My TOUJI Trip to Northeast Japan in snowy winter

Travel destination of my 1 week holiday


In December, when I was about to finish my big project, I decided to have 1 week holiday after getting this job done. Since it was winter, I decided to visit somewhere I could enjoy the attractiveness of winter in Japan. Then, northeast Japan came into my mind. The reason why I didn’t choose HOKKAIDO but northeast Japan was because of the following reasons.


  • Access to northeast Japan from Tokyo is more convenient than HOKKAIDO.
  • Since northeast Japan has 6 prefectures, I will be able to visit various places.
  • Northeast Japan is one of the places where have the best quality of ONSEN in Japan.


“I want to visit somewhere I can feel Japaneseness”, “I want to visit somewhere I can enjoy snow”, and “I want to visit some nostalgic places where I can relax”. I found that northeast Japan was the best place to meet those of my expectations.


“湯治 (TOUJI)” is “Self-treatment” which is still active at the present day.


The Chinese character of “湯治 (TOUJI)” means “to cure by ONSEN”. From ancient times in Japan, people who worked on agriculture had visited ONSEN places and stayed there for several weeks to cure themselves. In order to enjoy the effect of ONSEN fully, they stayed there “long” and “slowly”. Totally different from the Western medicines which cure the diseases and injuries immediately, TOUJI, as one of the Oriental medicines, is to cure diseases and injuries by enhancing the natural healing power and immune system which all human beings were born with.


At the present day, the mental stress and physical fatigue we’ve got through job are not something that medicines can cure immediately. Since I was so exhausted both mentally and physically, I needed more sleep, delicious foods, slow time to spend, and I wanted to release mental and physical fatigue one by one and revive my inner power. I was sure that ONSEN would be the best for this.


I always go to ONSEN not as leisure nor sightseeing, but as a device to reset and heal my mental and physical fatigue. It is exactly similar to massage, spa, detox, and treatment for me. ONSEN is the “self-treatment” which is given by the nature in Japan. This is why Japanese people have incorporated it into their daily lives. Although the traditional style of TOUJI is gradually disappearing, the idea of TOUJI itself is still active even at the present day, and it would rather matches the lifestyle at the present day.


Related article about TOUJI: Your first experience of TOUJI – Enjoy different way of ONSEN trip


Traveling like nomads


Generally speaking, TOUJI is to stay at one place for long to cure yourself with the power of ONSEN, but I wanted to visit multiple places to enjoy variety of ONSEN in northeast Japan. In Japan, ONSEN is classified into 10 types; “Simple spring”, “Chloride spring”, “Hydrogen carbonate spring”, “Sulfate spring”, “Carbon dioxide spring”, “Iron containing spring”, “Sulfur spring”, “Acidic spring”, “Radioactive spring”, and “Iodine containing spring”. Also, some of the ONSEN which meets the predetermined condition is called “Medical ONSEN”. Depending on the types, the effect of ONSEN as well as color and smell of ONSEN is totally different. And also, the scenery and atmosphere is also different by each ONSEN place and hotel. I wanted to visit several places and try variety of ONSEN in northeast Japan.


Related article: What is ONSEN? – Part 1

Related article: What is ONSEN? – Part 2


Especially, northeast Japan is one of the districts where have huge amount of ONSEN yield, and the spring quality is also superb. Although it takes much time to travel around multiple prefectures in northeast Japan, I’ve decided to do that like “nomads” to touch as many ONSEN places as possible in 1 week. It is “Nomad style TOUJI trip”.


My strategy was to go south from north.



It was the beginning of December. Don’t underestimate December in northeast Japan. The snow gets heavier and some roads get closed in December. Sometimes trains and hotels also stop operating, especially in AOMORI Prefecture. Therefore, I decided to go to AOMORI Prefecture first, where is the northernmost prefecture in northeast Japan, and go down to south.


In addition, I decided to use only public transportations because it’s so dangerous to drive on the snow roads there. I flew to AOMORI airport, and moved around nearby prefectures by train and bus. Not just the safety, but also it helped me to save the travel cost as well. I also tried to find the ONSEN hotels where provide free pick-up service. Below are the list of ONSEN hotels where I visited in my “Nomad style TOUJI trip” for 1 week.



Day 1 ~ 2:

酸ヶ湯温泉 (SUKAYU ONSEN) in AOMORI Prefecture

A historical huge mixed bath which is the first registered 国民保養温泉地 (National Health Hot Spring).

Read this article: 酸ヶ湯温泉 (SUKAYU ONSEN) where traditional and new style of TOUJI mix


Day 3:

不老ふ死温泉 (FURO FUSHI ONSEN / Immortal ONSEN) in AOMORI Prefecture

Gourd shaped ONSEN with the best sunset view with Japan Sea

Read this article: ONSEN where you can be immortal!?


Day 4:

鉛温泉 (NAMARI ONSEN) at 花巻温泉郷 (HANAMAKI ONSENKYO) in IWATE Prefecture

Standing ONSEN “白猿の湯 (SHIROZARU NO YU)” where spring flows from floor

Read this article: Standing ONSEN – FUJISAN RYOKAN at NAMARI ONSEN


Day 5:

湯主一條 (YUNUSHI ICHIJO) at 鎌先温泉 (KAMASAKI ONSEN) in MIYAGI Prefecture

A superb TOUJI YADO which the heritage building was renovated to a modern dining room

Read this article: Beauty of silence at historical ONSEN hotel, YUNUSHI ICHIJO


Day 6:

峩々温泉 (GAGA ONSEN) in MIYAGI Prefecture

It’s recommended to pour ONSEN 100 times before bathing in. A new style TOUJI YADO where you want to stay more than 2 nights.

Read this article: White world with nothing but snowy mountain, ONSEN, and myself – 峩々温泉 (GAGA ONSEN)


Day 7:

旬菜湯宿 大忠 (SHUNSAI YUYADO DAICHU) at 遠刈田温泉 (TOGATTA ONSEN) in MIYAGI Prefecture

Famous for an Apple Bath where you can bathe in winter only

Read this article: Encounter with warmth of people at this cold snowy place – 遠刈田温泉 (TOGATTA ONSEN)


Northeast Japan is easy accessible from Tokyo by airplane or SHINKANSEN. During your stay in Tokyo, it is highly recommended to allocated several days to travel around northeast Japan where has a lot of superb ONSEN as well as local specialty foods and sightseeing spots. Especially in winter, it is unforgettable to bathe in outdoor bath with viewing the scenery covered with snow.

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