Japan's best ski onsen #1 Sukayu Onsen Hakkoda

snow action team 28.03.2017

Everybody goes to Japan for the powder snow, of course, but the onsen are more than reason enough to go anyway – especially incredible ones like historic Sukayu Onsen on Mt Hakkoda. The 300 year old hot spring resort draws therapeutic waters straight from the mighty mountain, and you enjoy them in amazing wooden baths made from Japanese beech. It must be some tough wood to survive the 42 degree water and the minerals in it, but it’s great that it does – the feel of the wood is amazing, way better than tiles.

don’t say you weren’t warned it’s mixed bathing at Sukayu Onsen

The main bath at Sukayu Onsen, Senjin Buro, is 248 square metres in size, and claims to allow 1,000 bathers to get in at a time – which would be a stretch, and fortunately we have never seen anything like that number there. It’s usually just a bunch of locals, including whole families together in this bastion of traditional mixed bathing, plus a few western skiers hauling in after a massive day #Japowder skiing at Hakkoda up the road.

Sukayu Onsen’s baths are made of local beech wood

You can actually ski to the back door of the onsen/hotel complex, though it’s a fair amount of pushing and poling to get there.

You can ski to the back door via one of the backcountry trails off Mt Hakkoda

Mixed bathing can be confronting to some, and for the ladies the souvenir shop has 1,000 yen “aprons” for sale which are actually a little popover dress thing. Mrs SnowAction got one last time we were there and bought it back this trip – though in truth in the steamy interior you cant see much and obviously no locals are staring, the Japanese onsen etiquette is part of the culture, and if you’re not prepared to follow it then please don’t go. That includes not drinking and being loud and rowdy, and that applies to any hotel hot bath never mind an historic special place like Sukayu Onsen.
The essential pre bathing wash and scrub is done the old school way here, with wooden bowls to scoop water and simple cascading inlets. The cool down splash off with cold water can be done the same way.
Sukayu onsen’s milky waters are the perfect remedy for muscle soreness. This trip we had 2 days of big winds and chill temperatures, but after the big soak I felt 110% again.
After you come out then it’s perfectly fine etiquette to feed the vending machine and have a nice tall Yebisu.

Stock up at the souvenir shop

The complex features a large reception area and big souvenir shop – so the ladies can check the souvenirs while the lads have a few beers.
Sukayu Onsen is also an excellent Japanese style hotel, a rambling complex with numerous rooms – our recommendation is go for the new wing with built in ensuite toilets (there is obviously no need for an ensuite shower with the baths complex), restaurants, self-catering kitchens, and smaller mens and womens onsen to enjoy.
The JR Rail bus or a hotel shuttle at set times runs to the Hakkoda base, and the JR bus to Aomori.

Japan small area ski specialists japansnowaccommodation.com can book it for you with local extras such as guiding, and recommend combinations that work well with other resorts.

The hotel’s website is only in Japanese.

For the Hakkoda ropeway check www.hakkoda-ropeway.jp/lang/en.html

For Aomori Prefecture information go to www.en-aomori.com

The new wing with ensuite toilets are Sukayu Onsen’s best rooms to stay in

Hakkoda’s mighty snow ghosts are just up the road