I recently visited two intriguing onsen towns in Minamiaizu.
It’s not very often that you find a train station as picturesque as Yunokami-Onsen Station, with its thatched roof and traditional architecture, surrounded by distant mountains.
I went to visit the area in winter, but here are some photographs of it throughout the year.
That station also includes a public foot-bath on the platform!
Not only is the scenery surrounding Yunokami-Onsen stunning, but the inside of the station is cosy and welcoming.
Along with the standard shop and ticket machines, the waiting area of Yunokami-Onsen is comprised of a seating area, and an irori open hearth, which is kept burning during the cold winter months to warm up waiting passengers.
This open hearth is very similar in style to what you can find in traditional farm houses in the Japanese countryside. There are also books available to borrow whilst you are waiting!
Yunokami-Onsen is blessed with stunning scenery, natural hot springs, and two incredible places that visitors to Fukushima should place at the top of their priorities. One is the beautiful Ouchijuku
and the other is To-no-Hetsuri.
Whilst Ouchijuku can be reached by bus or taxi from Yunokami-Onsen, To-no-Hetsuri is located just one stop on from Yunokami-Onsen on the Aizu Railway.
Ashinomaki Onsen is also a hot spring town blessed with rather stunning scenery.
I recommend looking out onto the town from the main bridge (see the photograph below).
As an onsen town, Ashinomaki Onsen offers a range of traditional ryokan accommodation establishments, some of which offer guests the change to experience mochi (rice-cake) pounding experiences.
It would also be nice to take a walk around the town, as there are a number of public footbaths, shrines, and even a hot spring waterfall!
Many of the ryokan (traditional inns) in Ashinomaki Onsen have outdoor baths, so you can relax outside whilst taking in the breathtaking scenery. To be honest, my first thought when I visited Ashinomaki Onsen is that it looked a bit like the hot spring spa out of Spirited Away – especially since I visited at night, and this was my view…
One of the most famous things about Ashinomaki Onsen is its feline station master! Japan has a small number of cats managing stations across the country, and Ashinomaki Onsen Station is one them!
This station master, named Love, is the second generation, taking over from Bus in 2015. You may think that Bus is a bit of an odd name for a cat, but he was actually named after the Catbus from the Studio Ghibli film My Neibor Totoro!
Love isn’t always on duty, so you have to make sure to visit him during his office hours (9:00-16:00).
Photos aren’t allowed, but you can still see him in his cute uniform and perhaps give him a stroke if you are lucky.
Both of the stations written about in this blog are on the Aizu Tetsudo (Aizu Railway Line), making them easy to visit from Aizu-Wakamatsu City.
Click here for information about the Aizu Railway. The page is in Japanese, but if you choose ‘English’ as the language at the top, you can read some information!