Hot Springs

A volcanic archipelago with a high rainfall, Japan is a land of abundant natural hot water, and onsen are popular throughout the country. Nothing is as intensely soothing as a soak in geothermic onsen pools, and many of the minerals in the water are thought to have healing properties.

Onsen bathing has its own etiquette, which is easy enough to follow: men and women enter separate pools, leaving their clothes in wicker baskets in separate changing areas (often marked by a red curtain with the character 女 for women and a blue curtain with the character 男for men). The bathing experience is almost a ritual: bathers scrub themselves from head to toe and rinse thoroughly before stepping gently into the soothing waters.

Bathing naked with strangers with only a small towel for cover can be a daunting experience, but once in the steaming water, concerns about modesty – and any other worries at all – melt away. Calming, cleansing, relaxing and nearly meditative, it’s a liberating experience that’s well worth the initial trepidation.

For travellers preferring more privacy, many of the more luxurious ryokan, or traditional Japanese inns, now offer private rotenburo, or open-air baths just outside each guest room, and nearly all ryokan have onsen baths which can be reserved for private use.

Onsen are dotted over nearly every part of Japan, from rustic baths dug into the steep faces of the high Alps to luxurious pools set amidst Zen-like gardens or overlooking sweeping views, or huge marble tubs reminiscent of the springs at Bath. Hakone, Yufuin, Nikko, Ikaho and Kaga are just a handful of the many famous hot spring towns with histories dating back as early as the eighth century. Into Japan invites you to soak up Japanese culture at a ryokan in one of these onsen towns, and experience bathing at its best.

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Beppu Onsen

One of the most famous hot spring resort towns in Japan, Beppu has 8 different natural springs feeding the many ryokan and public baths in the town and together they produce more onsen water than any other resort in the country. Views of the town from the surrounding mountains show steam rising thickly into the…

Type: Hot Springs  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: , ,

Dogo Onsen

Dogo Onsen is one of Japan’s oldest and most famous hot springs and is a very popular tourist attraction in Matsuyama. Dogo Onsen has also been a frequent destination for Japan’s Imperial Family and is also thought to be the inspiration for the bath house in the Studio Ghibli movie Sprited Away. The main attraction…

Type: Hot Springs  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , , ,

Hakone Onsen

Hakone has been one of Japan’s most popular hot spring resorts for hundreds of years and today there are over a dozen natural hot springs supplying the many ryokan and hotels in the area. Visitors to Hakone can enjoy hot spring baths in both public bath houses and ryokan, many of which accept daytime visitors…

Type: Hot Springs  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , ,

Kurokawa Onsen

In the northeastern part of rural Kumamoto Prefecture, not too far from Beppu, Kurokawa Onsen is one of the prettiest and most charming hot spring resorts in Japan. Unlike the typical resort full of concrete ryokan and hotels, Kurokawa’s hot spring ryokan are almost entirely housed within charming old wooden buildings and the local community…

Type: Hot Springs  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: , ,

Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen has been established as one of Japan’s most popular hot spring resorts for many centuries. Located in rural Gunma Prefecture, 1200 metres above sea level in the mountains, the town offers skiing in winter and hiking during the summer months, both combined with hot spring bathing. The town’s waters are said to cure…

Type: Hot Springs  |  Category: Northern Honshu  |  Tags: , ,