The 5 most incredible onsens to visit in Japan

Takaragawa Onsen, image courtesy of Tripadvisor
Takaragawa Onsen, image courtesy of Tripadvisor

For those interrailing around Japan, a visit to an onsen should be on the top of your list. Typically, within a traditional Onsen, there will be accommodation with bathing facilities and tranquil hot springs. The perfect way to unwind after a day of travelling, you’ll be able to choose from over 3,000 dotted around the country. 

So which one is the best to visit? Whilst each Onsen in Japan is different and varies depending on its location, effect and aesthetic appearance, we’ve narrowed down 5 of the most extraordinary ones to help you make your final decision:

1. Dogo Onsen, Shikoku Island 

Situated on the smallest of Japan’s major islands, Shikoku Island, Dogo Onsen is supposedly the oldest in Japan. Dating back 3,000 years, it’s frequented by millions of tourists and Japanese citizens every year. 

Despite its central location, its beautiful architecture and fascinating history make it a must-see. Resembling a Japanese castle, the main bathhouse in Dogo Onsen is crafted out of wood and was constructed in the 19th Century. Within it, there are two main bathing areas, known as the Tama-no-Yu and the Kami-no-Yu with four bathing packages to choose from.

2. Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma 

Located within Gunma, a mountainous and incredibly picturesque prefecture on Japan’s Honshu Island, Kusatsu Onsen is one of the most renowned in the area. A popular tourist destination, it’s beloved due to its ancient bathing rituals and powerful hot springs. People have also said that the springs can even cure illnesses – perhaps the reason why so many visit it each year.

Within Kusatsu, you’ll be able to wander around and enjoy a handful of different hot springs for free. If you want to stay overnight, you can select from several resorts or a night in a traditional Ryokan.

3. Fuji Kawaguchiko Onsen, Yamanashi Prefecture

If you’ve always wanted to witness the almighty Mount Fuji, then there’s no better place to do so then Fuji Kawaguchiko Onsen in Yamanashi Prefecture. Located 3 hours southwest of Tokyo, this breathtaking natural hot spring is situated at the base of the mountain. Within the Onsen, there are numerous Ryokan inns and guesthouses, each with their own indoor and outdoor bathing options. 

One of the most picturesque Onsens, it’s awe-inspiring to visit in spring when all of the cherry blossom trees bloom throughout the area. Whether you visit it alone, with friends or with your partner, you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience.

4. Takaragawa Onsen, Gunma

Nestled in the Gunma Prefecture lies the Takaragawa Onsen. Acclaimed for its huge outdoor bath located along the mighty Takaragawa River it’s surrounded by nature that resembles something off of a postcard. 

An Onsen that you’ve undoubtedly seen before due to its scenic location, you can visit it on a day trip from Tokyo or its surrounding cities as it only takes less than 3 hours by train. With several buildings, 5 kinds of baths and dozens of other amenities, it’s easy to see why it’s frequently in magazine and TV advertisements. 

Alongside the Onsen and other amenities, the Takaragawa Onsen houses a traditional Ryokan with cosy and elegant guest rooms. If you get peckish, they also have a delectable menu consisting of authentic Japanese Cuisine. Starting at 15,000 Yen per person per night it’s not one of the most wallet-friendly options, but a must for anyone wanting to indulge in a traditional, relaxing and unique experience

5. Hakone Onsen, Kanagawa Prefecture

Just under two hours from Tokyo lies the Hakone Onsen. A serene and tranquil Onsen, the hot springs here have over 1,200 years worth of history and are frequently voted a top vacation getaway for tourists wanting to escape the bustle and sensory-overload of the capital. Like number three on this list, the Hakone Onsen has a spellbinding view of Mount Fuji.

Final Thoughts

So, there you go! Those are 5 extraordinary Onsens you can visit when interrailing around Japan. No matter which one you decide to visit you’ll have an unforgettable experience that you’ll want to relive again and again. Just make sure that when planning to visit one that you book in advance to avoid disappointment!

Before you go, you should also be aware of the rules surrounding an Onsen, to ensure that you’re not doing anything wrong. These will typically include the following:

  1. You won’t require a swimsuit, everyone goes into the hot springs naked (as terrifying as that might seem!).
  2. Wash before you go into the water.
  3. No swimming or running around the hot springs.
  4. No washing inside of the water.
  5. Never emerge your towel into the water.

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