Japan is reputable for its relaxing onsens, or hot spring baths. Both locals and foreigners look forward to a therapeutic soak in the onsen. There are more than 3,000 hot spring resorts in the country where you can enjoy yourself for the day.
However, if you would like to enjoy the onsen at a more leisurely pace, why not stay overnight in an open-air onsen ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn for a memorable holiday? Open-air onsen ryokans are not as expensive as you think.
We have prepared the top 9 affordable open-air onsen ryokans you can stay within 3 hours from Tokyo. Staying near Tokyo means that you can easily head in and explore Tokyo or even become a Samurai for the day!
Open-air onsen ryokans in Hakone
Getting to Hakone is quick and convenient, because it is about two hours away by train from Tokyo. From Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, the fastest and most comfortable way is by the “Romance Car” limited express on Odakyu Railway, which takes about 85 minutes and costs 2,080 JPY (18 USD). If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, the slower express train takes about two hours, because of one transfer at Odawara Station, costs only 1,190 JPY (10.30 USD). For both options, you will arrive at Hakone-Yumoto Station, the gateway to the relaxing hot spring resort. This section will introduce three lovely open-air onsen ryokans in Hakone that will not burn a hole in your wallet.
Hotel Mizunoto is located in a quiet garden in Hakone’s Kowakudani Onsen area, so guests can enjoy a relaxing holiday surrounded by beautiful nature. There is a large public open-air hot spring bath that guests can enjoy daily from 3pm to 1am, and 2am to 11am, as well as a large public indoor hot spring bath open daily from 3pm to 1am, and 5am to 11am. If you wish, you can also choose a room with an open-air bath for private use. Alternatively, you can also reserve the public open-air bath for private use or relax with a massage treatment at additional charge.
After the rejuvenating soak in the spring water, tuck into a hearty traditional Japanese dinner carefully prepared with beef, seafood and seasonal ingredients at the on-site restaurant. The hotel is also conveniently located to sightseeing spots such as Hakone Open Air Museum and Hakone Kowakien Yunessun, so you can explore the charming onsen town easily.
Address: 492-23 Kowakudani, Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture
Price: from 130 USD per night per person
Access: Free hotel shuttle service from Kowakudani Station, contact hotel prior to arrival; otherwise it is a 10 to 15-minute walk to the hotel.
Contact: +81 460-82-6011
Located near Hakone-Yumoto Station, Hotel Nanpuso is a great choice for a convenient onsen getaway for visitors arriving from Tokyo. Choose from Japanese-style rooms or Japanese-Western style rooms for your stay as well as rooms attached with private open-air baths. There are two large open-air hot spring baths and public hot spring baths for you to enjoy the alkaline natural spring water. The onsen water here is said to cure muscle and joint pains, shoulder aches and fatigue. Look forward to your meal times in this ryokan accommodation, as they serve Japanese-style kaiseki cuisine featuring seasonal dishes. It is certainly a great retreat for a stay nestled within the mountains of Hakone.
Address: 179 Yumotochaya, Ashigarashimo District, Hakone,Kanagawa Prefecture
Price: from 100 USD per night per person
Access: 7-minute hotel shuttle bus ride from Hakone-Yumoto Station. 100 JPY (0.90 USD) per one-way trip per person. Frequency: 15-20 minute interval between 8.30am – 11am and 15-25 minute interval between 10.45am – 6.45pm.
Contact: +81 460-85-5505
Newly renovated in 2011, Hotel Ashinoko Ichinoyu is a boutique onsen ryokan accommodation with 3 Japanese-style rooms and 18 Western-style rooms. Located within a 5-minute walk is the beautiful Lake Ashinoko and Togendai Ropeway Station about a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Enjoy the rustic open-air bath on the first floor from 6.30am to 10am every morning. You can also reserve it for private use from 4pm to 1am if you prefer. There is also the public bath on second floor, renovated in 2012, featuring high quality Ubako onsen water which you can enjoy when the open-air bath is closed.
After a refreshing soak in the open-air bath in the morning, perk yourself up further with the complimentary Japanese breakfast set menu served at the dining room. For dinner, relish in a sumptuous traditional meal featuring local specialties at the dining room. In between your onsen time, you can explore Hakone Shrine, a spiritual power spot just 20 minutes’ drive from the hotel, or take the scenic Hakone Ropeway ride to Owakudani Valley.
Hotel Ashinoko Ichinoyu
Address: 160-51 Motohakone, Hakone,Kanagawa Prefecture
Price: from 135 USD per night per person
Access: 5-minute walk from Kojiri Bus Stop, which is a 30-minute public bus ride from Hakone-Yumoto Station.
Contact: +81 460-84-5331
Shima Onsen in Gunma Prefecture
From Tokyo’s Ueno Station, take the direct JR Kusatsu limited express train that will bring you to JR Nakanojo Station in around two hours for about 4,500 JPY (39 USD). However, there are only two to three trains per day from Ueno Station, so make sure you check the train timings prior to the trip. Alternatively, you can take the JR Joetsu Shinkansen or Hokuriku Shinkansen to Takasaki Station (about one hour, 4,500-5,500 JPY / 39-47.70 USD) and transfer to the JR Agatsuma Line to Nakanojo Station (about one hour, 760 JPY/ 6.60 USD). Thereafter, you can take a 50-minute local bus ride to Shima Onsen from JR Nakanojo Station (930 JPY/ 8 USD).
Nestled within the mountain valley of Shima Onsen, Ayameya Ryokan is a lovely traditional Japanese inn featuring all Japanese-style rooms. There are four public baths on premises and all rooms boast the scenic mountain view. You can choose to enjoy the daily breakfast set and traditional multi-course Japanese dinner in the comfort of your own room or in the dining room.
Besides the awesome scenery surrounding Ayameya Ryokan, you would be delighted to know that there are massage chairs, as well as toys to keep the kids entertained in the public bath. Such thoughtful gestures and warm hospitality from the inn management is definitely wonderful for guests to have a memorable getaway at Ayameya.
Address: 4238-45 Shima, Nakanojo, Gunma Prefecture
Price: from 121 USD per night per person
Access: 40-minute bus ride from JR Nakanojo Station.
Nakagawa Onsen in Yamakita, Kanagawa Prefecture
While Nakagawa Onsen in Yamakita is not mentioned often in tourist guides, it is only about two hours away from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, with 2 transfers. Take the limited express 55-minute Sagami train ride on Odakyu Line to Hadano Station. Transfer to the Odakyu express train for a 10-minute ride to Shin-Matsuda Station. Thereafter, transfer to the Fujikyu Shonan Bus and get off at the Nakagawa Onsen Iriguchi bus stop after about 55 minutes.
Located by the clear streams of Nakagawa Onsen, Shingenkan Ryokan is a very traditional hot spring resort in the remote and tranquil town. There are three types of hot spring baths at the inn, featuring alkaline onsen water that has curative benefits for dermatitis and eczema, rheumatism and neurosis, as well as beautifying skin. Note that there are no convenience stores, or other dining options around the hotel. However, do not worry too much about your meals because breakfast and dinner served at the inn are really amazingly delicious and traditional. Relish in the gorgeous scenery surrounding the traditional inn while you unwind from the stressful city life and relax in the therapeutic onsens here.
Nakagawa Onsen Shingenkan
Address: 577-6 Nakagawa, Yamakita-machi, Ashigarakami-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture
Price: from 65.71 USD per night per person
Access: Free hotel shuttle service between Shingenkan and JR Yaga Station. Reservation required at least 1 day prior to your stay. Alternatively, ryokan is a 4-minute walk from Nakagawa Onsen Iriguchi bus stop.
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Experience being surrounded by nature at Yui Hotel which is located in Oku-Yugawara. The place offers scenic views of all the four seasons. Take a relaxing dip into their charming open-air onsen with nature as your backdrop. These baths are gender separated and are open from 3 pm until 10 am in the morning. Aside from the communal hot spring, there is also a bathtub which is filled with free-flowing for those who want more privacy.
After indulging yourself to these baths and treating yourself to an elaborate dinner, relax into one or more of their 11 guest rooms, designed in traditional Japanese architecture. An added charm is that you can actually hear the river and waterfalls surrounding the property – which adds to the overall tranquil and serene atmosphere.
In general, expect to feel a sense of unity with nature when you stay at this inn; it’s definitely a rejuvenating and luxurious treat but for a relatively affordable price tag when compared to five-star hotels in Japan.
Address: 683-25 Miyakami, Yugawara-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
Price: from 635 USD /69,722 JPY
In need of a breakaway from the busy work week? Kinnotake Tonosawa features rooms that each come with outdoor golden baths to help guests effectively relax and rejuvenate with the aid of nature. What makes this place unique from most ryokans in Japan is that its water comes from a deep area, compared to the usual streams. Try out the MIKADO bath which is made from Kyoto Aomari cypress, or for couples, the stone MIKAGE bath which is wide enough for two people. Another exciting must-do experience is to bath in the property’s public onsen, which is gender separated.
Dining is available, served by their Kyoto-trained chef and there is also a bamboo bar which provides various kinds of drinks. All 23 rooms in 7 styles portray the beautiful Hakone, where the accommodation is located. Those traveling from far areas may avail of their airport transfer services from Narita or Haneda airports for an additional fee. While the property does not accommodate children, it is still a good value accommodation for adult locals or foreign tourists looking to have a relaxing getaway with their loved ones.
Address: 191 Tōnosawa, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken
Price: from 619 USD / 68,000 JPY
Hakone Kowaki-en TEN-YU promises to satisfy all five senses. With each of their rooms having open-air onsen baths on balconies accompanied by natural views and chirping birds, it’s difficult not to lean on this promise.
Indulge in Japanese and western fusion dinner or the Wayo cuisine which uses locally sourced seasonal produce. TEN-YU offers two types of seating arrangements for a more personalized dining experience: open plan or booth.
Adding to its list of high-quality amenities, the property also offers infinity hot spring on the 6th floor with views from Mt. Mikuni and on the 5th floor: a public bath where waterfalls are seamlessly immersed into the overall onsen experience. If you’re simply looking for a place which prioritizes the rejuvenation of your mental and physical health over extravagant accommodations near the heart of Japan, then TEN-YU is definitely worth the two-hour ride from metropolitan Tokyo.
Hakone Kowaki En Ten-Yu
Address: 1297 Ninotaira, Hakone, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa, Japan
Price: from 492 USD / 54,000 JPY
The Japanese hospitality industry has been well-known for its cleanliness, simplicity and warm service. This is the same for Sansuirou, be it their food, rooms, or public baths. Sansuirou’s reputation dates back since its opening in 1933. With history as long as this, expect only the best and refined quality in terms of accommodation and gastronomic experiences. For one, their rooms have different designs and views. Food-wise, their cuisine is offered in kaiseki style (using fresh local seasonal ingredients). This makes sure that all the food served are elegant, delicate, and fresh in terms of taste and texture. A stay at Sansuirou wouldn’t be complete without dipping into their outdoor bath with scenic views and free from the hustle and buzz of the modern city. It is even long believed that Yugawara onsens can have various medicinal benefits.
So all the above and combined with high-quality service and long history, Sansuirou offers a truly authentic and comprehensive Japanese hotel experience.
Address: Yugawara-cho, Ashigarashimo-gun Kanagawa, Japan
Price: from 330 USD / 36,278 JPY
An invigorating holiday that won’t burn a hole in your wallet
As you can see, a stay in one of the delightful onsen ryokans need not be an expensive affair. Instead of staying in a typical hotel or guest house when travelling in Japan, and squeezing a few hours out from your tight itinerary to make time for soaking in a public onsen, take the opportunity to book a stay in one of the above-mentioned onsen ryokans. You will be able to enjoy the uniquely Japanese experience at a leisurely pace and unwind from the hectic life. I am certain such a unique stay will leave you refreshed with great holiday memories to remember for a long time!
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