Top ChoiceLodging in Northern Honshū (Tōhoku)Tsuru-no-yu Onsen
The jewel of Nyūtō, Tsuru-no-yu is the epitome of the Japanese ryokan: discreet, atmospheric and sumptuous. At every turn there's another picture-perfect moment, from the slick suites opening up to the forest floor to the Edo-era artworks lining the halls. Evenings are distinguished by memorable meals and guests in yukata (light cotton kimonos) socialising by lantern light. Reservations are essential. The cheaper rooms have shared facilities. The newer Yamanoyado building is 1km back down the road towards the centre of Nyūtō, and very comfortable. Baths are open to visitors 10am to 3pm (admission ¥600) daily except Mondays. According to lore, the onsen became the official bathhouse of Akita's ruling elite after a hunter once saw a crane (tsuru) healing its wounds in the spring. Its milky-white waters are rich in sulphur, sodium, calcium chloride and carbonic acid. The mixed rotemburo (outdoor bath) is positively jubilant, although shyer folk can take refuge in the indoor sex-segregated baths.