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Tohoku’s venerable “Zao Onsen,” where you can spend some relaxing time

# Hot springs
September 09, 2020
Zao Onsen, located roughly 40 minutes by bus from the central part of Yamagata prefecture, is a historic hot springs resort, dating back 1,900 years since it was first opened. Even in Tohoku, the strong acidic spring water of this hot spring is of highest quality, thought to be effective in skin beautification, relieving fatigue and improving sensitivity to cold from poor blood circulation. There are many sightseeing spots scattered near this hot spring town such as Zao Onsen Ski Resort, where you can see snow monsters, and the Yakushi Shrine, dedicated to the God of shrine development, amongst others. Zao Onsen is known as an old-fashioned distinctly Japanese onsen ski resort. Here’s what makes it great.

Sulfur hot springs, known as “beauty water”

Inside Zao Onsen

Strong acidic sulfur water springs up from Zao Onsen’s source. Since it has an anti-bacterial effect in washing away aging skin waste matter, it is highly effective in skin beautification and promoting blood circulation.

As it improves blood circulation, it is also effective against constipation, diabetes, joint pain, and sensitivity to cold from poor circulation. There are many benefits other than beauty-related ones, and for local residents it has become a source of good health.

Since it has long been recognized as “hot water that makes women beautiful,” it prospers as a popular spot with many tourists visiting every year comprised mainly of young women.

Some caution is required since the effect of the spring water is strong

Zao Onsen common public bath

Since the strong acidic spring water can often remove certain fatty oil from the skin, it is best not to scrub the skin while in the bath. It can lead to removing sebum, an oily substance which protects the skin, along with dirt.

Also, staying in the bath too long can actually cause damage to the skin, so long baths should be avoided.

Accessories made of precious metals will also blacken in the bathwater, so always remove them before entering the bath.

Enjoy making the rounds through onsen in a quiet hot spring town

Illuminations at a shrine in Zao Onsen

There are numerous hot springs available to visit on a day trip basis in the town of Zao Onsen.

Guests can enjoy a variety of hot springs such as the common public bath known as a place of relaxation for local residents, the free foot bath that is easily accessible, an authentic outdoor bath where you can enjoy the natural scenery, and more.

The Zao Tourist Information Center sells “Yu-Meguri Kokeshi” - purchasing this allows you to visit a variety of Japanese inn hot springs at special low prices.

For those who want to make the rounds through various hot springs as if on a leisurely walk, be sure to check out this item.

Zao Onsen Dai-Rotemburo, for enjoying fantastic natural scenery

Zao Onsen Dai-Rotemburo

Among the numerous hot springs available to visit on a day trip basis, in particular we recommend ”Zao Onsen Dai-Rotemburo (Zao Large Outdoor Baths)”.

It is in a quiet location where you can hear birds chirping from a nearby mountain stream. Because it is within a deep green forest, you can enjoy beautiful natural scenery and bathe in hot springs simultaneously.

A perk worth mentioning is being able to visit empty-handed, since towels are on sale at the shop. This is recommended for those who want to experience the tremendous uplifting feeling of freedom from an open-air outdoor bath.

Sightseeing in the surrounding area and plenty of activities available

Zao Ropeway

If you visit during the winter, be sure to check out the ice-covered trees. The beautiful ice-covered trees interwoven in the distinctive Zao terrain are also called “Snow Monsters”.

You can gaze at the ice-covered trees while skiing at the nearby Zao Onsen Ski Resort. Another option is to sightsee by getting on the ropeway or riding snowmobiles.

Zao’s appeal is in being able to enjoy a balanced combination of skiing, hot springs, and sightseeing.

Spending a quiet time in Honshu’s pre-eminent hot springs resort

Zao Onsen

You can enjoy the spectacular changing of seasons at Zao Onsen, but if you really want to experience the unique charm of Tohoku, winter is the perfect time to visit without a doubt.

Why not try enjoying Japan’s winter in a quiet onsen village away from the hustle and bustle of the big city?

Pricing information and schedule may not be up to date and are subject to change without notice. Please check before your trip.

Related ski resorts

Zao Onsen Ski Resort Yamagata Prefecture

Dec 10 - Apr 17
Longest run distance10,000 m
Maximum gradient38 °
Longest run10,000 m
Maximum38 °

Adult 2 people1 night

USD 192〜

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