11 of the Best Hot Springs in Japan♨ Relax and Rejuvenate in Nature’s Wonders

11 of the Best Hot Springs in Japan

Hot springs, or onsens, are a beloved part of Japanese culture and have been enjoyed for centuries. With over 3,000 hot springs across the country, Japan is a paradise for those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation. From the famous Hakone region to lesser-known hidden gems, we’ve compiled a list of 11 of the best hot springs in Japan.

Each hot spring has unique features, from stunning views of Mount Fuji to open-air sulfuric hot springs set along rocky shorelines. In addition to the hot springs, many locations offer various accommodation options, local attractions, and delicious food and entertainment. Whether you want to explore the local culture or unwind in a serene environment, a hot spring in Japan is perfect.

Key Takeaways

  • Japan has over 3,000 hot springs, or onsens, to choose from.
  • Each hot spring has unique features, from stunning views to open-air sulfuric hot springs.
  • Hot springs in Japan offer various accommodation options, local attractions, and delicious food and entertainment.

Understanding Onsens and Hot Springs in Japan

In Japan, hot springs are known as “onsen” and are an essential part of Japanese culture. Onsens are natural hot springs heated by geothermal activity and are believed to have therapeutic and healing properties. They are often found in scenic mountains, forests, and seaside areas.

Onsens are not just for relaxation and enjoyment but also deeply rooted in Japanese history and culture. In the past, onsens were used for communal bathing and were essential to daily life. They were also considered sacred places where people could purify themselves before entering a shrine or temple.

Today, onsens are still a popular destination for both locals and tourists. There are thousands of onsens throughout Japan, ranging from small, rustic baths to large, luxurious resorts. Onsens can be indoor or outdoor, and some are in caves or on the side of a mountain.

It is important to note that hot springs are not just for bathing but also a cultural experience in Japan. Specific rules and etiquette must be followed when visiting an onsen. For example, washing your body thoroughly before entering the bath is customary, and it is considered impolite to wear a swimsuit or bring a towel into the water.

Another important aspect of Japanese culture is tattoos. In Japan, tattoos have traditionally been associated with organized crime, and many onsens still have a strict “no tattoo” policy. However, some onsens are now relaxing their rules on tattoos, so it’s always best to check beforehand.

Overall, visiting an onsen in Japan is a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you’re looking to relax and unwind or immerse yourself in Japanese culture, there is an onsen for everyone.

Top Hot Springs Destinations in Japan

When it comes to hot springs, Japan is an absolute paradise. With thousands of onsen scattered throughout the country, choosing which ones to visit can be tricky. We’ve compiled this list of some of Japan’s best hot springs destinations.

1. Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma Prefecture

Kusatsu Onsen is one of Japan’s most famous hot springs resorts, and for good reason. Situated in scenic Gunma Prefecture, the town boasts an actual hot water field in the center of town. This is Japan’s most prolific geothermal water source, with 100 hot springs gushing 34,000 liters daily. The water is said to have healing properties and is believed to be effective against various ailments, including muscle pain and fatigue.

2. Hakone Onsen, Kanagawa Prefecture

Hakone is a famous hot springs destination located just outside of Tokyo. The town is situated in the scenic Hakone National Park and boasts stunning views of Mount Fuji. There are a variety of onsen in the area, including indoor and outdoor baths. One of the most popular is the Tenzan Onsen, which features outdoor baths surrounded by lush greenery.

3. Noboribetsu Onsen, Hokkaido

Noboribetsu Onsen is located on the northern island of Hokkaido and is one of Japan’s most famous hot springs destinations. The town is in the heart of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park and is home to various onsen, including the famous Jigokudani (“Hell Valley”). This area is known for its geothermal activity, steaming vents, and bubbling mud pools.

4. Beppu Onsen, Oita Prefecture

Beppu is one of Japan’s most famous hot springs resorts on the island of Kyushu. The town is home to a variety of onsen, including both traditional and modern baths. One of the most unique experiences in Beppu is the “Hell Tour,” which takes visitors to a series of hot springs with colorful names like “Blood Pond Hell” and “Sea Hell.”

5. Kinosaki Onsen, Hyogo Prefecture

Kinosaki is a charming hot springs town located on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The city is famous for its seven public bathhouses, which are said to have healing properties. Visitors can purchase a “yukata” (traditional Japanese clothing) and stroll through the town’s streets, visiting each bathhouse.

6. Arima Onsen, Hyogo Prefecture

Arima Onsen is located just outside of the city of Kobe and is one of Japan’s oldest hot springs resorts. The town is situated in a picturesque valley and is home to a variety of onsen, including both indoor and outdoor baths. One of the most famous is the Kin no Yu (“Golden Water”), which is said to have healing properties and is believed to be effective against skin ailments.

7. Dogo Onsen, Ehime Prefecture

Dogo Onsen is located on the island of Shikoku and is one of Japan’s most famous hot springs resorts. The town is home to the Dogo Onsen Honkan, a historic bathhouse that dates back over 100 years. The bathhouse has been visited by several famous figures throughout history, including the Japanese emperor.

8. Takaragawa Onsen, Gunma Prefecture

Takaragawa Onsen is located in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture and is known for its stunning natural beauty. The onsen features several outdoor baths along the Takaragawa River, offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The baths are open year-round; visitors can enjoy the scenery while soaking in the hot water.

9. Gero Onsen, Gifu Prefecture

Gero Onsen is located in the heart of the Japanese Alps and is known for its high-quality water. The town is home to a variety of onsen, including both traditional and modern baths. One of the most famous is the “Footbath of Beauty,” which is said to have healing properties and is believed to be effective against various skin ailments.

10. Yunomine Onsen, Wakayama Prefecture

Yunomine Onsen is a hot spring village located in the mountainous Hongu region of Wakayama Prefecture. Believed to be one of Japan’s oldest hot spring towns at over 1,800 years old, Yunomine Onsen is considered a historic onsen retreat. The hot springs, such as “Tsuboyu,” are rich in minerals and reputed to have healing properties.

Visitors can experience traditional Japanese “ryokan” inns with private indoor and outdoor baths overlooking scenic nature. Being situated along a section of the historic “Kumano Kodo” pilgrimage route adds to Yunomine Onsen’s cultural significance. It makes an excellent day trip from nearby towns or an overnight stay among the mountains and hot springs.

11. Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto Prefecture

Kurokawa Onsen is a hot spring village located in Minamioguni, Kumamoto Prefecture. It is situated along the Oguni River valley, surrounded by mountains at around 700 meters. Kurokawa Onsen is renowned as one of Japan’s most famous hot spring resorts, boasting over 300 years of history. The main attractions are the outdoor hot spring baths known as “lotenburo,” surrounded by beautiful natural scenery.

Visitors can experience traditional Japanese inns called “ryokan” with private hot spring baths. Kurokawa Onsen is also known for its relaxing atmosphere and opportunities to enjoy the surrounding nature. It can be visited as a day trip from Kumamoto City or as an overnight stay to fully experience the onsen culture and hospitality.

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Unique Features of Japanese Hot Springs

Japanese hot springs, or onsens, are famous worldwide for their picturesque scenery, healing properties, and unique features. Here are some of the most notable features of Japanese hot springs:

  • Geothermal activity: Japan is situated on the Pacific Fire Rim, meaning there are many hot springs throughout the country. The geothermal activity also creates other natural wonders, such as the “hells” of Beppu and the hot water field in Kusatsu.
  • Minerals: Many Japanese hot springs contain minerals that have healing properties. Some of the most common minerals found in hot springs include sulfur, which has a distinct smell, and alkaline, which is believed to have a moisturizing effect on the skin.
  • Winter hot springs: In winter, many hot springs offer a unique experience as visitors can soak in the warm water surrounded by snow. Some hot springs even have outdoor baths, known as Rotenburo, that allow visitors to enjoy the winter scenery.
  • Sand baths: Some hot springs, such as the ones in Ibusuki, offer sand baths. Visitors are buried up to their necks in hot sand, which is said to have therapeutic effects on the body.
  • Foot baths: Many hot springs have foot baths, which are free to use and offer a relaxing way to soak your feet in the warm water.
  • Tea, coffee, and wine baths: Some hot springs offer unique baths that contain tea, coffee, or wine. These baths have different benefits, such as improving circulation or moisturizing the skin.
  • Snow monkeys: In Jigokudani Monkey Park, visitors can observe macaques bathing in hot springs. The monkeys have become famous around the world for their unique behavior.

Overall, Japanese hot springs offer a unique and relaxing experience that is not to be missed. Whether you’re looking for healing properties, picturesque scenery, or just a way to relax, a hot spring in Japan will meet your needs.

Accommodation Options at Hot Springs

When visiting hot springs in Japan, there are various accommodation options available that can enhance your experience. One popular option is staying at a traditional Japanese inn known as a ryokan. Ryokans often have hot springs that guests can enjoy in a private setting. The rooms are usually decorated in traditional Japanese, with tatami mats and futon beds. Some ryokans also offer meals, typically Japanese-style multi-course dinners and breakfasts.

Another option is staying at a hotel that has its hot springs. Many hotels in Japan have hot springs on their premises, and some even have multiple hot spring baths with different types of water. These hotels often offer Western-style rooms and amenities like a gym or spa.

For those on a budget, there are also public hot springs, called “sento” or “onsen,” where you can soak in the hot water for a small fee. These public hot springs are often located in the heart of towns and cities, making them easily accessible.

It’s important to note that when staying at a ryokan or hotel with hot springs, it’s customary to bathe before entering the hot spring baths. Most ryokans and hotels provide yukata robes and towels for guests to use during their stay.

Overall, many accommodation options are available when visiting hot springs in Japan, ranging from traditional ryokans to modern hotels. Choosing suitable accommodation can help enhance your hot spring experience and make your trip to Japan even more memorable.

Exploring Local Attractions

When visiting hot springs in Japan, it’s not just about soaking in the mineral-rich waters. There are also plenty of local attractions to explore in the surrounding areas. Here are some of our top recommendations:


Japan is known for its beautiful and historic shrines; many hot spring towns have their own. For example, the Hakone Shrine in Hakone is a popular spot for visitors, with its picturesque torii gate standing in the water. The Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine in Wakayama Prefecture is also worth a visit, as it is one of the three grand shrines of Kumano and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bear Park

If you want something more unique, consider visiting a bear park. The Asahiyama Zoo in Hokkaido is home to a famous Polar Bear Pavilion, where you can watch the bears swim and play in a large tank. The Takasakiyama Nature Zoo in Oita Prefecture is also a great option, home to over 100 wild Japanese macaques.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

11 of the Best Hot Springs in Japan♨ Relax and Rejuvenate in Nature's Wonders 1

Japan has many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, some located near hot springs. For example, the Shirakawa-go and Gokayama Historic Villages in Gifu and Toyama Prefectures are known for their traditional Gassho-Zukuri Farmhouses, with steep thatched roofs resembling hands in prayer. Another option is the Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima Prefecture, famous for its torii gate that appears to float on the water during high tide.


If you’re interested in learning more about Japanese culture and history, there are plenty of museums to explore. The Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum in Hokkaido is dedicated to the sea ice forming in the Sea of Okhotsk, a unique natural phenomenon. The Edo Tokyo Museum in Tokyo is another great option, as it showcases the history and culture of Tokyo during the Edo period.

Overall, there are plenty of local attractions to explore when visiting hot springs in Japan. From shrines and bear parks to UNESCO World Heritage Sites and museums, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Food and Entertainment Around Hot Springs

When visiting hot springs in Japan, it’s not just about soaking in the healing waters. There are plenty of opportunities to indulge in delicious food and entertainment. Here are some of our top picks for food and entertainment around hot springs in Japan:


Many hot spring towns in Japan are known for their local cuisine, which often features fresh seafood and vegetables. Here are some dishes to try:

  • Kaiseki: A multi-course meal that typically includes seasonal ingredients and is beautifully presented.
  • Soba: Buckwheat noodles that can be served hot or cold and are often accompanied by dipping sauces or toppings like tempura.
  • Yakiniku: Grilled meat you cook yourself at the table, often served with dipping sauces and vegetables.
  • Onsen Tamago: Eggs cooked in the hot springs, resulting in a unique texture and flavor.


In addition to relaxing in the hot springs, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in hot spring towns. Here are some ideas:

  • Ropeway: Take a scenic ride on a cable car or gondola to enjoy views of the surrounding mountains and forests.
  • Events: Many hot spring towns host festivals and events throughout the year, including fireworks displays, music performances, and traditional dances.
  • Shopping: Browse local shops and markets for souvenirs like pottery, textiles, and snacks.
  • Karaoke: Sing your heart out at a karaoke bar, often in hot spring towns.


Some hot springs in Japan are known for their unique geological features, including vents that release steam and other gases. Here are a few to check out:

  • Jigokudani Monkey Park: This park in Nagano is home to a troop of Japanese macaques that soak in the hot springs to keep warm in the winter.
  • Beppu: Located on the island of Kyushu, Beppu is known for its “Hells,” a series of hot springs with colorful and unusual features like bubbling mud and boiling water.
  • Owakudani: This volcanic valley near Hakone has hot springs that are so hot they can’t be used for bathing. However, visitors can enjoy views of the steam vents and try foods like black eggs cooked in the hot springs.

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Hot Springs in Japanese Pop Culture

Hot springs, or onsen, have been a significant part of Japanese culture for centuries. They are a place to relax and rejuvenate and a source of inspiration for Japanese pop culture. From anime to movies, hot springs have been featured in various forms of media, showcasing their importance in Japanese society.

One of the most famous examples is the anime movie “Spirited Away,” which features a bathhouse inspired by traditional Japanese hot springs. The movie’s director, Hayao Miyazaki, is known for his attention to detail, and the bathhouse in “Spirited Away” is no exception. The bathhouse’s design is based on real-life hot springs, and the movie’s depiction of the hot springs’ calming and healing properties is a testament to their significance in Japanese culture.

Hot springs have also been featured in Japanese dramas, such as “Hana Yori Dango,” where the characters visit a hot spring resort to relax and bond. The therapeutic benefits of hot springs are often highlighted in these dramas, emphasizing their importance in promoting physical and mental well-being.

In addition to media, hot springs have influenced Japanese fashion and beauty. Japanese skincare products often feature hot spring water as a key ingredient, as it is believed to have numerous benefits for the skin. Hot springs have also influenced fashion trends, with traditional Japanese yukata robes often worn at hot spring resorts.

Overall, hot springs play a significant role in Japanese pop culture, showcasing their importance in promoting relaxation, healing, and physical and mental well-being.

Hot Springs and Health Benefits

Hot springs in Japan are a popular tourist attraction and have a long history of being used for their healing properties. The mineral-rich waters of the hot springs are believed to have a therapeutic effect on the body and mind. Here are some of the health benefits associated with hot springs:

  • Relaxation: Soaking in hot springs can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. The warm water, combined with the peaceful surroundings, can help calm the mind and body.
  • Pain Relief: Hot springs relieve joint pain, muscle pain, and other types of pain. The heat and buoyancy of the water can help reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to the affected area.
  • Improved Circulation: The heat from the hot springs can help dilate blood vessels, improving circulation and promoting healing.
  • Skin Health: The minerals in hot springs, such as sulfur and silica, can help improve skin health. These minerals can help reduce inflammation, promote cell regeneration, and improve skin tone and texture.
  • Respiratory Health: The steam from hot springs can help improve respiratory health by opening the airways and clearing congestion.

It is important to note that while hot springs can provide many health benefits, they are not a substitute for medical treatment. If you have a medical condition, it is essential to consult with your doctor before visiting a hot spring. Additionally, it is necessary to follow proper safety precautions when visiting hot springs, such as not staying in the water for too long and staying hydrated.

The Future of Hot Springs in Japan

As Japan continues attracting more tourists yearly, the hot springs, or onsen, are becoming increasingly popular. However, as the demand for hot springs increases, so does the need for sustainable practices to protect these natural resources for future generations.

One of the critical challenges facing the hot springs industry in Japan is the need to balance tourism with environmental conservation. Many hot springs are located in rural areas, and the influx of tourists can strain local resources such as water and electricity. To address this issue, some hot springs are implementing eco-friendly measures such as using renewable energy sources and limiting water use.

Another challenge is the need to attract younger visitors to hot springs. Traditionally, hot springs have been associated with an older demographic, but there is a growing interest in wellness and relaxation among younger generations. Some hot springs offer modern amenities such as Wi-Fi and spa treatments to appeal to this demographic.

Despite these challenges, the future of hot springs in Japan looks promising. With its rich history and natural beauty, Japan’s hot springs have the potential to attract even more visitors in the years to come. By embracing sustainable practices and catering to diverse visitors, the hot springs industry can thrive while preserving these valuable natural resources.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the best onsen towns to visit in Japan?

Japan has a plethora of onsen towns to choose from, each with its unique charm and atmosphere. Hakone, Kinosaki, Beppu, and Gero are the most famous onsen towns. Hakone is known for its stunning views of Mount Fuji, while Kinosaki is renowned for its seven public onsen baths. Beppu is home to over 2,000 hot springs, and Gero is known for its high-quality, mineral-rich waters.

Which onsen resort in Japan is ideal for couples?

The Gora Kadan in Hakone is an excellent choice for couples seeking a romantic getaway. This luxurious onsen resort features private hot springs, traditional Japanese-style rooms, and a serene atmosphere. Another great option is the Hoshinoya in Karuizawa, which offers private villas with outdoor hot springs.

Where can I find the best Rotenburo in Japan?

Rotenburo, or outdoor hot springs, are a popular attraction in Japan. Some of the best rotenburo can be found in Kurokawa Onsen, known for its picturesque outdoor baths surrounded by nature. Another great option is the Yunomori Onsen & Spa in Tokyo, which offers a rooftop rotenburo with stunning city skyline views.

What are some of the most famous hot springs in Japan?

Japan is home to many famous hot springs, including the Hakone Yunessun, which features unique themed baths such as coffee and wine. The Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama is another favorite hot spring known for its historic bathhouse that dates back over 1,000 years. The Arima Onsen in Kobe is famous for its high-quality waters and charming atmosphere.

Which city in Japan is known for having the best hot springs?

Beppu, located on the southern island of Kyushu, is known as the hot spring capital of Japan. With over 2,000 hot springs, Beppu offers visitors a wide range of options, including mud baths, sand baths, and steam baths.

What region in Japan is known for having the best onsen experiences?

The Tohoku region in northern Japan is known for its excellent onsen experiences. The region is home to many secluded and peaceful hot springs, surrounded by beautiful nature. Some popular onsen towns in the Tohoku region include Naruko Onsen, Nyuto Onsen, and Zao Onsen.

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