Hokkaido’s Niseko is mostly famous for its great skiing, but it’s a hot spring paradise as well. And you can’t bring up hot spring in Niseko without talking about Goshiki Onsen Ryokan.
Located at a high elevation deep within the mountains of Niseko, the ryokan (Japanese style inn) is surrounded by native Japanese white birch forest, stretching as far as the eye can see.
Natural sulfur spring water flows from Mt. Iwao-nupuri, and the quality of the water rivals that of some of the best onsen in Japan, including Kusatsu onsen in Gunma Prefecture.
And, if you come in the fall, you’ll get a chance to bathe outside amidst beautiful fall foliage.
Goshiki Onsen Ryokan -- Surrounded by Breathtaking Natural Beauty
Being from Osaka myself, I never really got the chance to go to Niseko because it was so far away. However, thanks to the recent low cost-carrier boom in Japan, I can easily head to Hokkaido to check out its great hot springs.
Goshiki Onsen Ryokan is certainly one of the best.
Getting to Niseko from New Chitose Airport takes about two hours by car (available for rent at the airport). It won’t feel like such a long drive, though, as you’ll spend most of it gazing at Hokkaido’s jaw-dropping beauty.
The picture above is the main building. It really has a unique flavor. This time, however, I decided to stay in the bekkan (annex building), and I definitely recommend booking it! Read on and I’ll tell you why.
First, Let's Check Out the Main Bath
The main outdoor bath is famous in Japan and has been featured in a number of magazines! The hot spring water used by the onsen is ejected naturally from the base of Mt. Iwao-nupuri.
Cloudy white patterns dance about in the light blue colored water. It has an acidy flavor similar to lemon, which is normal for an acidic spring such as this. Some people say that baths with higher acidity tingle a bit, but I didn’t feel this at all. The water has a very soft texture and a characteristically smooth feel.
There is an indoor bath as well, so feel free to try both.
The Main Building's Second Bath, Karamatsu-No-Yu
Karamatsu-No-Yu is the main building’s other bath, located towards the back. It was built as an add-on to the main building, and is casually called the new annex. Compared to the main bath, this one is smaller and feels more personal. It also has one indoor and one outdoor bathing area.
The water in the outdoor bath is the same as the water in the main bathing area, but the inside bath has white nigori-yu, a thick, cloudy water. Nigori-yu is very popular with onsen enthusiasts.
A Japanese white birch forest stretches out before your eyes when you enter the outdoor bath! The only sounds you can hear are the water pouring into the bath and the occasional rustling of tree foliage being blown in the wind. Enjoy the blissful silence.
A Night in the Bekkan
I took this picture from the main building, facing towards the bekkan (annex), which is the white building. It’s located a short distance away the main building.
The small pool directly in front of me is connected to the same spring. Named “Hana-batake (flower-field) onsen”, Natural spring water is being naturally ejected by the earth here. The annex has its own baths, indoor and outdoor, and they both use water from the Hana-batake spring. This lets you experience a different type of water and compare it to the water in the main baths!
And because it’s a bit newer, the annex looks and feels very clean. It’s a simple building and the price is very reasonable, but I still found that all of my expectations were met. What’s more, we were the only ones staying in the annex, so we were allowed to have the whole place to ourselves.
Water in the Annex Bath — As Natural as it Comes
The annex’s bath water, which comes from the Hana-batake spring, is markedly different from the water used in the main building’s baths (however, the chemical properties are very similar, as is the technical term for the water). But, since the baths are so close to the source of the water, it’s as natural as can be!
When hot spring water interacts with air, it undergoes chemical change. It oxidizes, changing its composition. An example of this is the nigori-yu water in the main baths.
This is the case with all hot spring water, with the exception of “moor” type water, which contains organic elements from vegetation making it non-transparent. All hot spring water is clear in color before coming out of the ground, but becomes cloudy shortly after it is exposed to air.
The water in the annex baths is so fresh from the ground that it’s actually still clear! There are hints of blue and green, but it’s not at all murky! It’s top grade stuff.
Taking all of this into consideration, I recommend staying at the annex for the best Goshiki Onsen Ryokan experience.
Goshiki Onsen Ryokan is Perfect for Onsen Veterans and Beginners Alike!
In conclusion, all I can say is that Goshiki Onsen Ryokan is truly one of the best hot spring hotel experiences available! There’s an option to not stay and just use the bath, but to really get the full experience and to try all three baths, I really must recommend staying overnight.
Niseko is known in Japan and globally as a premier ski resort, but to me its main draw is really the high quality hot springs. And of course, there are many other onsens in Niseko, each sporting different types of water and surroundings. While Goshiki Onsen Ryokan is an absolute must, a great way to get your fill of Niseko’s hot springs, nature, and cuisine is by going around an trying a bunch of different ones.
For my trip I chose to dine out with the locals rather than eat at the hotel, and was surprised at how delicious the food was in Niseko. It really felt like the ultimate Hokkaido culinary experience!
As an onsen enthusiast myself, I’ll definitely be visiting again. I would recommend this to anyone, onsen regulars and first timers alike.
Goshiki Onsen Ryokan Address: TEL: +81 136-58-2707
Bath Entry Fee (if not staying the night): Adults: 700 yen Children: 400 yen Bath Hours: 8:30AM - 8:00PM Water Conditions: Acidic. Contains sulfur, magnesium, sodium, calcium sulfate, chloride Water Source/Usage: Natural Flowing Water (no added water, no artificial heating, no disinfectants) pH: 2.6-2.4 (both acidic)
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