Into the water off the beaten path.

Like a lot of YouTubers, Natsuki Tanaka didn’t really seem to have a clear vision of what sort of content she was going to produce when she first got started. Some video gaming clips here, a shampoo review there, but no real discernible through line from one project to the next.

But recently Tanaka has found her niche. Since about nine months ago she’s been seeing a major boost in the size of her audience, and it looks to be thanks to focusing on one thing in particular: introducing viewers to hot springs, or onsen, around Japan.

▼ Tanaka’s trip to Hanazomenoyu, a rustic hot spring in the Shimokita Peninsula region of Japan’s northern Aomori Prefecture

Instead of covering the most famous or luxurious resorts, Tanaka travels to low-key hot springs with a relaxed, local atmosphere. That doesn’t mean they’re not special in their own ways, though, like when she takes a soak at a rotemburo (open-air hot spring) at Toshichi Onsen in Iwate Prefecture, with the steam rising from the bath mixing with the fog that’s rolling over the mountainous terrain.

Other unique springs include Tohokumachi in Aomori, said to have the darkest opaque hot spring water in Japan, which seems like it’s be a plus for anyone shy about the Japanese custom of communal bathing.

▼ Though Tanaka usually appears in her videos wrapped in a towel or wearing a swimsuit, that’s a special concession granted to her only while filming.

As a matter of fact, Tanaka seems especially knowledgeable when it comes to intriguing onsen in Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region, like the beautiful Amihari Onsen in Iwate, where the bath awaits next to  waterfall at the bottom of a woodland staircase…

…Aomori’s Yamano Hotel, whose hot spring bath has the unusual amenity of tatami reed flooring around its edge, as opposed to cold, hard stone or tile…

…and Tanukinoyu (“The Tanuki Bath”), a riverside rotemburo in Aomori only accessible by a hiking trail that’s closed off during the snowy months of the year.

And in true Japanese travel-fan style, Tanaka makes sure to sample the local sweets and snacks when such opportunities arise, like in this video where she sits down with a cup of amazake (sweet, non-alcoholic sake) with grains of rice floating in it, specialty of Yamagata Prefecture’s Kurosawa Onsen.

Though Tanaka’s videos aren’t currently subtitled in any language other than Japanese, she’s dipping her toes into international waters by frequently including the Romanized (i.e. English alphabet) name of the destination hot spring in the video’s title, and every now and then an English caption will pop up as well.

Unfortunately, with the coronavirus making now not the best time to be hopping around from one part of Japan to another, Tanaka’s onsen travels are seemingly on hold right now, but she’s partially pivoted to home bath videos, like this one where she chats with hot spring-loving actor Ryuji Harada.

But at least her channel has plenty of great recommendations for places to go once we can all start moving around again, and makes for some great travel fantasies while we soak in our wannabe home rotemburo.

Source: Natsuki Tanaka YouTube channel via Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/田中なつき/なっちゃん
Insert images: YouTube/田中なつき/なっちゃん (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
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