Wednesday, April 24, 2019

One of Japan's Best Hot Spring Inns

This is one of Japan's Best Hot Springs
When people learn that I have bathed in about 600 hot springs in Japan, they usually ask for my favorites. At the end of March, I stayed at Aoni Onsen.  Now, my answer is that this is one of Japan's best hot springs. It has everything that I want in an onsen. But it also lacks something that almost all hotels provide and that most people cannot imagine being without. A significant part of the allure of Aoni Onsen is that absence.
Private Dining at the Traditional Aoni Inn
Look at the photographs above and below. What is missing that you would find at almost every other hotel around the world today?
A Hot Bath in an Old Wooden Barrel amid Snow
The answer is electric lighting. Kerosene lamps are what you are looking at. The rooms do not come with electricity.  Forget about TV,  video games, phone calls,  email messages, distracting beeps, and electronic vibrations.  What you will get is time well spent with friends, time being aware of your body and your surroundings, and time that seems to slow down. Call it mindfulness if you wish.
Another Great Bath. A 30-Meter-High Waterfall is to the Right.

One of my travel companions described his reaction to the Aoni Inn: "I was worried at first that the loss of connection to the outside world would make me jittery. But it proved unfounded. What a relief I felt. My checking, minding and concentrating days are gone. I have never imagined that being untethered was so therapeutic. And the onsen. The clear hot water looked no different from the hot tub at home. But it felt so soft, and a couple of minutes in the tub warmed my body from the core. Based on my seat-of-the-pants understanding, there are two kinds of onsen; stimulating or soothing. Aoni onsen belongs to the latter and completely matched with the ambiance of the lamp-lit inn."
Stream By the Traditional Ryokan
Why doesn't the Aoni Inn have electric lights and outlets? The manager explains that the inn was built before any homes or buildings in that remote area had electricity. The nearby town got electricity years before the Aoni Inn did. Remember that the Aoni Inn is in one of the most remote regions of Aomori prefecture, Japan. When electrical lines were finally connected to the Aoni Inn, the connection was weak and unstable. In the meantime, people around the world were becoming unhealthily addicted to Internet services. Visitors were amazed by the depth of relaxation that they experienced when they were cut off from electrical appliances. Guests started calling the Aoni Inn as the Lamp Inn. People love the atmosphere of the kerosene lamps and heaters. The hotel management decided to limit the flow of electricity to just a few machines in the main office. Word spread about this old-fashioned oasis.
Simple Rooms with Super Views                Photo Courtesy of Jiji Press
Rooms are simple. You'll sleep on a soft mattress on a tatami floor. The screens are traditional paper screens. Both the lighting and the heating are powered by kerosene. The heat and intensity of illumination are easily changed. My room did not have a private toilet, so I walked down the hallway to a shared one. It was clean. When I opened the window and briefly looked upwards before sleeping, I had a glimpse of the sparkling Milky Way. Secluded in rugged mountains, the Aoni Inn's skyscape is unaffected by light pollution.
Exquisitely Prepared Mountain Delicacies            Photo Courtesy of Jiji Press
And the food! The chefs are experts. They transform river fish, mountain vegetables, and local farm products into gourmet dishes that are deceptively simple in appearance. The flavors are rich and natural. These are meals that showcase pride in traditional Aomori cuisine. You will not be served coffee or bread or cereal. Immerse yourself in the food culture just as you do the bathing culture.
Spring Shifting into Summer Along the Aoni River     Photo by the Aoni Inn
I experienced the Aoni Inn in winter. My dream is to return in spring, summer, and fall. Each season will provide different colors and temperatures. So much to sense!
The Aoni Inn Dressed for Autumn      Photo by the Aoni Inn
The long six-kilometer private road that leads to the inn is a perfect place for strolling, flower viewing, and spotting wildlife. You can also walk to a nearby dam. Do not worry about traffic jams.
This is the Same Bathing Area Shown in the Third Photograph from the Top           Photo by Aoni Inn
The Aoni Inn is one of the top ten best hot springs in Japan because of the stunning natural beauty of its surroundings, because of the excellent preparation of local Aomori foods, because of the variety of baths with different views, and because of the simple, natural lifestyle that it reminds us to enjoy. The Aoni Inn did not take long to detoxify the stress of modern living from my soul. I honestly did not want to leave. The Aoni Inn did not pay me for this positive review.
Clean Thermal Water that Runs Without Stopping                        Photo by Aoni Inn

Address 1-7 Aonisawa Takinoue Okiura Kuroishi-shi Aomori-ken 036-0402
Tel 0172-54-8588

For rates, click this link to the official webpage of the Aoni Inn.

For directions to the Aoni Inn and for information regarding activities in the area, click this link to a site run by the Aomori government.

For information about other fantastic hot springs in winter, check out these links:  Shirohone Onsen, The Cloud Sea Bath, Hot Springs for Swallows, Zao Onsen, Intercultural Bathing in Hokkaido, Various Winter Springs, Black Onsen Water in Myoko Kogen, and Tainai, Niigata. 


  1. I wish I were in Aoni onsen now.

  2. Another great hot spring is Renge Onsen in Niigata.

    1. Renge Onsen in Itoigawa, Niigata, is also fantastic. Please read my post about it. I was there about five years ago.

  3. Looks amazing we have some great hot springs here in Chiba you should check them out.

  4. Hello Bernie

    I plan on visiting hot springs in all areas of Japan. Thanks for the suggestion. Please continue to read and comment.


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