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Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen: Aomori's Serene Seaside Hot Spring

Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen: Aomori's Serene Seaside Hot Spring

Date published: 10 April 2023

Picture this: a stunning open-air hot spring perched on the edge of the Sea of Japan, surrounded by breathtaking natural scenery. That's Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen, a hidden gem in Aomori Prefecture, Japan's charming Tohoku region.

We recently had the pleasure of spending a night in an ocean-view room by the hot spring, indulging in an irresistible feast of fresh seafood. Trust us, it was paradise!

Here, we'll share everything you need to know before visiting Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen. We'll cover everything from proper hot spring etiquette to the best ways to get there. So sit back, relax, and let's dive into this hot spring haven together!

What is Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen?

What is Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen?

Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen is a hot spring with a single hotel in the township of Fukaura in Aomori Prefecture, sandwiched between the dynamic Sea of Japan and the World Heritage Site of Shirakami-Sanchi. Its greatest charm is its liberating open-air hot spring built right in front of the Sea of Japan, allowing bathers to enjoy the unbroken scenery of the blue sea and sky stretching out as far as the eye can see.

The name “Furofushi,” which means “perpetual youth and longevity,” comes from the water’s high concentration of hydrogen carbonate ions, which have potent heat retention and moisturization effects and are believed to beautify skin and reduce aging. Since the hot spring was dug up and the hotel was established in 1970, it has earned itself a great reputation amongst locals and has recently started to attract tourists from across Japan and even internationally.

The most popular time to visit is in the evening, when the setting sun dyes the sky a fiery orange, sure to take your breath away. The hotel is also a hit, boasting ocean views from all rooms, dinners, and breakfasts packed with seafood, and more, allowing guests to relish the Sea of Japan with all your senses.

How to get to Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen

How to get to Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen

The closest station to Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen is Wespa Tsubakiyama Station, on the JR Gono Line. You can reach it from both Akita and Aomori via JR services. The fastest method of travel is taking the rapid express train Resort Shirakami, which has 2-3 services per day from Akita Station and Shin-Aomori Station/Hirosaki Station, connecting to Wespa Tsubakiyama Station directly without need to change trains. However, the train may not run depending on the season and day, so make sure to check the JR East schedule on the official website in advance. It takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes from Akita Station and 3 hours from Shin-Aomori Station.

If you opt for the regular trains on the JR Gono Line, it will take about 2 hours and 40 minutes from Akita Station and 4 hours from Shin-Aomori Station. However, you’ll need to change trains, and depending on the time, you may have to wait a while between services, so do some research in advance.

Traveling by regular train will mean changing to the Gono Line at Higashi-Noshiro Station from Akita Station (2 hours 40 minutes), or at Kawabe Station from Shin-Aomori Station (4 hours). The transfer times at each are short, but don't panic, as the Gono Line stops at the platform just across the station.

Wespa Tsubakiyama Station is covered by the JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area), so if you use the regular train, you’ll incur no extra fees for traveling. However, if you opt for the Resort Shirakami, you’ll need to purchase a separate reserved ticket from the machine, and box seats can only be reserved at the JR EAST Travel Service Center or a JR Ticket Office (Midori-no-Madoguchi), so please make sure to book before the departure time.

A free shuttle bus runs from Wespa Tsubakiyama Station, reservable using Booking.com. When making your reservation, copy and paste this message into the special requests field: 無料送迎バスを希望します. The bus takes around 15 minutes.

There is also a bus operated by the Konan Bus Company that runs on the Lake Juniko Line from Wespa Tsubakiyama Station to Furofushi Onsen, which costs 210 yen and takes about 10 minutes. However, depending on your train’s arrival time, you may need to wait between 30 minutes to an hour for it. Check the latest schedule at the official website (only in Japanese).

Our experience at Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen's open-air baths

Our experience at Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen's open-air baths

Without further ado, let’s start our trip to Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen! After arriving at Wespa Tsubakiyama Station, we boarded the free shuttle bus. The driver was waiting for us, and only checked if we were heading to Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen, so there was no need to show tickets or anything. Depending on the number of visitors, a larger minibus may be used instead.

After a 5-minute drive, we arrived at Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen. Without any other tall buildings or hotels nearby, the area was serene and quiet, and we could hear the waves all the way from the entrance.

The front desk has a high ceiling and spacious lounge with sofas, alongside seasonally-changing displays. It was close to Japan’s Hinamatsuri festival when we visited, so the room was adorned with gorgeous “hina” dolls used to pray for the growth of girls. The hotel staff generally only speak Japanese, but can manage some simple English phrases to help international travelers if need be.

The open-air baths are divided between mixed-gender and women-only, and special bathing suits can be rented for free at the front desk. You can choose between a one-piece dress and shorts, made from a thick bath towel-like fabric to ensure your skin won’t appear underneath.

However, these cannot be worn in the indoor bath. Those with tattoos should speak with the hotel staff before hopping into the public baths.

In addition, bath towels and hand towels with original designs are placed in guestrooms. Make sure to bring both to the open-air hot spring.

There are two facilities at Furofushi Onsen - the Main Building (Honkan) and the New Building (Shinkan), and the open-air hot spring is a part of the Main Building. For those staying in the New Building, it is a little more complicated to reach, but maps in English are available at the front desk.

There is also a connecting passageway between the Main Building and New Building on the 3rd floor, which you can take to the elevator to reach the 1st floor.

The 1st floor is the entrance for day-trippers, where they can take off their shoes and put on slippers. But if you’re staying the night, you should have already received special indoor slippers, so there’s no need to change here.

There are no English signs on the 1st floor, so just follow the "→" sign in the direction of the open-air hot spring.

Take one of the baskets to hold your possessions at the entrance, and head outside. The caution signs here read, “no photography in the open-air bath,” “outside temperatures and wind can make the bath feel lukewarm,” and “there is no place to wash your body, so please splash water over your body in the indoor bath before bathing.”

As beautiful as the scenery is, do not take photographs, including with your smartphone. (We received special permission to photograph for this article.)

After opening the glass door, we could see the open-air hot spring at the back of the gravelly coastline. We walked 2-3 minutes down the path, still with snow remaining from winter, feeling our excitement heighten with each step.

There is a space to place your clothes, however, you’ll be in full view of the hotel from here, so we recommend wearing your bathing suit under a yukata or jacket. Be sure to bring your bath towel too, or else you'll be freezing by the time you walk back.

We felt the wind grow stronger as we approached the ocean, and the smell of salt water engulfed our senses. Being on a protruding bit of coastline, it feels almost the same as being out at sea.

To the left is the mixed-gender bath, while the right is the women’s bath, divided by an entrance separated by rocks. These distinctions are only written in Japanese, so take care not to enter the wrong one. After our long journey, we couldn’t wait to hop in and discover what scenery awaited!

With the magnificent Sea of Japan, clear skies, and refreshing ocean breeze, ‘liberating’ is the word that best describes Furofushi Onsen!

It’s so near to the ocean that it feels like the waves will crash into you, and while there are many seaside hot springs in Japan, we’ve never seen one so close before!

While the water is only moderately warm, there are steps to sit on in the bath, so you can soak all the way up to your hips or neck for complete comfort.

Gazing upon the distant seabirds and cargo boats while listening to the waves and wind will give you a calming feeling of connection to the ocean. While the most popular time is sunset, the dazzling sunrise sparkling upon the water’s surface in the morning is equally worth seeing.

The Sea of Japan can be notoriously rough and stormy during winter, however, this is just part of the allure of Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen. Watching the tall, violent waves raging against the coastline while bathing blissfully is an otherworldly experience rarely encountered elsewhere.

Keep in mind that the open-air hot spring is only for soaking, so to wash your hair and body, stop by the indoor bath in the New Building first. This bath also has its own outdoor section, which likewise presents stunning Sea of Japan views.

Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen is an iron sodium chloride high-salt spring. Its potent iron concentration gives it a reddish brown hue from exposure to the air. These waters are said to be effective at alleviating skin troubles, cuts, and more, and are often nicknamed “Bihada no Yu,” meaning “the hot water of beautiful skin.”

The guestrooms at Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen

The guestrooms at Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen

There are three types of guestrooms at Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen: Japanese-Western twins, Japanese rooms for large groups, and single rooms. Within the Japanese-Western room is a spacious traditional tatami space with a bed, promising a restful stay.

All rooms have sinks and toilets, so there’s no need to share with other guests.

At the back of the rooms is a television, table, and two chairs, so you can spread out and unwind in privacy.

However, the biggest charm of staying at Furofushi Onsen are the ocean views, framing a picture-perfect scene from each room. Wake up early to watch as the color of the sky changes with the rising sun.

Breakfast and dinner buffets - Packed with fresh seafood like tuna and salmon!

Breakfast and dinner buffets - Packed with fresh seafood like tuna and salmon!

For dinner, we got stuck into a seafood-based buffet boasting a hefty lineup of fresh salmon, squid, and other types of sashimi, roasted scallops, abalone tempura, and more, worthy of the region’s reputation as a prosperous fishing town.

In fact, Fukaura boasts the highest catch of tuna in Aomori, and top-quality tuna sashimi is the star of the buffet.

You can also opt for a “nokkedon” seafood bowl, which lets you put your favorite ingredients atop a helping of rice. Our visit’s selections included soy sauce-marinated salmon roe, flying fish roe, and squid marinated in Japanese pepper. The spread of seafood shone like jewels, teasing our appetite and making us unable to resist chowing down.

There is also a menu of small dishes, including local household recipes passed down in the fishing villages of Fukaura, like abalone and squid soup and amberjack fish deep fried and soaked in broth. This kind of regional food is rarely seen at restaurants, so don’t waste the opportunity to try something new and delicious!

In addition to seafood, there is a bulky and nutritious meat-lover’s menu flaunting favorites like grilled Japanese Black wagyu and Sakurahime chicken grilled in herbs. With so much to choose from, we were initially overwhelmed, and our plates soon became full of all the tantalizing delicacies that caught our eye.

Once we’d had our fill of main dishes, we turned our attention to the dessert selection of cakes, ice creams, and more, to finish off. Don’t forget to try the 100% apple juice, a speciality of Aomori, which has a rich flavor and delightful sweetness.

Breakfast is also a buffet of simple yet tasty and nutritious Japanese-style dishes like grilled fish, spicy cod roe, tofu, and cod soup. Sashimi is also served, letting you enjoy one final helping before heading off.

Souvenirs at Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen

Souvenirs at Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen

Next to the 1st floor front desk of the New Building is a shop selling specialties from Aomori. It is open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., so you can stop by after bathing or eating, or while waiting for the free shuttle bus once you’ve checked out.

We recommend Fukaura’s own brand of carrot called “Fukaura Yuki Ninjin.” These carrots are grown slowly under the snow to yield a rich sweetness, making them great as jam (430 yen) and salad dressing (590 yen), amongst other products.

Also popular are Furofushi Onsen’s original t-shirts, postcards, soaps, and towels. With its promise of immortality, it might be worth picking something up to see if its power rubs off on you!

Sightseeing around Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen

Aoike Pond at Shirakami-Sanchi
Aoike Pond at Shirakami-Sanchi

Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen is located in Fukaura, which sits at the base of the World Natural Heritage Site Shirakami-Sanchi. Trekking can be enjoyed in the region between April and November. The closest station to the area is Juniko Station on the JR Gono Line, where you can see the cobalt-blue Aoike Pond, one of the world’s most extensive beech tree forests, and much more.

Another famous spot in Fukaura is the Senjojiki Coast, known for its protruding bedrock caused by an earthquake in the 1700s. If you take the Resort Shirakami train for Hirosaki/Shin-Aomori Station, the train will stop here for around 15 minutes, allowing you to briefly disembark and marvel at this series of strange rock formations created by the Earth (only the Resort Shirakami 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 will stop).

Visit Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen for a one-of-a-kind Tohoku hot spring experience

Visit Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen for a one-of-a-kind Tohoku hot spring experience

With open-air hot springs brushed by raging waves, rooms with views of magnificent oceans, and scrumptious fresh seafood buffets, a trip to Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen is one of endless amazement. Easily accessible from both Akita and Aomori via JR lines, reaching this unique, off-the-beaten-track hot spring paradise is easier than you think!

*The information in this article is current as of March 2023. Please check the official website for the latest information.

Written by:

Ran Tanaka

Ran Tanaka

Ran Tanaka is a Japanese writer and travel agency employee. After working as an editor for a major website, she switched to a travel company. She specializes in travel and food-related genres, and she has covered all 47 prefectures in Japan. She regularly travels to report on hidden gems, scenic spots, and the kinds of travel tips that only a travel industry insider can know.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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