Zao Onsen Guide

Zao Onsen is an Onsen resort located in the Zao mountain range at an altitude of about 880 meters in the southeastern part of Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture. It is said that the opening of the Onsen was in 110 AD, and it has a history of about 1900 years. In ancient times, it was called Takayu Onsen, and along with Nobuo Takayu (Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture) and Shirabu Takayu (Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture), it is a famous Onsen that has been known as the "Oshu 3 Takayu". The hot water is a strongly acidic sulfur spring that has the effect of creating beautiful skin. In order to give you a sense of the original ingredients of Onsen, many facilities offer Onsen flowing from the source.

Get to know Zao Onsen

Area guide

There are three communal baths in Zao Onsen. At Zao Onsen, you can not only stay overnight, but also enjoy day-trip bathing facilities and stopping by at hotels and inns.

You can easily enjoy the historic famous Onsen in the communal bathhouse. Zao Onsen has three communal baths: "Kamiyu", "Shimoyu", and "Kawahara-yu". Each communal bath is within a 3-minute walk, so it is convenient to visit the baths.

Kamiyu is the oldest communal bath and is located in front of the torii gate of the Sukawa Onsen Shrine.

In addition to Shimoyu, there are also hand baths and foot baths that anyone can use.

Kawahara-yu is a rare Onsen in Japan where the source springs from the bottom of the bathtub. Hot springs begin to oxidize when they spring up above the ground and come into contact with the air. The hot water of Kawahara Yu is poured directly into the bathtub without being exposed to the air. Therefore, you can enjoy the freshest hot water.

In the Onsen town, there is also a large open-air bath that can accommodate 200 people at the same time. In the large open-air bath, you can enjoy the Onsen while listening to the sound of the river in a bathtub made of natural stones with a sense of openness.

Zao Onsen is located in the Quasi-National Park, surrounded by mountains rich in nature. Zao Kingdom Quasi-National Park is a natural park centered on the volcanic county in the Menhakusan area and the Zao mountain range. A typical tourist spot in the Zao mountain range is the crater lake "Zao's Ogama". The emerald green mysterious cauldron is a typical Zao landscape in summer.

The typical scenery of Zao in winter is tree ice. Tree ice is formed by the freezing water droplets that have become mist and freeze on the trees and grow large. Tree ice is known as a rare phenomenon in the world that can only be found in a limited area.

From the Onsen town, you can use the ropeway to trek from spring to summer, hunt for autumn leaves, and ski and snowboard at the ski resort in winter. Zao Onsen is an Onsen resort that represents the Tohoku region that can be enjoyed throughout the four seasons.


The best way to get to Zao Onsen from major cities in Japan is by plane, considering the time it takes. From Yamagata Airport to Zao Onsen, there is a sightseeing liner that requires a reservation. The sightseeing liner arrives at Zao Onsen in about 1 hour from Yamagata Airport. Please note that the highway bus from Sendai Airport to Zao Onsen is also by appointment only.

If you are using the Shinkansen or train, head to Yamagata Station. From Yamagata Station to Zao Onsen, there is one bus per hour. Zao Onsen can be reached in about 45 minutes by bus.

From Tokyo

<Shinkansen / Bus>
< Shinkansen >→ Tokyo Station→ Yamagata Station→< Bus >→ Zao Onsen (about 4 hours)

<Airplanes and sightseeing liners>
< plane >→ Haneda Airport→ Yamagata Airport→< sightseeing liner >→ Zao Onsen (about 2 hours)

From Sendai

<Trains and buses>
< Train JR Senzan Line >→ JR Sendai Station→ JR Yamagata Station→< Bus >→ Zao Onsen (about 2 hours 20 minutes)

<Airplanes and buses>
Sendai Airport →< Highway Bus >→ Zao Onsen (about 1 hour 50 minutes)
* Highway buses require reservations.

<Airplanes and Trains>
Sendai Airport →< Train Sendai Airport Line >→ Sendai Airport Station→ Sendai Station→< Train JR Senzan Line >→ Yamagata Station→< Bus>→ Zao Onsen (about 2 hours 45 minutes)

From Osaka

<Airplanes and sightseeing liners>
< Airplane >→ Itami Airport→ Yamagata Airport→< Sightseeing Liner >→ Zao Onsen (about 1 hour 20 minutes)

From Nagoya

<Airplanes and sightseeing liners>
< Airplane >→ Nagoya Airport→ Yamagata Airport→< Sightseeing Liner >→ Zao Onsen (about 1 hour 35 minutes)
* Sightseeing liners are by reservation only.

Water quality

Zao Onsen has 5 groups of springs and 47 springs branching off from them. Zao Onsen boasts one of the largest amounts of hot water in Japan, gushing out about 8,700 tons of hot water a day. Since Zao Onsen has a strong Onsen component, the Onsen that gushes out becomes cloudy white with the flowers of the Onsen component solidified.

The quality of the spring is a strongly acidic sulfur spring. When you walk through the Onsen town, you will smell a unique sulfur smell. The temperature and pH of the source vary slightly. The pH is about 1.25 to 1.6. Zao Onsen is one of the top three Onsen in Japan. In Japan, it is popular as an "Onsen for creating beauty" that whitens and smoothes the skin.

Sulfur springs are said to increase the amount of water in the body and rejuvenate the skin and blood vessels. In addition, it has the effect of promoting blood circulation and sterilizing and strengthening the skin. Therefore, you can expect a skin-beautifying effect. Due to the bactericidal effect of hot water, it is said to be effective for skin diseases such as abrasions and cuts, high blood pressure, and arteriosclerosis.

Onsen have nice benefits, but they are highly irritating, so if you have sensitive or sensitive skin, you should refrain from bathing. When bathing, be sure to check not only the indications, but also contraindications.


Cuts, burns, chronic skin diseases, frail children, chronic gynecological diseases, diabetes, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, neurosis, muscle pain, joint pain, frozen shoulder, motor paralysis, joint stiffness, bruises, sprains, chronic digestive diseases, hemorrhoids, sensitivity to cold, recovery after illness, recovery from fatigue, health promotion


People with skin and mucous membrane sensitivities, especially those with photosensitivity, xerostomia of the elderly, acute illness (especially in the presence of fever), active tuberculosis, malignancy, severe heart disease, respiratory failure, renal failure, hemorrhagic disorders, severe anemia, and other diseases that are generally ongoing, during pregnancy (especially in the early and late stages)


Zao Onsen has a history of about 1900 years. According to legend, it was discovered in 110 AD by Kibinotagayu, who served in the army of Yamato Takeru no Mikoto when he conquered the East. Kibinotagayu was hit by a poisoned arrow in battle and suffered greatly. At that time, he found a hot water that tasted like vinegar with a strange scent, and when he took a bath, he recovered in a few days.

Mt. Zao is a general name for a group of volcanoes that straddle Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures. These mountains have been revered as sacred mountains since ancient times, and have been training grounds for ascetics who seek to attain enlightenment through rigorous training in the mountains. When Zao Gongen was enshrined on the mountain, it came to be called Mt. Zao.

In the Edo period (1603~1868), it was bustling as a western trailhead to Zao Gongen, which is enshrined in Mt. Zao, and a lodging house for pilgrims developed.

In the Meiji period (1868~1912), there was a movement to eliminate Buddhism called the abolition of Buddhism. As a result, the number of pilgrims dropped sharply, and Zao Onsen became an Onsen resort in the quiet mountains.

In the Taisho period (1912~1926), a road was opened to connect the villages at the foot of the mountain with the Onsen. In addition to the development of various facilities such as street lights and a station, a tourist booklet was issued, and it began to establish a foothold as a tourist destination.

In the Showa period (1926~1989), the number of people who climbed Mt. Zao and went to the Onsen increased. In winter, after Zao was advertised as the best ski resort, the number of skiers increased rapidly. In 1958, it was designated as a national recreational Onsen resort. From the post-war economic boom, ropeways and tourist roads were developed. At the same time, hotels, guest houses, and pensions opened one after another. Zao Onsen has developed as one of the largest comprehensive mountain resorts in the Tohoku region.