By Sarah Chaney
If you wander just outside of Aizuwakamatsu City, known for its long samurai history, you will find yourself in the mountains of Higashiyama. This small hot spring town is well known in the area for its gorgeous views throughout the seasons. In spring, the mountains are speckled with beautiful pink blossoms, while in fall, the mountains burn with red, orange and yellow colors. During the winter you can feel snowflakes melt on your shoulders in the outdoor hot springs or enjoy the mountains covered in luscious green during the summer.
I have personally visited Higashiyama on several occasions, having stayed in two different hotels (modern and traditional), visited on several day trips, and participated in one of my favorite and unique festivals. This festival, called the Higashiyama Water Throwing Festival, is held annually every August and the normally quiet town is filled with laughter and chanting as water is thrown upon a portable shrine and the people carrying it upon their shoulders.
Whether you are looking for a hot spring overlooking the city on a roof, designed to look like the water is cascading over the glass walls into the city, or a quiet hot spring facing the river and mountains, Higashiyama has something for everyone. Whether you are looking for a modern Japanese hotel, or experience a traditional Japanese inn called a ryokan, Higashiyama has over twenty different hotels to fit your needs and your budget.
Although this hot spring town is located outside of Aizuwakamatsu City, there is plenty of access by free shuttles offered by hotels, a 35-minute bus ride or a 15-minute taxi ride. The buses run from 8am until 5:30pm at 30-minute intervals for 200 yen one way for adults and 100 yen for children. You can also opt to purchase the day pass for 500 yen for adults and 250 yen for children. This pass is good for a day and can take you around to some of the most popular tourist sites in the area. You can find out more information at the tourist desk at Aizuwakamatsu Station, which is available in English.
If you are planning to stay in the city but would like to visit the hot springs for a day trip, many of the hotels are open to visitors during a set time period during the day for a set fee which usually includes a towel and access to the toiletries provided in the hot spring.
Even if you are unsure of which hotel you would like to visit, drop by the information center in Higashiyama which is right next to the Higashiyama Bus stop. Here they can provide you with a map and more information about their recommended hot springs and which ones are available for day trips.
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Greetings! I am currently sailing through my second year living in Fukushima. In the four years I've lived in Japan, I have realized that Fukushima is Japan's best kept secret. With JapanTravel.com, I look forward to helping people be able to learn more about Fukushima and also assist with translating Japanese articles into English. If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message!