of two days!
From the JR Furukawa Station, take the Rikuu East Line (headed for Shinjo) and get off at the Naruko Onsen Station.
Address: 2-1 Naruko Onsen Yumoto, Osaki-shi, Miyagi（宮城県大崎市鳴子温泉字湯元2-1）
Phone No.: +81-229-82-2102 (Naruko Spa Tourist Association)
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IKIDANE NIPPON Editor Senior Travel Writers