Naruko Onsen, within reach of Tokyo, is a quaint onsen town reminiscent of Kyuushuu's Beppu, yet smaller and more intimate. The scent of onsen water pervades the valley and the clop-clop of geta-clad onsen hopping couples dressed in colorful yukata make this a wonderful spot to visit. Not to be missed is Takinoyu, a beautiful old onsen with hot water channeled in through wooden sluices, and plenty of wizened grandparents. Several ashiyu, one of them right outside the train station, make for pleasant meandering about town.
Getting here from Tokyo requires a quick Shinkansen zip to Furukawa station and then a transfer on a local line. Buses also depart from nearby Sendai, and are almost as fast as the train. Naruko is wonderfully quaint, still retaining an innocence and calm that places like Echigo-Yuuzawa have lost...it's a wonderful stopover on any onsen tour. It's also famous for the wooden dolls, called Kokkeshi, which are made on spindles and then painted. Souvenir hungers will appreciate their durability, and (for some) they're a whimsical gift to bring home.
Recommend an Onsen!
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