15 Amazing Onsen Towns in Japan to Visit on Your Next Trip

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Japan is a land of rich traditions, stunning landscapes, and a deep cultural heritage. Among the many unique experiences it offers, soaking in an onsen (hot spring) is one that stands out. Onsen towns are scattered across Japan, each offering a distinct ambiance and a chance to relax in rejuvenating thermal waters. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to 15 amazing onsen towns in Japan that should be on your travel itinerary for your next trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.

What Is An Onsen?

Before we dive into our list of top onsen towns, let’s start with a basic understanding of what an onsen is. An onsen is a natural hot spring that contains mineral-rich, geothermally heated water. These hot springs have been a part of Japanese culture for centuries and are cherished for their healing properties. Soaking in an onsen is not only a delightful way to unwind but is also believed to have therapeutic benefits for various ailments.

What Is A Ryokan?

When you visit an onsen town, you’ll often stay at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Ryokans offer a unique and immersive cultural experience. Guests are treated to tatami-matted rooms, futon bedding, and the chance to savor exquisite kaiseki (traditional multi-course) meals. Many ryokans have their own private onsens or shared communal baths for guests to enjoy.

Now, without further ado, let’s explore 15 remarkable onsen towns in Japan:

1. Kinosaki Onsen, Hyogo Prefecture

Located along the Sea of Japan, Kinosaki Onsen is famous for its charming streets lined with willow trees and seven public onsens, each with its unique character. Take a stroll in a yukata (casual kimono) and enjoy the serene atmosphere.

kusatsu onsen

2. Beppu, Oita Prefecture

Beppu is one of Japan’s most renowned onsen destinations, boasting a variety of hot spring types, from mud baths to steam baths. Be sure to visit the “Hells of Beppu,” a collection of multi-colored hot springs with a striking appearance.

3. Noboribetsu Onsen, Hokkaido

Located in Hokkaido, Noboribetsu Onsen is famous for its Hell Valley, a volcanic crater with sulfuric hot springs. The town offers a mix of indoor and outdoor onsens, as well as a range of accommodations.

4. Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture

Just a short trip from Tokyo, Hakone is famous for its stunning views of Mount Fuji and Lake Ashinoko. It’s also known for its unique black water onsen, called “Kuroyu,” and the open-air sculpture park known as Hakone Open-Air Museum.

5. Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma Prefecture

Kusatsu Onsen is celebrated for its high-quality, acidic sulfuric waters. The Yubatake, a large wooden cooling contraption, is the town’s symbol. Make sure to witness the Yumomi performance, a traditional way of cooling down the hot spring water.

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Onsen towns in japan to visit

6. Gero Onsen, Gifu Prefecture

Gero Onsen is nestled in the Japanese Alps and is known for its cobblestone streets and picturesque bridges. The onsen water is said to be effective for promoting beautiful skin.

7. Nanki Shirahama Onsen, Wakayama Prefecture

This onsen town is blessed with white sandy beaches along the Pacific Ocean. In addition to onsens, you can enjoy sand baths, which are believed to have therapeutic properties.

8. Dogo Onsen, Ehime Prefecture

Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama is one of Japan’s oldest onsens, with a history spanning over a thousand years. The main bathhouse, Dogo Onsen Honkan, is a beautiful wooden building with a rich history and literary references.

9. Yufuin, Oita Prefecture

Yufuin is a picturesque onsen town in Kyushu known for its scenic landscapes and charming streets filled with boutiques and cafes. Don’t miss Lake Kinrinko and the surrounding hiking trails.

10. Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto Prefecture

Kurokawa Onsen is a hidden gem nestled in the mountains of Kyushu. The town offers a unique onsen-hopping experience, where you can purchase a pass to access multiple onsens in the area.

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11. Nyuto Onsen, Akita Prefecture

Surrounded by dense forests, Nyuto Onsen offers a secluded and tranquil escape. The onsens here are often located in rustic, traditional wooden buildings.

12. Yamanaka Onsen, Ishikawa Prefecture

Yamanaka Onsen is known for its beautiful outdoor onsens and serene atmosphere. It’s an ideal place to relax while taking in the beauty of nature.

13. Nasu Onsen, Tochigi Prefecture

Located in the Nasu Highlands, this onsen town offers both hot springs and scenic beauty. The nearby Nasu-Shiobara area is famous for its picturesque waterfalls and hiking trails.

14. Shibu Onsen, Nagano Prefecture

Shibu Onsen is a historic town known for its narrow streets, traditional buildings, and snow monkeys that visit the local onsens during the winter months.

15. Arima Onsen, Hyogo Prefecture

Arima Onsen, situated near Kobe and Osaka, is one of Japan’s oldest onsen towns. It’s renowned for its two types of hot springs: one with brownish water (kinsen) and one with clear, colorless water (ginsen).

Top 10 onsen towns in japan

Additional Onsen Towns To Consider For Your Trip To Japan

While these 15 onsen towns are some of the most renowned, Japan has many more hidden gems waiting to be explored. Consider adding some of these additional onsen towns to your travel itinerary: Kaga Onsen (Ishikawa), Atami (Shizuoka), Ibusuki (Kagoshima), and Yugawara (Kanagawa).

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Japan Travel Insurance

Before you embark on your journey to explore these amazing onsen towns in Japan, don’t forget to invest in comprehensive travel insurance. Travel insurance can provide peace of mind, covering unexpected medical expenses, trip cancellations, and more. It’s a smart choice for any traveler.

In conclusion, Japan’s onsen towns offer a unique opportunity to relax, rejuvenate, and immerse yourself in Japanese culture. Whether you’re seeking a tranquil escape in the mountains or a coastal retreat by the sea, these 15 amazing onsen towns have something special to offer every traveler. So, plan your next trip to Japan, and don’t miss the chance to experience the magic of onsen culture.