Takayu Onsen, Fukushima: Free-Flowing Waters With a Focus on Health
Takayu—Where the Hot Spring Cure Tradition Lives On
The Bandai-Azuma Skyline highway offers splendid views on the way into the Azuma foothills west of the Fukushima city center. Just off the Takayu toll plaza lies Takayu Onsen, at some 750 meters above sea level. Celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2007, Fukushima’s Takayu Onsen is a good reason to make a trip to Fukushima Prefecture—and to make it a long one.
Takayu Onsen’s distinguishing feature is that it has remained a spa focused on taking the waters for medical reasons, rather than pure pleasure. Back in the Edo period (1603–1868), Takayu decided that it would eschew becoming an entertainment district. It has kept the rustic hot-spring cure tradition alive since then. Unlike other onsen districts, which have concentrated on tourism development, Takayu retains an old-fashioned air.
There are nine springs in the area, each one feeding the baths at one of eight inns, like Azumaya and Tamagoyu, and the Attakayu public bath. All baths feature gravity-fed, free-flowing water. Since each source is different, the water temperature and mineral deposits in each bath also differ. But all the waters have the milky-white color characteristic of a sulfur spring and are said to help relieve hypertension, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. Tradition holds that a minimum 10-day stay is needed before the effects of the waters are felt, so leisurely stopovers are recommended. At the Attakayu public bath in the center of the town, all baths are in the open air, with gender-segregated baths and rental baths for private use.
By car: Via the Tōhoku Expressway’s Kawaguchi Junction to Fukushima Nishi (254 km), around 3 hours, and then 17 km by regular road to Takayu Onsen, 30 min.
By rail and bus: JR Tōhoku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Fukushima Station, 1 hr 30 min. Takayu Onsen is about 15 km from Fukushima Station and can be reached by Fukushima Kōtsū Bus (40 min) or by taxi (30 min). Some inns also provide courtesy buses.
Takayu Hot Spring Tourism Association
(Originally published in Japanese on April 15, 2018. Banner photo: The bath inside the thatched-roof hut at Tamagoyu. Photo courtesy of Takayu Hot Spring Tourism Association.)