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Top 10 Onsen in Japan

The flow of hot water from volcanic sources brings about the cultural and ethereal experience of bathing in nature. Hot springs come in a variety of sizes, can be rotemburo (open air with sky views) and uchiburo (indoor baths). 3,000 areas and 27,000 facilities make this an authentic way to connect with the traditions of a nation. Take time to recharge, connecting body and soul with this ritual and celebration. 

 

1) Dogo

3,000 years ago, a white egret dipped an injured leg into a hot spring and was cured. This legend of healing waters created the first known Onsen in Japan. Today 18 natural springs with gentle alkalinity are blended to a comfortable 42 degrees. Painted panels, yugama waterspouts and statues of two deities from the legend make bathing at Dogo unique.  

The replica Imperial chamber complete with modesty bathing gown is available for private bathing. Take the tour of the actual Emperors bathhouse to be inspired. 

In 1894 the Honkan main building was constructed. Notorious it became the inspiration for ‘Spirited Away’ a Ghibli movie. Bathing in Dogo became even more popular with 800,000 visitors each year. 

The second Asuka building brought top artisans to recreate the era from 592 to 710. Washi banners with intricate designs expend over the entrance, filtering the air. The Tsubaki or Camelia building in the centre of Dogo shopping arcade, brings a third bathing option, an essential part of daily life, for the locals of Matsuyama city. 

Unique Japan Trips featuring the Dogo Onsen include:

 

 2) Beppu 

Reinvigorating Samurai who fought in the Mongolian wars and relaxation for the weary, Beppu Hatto, or eight springs, contains the most minerals that categorize springs with 10 out of a possible 11. Enjoy a festival of Onsen with the biggest yield of water and most numerous at 2,000 locations to enjoy springs in Japan.   

Expand your onsen experience with multiple detox options abound at Beppu. Feel like a kid at the beach and be buried in the hot sand or get stuck in the warm mud. Put on a bathing suit to splash in Aqua Garden, hydrate in hot steam filled rooms, then relax on a rooftop tub or by Beppu Bay. 

 

3) Kusatsu 

Springs sourced from Mount Kusatsu-Shirane flow at 32,300 litres a minute. At an acidic pH 2.1 it contains superior antibacterial power and must be neutralized for natural elements to survive. Clouds of rising steam come from the central spring of Yubatake where 4,000 litres of water gush every minute. Surpass the sulphuric aroma to benefit from the healing properties to cure many health issues.  

Traditional water-cooling techniques Yumomi are demonstrated and open to be experienced at Netsu no Yu. This traditional bath house also offers folk dance, comic storytelling Rakugo for complete cultural immersion. At Goza no Yu enjoy two types of springs Yubatake an d Bandai combined in one place. Dip into the Onsen experience foot baths Yu-kemuri Tei are in the same spot as in Edo times under a thatched roof and cypress cottage share adventures as you join othertired travelers soak tired toes. Hike nearby volcanic mountains and waterfalls or opt to ski in winter, and enjoy the hot springs year-round. 

 

4) Akanko  

Discover Akanko between Kushiro and Abashiri cities, the largest resort in Eastern Hokkaido and a base for sightseeing Akan Mashu National Park on the southern end of beautiful Lake Akan. Ainu locals already used the springs by 1858 then in 1912 a ryokan was built. 13 hot springs feed into many facilities with a variety of minerality. 

At Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings enjoy a view of Lake Akan, the mountain range, and try delicious Hokkaido cuisine, then view a range of woodcraft in The Nitai gallery. 

Unique Japan Trips featuring Lake Akan Tsuruga Wings Onsen include:

 

 5) Nyuto

Set in the mountains of eastern Akita and part of Towada-Hachimantai National Park, the suggestive shape of nearby Mount Nyuto gives rise to the name Nyuto meaning “nipple.” Eight ryokan inns, some traditional and rustic share over 300 years of history. Tsurunoyu is the oldest and most famous. Journey 30 minutes into the mountains to see caldera lake Tazawa Ko the deepest in Japan. Explore more hot spring towns and hiking trails in the areas around Tazawa Ko and Nyuto.  

Unique Japan Trips featuring Nyuto Onsen include:

 

6) Kawayu   

 In the Kii Mountains Kawayu is famous for its originality as you can bathe in the Oto River. Boiling water from an underground spring blend with icy river water to create a natural mix. Settle into the riverbed by digging a small section into the gravel, then soak in the natural waters and surroundings of pine forest covered mountains. 

Pilgrimage routes of Kumano make Kawayu popular as ryokan line the riverbanks. In winter, a huge bath called sennin buro (“bath for 1000 people”), is brought in for people to bathe free of charge. 

Unique Japan Trips featuring Kawayu Onsen include:

 

7) Senjukaku 

Senjukaku is a continuous bath of fresh water filled with 720 litres per minute. It has the largest amount of water at 1,036 tonnes per day which is constantly drained. 

Water pours down from a stone wall and overflows into the indoor pools. 

Select a deluxe room for a private onsen outdoors on the balcony complete with view over gardens and the Five Peaks of the northern Alps. 

Unique Japan Trips featuring Senjukaku Onsen include:

 

8) Iya Valley

Along the Iya River in western Tokushima Prefecture is a secluded valley with steep forested slopes. The winding narrow mountain road makes this location remote and detached from modern Japan. Nishi Iya (West Iya) is located around the entrance to the valley and is slightly more developed. Shin-Iya Kazurabashi is an onsen hotel with baths found high up on the mountainside accessed by a short cable car from the main building. The innermost Oku Iya, also called Higashi Iya or east lies further back and is difficult to reach without a guide. 

Unique Japan Trips featuring Iya Valley Onsen include:

 

9) Unzen 

Japan’s first national park in 1934 and popular base to explore nearby Mt. Unzen. 

In the 1910s, Unzen Onsen was frequented by many tourists to its abundant springs. Hot springs bubble to surface, hissing up plumes of white gas and letting off a sulphuric smell in Hells fields that surround the town. In many places, you can even see the road bubbling from the heat below the surface. The acidic hydrogen sulphide has antiseptic properties to ease ailments and beautify. Unzen Foot Onsen is a popular spot for refreshing weary feet after hiking. Serving guests for 1,300 years makes the level of hospitality high. 

Unique Japan Trips featuring Unzen Onsen include:

 

10) Goshiki 

Homely feel built entirely of Japanese larch wood, Goshiki Onsen has amazing views and secluded location. In winter, snow presses in between the wooden boards Named five colours due to the water having five distinctive sources and hues. High in sulfuric acid, magnesium, sodium, calcium, to name a few it soothes skin and muscles. 

Unique Japan Trips featuring Goshiki Onsen include:

 

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