Akiu Onsen: A hot spring in the great outdoors once beloved by Japan’s famous warlord
A 30-minute drive from Sendai Station in Miyagi Prefecture to the west brings you to Akiu Onsen on the upper stream of the Natori-gawa River, which is ranked as one of the “Three Famous Hot Springs of the Tohoku Region.” With a long history, the hot spring is said to have opened around 1,500 years ago. It is believed that when Emperor Kinmei (509-571) suffered from a skin disease, he was fully healed after bathing in water brought from Akiu. Date Masamune (1567-1636), the renowned warrior and first feudal lord of the Sendai domain, is said to have visited Akiu many times.
For centuries, Akiu Onsen has been appreciated by visitors as a place for healing with its soft chloride water. As the sodium content in the water sticks to the skin and prevents sweat from evaporating, it helps keep warmth in the body. Thus, bathers do not have to worry about feeling cold after their bath. Due to the water’s ability to retain warmth and moisture in the body, it is also said to be beneficial for cuts, cold hands and feet, and dry skin.
The onsen town spreads out along the Natori-gawa River and hosts an array of hotels and inns, most of them open to drop-in bathers during the daytime. There is also a communal bath in the center of the town that has long been beloved by locals as a place of relaxation. The water, which is pulled straight from the source, is quite hot, but it will warm the body from the core.
Akiu Onsen is also known for its vast nature that greets all of its visitors with an array of picturesque scenery. The Rairaikyo Gorge offers a natural spectacle of a large, rounded boulder eroded by the Natori-gawa River, as well as a promenade on the lower stream by the Nozoki-bashi Bridge. From there, visitors can marvel at the beauty of the ravine from up close. From the railing of the bridge can be seen the heart-shaped indentation in another rock, which is a popular spot among women and designated as the “Lover’s Sanctuary.” The Futakuchi Kyokou Canyon stretches for approximately 8 kilometers and showcases many other natural features like waterfalls and stream pools. It is an ideal place to hike while forest-bathing.
The Akiu Great Falls, designated as a National Scenic Beauty Spot, has also been selected as one of Japan’s “Top 100 Waterfalls.” Massive in size, it boasts a drop of 55 meters and a width of 6 meters. The thundering sound of the falls displays the power of nature in all its glory. Be sure to also visit the viewing platform and promenade that leads to the basin of the waterfall.
Surrounded by grand nature, this renowned hot spring of the Tohoku region is the ideal place to refresh both body and soul. It is no surprise that it has long been a source of relaxation for everybody, from daimyo to tourists to local people alike.
Tokyo Sta. -> 120 min by Tohoku Shinkansen -> Sendai Sta. -> 30 min by Sendai Seibu Liner (bus) -> Akiu Onsen
*The information herein is as of May 2021.