Me and my partner went to the 400 year old Tsurunoyu Onsen on 24th December 2012 to spend our Christmas eve during our year end Japan trip. We heard about it through a Japanese friend and did some research on it on Tripadvisor (Thanks Adrain for the advise given!)) and blogs. Their main website is this : http://www.tsurunoyu.com/english.html. We were initially apprehensive about booking and getting there as we do not speak Japanese but discovered that it was a breeze.
My friend called the onsen about a month before our trip and though they speak little English, they were accomodating and helpful enough to reserve us a room without much fuss. So don't be worried, just call them and ask for someone who can speak English! They will recommend you a room and tell you how much it will cost per person.
Getting to the onsen looked kind of difficult but it really isn't. All you need to do is to use the JR East English website and reserve your Shinkansen ticket toward Akita (all seats are reserved so you need to reserve at least one day beforehand). If you have a JR Pass, it is covered and you will not have to pay anything more for the 2.5 hours Shinkansen trip. After you get to the JR Tazawako station, just ask the Station Master for bus tickets to the Onsen (600 Yen) and he will advise you on the timing (a bus leaves every hour). The bus station is just outside the JR station to the right of the main entrance. Once you decided on the timing, call the Onsen again to inform them on your bus departure timing and they will arrange a mini bus to go fetch you from the Tourist centre at Arupa Komakusa. It is a 40 minute trip from JR Tazawako station to Arupa Komakusa Visitor Centre and another 20 mins in mini bus sent by the onsen.
When we arrived, as it was late December, the onsen and its buildings were covered by snow. Needless to say, it was beautiful. The buildings are traditional and old (some parts are supposed to be at least 400 years old!) but very well maintained. As the onsen hotel is located within the mountains and there are no shops around so if you are the sort that needs tibits and extra food, its best to buy them before you leave the JR Tazawako Station. Also there is no mobile network at the hotel so those of you who needs internet to survive be warned!
There are several onsen pools on this property. The smaller indoor ones (fit 2 or 3 at most) are sex- separated but the ladies get another two larger outdoor ones. However, the main attraction is the scenic large outdoor pool which is featured in many of the photographs you see of this property. It is a mixed pool and everyone goes in naked. Nothing beats soaking in that pool at around 10pm (nobody else was there as the local tourist - 98% of the occupants, sleeps early) with the snow falling from above. This pool is also not that hot compared to the indoor ones and so it is comfortable for those of us who are not used to onsens.
The room we got was one of the largest on the properly and like all rooms here, it was a traditional Japanese room. It was clean and spacious and could probably sleep 6 to 8 people comfortably. We had a small stream outside our window and it was great to fall asleep with the sound of the stream water trickling past below our window. There were no extra electrical sockets in the room so you can't really charge any of your electrical devices while on the property. Do bring extra fully charged batteries for your phones and cameras.
Dinner and breakfast were inclusive in the price quoted and it was a traditional Japanese meals with lots of plates served in our room for dinner and in a dining hall below our room for breakfast. The food consist of preserved wild vegetables, little meats and a very tasty fish for both meals. Toilets are shared for each floor and there are like only 2 showers points in the section of the building we were staying in but that was not a problem as there were few guests to contest for the use of these facilities.
We spend about 11,500 Yen (all in) each for a night's stay at the onsen. It is definitely worth the money to spend a night in such a historic and beautiful property. Highly recommended.
- Also Known As:
- Tsurunoyu Onsen Hotel
- Tsurunoyu Onsen Hotel Semboku
- Tsurunoyu Onsen Japan/Akita Prefecture