Finally the autumn leaves season is here! We can have a break from our everyday routine, retreat to some mountainous area and enjoy the most famous views at their best. And, while we are in Tohoku, there is a place that mustn’t be missed - Naruko.
Naruko hot springs resort was a famous recreation spot so long ago, that we cannot say for sure what was the beginning of Naruko that we know today. The name itself is said to derive from Minamoto-no Yoshitsune’s son, who was born on the way and washed for the first time at the nearest hot spring. This hot spring was named “Nakiko” (Crying child), but later the name was distorted and started to be pronounced as “Naruko”.
Naruko hot springs are really something incredible, but we will discuss them later, as well as the most well-known souvenir - kokeshi dolls. There is one thing that Naruko is especially famous for - wonderful autumn scenery. Encircled by green hills, covered with different types of trees, Naruko is one of the best places in Japan for enjoying ”leaf peeping”. It is enough just by walking Naruko’s narrow streets, because autumn-colored hills are literally everywhere you look, but the best way to dive into the magical Tohoku autumn is to go to Naruko gorge (鳴子峡). There, standing at the observation platform and looking around, at the marvellous hills, breathtaking view of the bridge surrounded by the brightest autumn colors you can imagine, one understands autumn’s true beauty and sadness - just a few weeks and it all will be gone.
For those, who don’t have a car, Naruko gorge is easily accessible by a city bus that is available until 7th November. But if you feel adventurous, I recommend you to go hiking. That feeling, that unforgettable feeling when you reach the Naruko gorge after an hour or two of walking some narrow paths that were probably walked before by many famous people who adored Naruko is really something!
We still have some time left to enjoy this autumn’s best time. But Naruko doesn’t end here. In fact, it is worth visiting in any season. Soon it will start to snow, and if you miss the real winter, or would like to see a small town literally covered with snow - this is your place to go. Hot springs and snow go together perfectly well.