Onagawa Onsen Kajikaso (小野川温泉河鹿荘) is one of a dozen rustic ryokan concentrated in the Onogawa hot spring district of Yonezawa, Yamagata. While the area is still a secret to most international travelers, Japanese people have been enjoying its excellent hot spring waters, abundant nature, and unique samurai history for literally centuries.
Directly adjacent to the main concrete parking lot, steps away from the outdoor footbath, lies the simple entrance of Kajikoso. The lackluster first impression is soon forgotten as every step deeper inside the ryokan reveals its many charms. Lounge areas adjacent to the lobby are decorated with miniature plants peeking out of cubby holes to a backdrop of a manmade waterfall outside. The main artery of the hotel is a long hallway where guests can find tourist pamphlets, vending machines, and an area to choose your own color and size yukata to borrow during your stay. Behind the hotel is an amazing carp-filled pond surrounded by greenery and the building's unique wooden architecture with tiled roofs. Rooms are Japanese style with tatami mat floors and futons, contrasted with automated Western toilets. The included large hot spring baths are separated by gender and rotate daily. Their high quality water is not too hot and is famous for beautifying skin. Overall, the style of the hotel is one that maintains Japanese aesthetics but also recognizes the needs to run a business and make customers happy with its useful services, such as free rental bikes and free Wi-Fi.
An overnight stay at Kajikoso, including onsen access, specialty dinner and buffet style breakfast, averages 15,000~19,000 yen per person. The price reflects the high level of service from the friendly staff, sophisticated hotel interior, and luxurious facilities. Prices are comparable with nearby ryokan.
Onogawa is about a 20 minute drive from the center of Yonezawa, and conveniently just an hour and 10 minutes from the very popular Aizu-Wakamatsu area in Fukushima filled with more samurai history and a very large castle.
Travelers should keep in mind the area receives heavy snow December to April, although there is a very close ski resort to take advantage of it. Otherwise, warmer weather can be enjoyed by exploring smaller temples and shrines, hiking around outlying mountains, fruit-picking, and enjoying local festivals where you can chow down on famous Yonezawa-gyu meat, take part in firefly viewing, and more. First and foremost this is somewhere to visit if you want to relax and slow down from a busy life.