Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Top 10 Places to Visit or Stay in Sakunami Onsen

Besides the famous Akiu Onsen, if you are looking to enjoy a hot spring session in Sendai, Sakunami Onsen (作並温泉) is another great option to consider. Although the hot spring town has less exciting things to see and do, the weakly alkaline onsen is gentle on the skin and is nicknamed the Beauty-Making Onsen (美女づくりの湯)!

© photo-ac.com

While Sakunami Onsen was first discovered by Gyōki (行基) in 721 when he traveled to Sendai, the spot wasn’t developed as a hot spring resort until 1796. Since then, many hot spring facilities and onsen ryokans have been established, each having its own charm (*´ω`).

Below is a list of our recommended places to visit and/or stay in Sakunami Onsen. They are listed according to their distance from Sendai Station.

Tip: Print out THIS COUPON that can be used at the facilities in Sakunami Onsen. If the link is expired, a new link should be available HERE. If you don’t read Japanese, you can simply hand in the coupon to the staff to see if it is one of the facilities that offer discounts.

How to Get to Sakunami Onsen

  • From Sendai Station’s (仙台駅) bus stop no. 10, take Sendai City Bus bound for Sakunami Onsen (作並温泉) and get off at Sakunami Onsen Iriguchi (作並温泉入口).
    • The bus trip takes around 30 to 40 minutes.
  • You can also take a bus from JR Sakunami Station (作並駅) and get off at the same stop.

Things to Keep in Mind About the Hotels/Ryokans in Sakunami Onsen

  • Because the hot spring town is a few hundred years old, many hotels/ryokans have a long history. The buildings thus might have apparent signs of aging.
  • Depending on the hotel/ryokan, most amenities may be placed in the public bathing pools’ change room.
  • Since the used hot spring is directly flown into the river/nature, shampoo/body soap may only be used in designated areas.

Hōmeishijuhachi Falls (鳳鳴四十八滝)

Ⓒ Ⓒ 宮城県観光プロモーション推進室

Hōmeishijuhachi Falls, the most famous attraction close to Sakunami Onsen, is located upstream of the Hirose River (広瀬川) that flows along the hot spring town.

The area has many waterfalls, big and small, producing various water sounds resembling a phoenix’s cry, so the waterfalls are collectively called Hōmeishijuhachi Falls.

While Sendai’s most famous waterfall is the Akiu Ōtaki Falls (秋保大滝) in Akiu Onsen, Hōmeishijuhachi Falls is just as beautiful as Akiu Ōtaki Falls.

Especially in autumn, you will be enchanted by the breathtaking scenery created by the autumn foliage protruding from both banks, so beautiful that you lose track of time!

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

There is another theory of where the waterfall got its name. It is said that the waterfall’s sound sounds like a reed pipe. Because its shape resembles a phoenix resting with its wings up, the reed pipe is also known as a phoenix pipe (鳳笙).

From the Bus Stop to Hōmeishijuhachi Falls

Near the closest bus stop to the waterfall, there is a soba restaurant called Dōdan no Sato (どうだんの里). It is a restaurant renowned for soba noodles with a nice original fragrance of buckwheat.

The space in front of the restaurant is the car park of Hōmeishijuhachi Falls. Also, you should see a small and simple directory board when facing Dōdan no Sato.

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

From the directory board to the most stunning part of Hōmeishijuhachi Falls, it is only a 2-minute walk. You will also find a tourist guide map on the way that marks the best observation spots.

Tip: To get to the observation spots, there is another entrance from National Highway No. 48, which is closer to Hōmeishijuhachi Falls (plus, there are temporary toilets at the entrance).

  • From Sendai Station’s (仙台駅) bus stop no. 10, take Sendai City Bus bound for Sakunami Onsen (作並温泉) and get off at Hōmeishijuhachi-Taki Iriguchi (鳳鳴四十八滝入口).
  • You can also take a bus from JR Sakunami Station (作並駅) and get off at the same stop.
  • From JR Sakunami Station, it is around a 40-minute walk to Hōmeishijuhachi Falls.

Nikka Whisky Sendai Factory (ニッカウヰスキー 宮城峡蒸溜所)

If you love whisky and would like to tour around a Japanese whisky factory, jump onto a train and head to Sendai city‘s outskirt. The distillery holds factory tours throughout the day to show visitors how their delicious whisky is made. And the best thing is, this free tour comes with a free whisky-tasing session at the end!

Ⓒ 宮城県観光プロモーション推進室

If you are from Scotland, you might find the taste of the whisky here is quite similar to the whisky in your country. This is because the factory’s founder, Taketsuru Masataka (竹鶴政孝), traveled all the way to Scotland, the birthplace of Whiskey, to learn how to brew whisky properly. In fact, even the weather and water condition around the factory are similar to Scotland!

It is said that Masataka traveled around Japan and finally settled down in Sendai because of the deliciousness of the product after he diluted his bottle of Nikka Black with Nikka River’s water.

During the tour, you will learn about not only the whiskey manufacturing process but also the history of Nikka Whiskey when your tour guide shows you around the factory area, the red brick storage, and the guest hall. Although the majority of the factory is Western-styled, if you look closely, you will discover a few Japanese elements as well!

As a hint, look up when you are around the pot stills for something commonly found in Shinto shrines (^_-)-☆.

While many notations in the visitor center in the small museum are in Japanese only, tours can be conducted in English for you to get a good idea of what all exhibits are about.

If you have time, you can stroll around to admire the surrounding nature or take photos with the factory after the tour. The distillery is surrounded by the Nikkawa River (新川川) and forest.

For more information, you can refer to their website HERE. The FAQ section at the end of the webpage answers almost all questions you may have. If their English website still doesn’t have the link to the tour booking page, you can reserve your spot through their Japanese website HERE. You will just need to translate it using Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar.

Tip: If you can’t have alcohol, they will offer you a free tea or apple juice.

Nikka Whisky Sendai Factory’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Nikka Whisky Sendai Factory is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm.
  • From Sendai Station, take a train to JR Sakunami Station (作並駅). From there, you can either:
    • Walk for 30 minutes
    • Take Sendai City Bus
    • Take the free shuttle bus if you visit the factory on weekends and public holidays
  • You can find the free shuttle bus’s timetable in the access information section HERE.
  • If you plan to take Sendai City Bus, get off at Nikka-bashi (ニッカ橋).
    • You can also take the bus bound for Sakunami Onsen (作並温泉) from Sendai Station.

Tips:
☛ The bus and train timetable is displayed near the reception for your return trip.
☛ It is recommended to utilize the free shuttle bus or Sendai City Bus for the return trip instead of hiking back up to JR Sakunami Station (作並駅).

Tsutsumiya Sakunami Shop (つつみ屋 作並店)

Before you head off to explore Sakunami Onsen and the surrounding attractions, grab a few traditional sweets from Ttsutsumiya, located very close to JR Sakunami Station!

Tsutsumiya is a traditional sweets maker that has several shops in Sendai. The shop’s signature confectionary is its chewy Dango rice cakes coated with different flavored pastes. The best thing about their Dangos is they apply the paste in front of you, so the taste is always fresh!

In addition to the Zunda-flavor Dango, which you must try when visiting Sendai, the peanut and walnut flavors are also recommended. You won’t realize until you are told that the walnut-flavored Dango contains tofu!

If you want to know more about Zunda and other shops/cafes in Sendai where you can enjoy the Zunda-flavored desserts, refer to our article on The Best Traditional Japanese Dessert Cafes in Sendai!

Another Tsutsumiya’s popular confectionary is Tsutsumi-Age (つつみ揚げ). The red bean paste filling contains walnuts, giving you a new concept of what red bean paste can taste like. The sweet is then deep-fried in high-quality oil, making the outside crunchy.

Tips:
☛ The Dango rice cake contains yam starch. So it won’t harden even if you put it in the fridge!
☛ Visit Tsutsumiya on weekends and public holidays for limited edition confectioneries (^_-)-☆.

Tsutsumiya Sakunami Shop’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Tsutsumiya Sakunami Shop is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm.
  • It is less than a one-minute walk from JR Sakunami Station (作並駅).

Sakunami Tourist Information Plaza Lasanta (作並観光交流館ラサンタ)

Located in the center of Sakunami Onsen, Sakunami Tourist Information Plaza Lasanta is where you can source sightseeing information about the surrounding attractions and acts as a community center.

Because of the Nikka Whisky Sendai Factory, the information plaza aiming to soothe the travelers’ tiredness, was named Lasanta, meaning warmth in the Scottish language. That is why there is a free foot spa for you to relax in (except for winter)!

Also, local handicrafts are on display, and on the last Sunday of each month from spring to autumn, events and/or fleamarkets are held!

Of course, there is a cafe for those who are hungry, and the good news is, there are vegetarian options (=゚ω゚)ノ. You can refer to our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article for useful phrases that will help you to order.

Sakunami Tourist Information Plaza Lasanta’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Sakunami Tourist Information Plaza Lasanta is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm except from the 29th of December to the 3rd of March.
  • The cafe is open from 11:30 am to 4 pm from Saturday to Wednesday from March to November.
    • The last order is taken at 3:30 pm.
  • If you plan to take a bus, get off at Sakunami Onsen Nakamachi (作並温泉仲町).

Yonohara Hotel (湯の原ホテル)

Located at the foot of the mountain range, Yunohara Hotel is known for its outdoor onsen pool that overlooks surrounding nature. In addition, the hotel has two gorgeous private hot spring pools for its guests to rent out for 1,000 yen or for free!

Furthermore, not only will you be enjoying mouthwatering meals prepared by a chef who formerly worked in a French restaurant, they offer free drinks during the below time slots, making your time at Yonohara Hotel a lot more relaxing. Especially the drinks after dinner, it isn’t just a cup of coffee or tea, but you can choose from homemade alcohol, fruits vinegar, and more (=゚ω゚)ノ.

  • After you check in
  • After dinner
  • From 8 am to 9:30 am

How to Get to Yonohara Hotel

From JR Sakunami Station (作並駅), it takes around 5 minutes to the Yōsenkaku Iwamatsu Ryokan by ryokan’s free shuttle bus. Please let them know if you would like to be picked up from the station at the time of booking.

Miyako no Yu (都の湯)

If you are after a simple and budget stay, Miyako no Yu at the back of Yonohana Hotel could be a great choice for you.

The selling point of Miyako no Yu is its bedrock bath (岩盤浴). While it costs more, it is only an extra 1,000 yen for adults. With the price you pay, you get a lot more than what would usually be worth that amount, especially since their hot spring is undiluted without circulation and chlorine, giving you a safe and healthy bathing experience.

When you take your break between hot spring sessions, you can get free massages in the massage chairs and play arcade machine games. Or if you come with friends and family, challenge them to a table tennis match!

The facility is nicely maintained. Although there is nothing fancy, the level of service is superb. There are even free drinks and free snacks in the resting room!

There are also a variety of amenities in the female change room.

Tip: You will get 300 yen off if you bring clothes suitable for bedrock baths (T-shirt/sports clothing) and towels.

How Much Does It Cost to Bath and/or Stay at Miyako no Yu

  • For 1-Day access to both bedrock bath and hot spring bath, it is:
    • 1,800 yen for adults
    • 1,200 yen for elementary school students
    • Pre-school children are not allowed to use the bedrock bath facility.
  • For 1-Day access to hot spring pools only, it is:
    • 800 yen for adults
    • 600 yen for elementary school students
    • 300 yen for younger children
      • There is an onsen pool for toddlers who don’t need to wear diapers.
  • It will only cost 500 yen if you will only spend less than an hour at Miyako no Yu.
  • To stay overnight at Miyako no Yu, it will cost:
    • From 4,000 yen per person without meals
    • From 7,150 yen per person with two meals included
    • Please give them a call at +81-22-796-8026 to reserve.

Tip: Elderly who are 70 years old and above get 300 yen off on Mondays. The same discount applies to ladies on Tuesdays and men on Wednesdays.

Important: Their guestrooms don’t come with toilet or shower facilities.

How to Get to Miyako no Yu

  • From JR Sakunami Station (作並駅), it is around a 5-minute drive. You can book the free pick-up and drop-off service from the station if
    • There is more than one person in your group, or
    • You plan to utilize their bedrock facilities.
    • Please give them a call at +81-22-796-8026 to reserve.

Yōsenkaku Iwamatsu Ryokan (鷹泉閣 岩松旅館)

Yōsenkaku was established in 1796, the oldest ryokan in Sakunami Onsen. While it has undergone a few renovations, the open-air bathing area blends wonderfully into the surrounding nature and retains the ryokan vibe when it first opened in the Edo period.

Having the Hirose River (広瀬川) flowing next to its six hot spring pools, bathing at Yōsenkaku Iwamatsu Ryokan is going to be a serene and peaceful experience. The ryokan owns a total of five hot spring sources supplying undiluted onsen to the six hot spring pools. There is even a hot spring swimming pool!

The most impressive onsen pool at Yōsenkaku Iwamatsu Ryokan has to be the outdoor one. Although it is mixed-gendered, there are specific female-only time spots for the female guests to fully enjoy what the ryokan can offer.

  • 7:30 pm to 9 pm
  • 5:30 am to 7 am

Tip: Yōsenkaku Iwamatsu Ryokan can cater to special dietary requirements. So let the ryokan know what you can’t eat in advance. But just note if the meals included in your plan are buffet style, they won’t be able to prepare a special meal for you.

How to Get to Yōsenkaku Iwamatsu Ryokan

  • From JR Sakunami Station (作並駅), it takes around 5 minutes to the Yōsenkaku Iwamatsu Ryokan by ryokan’s connecting free shuttle buses.
    • From 1:40 pm to 4:40 pm, the bus operates based on the train’s arrival time.
    • If you want to arrive after 5 pm, please book the bus service with the ryokan in advance.
    • For the return trip, buses operate between 8:20 am and 11:10 am.

Yukami Shrine and Futatsu-Iwa Rock (湯神神社・ 二ツ岩)

Opposite Iwamatsu Ryokan, Yukami Shrine is the guardian shrine of the facility. Enshrining a white snake, on top of business prosperity, people now also pray for blessings of marriage ties, safe delivery, and good health.

In the precinct, an Oyukake Jizō Bodhisattva (お湯かけ地蔵) statue is specially placed for couples to pray for a happy ending.

© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構
© 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構

From Yukami Shrine, the 200-meter-long promenade completed in 2021 leads you to a large rock where locals come to receive the power of nature. But if you plan to visit the rock, proper hiking gear is required. And it is best to consult the staff in Iwamatsu Ryokan beforehand.

How to Get to Yukami Shrine and Futatsu-Iwa Rock

They are less than a one-minute walk from the bus stop, Sakunami Onsen Motoyu (作並温泉元湯).

Kami no Yu Sakunami Hotel (神の湯 作並ホテル)

At the far end of Sakunami Onsen Town, Kami no Yu Sakunami Hotel is the facility to visit if you only plan a day trip to Sakunami Onsen. Because, unlike most ryokans that you have to leave by 3 pm, Sakunami Hotel is open until 5 pm!

Located away from the national highway and surrounded by nature, Sakunami Hotel is a hidden gem for hot spring lovers. The onsen here is 100% natural hot spring without circulation, dilution, and chlorine.

In February 2020, Sakunami Hotel, which was first opened in 1850, was re-opened as a hot spring facility for day-trippers. While the entire building shows signs of aging, the collaboration of its hot spring pools and the stunning view that can be enjoyed while bathing is one of the reasons for its growing number of customers.

Currently, Sakunami Hotel is run and owned by a couple who are welcoming and friendly. Because renovating the entire hotel is a challenging task, they try their best to keep the facility clean at all times. With their top-notch customer service, many feel at ease during their time at Sakunami Hotel.

While there is no outdoor hot spring pool for male guests, the male onsen pool was hand carved from a large bedrock that cost two years to complete. Plus, the mountainside of the bathing area is covered by floor-to-ceiling windows, so splendid scenery can be enjoyed while bathing, especially with the natural view reflecting onto the hot spring.

Kami no Yu Sakunami Hotel’s Opening hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • Kami no Yu Sakunami Hotel is open daily from 11 am to 5 pm except for Thursdays.
  • The cost for a hot spring session is
    • 600 yen for adults
    • 400 yen for children
  • The hotel is a 15-minute walk from the bus stop, Sakunami Onsen Iriguchi (作並温泉入口).

Ichinobo (ゆづくしSalon一の坊)

If you want to enjoy onsen in a variety of hot spring pools during your stay in a ryokan, book a night’s stay with Ichinobo, located just next to Sakunami Hotel. The ryokan is beautifully designed and has a total of eight hot spring pools that get natural onsen supplied from three different hot spring sources it owns. Many pools are outdoor and have the Hirose River (広瀬川) flowing right next to the bathing pools!

Dinner and breakfast are served buffet-style at Ichinobo. The best part of dining at Ichinobo is seeing the chef preparing the food in front of you. In addition to seeing their incredible skills, the chef can consider your request when preparing your plate of tempura (other chefs are in charge of meat/seafood dishes)! On top of that, the drink bar isn’t charged separately, including the pricy alcohol (=゚ω゚)ノ.

One inconvenient thing about Ichinobo is the amenities. Because the ryokan brands itself as a place to enjoy its public onsen pools, most amenities are only available in the public change rooms. So if you feel more comfortable using the shower in the guestroom, you will need to fetch the amenities you need.

With that being said, most guestrooms are quite spacious, albeit there are signs of aging.

Tips:
☛ You can rent out their private onsen pool for 5,500 yen for an entire day if you spend a night at Ichinobo by filling out THIS FORM.
☛ Utilize the free shuttle bus to explore Nikka Whisky Sendai Factory!

Important:
☛ Check with the staff upon arrival about the designated time slots for each gender to utilize the outdoor hot spring pools.
☛ Make sure you have a translation device if you don’t speak Japanese.
☛ The onsen pool’s hot spring combines fresh and circulated spring with chlorine added.

Kutsurogi Salon (くつろぎSalon)

Another highlight of Ichinobo has to be the lounge close to the reception. The ryokan calls the area Kutsurogi Salon.

The lounge area centered on a unique stove is designed to create a vibe in your living room. Free drinks and snacks are served most of the day, making it a space where you can spend a whole day reading books or browsing the Internet!

  • Freshly baked bread is served from 12:30 pm to 1 pm.
  • Gelato, tea, coffee, beer, and snacks are available from 3 pm to 9:45 pm.
  • Hard liquor and simple side dishes are available from 7 pm to 9:45 pm.
  • Live music is on from 8 pm to 8:30 pm.
  • Morning coffee is served from 7 am to 11 am.

Furthermore, Kutsurogi Salon is also where Ichinobo’s amenity counter is located. Between 11:30 am to 1 pm, it is where you can freely collect room wear, toothbrushes, towels, and bottled water. Note this is applicable if you stay at Ichinobo for more than one night.

How to Get to Ichinobo

  • From JR Sakunami Station (作並駅), it takes around 5 minutes to the Ichinobo by ryokan’s connecting free shuttle buses.
    • From 1:40 pm to 5:40 pm, the bus operates based on the train’s arrival time.
      • Please reserve your spot by filling out THIS FORM by 12 pm on your arrival date.
    • There is no shuttle bus available after 6 pm.
    • For the return trip, buses operate between 8:15 am and 11 am.

Hiraga Kokeshi Store (平賀こけし店)

So where to get some souvenirs in Sakunami Onsen?

On the other side of the bridge close to Ichinobo, Hiraga Kokeshi Store is the only Sakunami Kokeshi (作並こけし) workshop in Miyagi Prefecture. The handicraft was initially made as a children’s toy in the late Edo period. This is why the traditional Kokeshi dolls are all in the size that can easily be held in a child’s hand.

At Hiraga Kokeshi Store, besides the traditional Sakunami Kokeshi, you will also find dolls with interesting faces and garments.

Ⓒ 平賀こけし店
Ⓒ 平賀こけし店

You can also color a Kokeshi Doll with the craftsman’s instruction. The activity takes around 60 minutes and only costs 700 yen per doll.

Note a reservation is required at least 3 days in advance by calling +81-22-395-2523. If you don’t speak Japanese, you can email them at [email protected]. But make sure you still give them a call and say the below, as they won’t be checking their email all the time.

Meru No Cheku O Onegaishimasu (メールのチェックをお願いします)

Tip: Make sure you have a translation app on your phone. You will be relying on the app and body language to communicate with the staff.

Hiraga Kokeshi Store’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Hiraga Kokeshi Store is open from 7 am to 7 pm except from the end of December to the beginning of January.
  • It is around a 2-minute walk from the bus stop, Sakunami Motoyu (作並温泉元湯).

Discover Other Fantastic Attractions in Sendai

You might not be aware of it, but Sendai, the Tōhoku region‘s biggest city, receives more than 20 million tourists each year!

So if you want to find out how Sendai managed to attract so many people to visit it, refer to our article on Sendai, which is filled with historical, cultural, and natural attractions (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Statue-of-Date-Masamune-Sendai-Castle-Sendai-Miyagi-Japan
Click the photo to find out about other amazing attractions in Sendai!

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