Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Four Days at Naruko Onsen

 This will be our third time to visit Naruko Onsen.

Per the official website of Naruko Onsen:
The Naruko-onsen-kyo Hot Spring Village, located in the north of Miyagi Prefecture in the Tohoku Region, is a scenic hot spring village surrounded by mountains. In addition to a variety of hot springs, there are tourist spots where visitors can experience the grandeur of nature, including the famous Naruko-kyo Gorge, and many leisure facilities to enjoy skiing and camping in the neighborhood.
In the Naruko-onsen-kyo, there are plenty of enjoyable things to do throughout all four seasons: enjoying the new green leaves in spring, relaxing in the hot months in summer, admiring the brightly colored leaves in fall, and playing in the snow in winter. It is a popular area not only for Japanese tourists but for foreign visitors as well.

Now that we've got that out of the way, here's what we did.
When you step out of the Naruko Onsen train station you're soon greeted by a Kokeshi doll.  Actually there are Kokeshi dolls all over the town.

A morning view from our hotel room.

After a great first night in our hotel the next morning we headed back to the train station for our first day of adventures.

The trains here are small (only two cars) but they are clean and comfortable inside.

Our first stop was at the town of Ikezuki. With the exception of the Naruko train station, all the other stations on this line are unmanned. You pay the train driver before getting off the train. It's like riding a bus.

Our pupose for getting off at this station was to visit the local crafts and restaurant center. It was pretty nice inside. 

In one of the shops inside the center I found the Nikka Date whisky that is only available in this area. I bought two bottles! 

When we went back to the train station we had to wait a little while before the train arrived. Inside the station we found a notebook where visitors wrote personal stories about their visit. Some of the stories were short, others were long and hand illustrated  (very impressive!).

Emi decided to write about our visit.

Time to go to the platform and catch our train.

And, here it comes. You don't want to miss a train, the next one won't stop here for over an hour.

Next stop was at Kawatabi Onsen. After about a 15 miute walk from the Kawatabi Onsen train station we arrived here at the town entrance.

The bridge crosses over a lovely river.

On the other end of the bridge we saw a sign that said waterfall 1.2 kilometer. We had plenty of time so we headed in the direction of the waterfall to check it out.

The waterfall was more of a water trickle. 

But that was okay, we needed the exercise.

After walking back to the town (a very, very, small town) we went to the local famous hot bath Inn.

It's an old sprawling kind of Inn that allows people to stop by and take a bath during the day. Really cheap, even cheaper if you use the no frills bath; of course we opted for the no frills option.

This way to the bath. 

The changing room.

The bath. Natural spring water, very hot! Fantastic! Note: you're not supposed to take picture in the bath area but I descetly shot this one through the changing room window.

After spending about an hour at the bath we walked down the road and had ramen for lunch. Since it was such a nice day we decided to walk all the way back to Naruko Onsen instead of taking the train. 

As we walked along the road I was so impressed with the clouds in the sky. Just beautiful.

After walking for an hour or so we arrived at the outskirts of Naruko Onsen. This is one of those places where some businesses have gone bust, while others survive and some actually are doing quite well.

Next day we we again went back to Naruko train station to start another adventure. Inside the station I noticed to Kokeshi dolls that were male and female station attendants - wearing masks of course.

Today we're heading in the opposite direction of yesterday.

The view from the train window - rice fields and more beautiful clouds.

Today we're visiting Semi-Onsen! The plan is to visit an old and prestigious/famous hot spring Inn and take a bath. This is exciting!

My first impression is that Semi-Onsen is in the middle of nowhere. 

However, after walking for about a 30 minutes we find the center of town.

This is the famous Inn where we intended to take a bath. There was a sign on the door that said that because of COVID the day bath service had been suspended! Emi was shocked! I just rolled with the punches, after-all, the sightseeing was great.

A view of Semi-Onsen from the other side of the river. This really is a scenic place. Unfortunatly, during the day it's a bit of a ghost town.  

We were lucky to find this restaurant open for lunch. The owner/cook was an elderly lady and the one thing that I noticed was that she had no cash register. Instead she had a big bowl of money on her kitchen counter and if one was going to get change back from paying their check it came out of that bowl. Cash only, no new fangled plastic cards!

After lunch we returned to the train station. The train wouldn't arrive for about 20 minutes so I goofed around taking pictures with my camera and Emi picked weeds in front of the station.

We were quite happy when the train arrived.

That night after dinner this was the view from our hotel room.

Last day: Still have things to see and do!

Just up the road (less that a 2 minute walk) is another famous hot bath. This was the real reason why we came back for a third visit to Naruko Onsen.

A quick, stealthy (slightly out-of-focus) picture of the men's hot bath. If you're a onsen/hot bath crazy like we are this is one of the holy grail baths to visit!

Afterwards a little walk around the town.

Then, back to Naruko train station to say goodbye to the simple/wonderful life and return to the big city.

The big city where we swap our nice little two car train for a Bullet train!

Thanks for stopping by!

Bonus shots!