May 1, 2009

Kappa-no-yu, Oku-yagen Onsen, Aomori Pref.

[update] Kappa-no-yu reopened in April 2011. It's no more gender mixed onsen. Available for men from 7AM to 9AM, 11:10AM to 1:00PM, and 3:10PM to 5:00PM. As for wemwn, from 9:10AM to 11:00AM and 1:10PM to 3:00PM. Available until 11:00AM only on every Wednesday.

Aomori (青森), the northernmost prefecture of Honshu Island and Tohoku Region carries many good onsens. My choice for this post is Kappa-no-yu (かっぱの湯) at Oku-yagen Onsen (奥薬研温泉) in beautiful forest of Shimokita Peninsula.

Kappa no Yu on a rainy day in mid summer.(photo: Jul.2006)

It's quite simple. Just park your car, walk down stairs toward Ohata River and you'll see the big open-air bath with changing space, which is divided into two parts. A sign board on the wall says "Don't bring in anything but towels" in Japanese. It means swim suites bathing isn't allowed here.

If it's embarrassing for you, there is a commercially run Meoto Kappa-no-yu (夫婦かっぱの湯), gender separated open-air baths nearby. I' m afraid I don't know details of it as I haven't been there.

The Kappa is one of the legendary monster spirits of Japan. A Kappa is believed to have carried an injured monk here and cured his injury with this onsen in 9th century. That's why there is a small statue of Kappa by the rim of the bath. I saw someone had left offerings of coins and a glass of sake (Japanese rice wine) to the Kappa.

Hot spring water looks green on the photo, but it's transparent, rather hot at 42-43 degrees when I visited in mid summer. The best season to visit is late October. You'd be surrounded with colorful forest of red and yellow leaves.

Kappa-no-yu, Oku-yagen Onsen(奥薬研温泉かっぱの湯)

Type: Gender mixed open-air bath. Swim suites bathing and use of soap & shampoo not allowed.

Address: Oku-yagen, Ohata-machi, Mutsu-city, Aomori Pref. (青森県むつ市大畑町奥薬研)

Available hour: Anytime year round (no lighting facilities)

Holiday: None (but Wed. morning is unavailable for cleaning)

Admission fee: Free

Equipment: None except changing space with shelves. There is a camp site nearby.

Access: It's difficult to visit here by public transportation. From Shimokita railway station of Ohminato-line, take a bus to Ohata Bus Center (45 minutes), then take a taxi (15 minutes). If you are going to stay at a ryokan of Yagen Onsen, you can expect discount rate for taxi or your ryokan might offer free shuttle service between Ohata and Yagen Onsen. Oku-yagen Onsen is about 2km away from Yagen Onsen (Oku-yagen means deep yagen).

My rating (out of five): 4

External links:
Map of Kappa no Yu in English (scale changeable)
Slide show of Kappa no Yu with music (click the green "PLAY" bottun)
You can see more photos here (written in Japanese)

[Note] I have difficulty finding a detailed free on-line map of Japan in English. Google map is written in Japanese, and the map of is useless, too. If you have any suggestions, please leave me a comment.


  1. Hi Onsen soaker
    That is my prefered onsen kind.In the country side,allong the riwer,surrounded by the nature hoppefully not overcrowded mixed gender naked with mutual respect as japanese has teached;
    Mid july i have a business trip near Aomori.I will have car , how fare is it from Aomori.
    If you know same kind of onsen for a one day trip around Tokyo i am very interested;
    Onsen tomodachi

  2. Hi Dreny-san,

    I checked a Japanese drive map site. According to the map, it's 123km from Aomori to Oku-yagen Onsen, takes about 4 hours one way (There is no express way).

    And you can't expect this type of onsen in and around Tokyo. If there is, so many men flock there everyday.

  3. Hi Onsen soaker
    Thanks for the information.
    I will see with my collègues from the company if we can go there.
    I agree with you about the the unbalanced gender ratio.Near Shirakawa i have been a few times to the same onsen inside a wooden buiding. When couple are there more couple enter and soak together, but when only men are there no lady enter later.
    Mata ne Dreny

  4. Incredible! Thanks for sharing... great pictures as well.

  5. What an amazing onsen!
    I really love to go to that onsen if I have chance visiting Japan again, and hopefully I can make it :)
    The only onsen I ever tried was in Gifu but can't remember the name. Last year I visited Osaka but once again couldn't manage to visit Arima onsen :(

  6. Hi HSG!
    Thanks. I forgot to take pictures of surrounding area as heavy rain started.

  7. Hi Rashai!

    Onsen in Gifu... Too many. Most famous is Gero, but you might have been to different onsen.

    I hope you can visit good onsen next time. Arima is surely worth visiting!

  8. hello Onsen Soaker-san,

    wow, what a beautiful place to enjoy . . . Life.
    i found your blog by chance. ichi go ichi e, ne.

    hope you had a nice GW!

  9. Hi Tonykaku-san,
    Thanks for your comment. Acctually my GW started May 5th and now I'm in Beijing, China. I visited the Great Wall toay. I will try to visit onsen around Beijing tommorow. I hope I can make it!

  10. Hi Onsen soaker
    Happy golden week in China.
    Please come us back with other fantastic onsenin China or Japan
    Mata ne

  11. Hi Dreny-san!
    Just came back to Tokyo this evening.
    Chotto Matte.

  12. Hi Onsen Soaker,

    My husband and I will be in Yagen valley tomorrow and Thursday. I had hoped to check out the Kappa No Yu onsen with him. I saw your note do you know if it has actually been closed yet?

  13. Hi Jesus and Nemo,

    I haven't got any info regarding reopen of the Kappa-n- yu so far.


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