All across Japan there are places offering onsen baths in natural, geothermal hot spring water. Some are just plain indoor baths where you can go for a nice, simple soak, while others are elaborate anime-themed onsen amusement parks or have terrifying waterfalls.
But there are some tourist regions in Japan that are famous for their onsen, whether that’s for the size of their springs, the history of the region, the scenery nearby, or the type of bath offered. Those places have lots of amenities and are loved by Japanese travelers across the nation, who go back to them over and over again. Travel agency Jalan has compiled a list of the best onsen visitors want to visit a second time, so let’s take a look at the top five:
5. Beppu Onsen Township (Oita Prefecture)
Beppu is one of Japan’s most famous onsen areas, with a wide array of baths to enjoy, including a sand bath in which you are buried from neck to toe in naturally heated sand for ten minutes or so. There are eight different hot springs supplying the water in Beppu, which means you have a huge range of ryokan and public baths to choose from, in addition to a ridiculously cool onsen theme park.
Beppu also has tons of hot spring-themed attractions to experience. One of the coolest things you can do there is buy a platter of raw vegetables, meat and seafood to steam cook in natural steam vents. There are also a number of beautiful surface springs called “Hells” that are too hot to enter, but are popular for their different colored waters and picturesque steam (shown in the videos above). There’s also a mountain cable car, aquarium, monkey park, and museum, plus there’s lots to do in Oita Prefecture, so there’s plenty of reasons to keep coming back to Beppu Onsen.
4. Dogo Onsen (Ehime Prefecture)
Located on Shikoku, one of Japan’s main islands in the western part of the country, Dogo Onsen is a small onsen resort area, but beloved for its old town feel as one of Japan’s oldest hot springs. The area is full of ryokan offering hot spring baths, but the most famous landmark is Dogo Onsen Honkan (shown above), whose twisting and turning labyrinth of stairwells and hallways is said to be an inspiration for the Hayao Miyazaki movie "Spirited Away." Dogo Onsen is also a favorite spot for the Imperial Family, who stay at the Honkan when they visit. When they’re not in town, tourists can buy a ticket to see the Imperial Family’s quarters at the top of the bathhouse.
Dogo Onsen has plenty of other attractions to offer, such as museums, parks, restaurants, and temples and shrines, and it’s located in a big city, so there’s lots to do and see there that’s worth coming back for.
3. Noboribetsu Onsen (Hokkaido Prefecture)
Noboribetsu Onsen is the most famous onsen resort area in Hokkaido. Situated in the southern part of Japan’s northernmost prefecture, much of its spring water surfaces in one area known as “Jigokudani”, or “Hell Valley”, where hot water rivers flow and steam floats up from the ground. You can hike along the edge of this valley and enjoy bathing your feet in the hot water streams there for a truly natural hot spring experience.
Noboribetsu’s public and private hot springs offer 11 different kinds of thermal baths, such as sulfur baths, salt baths, and iron baths, so there’s plenty of variety for all visitors. Not everyone will have time for all of them, however, so this onsen resort area is worth making a second trip to.
2. Kusatsu Onsen (Gunma Prefecture)
North of Tokyo is the popular Kusatsu Onsen in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture, where in the summer visitors can enjoy hiking, and in the winter, skiing. But it’s for the hot springs that people keep wanting to come back to Kusatsu Onsen.
It’s believed that Kusatsu has the largest naturally flowing source of hot spring water in all of Japan, and its waters are touted to have all sorts of excellent health benefits, with some even claiming the power to cure illnesses. Visitors can enjoy public baths, private baths, open air baths, and foot baths all over town, so there are plenty of chances to experience the healing quality of Kusatsu’s hot waters.
1. Hakone Onsen (Kanagawa Prefecture)
Hakone Onsen is one of the best places to go for a nice weekend soak, especially if you’re coming from Tokyo. It’s just an hour and half from the city center by express train, so it makes for a convenient, quick getaway. Hakone has many ryokan, or Japanese inns, where you can stay to enjoy the local food and soak in the hot waters. It’s also the location of the famous Yunesson Hot Spring Park, where there are all kinds of baths available, such as soy milk and chocolate baths.
The region of Hakone also offers a whole host of other exciting things to do, such as hiking, shrines, museums, a cable car over an active volcanic mountain, and even a ferry-boat ride, not to mention stunning views of Mt. Fuji. With so much to do, it’s no wonder that Japanese travelers want to go back there again and again.
Those are the top five onsen that Japanese travelers most want to go back to, but the remaining top ten are all wonderful places, too. For example, Arima Onsen in Kobe, ranked sixth, is a popular day trip location for those who live in Osaka and Kyoto, because its hot springs are made up of “gold” and “silver” waters. The onsen ranked seventh, Yufuin Onsen, near Beppu, is a much more quaint and rural destination than its neighbor, great for a quiet hot spring getaway.
Kurokawa Onsen in Kumamoto Prefecture, one of Japan’s most picturesque onsen towns, is eighth, while beachside onsen resort area Atami Onsen in Shizuoka Prefecture is ninth. Finally, Gero Onsen in Gifu Prefecture is ranked tenth, for its numerous public open-air baths.
There are all kinds of onsen resort areas throughout the country, so choosing one can be overwhelming. If you’re planning on taking a hot spring vacation in Japan, then consider picking from this list, or check out our list of the best onsen near Tokyo if you want to stay closer to the big city. And don’t forget to consider staying in one of Japan’s traditional-style inns; that’s an experience no one should miss out on!
Source: PR Times
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