Higashiyama Onsen is a historical onsen (hot spring) town located on the eastern outskirts of Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture. More than 1,300 years old, the town’s healing waters have been a respite for Buddhist priests, noble samurai, and weary travelers alike.
Today, Higashiyama Onsen is known as one of Tohoku’s top three onsen resorts. About 15 different hot spring hotels and ryokan (traditional inn) and hotels sit along the tranquil Yu River, nestled in a scenic valley. The old-style wooden ryokan are the best option, as they give you the impression of stepping back in time and make you feel like an honored guest in real traditional Japan.
Mukaitaki Ryokan is undoubtedly the most famous among Higashiyama Onsen’s ryokan. It’s well known as the valley’s most prominent landmark. It also offers its guests one of the most authentic onsen experiences you can have.
The guest rooms are designed like those which nobles stayed in when traveling during Edo Times. They all offer magnificent views towards the large traditional Japanese garden of the ryokan or the Yu River. The views change with the seasons, and the rooms also give great views of cherry blossoms in spring, summer greens, colorful autumn leaves, and pristine blankets of snow in winter.
The Mukaitaki offers several onsen baths, one of them being kazoku style, where you can enjoy the hot spring in private with your family.
The food on offer is decidedly Japanese and features local ingredients. The Aizu region is famous for sweet-water fish, beef, and delicious vegetables. The sake made from local rice is divine. Depending on the season, you will get served the best in a multitude of dishes.
Enjoy a geisha performance
Higashiyama Onsen is a certified geisha district. Thus, you can experience what it’s like to be entertained by a real, traditionally trained geisha.
The geisha of Higashiyama Onsen, locally known as geigi or kanariko, are refined stage performers, masters at playing the shamisen, and singing ancient songs about love and life. Seeing them dance and perform in their elegant kimono is utterly unforgettable.
Booking a geisha for a performance at your dinner table is also possible. While on the pricey side, sharing the bill with a group of friends would make it still quite affordable.