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A Haven – Visiting the Osawa Onsen in Hanamaki

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If you travel through Japan, you often experience moments in which you are seeing such beautiful scenery in front of you that you think you have stumbled into an animated film. And this is the feeling that threatens to overwhelm guests of the Osawa Onsen in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, who can climb into the outdoor hot spring and almost touch the crystal clear water of the river, which flows directly past the onsen.

Relaxing Osawa Onsen in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.

The Osawa Onsen is nestled between quiet slopes. Especially during the autumn season, the landscape offers the guests a breathtaking view that borders on surreal in all its flawless natural beauty. With an azure blue sky, the colorful autumn colors are reflected in the crystal-clear river water as if it were dyed in the most beautiful hues of crimson, green and gold.

Autumn colors at Osawa Onsen in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.
The onsen offers a stunning view at the autumn colours in all their glory.

The Osawa Onsen through the centuries

The wooden buildings of the ryokan are extensive and invite you to discover them more. The oldest parts of the architecture are over 200 years old. The hot springs itself has existed for several centuries and is still frequented by guests from near and far. In Iwate Prefecture, Osawa Onsen is a real gem worth visiting.

Legend has it that once upon a time, a white monkey was spotted washing its wounds in the hot spring water. Since then, people have come to Osawa Onsen to bathe in the hot water and heal both physically and mentally. Old onsens in particular often have a shrine nearby. The Osawa Onsen is no exception. The shrine here is dedicated to a Buddhist god of healing.

Secluded Osawa Onsen in the mountains of Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture

Visiting the Old Onsen

The Osawa Onsen Sansuikaku has several baths, some above ground with a view of the river and the surrounding mountain slopes, others are located underground and thus lie below the river water level. The baths change after certain times. For example, one pool is a woman’s bath from about 5 o’clock in the morning until 3 o’clock in the afternoon. After 3 o’clock it changes and only men are allowed.

Underground bath at Osawa Onsen in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.
This pool is beneath the river water level.

As in any onsen you have to be completely naked in Osawa Onsen to get into the water. Osawa Onsen provides baskets in which guests can store their clothes. There are shower heads, shampoo and body soap provided that allow you to thoroughly cleanse yourself before getting into the hot spring.

The underground springs are even more traditional. Here guests have to pour tubs of fresh hot water over their bodies over and over to wash themselves. Then you can go into the steamy bath, which smells slightly of sulfur and enhances the impression of being in a natural, healing hot spring.

The pools are gender-separated. However, the outdoor pool overlooking the river is the exception. Here, women and men can still bathe together and chat with each other.

Staying in a Ryokan in Hanamaki

Osawa Onsen Sansuikaku is more than just a hot spring. With its many baths and rooms, the onsen seems more like a sanctuary to which people can retreat. Many guests stay for weeks and months to bathe regularly in the healing waters and to enjoy the beautiful nature and clean air.

Bath with a view at Osawa Onsen in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.
The pools have a wonderful view at the nature outside.

The accommodation in Osawa Onsen is relatively cheap. For example, a night in the traditional rooms designed with tatami mats costs between 1500 to 3.700 yen (around 12 to 30 euros). However, things like the futon bed have to be rented. However, the onsen’s focus is not to provide luxurious accommodation, but on purifying and healing the body and mind in nature with the pure air and hot spring water.

Outdoor hot springs at Osawa Onsen in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.

A stay at the onsen and ryokan must be booked in advance. The baths are open to all; only the family bath must be reserved in advance.

The Official Link: Japan Tohoku New Toji Style

Name Osawa Onsen Sansuikaku
Category Location
Address 〒025-0244 Iwate-ken, Hanamaki-shi, Yuguchi, Ōsawa, 湯口大沢181
〒025-0244 Iwate-ken, Hanamaki-shi, Yuguchi, Ōsawa, 湯口大沢181
Opening Hours Check-in: 15:00, Check-out: 10:00
Price Range from 1500 JPY
Payment options Both