Kitakami, Iwate 2011. Photos: Quinlan Faris

Motoyu Geto Onsen is deep in the mountains west of Kitakami. In fact it’s so deep that the entire area is inaccessible during the snowy season. Don’t let the distance or shabby exterior keep you away. There are seven different baths in this onsen complex, of which four are unisex outdoor pools. Even if you don’t spend the night at their very affordable Jisuibu (for about 3,000 yen!), just 500 yen will give you access to all of the baths for the day. Each of the seven baths has different properties and healing powers. According to the map you’ll get upon arrival, certain baths have powers including but not limited to: healing wounds, burns, chronic skin problems, infertility, arteriosclerosis, asthma, and hemorrhoids.

Healing powers aside- the charm of this place cannot be overstated. The river that runs next to the baths is stunning. Sitting in the hot springs, gazing at rocky cliffs overhung in mountain vegetation beyond the river is not a bad way to spend a day. But women be warned- most women will feel a bit uncomfortable sitting naked in close quarters with naked strangers unless you come in a group. Check the schedule on their website for times when the unisex baths are reserved for women.

A number of hiking trails start here, from a short 20 minute walk to see a large “Tengu” rock to a three and a half hour mountain circuit. (There are also full-on day hikes into the mountains.) If you have a car this makes for a quirky relaxing trip from Kitakami or Hanamaki. If not it would make more sense to take their bus from Kitakami station and spend the night.

When: From late spring through early fall.

Where: A few miles past the Geto Ski slope west of Kitakami. Buses from Kitakami station will take you there in about an hour. Buses leave from the Kitakami West Exit But Stop 5 twice daily at 8:20am and 3pm. Fare is 1,080 yen. Map here.

Contact: Call 090-5834-5151. Detailed information is available in Japanese on the Motoyu website.

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