Enjoy your meal while wearing a Japanese yukata (Photo: Justin Velgus)

Ryokan Ohnuma: Sayonara Stress

Experience Naruko hot spring culture in style

Enjoy your meal while wearing a Japanese yukata (Photo: Justin Velgus)
Justin Velgus   - 4 min read

How was your day? How was your week? No matter our successes, the stress and worries of deadlines, appointments, things to do, and unfortunate happenings can be a burden on our mental health. That in turn can have consequences on our physical health. In today's busy world, scheduling relaxation is becoming an unexpected necessity. Taking a short getaway from it all puts what is important in life into perspective and re-energizes your body and spirit. While many Japanese are quick to recommend hot springs (onsen) as a quick remedy, Ryokan Ohnuma takes relaxation to an all new level with the TOJI experience.

As soon as you check into this ryokan, you'll realize something is different. Clean? Yes. Professional? Top notch. TOJI is the secret ingredient. The Japanese word is synonymous with healing through the power of hot springs. This ryokan has 8 unique baths, each with its own charm. The grand mixed gender bath on the first floor features water with a natural hint of green which contrasts nicely to the white tiled walls with their beautiful artwork of female bathers. Each evening there is a "ladies only" hour as well. There are small separated adjacent baths for men and women. An outdoor foot bath in the garden is a nice place to chat with other hotel guests and make new friends. There is even a heated room to nap. This is quite rare these days but not when the TOJI custom was more popular a few decades ago. In an effort for everyone to enjoy the healing powers of onsen, even those that may be embarrassed with nudity, the hotel provides 3 private baths. On the upper floors are two baths suitable for one or two people inside rooms that have doors with locks. Otherwise, ask staff about the secluded hot spring on the hill behind the property and how to sign up for your 30 minute session. Hot spring use is included in the cost of staying, and the hot springs inside the hotel are open 24 hours day or night. Visitors seeking day time use of the hot springs may use the first floor baths only from 11:00-14:00 for 500 yen. 

As evening comes, dress in your yukata and head to the dining room. When making your reservation or upon check in, you have the option to choose a standard Japanese fair of delicious sashimi and other cuisine typical of ryokan, or something a little different. For those seeking the ultimate healing experience, do your body a favor with the 1 soup and 3 dish course which features an abundance of fresh local mountain vegetables. Incredibly fresh and flavorful, I felt full at the end of the meal without the heavy feeling that other dishes can cause. On special occasion, the owner can arrange a tea ceremony or zen mediation experience at some private buildings in the back of the property. Call or contact for more information.  

The wooden exterior of the hotel is clearly marked in Japanese and English right on the main street running through town. If you still have trouble ask any local for directions. Everyone knows Ryokan Ohnuma because of its 100 year history and its kind hearted and always smiling owner, Mr. Ohnuma. In early 2015 the hotel completed a large renovation project. Most welcome from travelers is probably the free Wi-Fi. Rooms are Japanese style with shared bathrooms on each floor. Some rooms have their own bathrooms. The hotel is check-in 14:00/check-out 10:00, and rates start around 10,000 yen per person (includes dinner and breakfast). Reservation in Japanese or English can be done through the website and payment is cash only. Parking is available. Non-smoking rooms.

Ryokan Ohnuma is located in the heart of Naruko, northern Miyagi Prefecture. It is easily accessible by direct highway bus or train from the large city of Sendai in about 2 hours. Naruko is a town full of hot springs, and boasts 9 of the 11 types of onsen found in Japan--a concentration no other area can claim. It is a destination popular for its unique history, nature, and famous kokeshi doll culture. There is also a campground, hiking trails, ski resort, and golf course. No need for a car here as your journey begins just a 5 minute walk from JR Naruko-gotenyu Station.

Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus @justin.velgus

Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is the Miyagi Prefecture expert for Japan Travel and a long-term contributor since 2012 with a focus on the Tohoku region.  Justin has written extensively for JT, and other publications such as VisitMiyagi and Sake Today, amassing over 350 published articles...