After a trip to the Naruko Gorge and a visit to Sakurai Kokeshi, a tired traveller needs to have a relaxing evening at the hot spring ryokan. There are many ryokans and hotels in Naruko, enough to satisfy anyone’s taste, but our recommendation is to stay at one of the most traditional ones: Uba no Yu.
Uba no Yu ryokan is situated not far from the Sakurai Kokeshi, in a quiet area, a little bit aside from the main street of Naruko. The building has a nostalgic Showa-style look, and the interior is simple and cosy. Originally it wasn’t meant for staying just overnight, it is a place where guests live for weeks, using the healing power of hot springs to the full. The ryokan is equipped with a kitchen where you can cook yourself, or you can order breakfast and/or dinner - any way you like and find convenient.
Although the building itself is not very old, the ryokan has a long history. The full name of the ryokan is “Uba no Yu, Yoshitsune Yukari no yu”, and the legend says that the place where the ryokan is situated now is exactly the same place, where Minamoto no Yoshitsune had washed his newborn son for the first time.
Uba no Yu is particularly proud with its’ hot springs. They are 100% original, there is no need to add some water to control the temperature. That makes them quite strong, meant for healing rather than relaxing, but it doesn’t mean that they are not enjoyable. The whole stay at Uba no Yu is an unforgettable experience for a foreigner who wants to enjoy Japanese traditional culture.
Little rooms with tatami. Three indoor baths with different temperature and intensity of hot springs. One beautiful outside bath, that is so good to sit in when it’s cold and snowing. Delicious meal, a mix of traditional Japanese and Western-style cuisine. The time somehow stops for a day or two and lets your body and mind have a good rest from the everyday tension.
The owner says that lately they have many visitors from different countries, and they are doing their best to help their international guests who don’t speak Japanese. Japanese hot spring culture has some rules, and it is better to remember them if you want your stay to be smooth.
First, Japanese hot springs are enjoyed without any clothes. No swimsuits, just your naked skin.
Second, you have to wash yourself before you take a bath. It is better to have your own soap and shampoo, if you have sensitive skin.
Third, it is sometimes very hard to distinguish which baths are meant for men and which ones - for women. Usually the ones with a red curtain in front of them are for women, and the ones with a blue curtain - for men, but if there is no curtain, check the characters - if they have 女、女性、婦人 in them, they are for women, but 男、男性、殿方 indicate those that are for men. There are mixed ones, too, and some are used by women in day time and by men in the evenings, or vice versa, so you should ask the stuff about that.
In Uba no Yu, the outside bath, rotenburo 露天風呂, is used by both men and women from the morning hours till 15:00, then it becomes women only, and after 21:00 it belongs to men.
If you have a chance, stay a little bit longer, for two nights, or maybe three, to experience this slowly disappearing culture of a long stay at the hot springs.
Address: 65 Kawarayu, Naruko-onsen, Osaki, Miyagi, 989-6823, Japan
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