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Zao Onsen

Zao Onsen

The Zao mountain range is located on the border separating Yamagata and Miyagi prefectures with the 1840m Mount Kumanodake standing proudly as its dominant peak. The range is renowned for its trekking opportunities and the variety of alpine plants to be found in the area and it is the naturally formed “Okama,” circular Crater Lake with its emerald green water that is famous as one of the symbols of Zao.

Zao Onsen is located on the Northwestern slopes of Mount Zao and is known for its ski resorts and snow & frost covered trees in wintertime. The onsen here is the oldest in the prefecture and it is said that in 110AD, when a warrior injured by an arrow came to soak in the onsen he was able to leave soon afterwards – completely healed.

There are now as many as 47 water sources known to be bubbling up at around 900m on the hillside of Mount Zao and a walk around the town with its strong smell of sulfur will not escape your notice for long. The water here is strongly acidic, in ample supply and effective in curing various ailments. These properties combine to atract a number of different types of accommodation to the area – from the older, well established Japanese ryokan to the modern resort hotels, both stand ready to house visitors.

Three old-style public baths, a famous and very large open-air bath and a sprinkling of other facilities enabling you to take as many leisurely dips as you need are scattered around the town and one of the most popular is the Zao Onsen Dai-roten-buro; a large open-air bath made of stone and supplied with water from a mountain stream. This open-air bath is located at the highest point in the town, is open from late April to early November and features two-tier bathtubs for both men and women. The water temperature of the upper bathtub (atsu-yu) is higher than that of the lower and water flowing over the sides of the upper tub makes its way into the lower tub (nuru-yu) via a wooden gutter leaving the water in the lower tub slightly tepid. This system enables bathers to experience two temperatures (of water). Any overflow from the lower tub runs off into a side stream and is discarded. The sheer flow of water here keeps the baths clean with mechanical recycling unnecessary.

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Efficacy Cuts, dermatitis, diabetes, and others
Address Zao Onsen, Yamagata-shi, Yamagata
Link Zao Onsen Tourism Association (Japanese)

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