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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

Relaxation

Zao Onsen 蔵王温泉

One of Japan's favorite places to ski, soak and encounter snow monsters

Zao Onsen is a massively popular ski and hot spring resort area tucked between the mountains of Yamagata and Miyagi prefectures. Known for the healing and beautifying benefits of its mineral-rich waters, Zao is also a major draw during the snowy months as a ski resort. The healing waters here were apparently discovered back in A.D. 110.

The mountain setting adds a relaxing element to the experience year-round. When the weather turns warm, you can get out and hike, cycle, or trek into the forests and climb. Get out in the woods for some forest bathing, too.

Don't Miss

  • Skiing, snowboarding and apres-ski
  • Forest bathing and trekking in the warmer months
  • Visiting the "snow monsters" of Zao in winter

How to Get There

Rail and bus are the best ways to get to Zao from JR Yamagata Station, the closest major hub.

Zao Onsen is accessed most easily from the Yamagata Prefecture side via a 40-minute bus that departs hourly from Yamagata Station.

From Sendai, take the Senzan Line one hour and 15 minutes to Yamagata Station to board the bus.

On the slopes, snow or not

The ski resort is renowned for the number and quality of its runs, and both day and night skiing are options. The snow monsters trees coated with ice and snow that take on a surreal appearance, a rare winter phenomenon

The Zao area is also a popular destination for hikers and trekkers during the autumn and summer months. There are various courses suitable for anyone from beginners to experienced trekkers. You can also walk through wetlands and volcanic regions.

Zao is a great place to try forest bathing, a new concept in healing, which involves getting out and walking among the trees. This has been scientifically shown to boost your immune system and reduce blood pressure, among other benefits.

Healing those sore, tired muscles, and more

Zao's hot springs have high levels of sulfur said to be beneficial for muscle pains, chronic skin diseases, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Soaking in these acidic hot springs—which also contain high levels of aluminum, sulfate, chloride and iron—has beautifying effects as well. The water is known to rejuvenate and strengthen both skin and blood vessels, giving you a more youthful and healthy appearance. This is why Zao Onsen is also known as the “Springs of Beauty.”

Stay in town for a concentrated experience

Choose from among dozens of hot springs during your visit. Most hotels or ryokan (Japanese style inns) provide their own private hot springs to be used by overnight guests. Day visitors wishing to experience multiple baths should visit one of the public bathing facilities or spas.

Central tourism centers provide specific information and directions. In total, there are five facilities offering day visits in the area, three public hot springs, and three-foot baths.

Day-use hot springs offer the best facilities, though also cost more. Genshichi open-air spa and Zao Onsen big open-air spa offer a hot spring experience in the middle of nature. Try bathing outside in a rotenburo bath, especially during the winter months and while the snow is falling.

Bathing in public

Public baths are simpler and very cheap. You may be required to bring your own towel or bathing goods. Some of the baths are not staffed, so remember to place your entrance fee inside the collection box. An advantage of the three public baths are their long operating hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Foot baths (ashiyu) are a fun feature of many hot spring villages. Zao Onsen offers three places where you can take off your shoes or ski boots and soothe any aches for free. Two baths are open year-round, while the Shinzaemon-no-yu hot spring closes during winter.

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