Japan’s Top 11 Onsen Areas: Discover the Best Hot Springs

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In ancient times, before the advent of modern medicine, onsens (hot springs) held a revered status as sacred places believed to possess magical healing properties. During the Edo period, individuals afflicted with illnesses would immerse themselves in these hot springs for extended periods, experiencing a renewed sense of health upon leaving. As a result, inns, ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), and bathhouses were constructed around these hot springs, giving rise to the onsen towns we are familiar with today. Undoubtedly, a dip in these pools promises relaxation and rejuvenation. To assist you in finding the most tranquil onsen experiences in Japan, we have compiled a comprehensive list organized by cities, towns, villages, prefectures, and regions. Continue reading to uncover the finest onsen areas in Japan.

1 Yufuin Onsen

Image of Yufuin Onsen

Yufuin Onsen, located at the base of Mount Yufudake, has been voted as the top onsen area in the region. It boasts breathtaking views of mountains and rural countryside. The onsen baths are found in traditional Japanese inns, providing an authentic and rustic experience. Yufuin is a highly tourist-friendly area, offering a wide range of accommodations such as ryokans, hotels, museums, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. It is easily accessible via the Yufuin express train on the JR line. Yufuin is known for its abundance of exceptional bathhouses, and one highly recommended option is the Shoya No Yakata Oita Ryokan. Situated on the misty hills, this ryokan features outdoor baths separated by gender, offering splendid views of the town. It is particularly renowned for its unique blue water, setting it apart from other bathhouses in the area.

Additional Information
  • Name: Yufuin Onsen

2 Miyahama Hot Spring

Image of Miyahama Hot Spring

Miyahama Onsen, located on a serene hill overlooking the Inland Sea in Hiroshima, offers a perfect opportunity for relaxation. With only four inns and hotels along route 2, this spa embodies the essence of Hiroshima and Iwakuni spas. Immerse yourself in the onsen while savoring fresh fish from the Inland Sea and locally brewed sake, all while enjoying the breathtaking view of Miyahama Island. If you visit during oyster season, don’t miss the chance to try the freshly caught oysters from Ono no Seto!

Additional Information
  • Name: Miyahama Hot Spring
  • Rating: 3.0/5
  • Address: Miyahama Hot Spring

3 Arima Onsen

Image of Arima Onsen

The Arima Onsen, located an hour from Osaka, is a renowned thousand-year old onsen town. It was favored by the powerful ruler Hideyoshi Toyotomi and is surrounded by mountains, making it a scenic destination. Considered one of the best in Japan, this onsen offers two types of springs. The Kinsen, also known as the gold spring, has a reddish-brown color due to iron deposits and is beneficial for skin and muscle ailments. On the other hand, the Ginsen, or silver spring, is clear and contains radium and carbonate, providing relief for muscle and joint aches.

Apart from its onsen, the Arima Onsen area offers a plethora of sightseeing opportunities. Visitors can explore temples, cafes, toy museums, nature parks, waterfalls, and more. It truly is like a treasure box waiting to be discovered. For those visiting from Osaka, a day trip with a public onsen bath experience and city exploration is possible. Alternatively, staying longer allows for a more comprehensive experience of the area.

Additional Information
  • Name: Arima Onsen
  • Rating: 3.0/5
  • Address: Kita-ku Arimacho 353-1 3.61 km from Rokko Garden Terrace
  • Services:
    • Parking
    • 24 -hour front desk
    • Garden
    • Terrace
    • Non-smoking rooms
    • Free parking
    • Internet services
    • Heating

4 Gero-onsen Hot Spring.)

Image of Gero-onsen Hot Spring.)

Gero Onsen, located between Nagoya and Takayama in Japan, is renowned as one of the top 3 onsen according to poet Hayashi Razan. Situated in the Hida Mountain Range, it is the largest onsen town in Gifu. The healing properties of its spring water have been utilized by hospitals and research institutions for centuries. The water is known for its clarity, alkaline nature, and pleasant fragrance. To explore the town, you can obtain a Yumeguri Tegata (onsen travel ticket) from tourist offices, Ryokans, or convenience stores in the Gero area. This pass grants access to three different hot spring facilities in various Ryokans. Alternatively, you can enjoy the free footbaths scattered throughout the town. For the ultimate relaxation, consider staying overnight at one of the Ryokans. Please note that The-Ryokan.com will be closed from 24 April 2018 onwards. For alternative options, please refer to the Ryokan mentioned below.

Additional Information
  • Name: Gero-onsen Hot Spring.)
  • Address: Yunoshima, Gero, Gifu

5 Shuzenji Onsen

Image of Shuzenji Onsen

The Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka is renowned for its hot springs, with Shuzenji Onsen being one of the oldest and most esteemed onsen towns in the region. Surrounded by picturesque mountain views, Shuzenji Onsen derives its name from the town’s Temple, established by the esteemed Kobo Daishi 1200 years ago. Additionally, Kobo Daishi also founded Tokko-no-yu, the famous onsen in Shuzenji, which now serves as a public foot bath for all visitors to enjoy. Furthermore, while in Shuzenji, you can explore a serene bamboo forest, visit designer cafes and shops, or experience the traditional ryokan accommodations available in the area.

Additional Information
  • Name: Shuzenji Onsen
  • Rating: 4.0/5
  • Address: 838-1, Shuzenji, Izu-city, Shizuoka Prefecture

6 Ko-soyu bath house (public bath)

Image of Ko-soyu bath house (public bath)

In the year 725, nearly 1300 years ago, the holy priest Gyoki discovered a wounded crow cleansing itself in the spring water. Miraculously, the crow was healed, leading to the establishment of Yamashiro Onsen, a town centered around the communal onsen called Yamashiro-onsen Yokuden. Exploring the town offers a nostalgic journey back in time with its charming old inns and houses. To promote good health, it is recommended to try the renowned Otoku-shozu spring water for men or the Onna-shozu for women. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the public bathhouses, Soyu and Ko-Soyu, located in the heart of the town. Soyu is a modern bathhouse with separate sections for genders, while Ko-Soyu, meaning old public bath, showcases rustic Meiji Period architecture. For more information on things to do in Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa, and the best onsen ryokans in Kaga, please click here.

Additional Information
  • Name: Ko-soyu bath house (public bath)
  • Address: Yamashiro-onsen, Kaga, Ishikawa

7 Kusatsu Onsen

Image of Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma, just three hours from Tokyo by bus or train, is voted the best onsen in the country, boasting the largest natural flow of springwater, most of which emerges at the Yubatake (hot water field) in the center of the town. The water is renowned for its sulfur content and high acidity, and there are plenty of free public hot springs to soak in. In addition, Kusatsu contains a plethora of inns, hotels, cafs, and shops to explore. It is a popular onsen town for families, offering a tropical park, an adventure park, and a multitude of mountain hikes to enjoy during the day. The Sainokawara Rotenburo (open-air bath) is a must-see, with its large outdoor pools and stunning views. Autumn and winter are the ideal times to visit, allowing one to witness vibrant autumn colours and pristine snow-covered forests. Just two hours away is the quintessential city of Nikko; read here for more things to do in Nikko.

Additional Information
  • Name: Kusatsu Onsen
  • Address: Kusatsu, Agatsuma District, Gunma Prefecture

8 Hakone Onsen

Image of Hakone Onsen

Tenzan, a rustic and traditional-style bathhouse, is highly recommended as it offers both indoor and outdoor pools.

Additional Information
  • Name: Hakone Onsen
  • Address: Hakonemachi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa prefecture

9 Noboribetsu Onsen

Image of Noboribetsu Onsen

Please consider visiting Noboribetsu Onsen, the most popular hot spring resort in Hokkaido. It boasts a rich history, easy accessibility, and excellent quality. Located in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, just an hour away from Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport, the resort is known for its Jigokudani (Hell’s Valley), where most of the water gathers, creating a mesmerizing landscape of steam and rocks. Noboribetsu Onsen offers 11 types of high-quality spring water, including sulphur and sulphides that have skin-softening and whitening properties, as well as iron that helps relieve muscle aches and reduce fatigue. For a spacious and modern indoor bath experience, we recommend visiting Daiichi Takimotokan, which features numerous pools and collects water from seven different spring sources, each with unique properties, minerals, and health benefits. If you’re interested in exploring more activities in Hokkaido, please read our article. Please note that The-Ryokan.com will be closed starting from April 24, 2018. We suggest checking out the Ryokan mentioned below for alternative options.

Additional Information
  • Name: Noboribetsu Onsen
  • Address: Noboribetsu Onsencho, Noboribetsu-shi, Hokkaido

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