Japan is famous for many things but onsens have to be fairly high on that list. Not heard of an onsen (温泉)? Well, it is a natural hot spring bath, caused by volcanic activity heating the water. Onsen healing has been passed down from generation to generation and there are now over 3,000 registered hot springs in Japan, so we’ve selected our top 10 unique resorts which are all ready and waiting to welcome you.
1. Tamagawa Onsen
This onsen is very remote and it feels like a miraculous secret. It is also home to Japan’s most acidic hot spring waters which are caused by a volcanically active valley and a rare radioactive stone called hokutolite. By using the stone with the hot springs and spa treatments, there are a wide range of health benefits, some even claim that it can help treat cancer.
Address: 014-1205 Akita Prefecture, Senboku, Tazawako Tamagawa
Website: Tamagawa Onsen
2. Kusatsu Onsen
This onsen has the largest flowing water volume of all of the hot springs in Japan. That is a lot of purifying power! Not only does that qualify this onsen for our list but it also has two bathing styles: jikan-yu and yumomi, both of which are unique to Kusatsu Onsen and have been handed down from generation to generation since the Edo Period.
Address: Kusatsu, 草津町 Agatsuma District, Gunma Prefecture 377-1711, Japan
Website: Kusatsu Onsen
3. Beppu Onsen
Here we have it… the largest hot spring in the world! This amazing onsen focuses on not just hot springs but you can also enjoy a sand bath, steam bath, and even relaxing mud baths. There is so much on offer here that it is even classified as an onsen resort. Just writing about it is making me feel relaxed.
Address: Japan, 〒874-0000 Oita Prefecture, Beppu, Motomachi,
Website: Beppu Onsen
4. Kinosaki Onsen
This is a very traditional onsen, where everyone still wears yukatas, a traditional Japanese attire. Visiting this onsen is like taking a peak at the past. The best time of the year to visit is during the Kinosaki “Shrine Fighting” Festival, which uses danjiri, wooden carts designed to appear like ornate shrines.
Address: Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
Website: Kinosaki Onsen
5. Yamanoyado Onsen
There are many unique onsens in Kurokawa but by far our favourite has to be Yamanoyado Onsen, where the public sulphur spring baths are hidden inside interesting and dark steamy caves and are particularly well known for healing nerve pain. This is the perfect place for onsen-hopping!
Address: 1 Yunotai, Tazawakotazawa, Semboku 014-1204, Akita Prefecture
Website: Yamanoyado Onsen
This onsen offers an all-season sand bath known as “sunamushi.” Listed as the only natural sand bath in the world, it is also infused with the healing power from the hot springs. The sand bath is a popular beauty treatment and many people come from across Japan and the world.
Address: Ibusuki, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan
7. Kita Onsen
Located in Tochigi Prefecture, this onsen is not very well known but is incredibly special. You can only get to it on foot and cars must be parked 10 minutes away. Be careful as you walk, as the terrain might be slippery and although we like the fact that the onsen is hidden in the mountains, we don’t want you to get lost. The onsen itself is surrounded by wooden buildings dating back through the Edo Period, Meiji, and Show Periods. One of our fellow Trip101 writers visited the site and wrote an in depth article about it which you can read by following the link below.
Address: Yumoto 151, Nakagawa-machi, Nasu-gun 325-0301, Tochigi Prefecture
Trip101 Article Read Indepth Article about Kita Onsen
8. Kawane Onsen
Ok, so the last one on our list may not be a unique onsen as such, but it is only one of the few onsens in Japan that you can take a locomotive train to reach. Located near the Oigawa Railway, you’ll relax to the historical sounds of trains passing by whilst enjoy a traditional hot spring. Or, you can go for something different and test out the charcoal baths or the hinoki cypress baths if that takes you fancy.
Address: 220 Kawanecho Sasamado, Shimada 428-0101, Shizuoka Prefecture
Website: Kawane Onsen (in Japanese)
9. Yurari Onsen
This popular onsen gives panoramic views across Mt. Fuji in the Kawaguchiko area. Alongside the glorious views you can also enjoy a meal and some select spa treatments. At nighttime this onsen is purely magical!
Address: 401-0320 Yamanashi Prefecture, Minamitsuru District, Narusawa,
Website: Yurari Onsen
10. Hirayu Minzokukan
There are a number of incredible onsen towns in Okuhido but our favourite has to be Hirayu Minzokukan because it is unique in that it is home to a museum of straw roofed farm houses that display rural life. Oh my gosh, the views from all of the Hirayu hot springs really are amazing; you just need to relax and take in the breathtaking scenery over the Northern Japan Alps. What more could you want from an onsen?!
Address: Okuhidaonsengohirayu, Takayama 506-1433, Gifu Prefecture
Website: Hirayu Minzokukan
Welcome the new you with a yukata
Not only are onsens some of the most relaxing places, they also have many health benefits, so it is worthwhile spending your time to test out all the onsens on this list until you find the one that feels like your perfect medicine. Ahh how tiresome, life sure is difficult, isn’t it? Now, where did I put that yukata?
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