If local train rides, bucolic vistas, simple family-run ryokans and hot-spring baths overflowing with mineral-rich waters sounds like the perfect getaway, Naruko Onsen village in Miyagi Prefecture should be your next destination.

Accessible by the Rikuu-East train line, the valley is flanked by wooded mountains and gorges, and its abundant onsen hot springs are lauded for their therapeutic properties.

Originally, the hot springs in the region catered to farmers, who would visit rudimentary inns and use the onsen to relax or revive themselves during harsh winters. Now, however, the agricultural clientele has been largely replaced by tourists, many of whom visit to retrace the footsteps of 17th-century haiku poet Matsuo Basho, who famously passed through the region when compiling his travelogue "The Narrow Road to the Deep North." Others also flock to the region to view its autumn leaves, a spectacular sight that fills the gorge with vivid vermilion and yellows.