Explore our selection of the best onsen areas in Japan
Onsen means hot spring in Japanese. Thanks to the geographic conditions in a volcanic zone, Japan owns more than 3000 Onsen areas and over 27,000 naturally-occurring mineral hot spring resorts with facilities (based on the latest data released by the Environment Ministry), which made it undoubtedly the most famous onsen country in the world. The unique hot spring bathing culture has been cultivated in this country. Japanese people enjoy visiting or staying at different Onsen resorts with various minerals and views of the nature. Without experiencing the authentic Onsen bathing, you cannot say you really understand the Japanese culture. When you find yourself enjoying it, you realize another aspect of Japan.
Now you might be confused about how to make the Onsen choices to visit since there are too many options. That’s the reason why we’re making this list, each Onsen areas selected by our specialists and highly recommended by our customers, just for you and anyone who is interested in the Japanese Onsen Culture.
10. Atami Onsen (Shizuoka)
Atami means “hot sea” in Japanese, which is a long-established area known for their hot springs. It got it's name about 1500 years ago when people found fishes dying from the hot water blowing out from the sea. Atami is a city in the Shizuoka Prefecture, located between Tokyo and Osaka, and is a well known gateway destination to Mount Fuji and the Izu Peninsula. Hakone, another popular destination, is also within easy reach and accessible by a one hour bus trip. The pH of the hot spring water here is weak alkaline which is gentle to the skin.
9. Yamashiro Onsen (Ishikawa)
Yamashiro Hot Spring is one of the most venerable hot spring resorts in Kaga City, Ishikawa Prefecture, an area in the Hokuriku region facing the Sea of Japan. It has a history of over 1,300 years and has retained much of the traditional culture. Beginning with a legend that a bird healed its wounded wings, its benefits became known to people across the country. Since then, it has developed a rich culture as a hot spring resort which has been loved by a number of writers and artists. The old Japanese-style inns with red latticework and the traditional houses give the area its authentic feel of historical Japan with an artistic atmosphere.
About 2 hours 20 minutes by train from Osaka and Nagoya, the location is convenient so, whether in Japan on business or for sightseeing, do not miss the opportunity to experience this slice of traditional Japan.
8. Hakone Onsen (Kanagawa)
Only one hour by train from Tokyo, Hakone is an Onsen spa resort located the centrin the Kanagawa Prefecture, close to Japan's highest mountain, Mt. Fuji. There are a number of sightseeing points such as the range of mountains from Mt. Kami-yama (the highest elevation in Hakone) to Mt. Komagatake, Lake Ashino-ko (a caldera formation) on the crater basin, the sacred Mt. Fuji in the west, and the magnificent scenery of Suruga-wan and Sagami-wan bays in the southeast. All these sceneries are full of Japanese beauties. With more than one hundred accommodations, abundant hot springs, beautiful nature and world-class art museums, Hakone Onsen is one of the must-visit places in Japan.
7. Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo)
If you're seeking a great stay with great onsens where you can walk around at night in a lively place, Kinosaki Onsen in Hyogo Prefecture is a perfect choice! There are many hot springs in Kinosaki, but the most famous are the seven public hot springs. These seven hot springs openly accept people with tattoos as well! Strolling through the beautiful, timeless, and pedestrian-friendly streets of Kinosaki in a yukata, and taking a dip in each of the onsens are a great way to enjoy your time there. The onsens are rich in minerals that are said to help with fatigue, digestive issues, nerve and muscular pain, and even bruising! Each bathhouse is unique, and you can try them all!
6. Kurokawa Onsen (Kumamoto)
Kurokawa Onsen is located in central Kyushu. It is not only known for its attractive town, but also for the outstanding outdoor baths (rotenburo), some of which are located right besides a gushing river or have tremendously large in sizes.
The history of Kurokawa Onsen can be dated back 300 years ago. It used to be a convenient location in Kumamoto Prefecture for many Daimyo (feudal lords) and other travelers to stop by to recover from the fatigue of their long journeys. One of the spas was believed to be good for curing wounds and called “Kizuyu”, meaning “spa for curing wounds.” Even today, this spa is well maintained by the local people and used as a public bath.
5. Noboribetsu Onsen (Hokkaido)
It is said that the name “Noboribetsu” comes from an Ainu (the indigenous people in Japan) word “Nupurupetsu”, meaning “The white, muddy river” or “The thick colored river” which depicts the abundant flow of the hot springs that changed the color of the river. The Jigokudani, meaning "Hell Valley", is an explosion crater of Mt. Kuttara, 450 m in diameter and 27 acres in area. About 10,000 tons of hot springs gush out per day in 9 various kinds such as Sulfur spring, Salt spring and Aluminum, which are supplied to various accommodations in the Onsen town. The views of the boiling and bubbling water gives the visitors an image of what Hell would look like.
4. Arima Onsen (Hyogo)
Located at the base of a scenic fall foliage valley among the steep mountains in Hyogo Prefecture, Arima Onsen is one of the oldest and the most famous hot spring towns with a unique atmosphere. Founded 1300 years ago, it has been well known as a spa resort where the Emperor and numerous nobles have visited. Many historical temples, shrines, and houses have been well preserved as well as western style hotels and facilities were built in the town. This eclectic style which mixes Japanese tradition and western culture brought Arima a unique and exotic atmosphere, attracting visitors to the historical spa resort from all over the world.
3. Yufuin Onsen (Oita)
As another famous area in Oita Prefecture, Yufuin-Onsen is located in a small valley surrounded by mountains. It’s a good option for those seeking for the special Onsen experience because it is not a typical busy & touristy hot spring resort. Various ryokans (Japanese style inn) are scattered among the quiet local area rich in nature, with fields and rice paddies spreading throughout the valley. Cherry blossoms and mustard flowers bloom in spring, rice fields are a lush green in the summer, ginko and maple trees turn their colors to vibrant reds and yellows in autumn, and white snow covers the whole town in winter. The longer you stay, the more you understand the beauty of coexisting with nature in Japan.
2. Beppu Onsen (Oita)
It is said that in Japan, Mt. Fuji represents the mountains, Seto Inland represents the oceans and Beppu represents the hot springs.
Located in Oita Prefecture, Beppu is Japan's iconic, renowned Onsen region. In Beppu City there are hundreds of hot springs with different atmospheres, but they are mainly distributed in eight areas, therefore Beppu City is also referred to as Beppu Hatto (meaning 8 springs in Japanese). It boasts the highest number of hot spring locations as well as the highest annual yield of hot spring water in the country. Out of 11 different types of hot springs in Japan, which are categorized by the mineral contents of the water, Beppu has 10. It is as if Beppu is a festival of hot springs.
1. Kusatsu Onsen (Gunma)
Located in Gunma Prefecture, Kusastsu Onsen has been voted as the #1 Onsen in the past two years by the Travel companies in Japan.
The water for their hot springs are sourced in the Mount Kusatsu-Shirane nearby, which the amount of the naturally flowing water boasts the highest in Japan with more than 32,300 liters per minute. The water is quite acidic with a pH of around 2, so there is an acid neutralization facility to maintain the water quality suitable for fishes to inhabit the rivers. The Onsen water at this city full of the strong scent of sulphur is recommended for its health benefits to cure skin diseases, neuralgia, diabetes and more.
Situated at an altitude of 1200 meters above sea level, Kusatsu also offers skiing in winter and hiking during the rest of the year, but either way, you can always enjoy hot spring bathing along with it at any time of the year!