Photo: Akiu-Canada

“Akiu-Canada” Guesthouse, Camping and Onsen

An expat-owned traditional hot spring in the wilderness of Sendai, Miyagi

By Justin Velgus    - 5 min read

“Akiu-Canada” is hard to describe in words. Guests have commented that it is an experience, a feeling, even a spiritual rebirth! The target customer is surely nature lovers and those looking to interact with other guests, but almost anyone can find something they’ll fall in love with here. Located deep inside the hilly forests of Akiu hot spring resort in the suburbs Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, this still-being-renovated century-old hot spring inn offers affordable accommodations and priceless memories.

The second floor features full height windows with a view of the river and beautifully refurbished floors that show the building's age
The second floor features full height windows with a view of the river and beautifully refurbished floors that show the building's age (Photo: Akiu-Canada)

Upon arrival, you'll quickly realize that “Akiu-Canada” is the labor of love of owner, caretaker, and host Steve. Originally from Canada, thus the naming, he purchased the aging and neglected wooden building from the previous owners which were no longer able to keep up the maintenance. With his own 3 founding principles, "Learn to work, Work to learn", "DIY for Life", "Pioneer Spirit" he began the tedious repair and renovation process. Through his own two hands, and the helping hands of dozens of volunteers and supporters over the years, the dream slowly became reality.

One of the two simple hot spring baths
One of the two simple hot spring baths (Photo: Akiu-Canada)

The extensive property features simple private guest rooms and a hot spring inside a rustic wooden building, a beach area used for camping that hugs the Natori River, forrest camp sites and a fun rabbit garden where you can pet and feed your new best fluffy friends (additional fee). Just don’t come here expecting luxury. There are parts of the building still under renovation, the occasional insect may find its way inside, and you may hear other guests through the paper doors and thin walls. Staying at Akiu-Canada supports Steve’s efforts to protect the history of the building and beauty of the land. Alternatively, Steve occasionally accepts volunteers to work the land and maintain the guesthouse in exchange for lodging. Contact the guesthouse directly for details. As a repeat visitor, I see the place becoming more comfortable and homely every year.

Camping on the riverside beach with the guesthouse in the background
Camping on the riverside beach with the guesthouse in the background (Photo: Akiu-Canada)

The humble settings, raw nature, and comradery of other guests make this place very special for not only an overnight stay, but also a day trip. Akiu Canada is popular for day trippers to set up a tent and BBQ on the beach or rent out the hot spring privately. Wandering around the property is a mini adventure. A leisurely stroll along the river, bottom of the cliffs, rabbit garden, wooded areas and campsites takes 20-30 minutes. There is plenty to see—and hear! Listening to the birds chirping and the gentle flow of the river is something few modern hotels or even increasingly commercialized campsites can offer.

The gentle flow of the Natori River is the first sound campers hear in the morning and the last one to hear before they go to bed
The gentle flow of the Natori River is the first sound campers hear in the morning and the last one to hear before they go to bed (Photo: Akiu-Canada)

The hot spring towns of Akiu and adjacent Sakunami offer the travelers more than just relaxing hot springs. Traditional crafts are made and sold at the Akiu Crafts Village, there are hiking courses like the short and satisfying Rairaikyo Gorge, and a number of independent restaurants and cafes offer delicious homemade meals and drinks.

Build your own campfire or join someone else's!
Build your own campfire or join someone else's! (Photo: Akiu-Canada – Akiu-Canada)

Speaking of food, you’ll want to bring your own when visiting Akiu-Canada as there is none available and there are no close convenience stores. However, the kitchen at the guesthouse is free of charge to use. Pick-up supplies in downtown Sendai or the central area of Akiu where the other hotels and attractions are located. Supermarket “Saichi” (主婦の店 さいち) has plenty of options, particularly their “ohagi” sweet rice cakes which are so delicious that lines of people stretch out the doors. Alternatively, how about pick up some wine at Akiu Winery or a bottle of whisky from Nikka Whisky Distillery to bring back to the guesthouse or campground? It will sure help you make some new friends!

Note that the guesthouse is closed during the winter, but direct bookings for camping during winter is accepted through the Akiu-Canada website from December 1st. Steve stresses that winter camping should only be done by veterans. The campsite water sometimes freezes and the area does get snow! Still, a few hardcore campers like to test their skills by building big fires, take-in the winter wonderland scenery, and use the secluded setting for wintertime star gazing.

Wintertime at Akiu-Canada
Wintertime at Akiu-Canada (Photo: Akiu-Canada)
Wintertime at Akiu-Canada
Wintertime at Akiu-Canada (Photo: Akiu-Canada)

----Pricing and Costs----

For up-to-date pricing and details, please see the official website. Prices below are accurate at the time of this writing.

・Japanese traditional room ¥5,500 per person.

・Room with pets is ¥4,000 per person and ¥2,000 per pet.

・Daytime rental fee for rooms starts at ¥2,000.

・Entrance fee (to use facilities, pet rabbits, walk around property, etc.) is ¥300. The price is also applied to babies and pets.

・Rabbit feeding is ¥200 yen.

・Overnight camp: ¥1,500 yen for adults, ¥750 for children, under 3 years free.

・Day Camp / space to BBQ (bring your own grill and tools): ¥700 for adults, ¥300 yen for children, under 3 years free.

・Camp site fee depends on season ¥500 〜 ¥4,000

・Volunteers are eligible to stay for a reduced or free costs. Contact Akiu-Canada for details.

Getting there

--By Public Transportation--
From JR Ayashi Station (Senzan Line), take a 30-minute bus ride heading towards “Futakichi・Uenohara・Nojirichokita.” Get off at Konosu Onsen Bus Stop, then walk 5 minutes past the Sasaki Doll Museum. Follow the colorful sign pointing down the hill to the left and go down to the river.

--By Car--
20-minute drive from the “Sendai-Minami IC” Tohoku Expressway.

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Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus @justin.velgus

Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is the Miyagi Prefecture Partner for Japan Travel and a longterm contributor since 2012 with a focus on the Tohoku region.  Justin has written extensively for JT, and other publications such as VisitMiyagi and Sake Today, amassing over 350 published articles introducing the travel and culture of the region. Justin's wealth of experience and knowledge comes from studying in Akita, teaching English in Miyagi through the JET Program, and promoting sake overseas for the government of Fukushima. Now Justin helps with inbound tourism and regional promotion while also enjoying his role as a volunteer tour guide in Sendai, the gyutan capital of the world.

Join the discussion

Elena Lisina a week ago
I'd like to visit Akiu Craft Village and waterfalls, too.
Elizabeth S a week ago
What a lovely place! I had a look at the website, and there's mention of British Columbia, Canada's outdoors. The lodgings certainly are reminiscent of BC camps. Great find!
Bonson Lam a week ago
I feel relaxed just looking at the views. A really unique offering here.
Kim a week ago
Pet friendly! That's definitely a selling point, I love when places accommodate animals too.
Kim a week ago
Love that! Sounds like a nice vacation for dogs as well as humans!