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“Fabulous atmospheric rotemburo” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Tsurunoyu Onsen

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Tsurunoyu Onsen
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Ryokan
  |   50 Sendatsu Tazawako Tazawa, Semboku 014-1204 , Akita Prefecture (Tazawakokogen Onsen)   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #1 of 41 Hotels / Ryokan in Semboku
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Fabulous atmospheric rotemburo”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 2, 2012

I was apprehensive that the most famous pool was a mixed gender bath. But it wasn't too bad after all. The female entrance to that rotemburo (outdoor pool) was concealed, and once you are in the milky water, hardly anything can be seen beneath the water surface anyway. If you are going as a day tripper, don't forget to bring your own towel, otherwise you can purchase a small one from the ryokan for about 300 yen. There are also no soaps or shampoo, so my suggestion is to bathe before you get there, especially if you went in winter like me.
It was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience bathing in the hot onsen while being surrounded by foot-high snow. Even better if it is snowing while you are soaking.

  • Stayed December 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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197 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Location
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (5)
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English first
Nagoya, Japan
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 3, 2011

This onsen hotel is located far away from major Japanese cities, but is very popular to Japanese people adicted to onsen experience. Reservation starts half year before, and good rooms are soon fully booked. Thus, we were pleased to reserve a fine room for a stay in August by calling them at the begining of February. We stayed two nights, and also enjoyed walking a nearby mountain Akitakoma to observe flowers.

The hotspring (onsen) was really nice. Milky hot water came out from the bottom of a large open air bath (rotenburo). The atmosphere was the best at night. I am quite sure that the hot water has some sort of healing activity, at least to my skin. Meals are also quite fine to us Japanese, and will be interesting experience to foreigners to enjoy authentic Japanese food with reasonable expense.

I met several English speaking guests in the open air bath. They appear to enjoy their stay.

Room Tip: Reserve as soon as possible.
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  • Stayed August 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
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San Diego, California
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 4, 2011

Spent 2 nights here with friends. Getting there was an adventure, though quite easy (and scenic). We arrived via the inn's free shuttle bus and were transported into a winter wonderland, deep in the snow-covered woods. When we finally arrived at the old inn itself (I believe it's 200-300 years old!), we were greeted with charming wooden structures, very Japanese style.

Our rooms were traditional Japanese-style rooms with deliciously aromatic tatami flooring. We exchanged our clothes for yukatas (robes) and had some green tea before heading to the unbelievably atmospheric outdoor onsen (hot springs).

It was snowing, which makes for the best hot spring experiences. The warm water of the hot springs made an amazing counterpoint to the quarter-sized snowflakes falling on us. It was very dreamlike and a one-of-a-kind experience.

Dinner was delicious, a mix of local ingredients we could recognize and some others we couldn't. It was washed down with some local nihonshu (sake) and then we went outside to stargaze while in the baths. It felt like another time.

I've stayed in many Japanese hot springs ryokans, and what sets Tsurunoyu apart is its remoteness (there's nothing else around for miles and miles), and the beauty of its baths. The outdoor bathing are was spacious, with white-blue water and truly old, authentic buildings from days of yore. It has been around for 300 years and it really feels like it!

Loved this place and highly recommend it to anyone seeking a remarkable and unique experience in Japan.

  • Stayed December 2010, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Victoria, Canada
Top Contributor
50 reviews 50 reviews
26 hotel reviews
Reviews in 30 cities Reviews in 30 cities
22 helpful votes 22 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 12, 2011

For those looking for a secret onsen experience, there must be better options than this place. The heavily sulfuric water has the worst rotten egg smell - it will cling to your skin and follow you everywhere. The room I had was pretty sad, and the onsen on the whole was rather small and unspectacular. Good food, and the staff were nice while speaking little to no english. Still, came away very disappointed - for a more casual onsen traveler like myself, I think I'd recommend something more mainstream.

Stayed June 2011, traveled solo
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Sydney, Australia
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 13, 2011

This onsen is where the Japanese come to holiday and so, although staff are extremely helpful and friendly, the onsen resort is not really geared up for international visitors (which adds to its charm). Some Japanese language skill is recommended, both to navigate your way here and to get around the onsen accommodation itself without breaching the communal bathing etiquette.

We had a room in one of the dormitory buildings was basic, but very comfortable. The staff had helpfully laid two futon mattresses each for us. The toilet facilities shared for the whole floor. There are particular rules about washing your hair and the like (no soap allowed near the natural springs), but as we only stayed one night, I didn’t investigate this. Dinner and breakfast (part of the accommodation package) is traditional Japanese kaiseki style dining in the communal dining hall. Practice your cross-legged sitting (for the boys) or kneeling (for the girls) before you go.

Communal bathing is a quintessential Japanese experience. Sitting in the milky-white sulphur-tinged hot water, with snow falling lightly and collecting on your head is an incredible way to experience it.

  • Stayed March 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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New York, NY
Top Contributor
64 reviews 64 reviews
63 hotel reviews
Reviews in 50 cities Reviews in 50 cities
103 helpful votes 103 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 31, 2010

our trip to tsurunoyu onsen is probably one of my favorite vacation memories. i'm really glad we made this diversion on the way up to hokkaido. it's pretty spartan and bare bones but it was clean and so charming. the buildings are traditional wooden buildings which look straight from a children's book in the heavy snowfall. we booked a room about a month in advance and they only had basic tatami rooms with shared bath left but we loved it anyway. we went during the time of year when children in that region build kamakura (snow huts with candles lit inside) and the ryokan had one built at the entrance. candles inside mini-kamakura lit the main walkway at night. tsurunoyu has recorded visitors since the late 1600s and it seems to have retained a very traditional feel while not being cheesy or dilapidated.

onsen: the onsen are open to the public during the daytime but we arrived later in the day so the baths were pretty empty. there are milky (white) and clear (black) baths. legend is that beautiful women only enter the milky baths to get milky skin, which i didn't know at the time and probably explains why i was the only one in the clear bath. i enjoyed the clear bath all to myself anyway. there's also a rotenburo (outdoor bath) which was beautiful with the fog coming off the surface and surrounded by the snowy scenery. there is a konyoku rotenburo (co-ed outdoor bath) in the middle which men use during the daytime too. i asked a couple of girls there if it's common to use the konyoku because i heard only old grannies do it. but they said yes, so after dinner we decided to go in the dark. men and women come out of separate huts (which have another onsen) and no one's really there to gawk anyway so it was fine. the only thing is that the water isn't quite as hot because it is outside and all the snowfall probably lowered the water temp too. beware that there are no showers! the only non-sulfur water comes from the mountains so it was ice ice cold. there's soap but sulfur beats soap. i did wake up at night a little queasy from my bodily sulfur aroma so a one-night stay was good enough.

dining: guests without irori in their rooms eat in a communal tatami dining area. dinner and breakfast are both traditional with lots of local ingredients.

rooms: our room was small and poorly lit which added to the charm. we had a shared bath (no shower) but we never saw anyone else so it wasn't a big deal. there's a heating surcharge in the wintertime.

since it was big snowfall season, guests were given rubber boots to wear around. so we just walked around in our yukata and haori and rubber boots everywhere. it almost snowed nonstop while we were there and the shoveled snow on the road must have been higher than our shuttle van. the morning we left, a popular korean actor was filming at the onsen so the crew and vans were all over the place. as we were pulling out, the actor walked by the shuttle and all the girls started screaming when he smiled and flashed his sparkling teeth to his fans. it was pretty funny.

  • Stayed March 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Asheville, North Carolina, Usa
Top Contributor
151 reviews 151 reviews
83 hotel reviews
Reviews in 103 cities Reviews in 103 cities
149 helpful votes 149 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 27, 2009

Tsurunoyu Onsen: Very hidden away, segregated and mixed nude bathing, has sulfurous milky green spa water not too hot or too cool (I could spend hours in the water without overheating, and the snow coming down on us in the outdoor pool -- perfectly heavenly), delicious traditional Japanese food, rustic rooms, mostly Japanese clientele, precious little English spoken but very friendly and eager to please (typical of Japan). As a bonus, there were 6-7 feet of snow on the ground (not counting drifts and piles, and it snowed continuously over the 40 hours we were there amounting to an additional 18 inches accumulation. Astoundingly beautiful! My wife and I would jump at the chance to go back there!

  • Stayed February 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Tsurunoyu Onsen

Address: 50 Sendatsu Tazawako Tazawa, Semboku 014-1204 , Akita Prefecture
Location: Japan > Tohoku > Akita Prefecture > Semboku > Tazawakokogen Onsen
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 41 Hotels / Ryokan in Semboku
Number of rooms: 30
Also Known As:
Tsurunoyu Onsen Hotel Semboku
Tsurunoyu Onsen Japan/Akita Prefecture

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