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Simmer Down And Loosen Up: Top 11 Onsen Places In Japan

Germaine
Updated Apr 24, 2018

Centuries before modern medicine was invented, onsen (hot spring) were revered as sacred places blessed with magical healing properties. During the Edo period, disease-ridden patients would soak in the onsen for weeks, and leave the pool feeling healthy again! Ever since, inns, ryokan and bathhouses were built around the hot springs, forming onsen towns today. There is no doubt that a dip in the pool will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated! So here are the top onsen places all around Japan, organised according to the cities/towns/villages, prefectures and regions!

1. Yufu, Saga - Kyushu area

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Yufuin Onsen

Voted the best onsen area in the region, Yufuin Onsen sits at the base of Mount Yufudake, and offers stunning views of mountains and rural countryside! Onsen baths are housed in traditional Japanese inns, providing a rustic experience. The area is extremely tourist-friendly; being home to numerous ryokans, hotels, museums, boutiques, cafes and restaurants and easily accessible by the Yufuin express train on the JR line!

Yufuin has plenty of wonderful bathhouses, and a recommended one is the Shoya No Yakata Oita Ryokan. Situated on the cloudy hills, the outdoor, gender-separated baths offer great views of the town and is famous for its unique blue water - unlike all the other bathhouses in town!

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2. Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima - Chugoku area

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Miyahama Hot Spring

Source: Wikipedia

What better way to relax than to soak in an onsen by the sea? Miyahama Onsen is a tranquil onsen area on a low hill facing the Inland Sea in Hiroshima! At this spa along route 2, there are only 4 inns and hotels; typical of spas in Hiroshima and Iwakuni. While soaking in the onsen, you can enjoy some fresh fish caught from the Inland Sea and locally brewed sake with a gorgeous view of the Miyahama Island! Also, if you happen to be there during the oyster season, you have to try the freshly caught oysters from Ono no Seto!

Sekitei

Address: Miyahama-onsen, Hatsukaichi-city, Hiroshima

Access: 40 minutes by car from Hiroshima city centre or 5 minutes using the shuttle bus service from JR Onoura station (shuttle bus booking required)

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3. Dogo, Ehime - Shikoku area

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Dogo-onsen Hot Spring

One of the oldest and most famous public hot springs in the country, the Dogo Onsen is an onsen-cum-museum you must visit. If you are familiar with Hayao Miyazaki, you would recognise this grandiose building from his classic film “Spirited Away”. Also, all around the town there are quotes from Soseki Natsume’s famous novel “Botchan” written in the 18th century. A 3-story building over 130 years old, it is no wonder that Dogo Onsen inspired many creative masterpieces. Legend says that the water heals all kinds of ailments!

The main bathhouse, the Dogo Onsen Honkan, houses 2 indoor baths; one public bath and a smaller, more private bath. Look out for the Yushinden, a special bath reserved for Japanese royalty!

For more things to do in Shikoku, read our Shikoku summary guide

Dōgo Onsen Honkan

Address: Dogo-Yunomachi, Matsuyama, Ehime

Price: from 3.93 USD

Opening Hours: 6.00am - 11.00pm. Hours vary on marine day.

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: 20-minute train ride on the Iyo Railway from JR Matsuyama Station (Yosan Line) to Dogo-onsen Station.

Contact: +81 89-921-5141

Nearby Food: Dogo Beer Bakushukan (1-minute walk away).

Dogo-Kan

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4. Arima, Kobe - Kansai area

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Arima Onsen

The renowned Arima Onsen is a thousand-year old onsen town an hour from Osaka. Favoured by the powerful ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi, this scenic onsen is surrounded by mountains and considered one of the best in Japan. There are two types of springs - the Kinsen (gold spring) is reddish brown in colour owing to iron deposits and helps with skin and muscle ailments; and the Ginsen (silver spring) is clear, contains radium and carbonate and helps with muscle and joint aches.

As a sightseeing destination, the Arima Onsen area is full of discovery - temples, cafes, toy museums, nature parks, waterfalls and more. Arima Onsen is like a treasure box!

You can consider a day trip from Osaka with public onsen bath experience and city explore, or stay longer for a more thorough experience.

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5. Gero, Gifu - Tokai area

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Gero-onsen Hot Spring (from 12.47 USD for the spa pass (valid for 6 months).)

Source: Wikipedia

Claimed to be one of the top 3 onsen in Japan by the poet Hayashi Razan, Gero Onsen is nestled in the Hida Mountain Range and located between Nagoya and Takayama. It is the largest onsen town in Gifu, and for centuries, the water in the spring has been used by hospitals and research institutions for its wondrous healing properties. The water is crisp, clear, and mildly alkaline with a gentle fragrance. In the town, you can purchase a spa pass called Yumeguri Tegata (onsen travel ticket) at any tourist office, Ryokan or convenience store in the Gero area, which grants you entry to 3 different hot spring facilities in different Ryokan! Or, you can just dip your feet in the free footbaths all over town for free! Of course, staying overnight at one of the Ryokans is the most relaxing way to enjoy the Onsen experience.

Gero Onsen

Address: Yunoshima, Gero, Gifu

Price: from 12.47 USD for the spa pass (valid for 6 months).

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: 90-minute train ride from Nagoya via the JR Hida limited express.

Gero Spa

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6. Shuzenji, Izu, Shizuoka - Tokai

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Shuzenji Onsen (from 9.59 USD)

The Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka is one of the most famous hot spring spots in the country. While in Izu, head to Shuzenji Onsen, one of the best and oldest onsen town in the area. Steeped in history and surrounded by lovely mountain views, the Shuzenji Onsen was actually named after the town’s Temple, founded by the revered Kobo Daishi 1200 years ago! Kobo Daishi also founded Tokko-no-yu, the most famous onsen in Shuzenji which is now a public foot bath for all visitors to enjoy. Moreover, in Shuzenji, you can stroll through a zen bamboo forest, check out the designer cafes and shops, or stop by one of the many ryokan!

Shuzenji Onsen

Address: 838-1, Shuzenji, Izu-city, Shizuoka Prefecture

Price: from 9.59 USD

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: 10 minutes’ taxi ride from Shuzenji station

Contact: +81 558-72-0271

Shuzenji

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7. Kaga, Ishikawa - Hokuriku area

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Ko-soyu bath house (public bath) (from 4.80 USD)

It was the year 725, almost 1300 years ago, when the holy priest Gyoki stumbled upon a wounded crow washing itself in the spring water, and was healed shortly after! Ever since then, the town of Yamashiro Onsen was founded, built around the Yamashiro-onsen Yokuden - a communal onsen. Strolling through the town can take one back in time, with its nostalgic, olden inns and houses. For good health, drink the famous spring water called Otoku-shozu (for men) or the Onna-shozu (for women)!

Visit the public houses, called Soyu and Ko-Soyu in the heart of the town. Soyu is a modern gender-separated bathhouse, while Ko-Soyu, meaning old public bath, is a rustic bathhouse inspired by Meiji Period architecture.

Read here for more things to do in Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa

Ko-Soyu bath house (public bath)

Address: Yamashiro-onsen, Kaga, Ishikawa

Price: from 4.80 USD

Opening Hours: 6.00am - 10.00pm. Closed on the morning of the 4th Wednesday of each month.

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: 10 minutes with the Yamanaka Onsen bound bus ride from Kaga Onsen train station

Yamashiro Spa

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8. Yamanouchi, Nagano - Koshin-etsu area

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Yudanaka-onsen Hot Spring

With a history of over 1350 years, the Yudanaka Onsen was considered one of the best onsen in Japan by the greatest Haiku poet, Kobayashi Issa. Conveniently located next to the Yudanaka train station, this onsen village is special, as the springs are close to the surface, thus creating hot springs almost everywhere in town. After a relaxing bath, stroll through the numerous shrines in the village. Another notable attraction in Yamanouchi is the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you can see macaques soaking in the springs themselves! Their adorable facial expressions are priceless!

The Kaede no Yu public bath is located within the train station itself, and there is a free public foot bath just outside if you are not ready for a full submersion!

Kaede no Yu (public bath)

Address: Yudanaka-onsen, Yamanouchi-machi, Simotakai-gun, Nagano prefecture

Price: from 2.88 USD

Opening Hours: 10.00am - 9.00pm. Closed on the 1st Tuesday of each month.

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: walking distance from Yudakanaka station of Nagano Dentesu Nagano line

Yudanaka-Shibu Onsen

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9. Kusatsu, Gunma - North Kanto area

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Kusatsu Onsen (from 5.75 USD)

Situated in Gunma is Kusatsu Onsen, voted the best onsen in the country and just 3 hours from Tokyo by bus and train! It has the greatest natural flow of spring water, most of which emerging at the Yubatake (hot water field) in the heart of the town. The water is known for being sulfurous and highly acidic. There are plenty of free public hot springs you can enjoy, and tons of inns, hotels, cafes and shops to spend time at! Kusatsu is one of the most recommended Onsen town for families as there are a tropical park, an adventure park and mountain hiking options to work out during day time!

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The Sainokawara Rotenburo (open air bath) is highly recommended, as it has large outdoor pools in the Sainokawara Park and great views. Visit in the autumn and winter to enjoy the vibrant autumn colours and pristine snowy forests!

Just 2 hours away is the city Nikko. Read here for more things to do in Nikko.

Sainokawara Rotenburo (Open air public bath)

Address: Kusatsu, Agatsuma District, Gunma Prefecture

Price: from 5.75 USD

Opening Hours: 5.00pm - 8.00pm.

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: From Tokyo: 1.5 hour bus ride from Karuizawa station From Nikko: 2 hour and 53 minute drive via the Kita-Kantō Expressway.

Contact: +81 279-88-0001

Kusatsu Onsen

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10. Hakone, Kanagawa - Greater Tokyo

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Hakone Onsen (from 12.47 USD)

This is a must for visiting Japan. We had a massage followed by a traditional multi-course Japanese lunch before entering the onsen pools. Remember to bring a towel or buy one at the entrance! Pools do not go in heat order and cover a range of temperatures. There is also a sauna. A very relaxing day (if you don't mind being naked in front of strangers). They also accept people with tattoos which not many onsen do. Cerys1992

Just an hour and a half from Tokyo is Hakone Onsen, one of the most popular onsens in Japan for centuries! The town has a myriad of spa facilities (including bathhouses and ryokan) and shops all over town! At the entrance to Hakone is Yumoto, the most popular hot spring in Hakone with plenty of baths with outstanding water quality. There are plenty more onsen facilities at the Lake Ashi, and if you are looking for accommodation, check in at the antique, homey or resort-style inns along the Hayakawa River and Sukumogawa River!

One recommended bathhouse is Tenzan, a rustic, traditional-style bathhouse which consists of both indoor and outdoor pools.

Tenzan (public bath)

Address: Hakonemachi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa prefecture

Price: from 12.47 USD

Opening Hours: 9.00am - 11.00pm.

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: Take an 85-minute train ride on the “Romance Car” on the Odakyu Railway from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station, or, take a 2-hour train ride on the Kyuko, transferring at Odawara Station. Take note of the Hakone Free Pass that can be bought at Odakyu, and includes the trip from Tokyo to Hakone and unlimited train, cable car, ropeway, boat and bus rides within Hakone.

Hakone Onsen

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11. Noboribetsu, Iburi - Hokkaido

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Noboribetsu Onsen (from 19.18 USD; from 86.32 USD for overnight stay.)

Visit the best hot spring resort in Hokkaido in terms of popularity, history, accessibility and quality, Noboribetsu Onsen! Located an hour away from Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, most of the water collects at the Jigokudani (Hell’s Valley), creating an ethereal, steamy, rocky landscape. Noboribetsu also offers 11 kinds of spring water of exceptional quality. It is rich in sulphur and sulphides, which soften and whiten the skin, and iron, which relieves muscle aches and reduces fatigue!

If you are looking for a spacious, modern, indoor bath, head to Daiichi Takimotokan! This bathhouse consists of numerous pools, and collects water from 7 different spring water sources with differing properties, minerals and health benefits.

Read here for more things to do in Hokkaido.

Daiichi Takimotokan

Address: Noboribetsu Onsencho, Noboribetsu-shi, Hokkaido

Price: from 19.18 USD; from 86.32 USD for overnight stay.

Opening Hours: 9.00am - 9.00pm.

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: Take a 15-minute bus ride from JR Noboribetsu Station to Noboribetsu’s hot spring town.

Noboribetsu Spa

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Soak in nature’s hot tub

Most of the onsen ryokan open their baths to the public during the day, and accommodate overnight stays if you wish to enjoy the onsen later in the day! It is recommended to arrange for an overnight stay at an onsen ryokan so you can relieve those sore muscles and joints after a long day of touring! Otherwise, a nice, relaxing day trip to an onsen town is also a great way to start your day!

This article was originally published on Dec 17, 2016
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Germaine is a free-spirited individual who likes to write and travel. She is also a TV junkie and an animal lover. She has been to several countries, and some of her favourites include Australia,...Read more

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