Lovely Bubbly: Yuzawa's Volcano Valley
The Yuzawa area, located in the South-East corner of Akita, is mainly known for its incredible volcanic landscapes and breath-taking nature. At Oyasukyu gorge, visitors are treated to the incredible scene of a steaming volcanic river running through luscious mountainous forests. This is absolutely mesmerising particularly in the Autumn months.
Kawarage Jigoku is one of Japan’s most sacred natural wonders is a grey-white lava rock mountainous area largely devoid of flora due to the volcanic activity. Together with the steaming earth, the eerie rock formations and the strong smell of sulphur, it is said to give the impression of hell in Japanese folklore. Highlights include Kawarage Oyutaki (hot spring waterfall) that drops from a steaming hot volcanic water river from a height of 20 metres. At the foot of waterfall are natural hot spring pools where locals bathe during the summer months.
How and when to do it
Yuzawa station can be reached by train in an hour from Kakunodate - the main travellers hub for Akita. For those coming more intrepid folk coming from Dewa Sanzen in Yamagata, it is a scenic two hour drive. It is a heck of a mission getting here, but those willing will be rewarded with the best of Japan's unique nature well away from any other international travellers. We can envisage it being best suited to a small group tour and/or families doing Japan during the summer hols seeking cooler temperatures. Oyasukyo Gorge is accessible from May-October inclusive; Kawarage is from June-September. We definitely recommend visiting with a local guide to explain the remarkable geology and delightful folklore of the area.
Where to stay: Tarobee Ryokan
Just 5 minutes walk from the entrance to Oyasukyo Gorge, Tarobee is a Japanese-style ryokan which has been run by the same family for 12 generations, dating back to the Edo period. The ryokan has five different hot springs, including a 100-year-old public bath made with 50 meter long Akita cedar beams and natural stone from Kumamoto prefecture, an open air bath from where guests can enjoy the fresh mountain air whilst soaking in the natural spring waters, and an indoor private bath which we recommend booking in advance.
All the food is homemade and cooked by the landlady, and made from locally sourced seasonal ingredients including mountain vegetables and mountain stream fish. It also decorated with the most "kawaii" and impressive collection of Kokeshi dolls we've ever seen. Those visiting in May will also be treated to sakura blooming alongside the melting snow.