Located on the eastern slope of Mt. Nasu in Tochigi Prefecture, Nasu Hot Spring Village has some onsen that have been around since the 8th century, among the oldest in Japan. This mountain escape is the place to soothe body and mind in a gorgeous natural setting.
While you're in the area, a great way to justify lazing around in heated waters is a climb up and around Mt. Nasu and the surrounding highlands. There are plenty of trails through the forests, and trekking through the valleys in autumn is a fiery thrill.
Nasu Hot Spring Village is accessible from Tokyo via the bullet train, followed by a bus from Nasushiobara Station.
Take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Nasushiobara Station. The ride will take about 75 minutes. You can also ride the JR Utsunomiya Line from Tokyo's Ueno Station to Nasushiobara, which takes around three hours.
From there, buses run to the Nasu Ropeway, passing through Nasu Hot Spring Village along the way. The hot spring facilities are scattered across the mountainside. The bus ride will take 40 minutes to an hour depending on where you get off.
You can drop in at one of the village's public onsen and bathe in the healing waters for just a few hundred yen. The village has both indoor and outdoor baths, including several along a naturally heated river. The qualities of the waters vary as well. Some include magnesium, other sulfur or alkaline, each having different health benefits.
You could also go for the complete onsen experience and book yourself a night at one of the many traditional Japanese inns here, which are known as ryokan. Stays at ryokan typically include a hearty dinner and breakfast.
The most popular hot spring among Nasu Onsen locals is also the oldest and simplest. Legend says Shika-no-Yu, the “deer spring,” was named after locals witnessed an injured deer completely heal after jumping into the steaming pool. It's been renowned for its healing powers ever since.
Whether the legend is true or not, Shika-no-Yu offers delightful therapeutic soaks in a traditional atmosphere for just a few hundred yen. Be careful when entering the baths, though, as they are piping hot.
For hot spring lovers looking for something more contemporary, the expansive Yu-Yu Tengoku offers an impressive 44 styles of baths and saunas. Try out the sake bath, the herb bath, and the mist sauna, to name a few of your off-beat options. The Aqua Venus pool and water park offer a chance to get active.
Mt. Nasu is a great area for hiking and enjoying Tochigi's splendid natural environment. For a great view of the area, you can climb to the top of 1,915-meter Mt. Chausu, one of the area's most prominent peaks.
The Nasu Ropeway will take you most of the way up. From the top ropeway station, it's about a 40-minute hike to the summit over steep, rocky terrain. Once there, you'll be rewarded with a panoramic vista that includes the dense Nikko forests to the west and the Nasu Range to the east.
While in the village, the volcanic gas-venting Murder Stone is also worth a quick look. Legend says that a nine-tailed demon fox was sealed beneath the boulder to keep it from wreaking havoc. The demon fox was less than happy about the situation, and its aura of death was still able to simmer through, killing plants and animals nearby.