When you ask Japanese people where they’d like to go during the winter, most will respond with hot springs.

We in Iwate probably think so even more strongly than other regions, just because winter here is so cold – after a hard day shoveling snow, we just want to warm our bodies and souls with a nice soak in a hot spring.

One of the most famous hot springs within Iwate Prefecture is Tsunagi Hot Springs, located within Morioka City.
Tsunagi Hot Springs has a long history, with its origins from around the end of the Heian period (around the years of 1058 to 1065). The warrior Minamoto no Yoshiie set up his headquarters here during the Zenkunen War, and noticed a hot springs bubbling up. His beloved horse was healed when he applied the water to its wounds, and he used a rope to tether his horse to a rock with a hole in it in order to bathe in the spring. That’s how Tsunagi got its name – “Tsunagi” means to tether, or connect two things together in Japanese.

The water from the source of the hot springs is quite hot, so you can still bathe outdoors in a classic Japanese rotenburo bath even during Iwate’s chilly winters. The sulfur content of the water is said to promote better circulation and metabolism, and the alkaline nature of the water makes skin silky soft, making this hot springs very popular with both young and old, men and women alike.
There are nine hotel facilities in the hot springs region, so there’s plenty of variety in bathing facilities and dining menus to compare. There are ski resorts nearby to enjoy winter sports, and of course it’s fantastic to relax in the hot springs to ease your aching muscles afterwards. Koiwai Farm, located in neighboring Shizukuishi Town, has a winter festival, so one could stay at the hot springs afterwards as well.

Right by the hot springs is the large Gosho Lake. This lake is a precious resource, created from damming the Shizukuishi River and harnessing its flow for the generation of electricity. There is a park on the river banks for children to play sports as well (open from April to November).
The area is known for its beautiful sunrises and sunsets reflecting off of the lake, and when the skies are clear, it’s a fantastic place to see Mount Iwate, also known as the Fuji of the North.

The Morioka Handicrafts Village is located nearby, where you can learn about Morioka’s traditional crafts and handmade goods (Address: Morioka City, Tsunagi, Aza Oirino 64-102). There are a number of activities you can try here, from making Morioka’s famed reimen noodles, indigo-dyeing, weaving bamboo, and more. You can also purchase these goods as souvenirs, as well as view an old dwelling that was built in the Edo Period, complete with a space for housing horses. Don’t forget to stop by this wonderful place to experience Morioka’s history and culture.