Fall Off the Beaten Path: A Weekend Getaway to Sakunami Onsen

Source: Gaijin Pot
Sakunami Onsen fields in the morning

“What you seek is seeking you.”

Trying to decide my next weekend travel destination, I remembered a conversation I had with a friend from Sendai, northern Japan’s largest city, who told me lovely things about a place called Sakunami Onsen.

I’d already done the so-called golden route, twice: Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone and back to Tokyo. Having lived here for a few years, I needed something that wasn’t going to be in any “Top 10” rankings or travel guidebooks. A place accessible enough that I could get there for a weekend, but also remote enough that I could actually, genuinely discover it. After researching and finding not much online — it seemed serendipitous, Sakunami Onsen had found me.

Day One

From city to country

I arrived by train to Sakunami to brisk air hitting my face; an air that was cleaner, lighter, and that instantly snapped me out of the Tokyo commuter mode I’d been in two hours earlier.

Gorilla Mountain Sakunami Onsen

Surrounded by nature, autumn leaves on display, and a tiny train station filled with character, this place was exactly what I had hoped. A charming train station attendant appeared straight away to tell me all about the history of the station and how it came to be. She sent me on my way, but not before making sure that I buy zunda mochi at Tsutsumiya — a regional edamame-based sweet that this tiny store is nationally famous for.

Making friends already

I went down the quiet road to take it all in. I spotted a community center nearby, selling locally grown produce. There, I met the organizer for its attached culture center who told me about a soba-making workshop they were hosting. I was more than welcome to come, he …continue reading