Have you ever wondered what an onsen is?

Onsens are public baths found in many parts of Japan, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and temperatures. They vary from heavily chlorinated pools to natural volcanic hot springs that can get as hot as 100 degrees Celsius.

Some onsens have waterfalls or light shows; others provide a range of services such as massage chairs or food stalls. There’s even one with a giant cedar tree growing inside it! 

But the most important thing about an onsen is that it’s a place where you can enjoy yourself for hours without worrying about anything else, a genuinely stress-free experience in this hectic world. 

Onsens are diverse places with many different things to enjoy.

Some people prefer low temperatures and relaxing, while others want high temperatures for a real spine-chilling experience. However, the most important thing is choosing an onsen you like.

So if you’re looking for some genuinely relaxing fun, why not visit an onsen? In this article, I would like to introduce you to some of the best places in Japan. Enjoy!


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Top 18 Onsen in Japan, Where are some of the best ones located?

private onsen

1) Noboribetsu Onsen in Hokkaido

Noboribetsu is located next to Mt. Asahi, the highest mountain in Hokkaido. The onsen town has hot springs that have medicinal benefits for skin diseases, fatigue, and stress relief. The city itself has about 10 traditional ryokans (inns) that you can stay at and many restaurants and shops.

Recommended Hotel :

2) Dogo Onsen (Ehime Prefecture).

Dogo Onsen is a hot spring bathhouse with a history of over 1300 years. Visitors can enjoy the hot water from the underground well in various baths and rooms for body massage.

In addition, there are restaurants where you can relax after taking a bath. Experience Japanese hot springs at Dogo Spa Land!

Recommended Hotel :

3) Nanki-Shirahama Onsen (Wakayama prefecture)

Nanki-Shirahama is a famous hot spring town with an open-air beach next to the Sea of Japan. Enjoy various Japanese hot springs at Ensoleille, close to the beach.

At Nanki-Shirahama Onsen, you can enjoy other activities like fishing, surfing, snorkeling, and rock climbing.

Recommended Hotel :

4) Kurokawa Onsen (Kumamoto Prefecture)

Kurokawa Onsen is a famous hot spring town loved by many writers. Kurokawa Onsen has over 30 traditional ryokans.

The ryokans are designed in traditional Japanese or Western styles, and most of them have beautiful natural settings where you can relax.

Recommended Hotel :

5) Kinosaki Onsen (Near Kyoto)

Kinosaki Onsen is a hot spring town known for having the oldest public onsen bathhouses in Japan. There are 7 different public bathhouses, such as family-style baths and foot baths.

In addition, there are many ryokans with a private onsen that has views of the Sea of Japan or mountains bordered by Hyuganatsu trees. You can also enjoy many activities like fishing, surfing, diving, and horseback riding!

Recommended Hotel :

6) Arima Onsen (near Kobe)

Arima Onsen is a hot spring town said to have been discovered by Kukai, also known as Kobo Daishi.

Many historic buildings in Arima Onsen, such as the former feudal lord’s castle, temples, and shrines. Nowadays, many traditional ryokans have been passed down from the Edo period.

In addition, there are a variety of onsens such as a foot bath and a family-style bath. The water quality is rich in sodium chloride, perfect for skincare.

Recommended Hotel :

7) Hakone Onsen (Kanagawa Prefecture)

Hakone is a top-rated hot spring resort with many different onsens (including the famous Yunessun spa). The town itself is also surrounded by nature, and there are many activities you can do such as biking, rafting, swimming and viewing the beautiful scenery.

Recommended Hotel :

8) Gero Onsen (Near Nagoya)

Gero Onsen is a hot spring town located near Nagoya, which has many onsens that have been around since the Edo period. Many travelers visit Gero Onsen to experience this town’s unique combination of hot springs and traditional Japanese culture.

It is one of the highest-rated onsens for water quality and effectively treats skin diseases and neurotic disorders.

Recommended Hotel :

9) Beppu Onsen (Oita Prefecture)

The Kyushu island is known for its many onsen towns like Beppu (the ‘hells of Beppu’), Kusatsu, Yufuin, and others. One of the most famous hot springs in Japan, Kamegawa Onsen, can be found here.

Recommended Hotel :

10) Kusatsu Onsen (Gunma Prefecture)

Kusatsu Onsen is located in the middle of Gunma Prefecture (near Tokyo) and is close to hot springs such as Ajigasawa Onsen and Yubengawa. Kusatsu onsen also has traditional ryokans and restaurants, so you can enjoy staying at one if you wish!

Recommended Hotel :

11) Ito Onsen (Near Tokyo)

The source of the Onsen is from Chiba. Ito City has many natural hot springs and about 10 public baths. Although there are no famous fundamental areas for onsens, there are 16 inns and hotels where you can stay and take a bath throughout the city.

Recommended Hotel:

12) Shima Onsen (Gunma Prefecture)

Shima Onsen is located on the southern side of the Izu peninsula near Shimoda city. It’s a small town with lots of hot springs with health benefits. There are about 10 traditional ryokans (inns) that you can stay at and many restaurants and shops.

Recommended Hotel :

13) Ikaho Onsen (Gunma Prefecture)

Ikaho is located at the foot of Mt. Haruna, and it’s one of the most popular hot spring spots in Gunma Prefecture. It has about 30 onsens with large indoor baths separated for men and women and many traditional Japanese restaurants to eat at.

Recommended Hotel :

14) Yufuin Onsen (Oita Prefecture)

Yufuin is a hot spring town that has a unique style of onsens. It’s known for its art museum and ryokans, but there are also many different types of traditional Japanese inns to stay at!

15) Atami Onsen (Shizuoka Prefecture)

Atami is located close to the capital of Japan, Tokyo. It has many ryokans and inexpensive hotels close to the onsen baths in town.

Atami Onsen is also known for its electric seasons, where the temperature of the town’s Onsen changes daily.

You can bathe in warm water during winter and a cold bath during summer.

Recommended Hotel :

16) Kinugawa Onsen (Tochigi Prefecture)

Kinugawa Onsen is located in the Tochigi prefecture next to Tokyo. The town itself has a fascinating history, as it was once a hot spring resort for people sent to prisons by the Shogun back in the Edo period.

Kinugawa also has many historic sites, including temples and shrines.

Recommended Hotel :

17) Ginzan Onsen (Yamagata Prefecture)

Ginzan Onsen is a hot spring town located in Yamagata. Visitors can enjoy their time here by staying at one of the many ryokans with private onsens or smaller inns. The onsen waters have natural anti-aging properties, so many visit Ginzan Onsen on day trips from Tokyo.

Hotel Recommendation :

18) Manza Onsen (Gunma Prefecture)

Manza Onsen is located in the northernmost part of Gunma Prefecture overlooking Mt. Shirane in Japan’s Northern Alps. This quiet town has both indoor and outdoor baths, and you can soak yourself to your heart’s content.

Recommended Hotel :

Tips for visiting a public onsen bathhouse (what to wear, what not to do)

Yufuin Onsen
Yufuin Onsen

A public onsen bathhouse can be very different from a typical bathing experience.

Public onsen baths are often mixed-gender (although they don’t have to be), and the baths themselves do not have any doors or curtains.

The “rules” for visiting a public onsen bathhouse are few but important:

  • Do not wear anything white in color, as it does not dry quickly and will leave stains on your clothes.
  • Do not use soap of any kind in the water. It causes many suds, distracting other bathers (and preventing them from seeing their toes).
  • It’s also a good idea to avoid wearing jewelry while bathing.
  • When entering the bath, use the side entrances and walk through the changing room to get into the actual bath.
  • While in the Onsen, do not walk along the edge of the baths (as this is considered rude).
  • Try not to splash too much water while bathing (a sign of rudeness), and remember that you should wash before getting into the bath.
  • Never swim in a mixed-gender onsen!

Locals often use public onsen baths in Japan, so they also come with a few tips that you may want to follow:

  • It’s normal for people to chat or laugh while bathing. Remember not to take photographs of other bathers or use your mobile phone (against the rules).
  • Bath towels are provided to each person, so you can dry yourself, put on the provided yukata and leave.
  • The yukata is also often available in either a men’s (“men”) or women’s style (“women”), but they can still be borrowed even if you don’t need it.
  • People use the Onsen to relax, so remember that bathing is not a competition.
  • Also, try and relax when entering the hot tubs by staying seated for a few moments when you get into the bath (to allow your body time to adjust).
  • Don’t forget about other people washing in the baths as well! If you chat with other people, try to do it in the washing area.

Finally, don’t forget that Japanese onsen public baths are not like standard bathtubs and showers in Japan (and most of the world), where you use a showerhead or faucets to get wet and then soap yourself body wash before entering the water.

Enjoy your onsen experience, and have fun!

It’s also worth remembering that since hot water is the most crucial part of an onsen when you visit a public bathhouse for the first time, it’s a good idea to try out a few different baths. However, if you find one you particularly like, it can be common to return time after time.

Making reservations for your first time visiting a public onsen (what is the system?)

Some onsen baths will have private baths that can be reserved, and many of these private baths also come with their own lockers, so you don’t need to bring your own.

However, if you want to try a public bathhouse, you’ll find many different types of bathhouses in Japan.

While most onsens are popular tourist destinations for locals and foreigners alike, some smaller towns may have only local onsen baths or the traditional sento (public baths).

Other small towns will not have any dedicated traditional or modern public onsen baths, but there may be a sento in the locals’ area.

Why is it important to take off your clothes before entering an onsen bathhouse

Dogo Onsen Matsuyama
Dogo Onsen Matsuyama

You must take off your clothes and wear a yukata to get into an onsen bathhouse. This is important because it is considered rude to the other bathers if you don’t do this. It’s also not recommended to wear only a swimsuit into the bathhouse.

The salt content in the pool can cause skin irritation if you don’t rinse yourself off after coming out of natural pools.

The best onsen baths in Japan would have to be either one in Kanazawa or Hakone. If you go to Kanazawa, make sure you visit Tsubame-ya Onsen and Fudo-yu. They’re both fantastic!

How to avoid falling down the stairs at an onsen bathhouse

The floors of bathhouses are slippery when they get wet from water splashing or condensation forming. You should be careful not to fall down the stairs because your body is exposed when you do.


The history of the Onsen and its importance in Japanese Culture.

Kusatsu onsen
Kusatsu onsen

An onsen is a hot spring in Japan. It is essential in Japanese culture and known all over the world.

The Onsen history is traced to about 1400 BC when nomads were discovered living along the Silk Road.

They would stop at hot springs for sanctuary during their travels. These nomads were called “onsenbashers,” which eventually became “onsen,” which means hot water.

An onsen (hot spring) can be any natural or artificial pond, pool, or other body of water that contains naturally occurring mineral components such as sulfur, sodium, silica, and calcium chloride to generate heat through geological processes.

Onsens are typically well-known for their therapeutic properties and use as relaxation or recreational destinations. Hot springs, in general, are used for cooking, bathing, cleaning, and other domestic purposes.

It is said that an onsen’s temperature depends on the number of calcium compounds in it.

There is also a significant difference between different hot springs even when they are next because some have more sodium compounds and others have more sulfur compounds.

There are about 7,000 onsens in Japan, with a lot of them located along the coasts of various cities.

Japanese people believe that good health comes from having a world balance of yin and yang; an onsen has a good concentration of yin because its water is warm.

The Japanese people also believe that the nature of humans is yin or have more negative ions, which causes illness.

The positive effect comes from the fact that it provides a softer environment for relaxing and healing.

Kokuji (the word for an onsen) is comprised of the phrases koku (hot water) and Ji(ground).

Onsens are also known as hot springs, derived from the 16th-century Dutch term, “badschuyt,” meaning bathhouse. Some other names for an onsen are a sento (public bath), hot springs, or health resort.

The first Onsen is said to have been discovered by Prince Shotoku in 593 AD, who supposedly bathed in the waters of Gokuraku-Ji after a long trip.

There are many famous onsens, such as the one located in Hakone, known as the most beautiful Onsen in Japan.

Another example of an onsen is at Nikko, where there are five baths, and each one has its own unique name: Yu no Yu (Hot Water of the Clouds), Kin no Yu (Hot Water of Gold), Aka-no-yu (Deep Red Hot Water), Shira-no-Yu (Clear and Calm Hot Water) and Kuroyu (Black Hot Water).

Although onsens have been around for a long time, it was not until 1884 when Dr. Edward E.Clark introduced onsens as a cure-all to his patients in Saratoga Springs, New York.

In Japan, being an onsen resort grew in the early 1900s when the Japanese government wanted to appeal to foreigners.

Today there are many famous onsens such as my favorite one in Hakone called Yunessun.

It is a resort where many famous people from Japan and around the world go to relax.


FAQ :

Kamado Jigoku
Kamado Jigoku

How much is the entrance fee for a public bathhouse?

The costs depend on the facility, but most are 500-2000 yen.

What is the best season to visit an onsen?

The best season to visit is a hot spring in winter.

What is the benefit of Onsen?

The benefit of an onsen is that most people find the hot water to have a soothing and healing effect on their bodies. This is due to the naturally occurring minerals in therapeutic levels, which are beneficial for arthritis sufferers and athletes.

The onsen experience typically lasts about 1-2 hours and is a great way to relax and feel rejuvenated.

How much does Onsen cost?

Onsen is very inexpensive, starting from 500 yen for a 2-4 person tub or 1000 yen for an individual.

Are there private onsens in Japan?

Yes, they are called “kashikiriburo,” or private hot spring baths. It usually costs around 1000 yen for a 2-4 person tub. They may be hard to find in Japan, so it is best to ask the staff working there if you would like to use one of these baths.

What should I wear at an onsen?

Onsens in Japan are naked only. There is no way to cover up or hide with a towel, so do not worry about being “over-dressed.” I wouldn’t recommend wearing anything besides your bathing suit if possible, as this will become unnecessary when you get wet and take it off for the bath.

Can I bring my swimsuit from home?

Yes, you can. However, the traditional onsen style would be for you to wear a yukata (Japanese cotton robe) on your way to the bath, and then you take it off in the changing room. Put your swimsuit on when you get to the tub. Bring a pair of wooden clogs because these are worn instead of sandals or shoes in an onsen.

What is the difference between a ryokan and an onsen?

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, whereas an onsen is usually found in natural hot springs towns. They both have their charms!

How do you say Onsen in Japanese? It’s written “温泉” but pronounced in a few different ways. It is usually noted as おんせん (Onsen), which is the most common way to pronounce it, but you can also say オンセン (on-sen) or 温泉 (Donna).

What does Onsen mean?

The literal meaning of Onsen is “hot spring,” which is the general term for hot springs in Japan.

Is Onsen mixed gender?

Yes, most onsens are mixed gender. There is no way to cover up when you are in the bath, so do not worry about being embarrassed or uncomfortable.

How is water temperature controlled in an onsen?

The temperatures are all up to each hot spring and can range anywhere from 25-50 degrees Celsius (79-122 degrees Fahrenheit). Onsens with higher temperatures are usually found in the mountains and may need some warming up.

What is the difference between an Onsen and a Sento?

An onsen is a hot spring bath, and a sento is more like an old-style public bath. Sento is usually much smaller than the giant hot springs in Japan but can be found almost anywhere.

They cost about 500-1000 yen to get in. As you may already know, these days they have been modernizing the sentos and increasing their quality.

Is Onsen hygienic?

Yes, it is immaculate. The way you would wash before entering the Onsen is to delete your makeup and skincare products.

How much does a traditional Japanese inn cost?

The prices vary between 8,000-30,000 yen per person, but this includes dinner and sleeping arrangements! Most of these inns have an onsen outside.

How long should you soak in an onsen?

Upon this question, the reactions and answers were as varied as one can imagine.
As long as you want. I recommend around 10 minutes, more than that isn’t recommended.

Why are tattoos not allowed in Onsen?

Tattoos in Japan carry a certain stigma to them. Tattoos have initially been used to label criminals, prostitutes, and traitors from society during the Edo period in Japan.

If you had tattoos, it meant that you had been tried for your crimes by shogunate officials or the proper authorities and found guilty of wrongdoing. 

A modern Japanese enthusiast of traditional culture might be shocked to discover that, in the old days, tattoos meant precisely the opposite. 

To know more about this topic, I recommend reading my article about the Japanese mafia.

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