For those of you who are interested in traveling to Japan, you may have heard of the term Onsen and are wondering what that is. An Onsen is a warm indoor or outdoor bath—with natural hot spring. Thousands of hotels and inns have built themselves up along the Japanese countryside and centralized around these hot springs, all created through the heavy volcanic nature of the archipelago. Besides being beneficial to your health, who doesn’t love a good hot soak in peace and serenity? So let’s go through the top seven best Onsens you should visit in Japan.
1. Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma
Let’s begin with one of Japan’s most famous hot springs, Kusatsu Onsen. It’s chock full of nutrients and minerals that are said to cure everything except broken hearts. But hey, that’s what chocolate was invented for! The rituals used here date back centuries and some baths are free of charge to use. They’re surrounded by inns and attractions where you can relax and refresh yourself after a long day of spiritual healing. It doesn’t sound much better than that.
Like any typical onsen town located high up in the mountains, there’s not much to do during the evening and the wifi connection provided by the family-run inns can be a little spotty. If you wish to remain connected online, make sure to rent a pocket wifi ahead of time. This Japan pocket wifi review can help you decide what type of pocket wifi would work best when you’re heading to mountainous areas in Japan.
2. Beppu Onsen, Oita Prefecture
This next onsen is unique because it’s not just one hot spring, but a whole slew of them – numbering in the thousands. And with eight different areas where hot springs can be found, they’re almost all different to the naked eye. Some are traditional hot water baths, others are filled with mud or even sand. The water is a surreal teal in coloration and each of the different baths carries different health benefits. The locals even have a specialty food created straight from the baths in the form of onsen eggs, which are cooked directly in the water and are said to be very nutritious.
3. Takamagahara Onsen, Toyama
This one is a real chore to get to since it’s located about 2100 meters up on the Hida mountains, and the journey takes well over a day. So making a visit here could easily be a four-day trip. But the true serenity and sublime peace to be found up there is unmatched. Surrounded on all sides by pristine beauty of the natural forest, you’ll be completely tranquil as you bathe in these waters, completely soaking away both the aches acquired from getting there and the aches you’re sure to get on the return trip.
4. Yufuin Onsen
In southern Japan, in the area known as Kyushu, there rests the great mountain and its twin peaks known as Mt. Yufu. At its base, heated by the volcano’s core, you’ll find the Yufuin onsen, a truly magical hot spring with crystal clear water and perfectly warm temperatures. With a complete view of the twin peaks from the comforting water, the atmosphere within this hot spring can be described as nothing less than magical.
5. Dogo Onsen, Shikoku Island
History buffs, here’s one for you. This one is known for being among the oldest known onsen in the country at nearly 3,000 years old. And still going strong, apparently. The bathhouse dates back to the late 19th century and several residences and inns were built up in the area around it to take advantage of its drawing properties.
6. Fuji Kawaguchiko Onsen, Yamanashi Prefecture
What’s better than soaking in a hot spring? How about soaking in a hot spring in the shadow of the handsome and mystifying Mt. Fuji? That’s right! This majestic place is located at the base of the enormous peak where the locals have clearly decided this is a great drawing point for business. And they’re right. Not only are the hot springs perfectly heated by the magma beneath the mountain, but the views created by the mountain are simply breathtaking. Even better, if you go in the springtime, you’ll be just in time to witness the famous cherry blossoms fluttering down from the trees in the wind. It doesn’t get much more relaxing than that.
7. Nyuto, Akita Prefecture
An entire village in this region has dedicated itself to the observance of the hot springs and their astounding health benefits. Known the country over for the milky blue waters and the cold winters, this is the ultimate stop for a hot spring visit. Sure, the four seconds between undressing and actually getting into the water are probably a little drafty. But all of that is soon forgotten once you’re in and warm and watching the snowflakes fall silently around you into the steaming air.
Which Onsen in Japan Do You Want to Visit?
We are huge fans of hot springs and a bit of pampering during our vacations. And with all the places in the world you can visit, why not choose Japan; a country so different and so truly magical in so much of its makeup. Where else will you find such a decadent selection of magical hot springs to soak away the cares of life? To just breathe, to exist, to just be alive for a little while? The hot springs have fascinated not only the locals but also their mythologies over the many centuries as well. And if even the gods enjoy the springs, then maybe it’s time to see what you’ve been missing all this time.