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“Level 9999 for its atmosphere” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Tsurunoyu Onsen

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Tsurunoyu Onsen
Ranked #1 of 41 Hotels / Ryokan in Semboku
Certificate of Excellence
Singapore
Level Contributor
57 reviews
30 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 34 helpful votes
“Level 9999 for its atmosphere”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 28, 2012

Tsurunoyu Onsen is hidden onsen. We went during the winter which made it even more hidden as it snowed like there was no tomorrow. Almost the entire facility is made of wood and stones.

The open air mixed bath was lovely. I love the little huts and the onsen's architecture. It was snowing thus the water became lukewarm. This was fine as I derived great satisfaction from running naked in the cold from the changing room into the water. The management does pump in reheated water. The locals introduced me to a spot were the hot spring water comes up from the ground thus do lookout for that area if the bath is lukewarm from all the snow.

The room is so-so but then again, this is a level 9999 hidden onsen thus a modern room would be out of place. Or maybe that is because I got the cheaper/affordable room. Nothing beats soaking in the onsen in the middle of the night as I experienced the moon, stars, the snow falling onto your face and nature at a go. I got lucky as there were not many overnight guests when I visited Tsurunoyu early April 2012.

Their showers all require squatting while you clean yourselves. You might need to queue for the shower heads if there are many guests (1 shower head per shower room...I was only shown 2 shower rooms for the entire facility). There were other baths in the facility too; two are beside the mixed bath and the other two are with the showers.

Females have an additional female-only bath and from what I heard from my partner, the view and atmosphere in the female-only bath is better than the mixed bath. The mixed bath has milky water so that helps in concealing your modesty and females can enter the mixed bath from another entrance which allows them to be in the water long before anyone else can see you.

Room Tip: Choose to stay overnight. You get to soak in the onsen without the interference from day trippers. D...
See more room tips
  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank AdrianLooi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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335 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Location
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (9)
Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Traditional) first
  • Chinese (Simplified) first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Russian first
  • Thai first
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English first
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles 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 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank debswee
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Nagoya, Japan
Level Contributor
12 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles 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 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Takashi-TM
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Diego, California
Level Contributor
6 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles 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 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank MaryHoppins
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Victoria, Canada
Level Contributor
55 reviews
30 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 11, 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
Helpful?
Thank neepsocks
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
8 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles 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 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank TCphonehome
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York, NY
Level Contributor
104 reviews
103 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 120 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles 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 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
5 Thank trippyNYC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Tsurunoyu Onsen

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

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