The Hot Spring Baths of Zao Onsen

The Hot Spring Baths of Zao Onsen


2017.12.18

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

The Hot Spring Baths of Zao Onsen

On the approach to Zao Onsen town it’s not hard to see why it’s reputed for its natural springs as sulphurous steam billows up from the network of hot, mineral-filled streams and pools. One of Yamagata Prefecture’s most esteemed hot spring towns, Zao Onsen boasts a huge number of baths at every turn, both in the form of ryokan (traditional inns) and indoor and outdoor public bath houses.

  • The Hot Spring Baths of Zao Onsen

    The Hot Spring Baths of Zao Onsen

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    Public Wooden Onsen

    Public Wooden Onsen

    Public Wooden Onsen

    Public hot spring baths aren’t hard to come by at Zao Onsen but the three wooden baths of Kawarayu, Kamiyu, and Shimoyu are some of the most accessible of the onsen. A dip in one of these steamy, unmanned baths is just 200 yen with visitors entrusted with the duty of paying the fee before entering. The authentic rustic charm of the baths can be enjoyed until 10pm every night with an additional outdoor foot bath at Shimotsune for those reluctant to go full frontal.

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    Zao Onsen’s Healing Properties

    Zao Onsen’s Healing Properties

    Zao Onsen’s Healing Properties

    While the hot spring water found in the baths around Zao Onsen all comes from the same source, it was behind the Kawaraya public baths that the healing properties of the onsen water were first discovered. Samurai passing through the east of Yamagata Prefecture used to walk their horses through the warm stream that passes behind Kawaraya and, in time, found that the horses’ wounds would heal after a dip. Since then, it has been believed that the sulphur, chloride, and aluminium-rich natural spring water can have a remedial effect on those with ailments such as rheumatism and muscle pain.

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    Outdoor Onsen

    Outdoor Onsen

    Outdoor Onsen

    A little out of the main town of Zao Onsen lies Zao Dai Rotenburo hidden away down a set of stairs which leads into the middle of the forest. As the only outdoor onsen in Zao, and a unique onsen experience in itself, there’s no excuse not to try a bit of al fresco bathing on this trip. The onsen is best visited by car with parking available nearby, however, it can also be accessed on foot for those happy to brave the 20-minute ascent.

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    Upmarket Bathing

    Upmarket Bathing

    Upmarket Bathing

    An onsen visit doesn’t need to be a quick dip in and out but can be broadened into a more holistic experience by searching out one of the larger onsen complexes, such as Yunohana. As well as offering a range of hot spring baths, Yunohana houses a restaurant serving up delicious Japanese dishes, a souvenir shop, and a relaxing lounge area overlooking the expansive Japanese gardens.

    Zao Onsen
    rating

    4.5

    108 Reviews
    place
    Yamagata Yamagata-shi Zao Onsen
    phone
    0236949328
    Zao Onsen Dai Rotenburo
    place
    Yamagata Pref. Yamagatashi Zaouonsen Arai-ku 853-3
    phone
    0236949417
    opening-hour
    Hours may change depending o…
    Shinzaemon no Yu
    rating

    4.0

    13 Reviews
    place
    Yamagata Pref. Yamagatashi Zaouonsen Kawamae 905
    phone
    0236931212
    opening-hour
    10:00-18:00(Last entry17:30)

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