Hot Springs Resort
Forty minutes outside Shinjo, hidden away in the mountains of Yamagata, Hijiori Onsen provides a traditional ryokan experience amidst an extraordinary natural landscape. Far from the crowds, you can enjoy legendary hot springs, exceptional farm-fresh Japanese cuisine, and a romantic stay at one of the many family operated ryokan in town.
Hijiori Onsen: In The Heart of the Mountain
Of the thousands of hot springs that cover Japan, few feel quite so remote as Hijiori Onsen. Buried in the mountainous hinterlands of Okura-mura, Hijiori Onsen hot spring resort resides in the heart of a volcanic caldera, from which mineral rich waters feed the innumerable bathhouses and onsen ryokan throughout this tiny hamlet. Known mainly to locals for its legendary and often-thought miraculous healing waters, a rare few travelers outside of Japan ever set foot inside the village. But residents of Hijiori Onsen, all descendants of the original Edo Period village founders, are eager to share this local secret with far-flung visitors willing to make the trip.
A journey to Hijiori Onsen brings about a sense of having wandered into a village lost to time and the forests that surround it. Aside from modern amenities, Hijiori Onsen retains much of its 17th century Edo Period rustic elegance. The same twenty-six founding families operate all the ryokan and shops in town, and that sense of community handed down through the generations still permeates daily life here.
The Legend of Hijiori Onsen
Hijiori Onsen is also a sacred place, and the discovery of its hot springs, steeped in legend. Every resident knows the story well…
It was here that 1200 years ago a Buddhist mountain ascetic took a deadly fall
from a nearby peak. On the way down, he broke his elbow, but also happened to tumble into one of the warm natural pools bubbling up around the Dozan River. As the legend goes, his wounds we’re instantaneously healed by the waters. Ever since, Hijiori Onsen has become not only a site for wounded patrons seeking respite for their various ailments, but also a holy pilgrimage for worshippers of the venerable Jizo-sama, that long ago monk’s cherished bodhisattva.
World Class Ryokan and Dining
While many visitors continue to seek out the promise of healing from Hijiori Onsen, many more simply enjoy the naturally therapeutic and relaxing effects of hot spring bathing, as well as the opportunity to experience the best of Japanese lodging in a ryokan. And as with any ryokan stay, excellent kaiseki ryori—traditional Japanese cuisine—can be expected as part of the package.
At Hijiori Onsen, local farms and a myriad of wild foraged delicacies provide the basis for exceptional dining at whatever hotel you choose, and every morning vendors line the main street of town, selling a variety of produce, mountain vegetables, and homemade goods. One unique aspect of Hijiori Onsen as that several ryokan even allow customers to use their kitchen to prepare foods purchased from the market!
While a certain unhurried air permeates the village, more active-minded visitors will find plenty of things to do here as well, from hiking trails to veritably empty country roads ideal for cycling day rides. One can also simply take a leisurely stroll about the impossibly narrow village streets or along the banks of the Dozan River, to which the village calls its home.