15 Popular Onsen Towns in Japan | FAST JAPAN
Kurokawa Onsen - Kumamoto

15 Popular Onsen Towns in Japan

Onsen, meaning hot springs are a popular pastime in Japan. Relaxing in a hot bath that can cure aliments is rewarding altogether. Around Japan, there are great onsen resorts.

Onsen, or natural hot springs are one of the most popular pastimes for Japanese people. Onsen with open-air baths called “rotenburo (露天風呂)” have become popular among people of all ages. Most onsen across Japan contain minerals that are good to mitigate various kinds of diseases such as rheumatism and high blood pressure. Some Japanese people consider drinking alcohol in a hot rotenburo while looking at nature to be a great heavenly pleasure.


#1. Atami Onsen – Shizuoka

Atami Onsen - Shizuoka

Atami is one of Japan’s most popular onsen resorts spots in Japan. Atami is famous for its abundance of hot water springs, delicious seafood, and mild climate. The quality of the onsen water in Atami helps to enhance the autonomic nervous system and purify the skin. The traditional inns in Atami welcome guests with high hospitality, often with geisha hostesses. So, why not come and enjoy the many attractions of this legendary spa resort.


#2. Kusatsu Onsen – Gunma

japan onsen towns
Photo Credit: Mark Pegrum@flickr

Kusatsu Onsen boasts the biggest amount of natural water flow out of all of the onsens across Japan. More than 32,300 liters of spring water gushes out every minute. It is thanks to this incredible volume of water that the inns and spa facilities in Kusatsu enjoy free flowing spring water. The onsen water is good to kill germs and heal muscle fatigue. Kusatsu Onsen has long been a favorite place for people to relax and refresh; touristic events are held regularly in the town of Kusatsu, such as “Yumomi (湯もみ)” the girls’ hot water mixing performance. 


#3. Kinugawa Onsen – Tochigi

japan onsen towns
Photo Credit: Gene Jackson@flickr

Kinugawa Onsen is a popular onsen resort town along the Kinugawa River. The town is centered around large hotels lining the riverbank. The town offers many things to do including the Tobu World Square and the Edo Wonderland theme park in addition to its many hot springs.


#4. Hakone Onsen – Kanagawa

japan onsen towns
Photo Credit: smartrip.jp

Hakone is a spa resort close to Japan’s highest mountain, Mt. Fuji. It takes about one hour by train from Tokyo. You can enjoy sightseeing in Hakone, there is more than one hundred Japanese-style inns and hotels, onsens, beautiful nature and museums, as well as many other attractions. Hakone’s onsens are a must-visit when traveling in Japan. Hakone is accessible easily from Tokyo by bullet train.


 #5. Shirahama Onsen – Wakayama

japan onsen towns

Shirahama Onsen is one of the most famous spa resorts in Japan. This onsen is perfect for nature lovers because outdoor onsen are surrounded by green trees and fresh air. Onsen close to the ocean provide a breathtaking panorama of the sea. Onsen in ryokan and hotels will allow you to spend a memorable time since the hospitality is good, and so is the quality of the food and spas. Walking around the the town is also fun and a good way to spend your time.


#6. Gero Onsen – Gifu

Gero Onsen - Gifu

Gero Onsen is one of the most popular spa resorts in Japan, since the Edo period. A Confucian from the Edo period wrote that Gero, together with Kusatsu and Arima, is the best of all onsens in Japan. If you go to Gero Osen, the “onsen passport” is definitely a must buy. There are three spa sites that are registered as Gero Onsen ryokan. The passport is also good as souvenir a too.


#7. Beppu Onsen – Oita

Beppu Onsen - Oita

Beppu is the most popular spa resort area in Japan, located in the Oita prefecture. The most significant characteristic of Beppu’s hot springs is the richness of its resources. The volume of water discharged is second only to that of the Yellowstone National Park in the US, which is the largest hot spring resort in the world. There are as many as 2,909 hot spring vents within the city. Attractions such as Harmony Land, which is a Hello Kitty themed amusement park, are near the center of Beppu Town. A unique aspect of Beppu is that in addition to regular onsen baths there is also sand baths. In sand baths, bathers are covered by naturally heated sand.


#8. Akiu Onsen – Miyagi

Akiu Onsen - Miyagi

Akiu Onsen is located just a 30 minute drive away from Sendai, the capital of Miyagi prefecture. Due to the convenient location, Akiu has been one of the most popular resorts for onsen lovers since it can be enjoyed as a day trip. Together with Naruko and Iisaka Onsen, it is regarded as one of the three best onsen in the Tohoku region. Akiu Onsen is also a great place to go for nature with many scenic spots such as the Rairaikyo gorge, the Akiu waterfall, and the Futakuchi gorge.


#9. Dogo Onsen – Ehime

japan onsen towns
Photo Credit: Japanexperterna.se@flickr

The Dogo Onsen is the oldest hot spring resort in Japan that has been recorded in Nihon-shoki, Japan’s oldest chronicles. The Dogo Onsen was a favorite of Soseki Natsume, a renowned Japanese writer. The area around Dogo is famous for the feel of a resort town, with guests from all over the country wandering the streets in yukata robes after bathing. Dogo is easily accessible from central Matsuyama by tram, and has regular bus services to and from both the air and ferry ports. 


#10. Noboribetsu Onsen – Hokkaido

Noboribetsu Onsen - Hokkaido

Noboribetsu Onsen is a spa resort in Hokkaido. This spa was discovered in the Edo period, and became popular after the development of onsen hotels during the Meiji period. The name Noboribetsu originates from the word “Nupru petsu” which means “light blue river” in Ainu, which is the language of indigenous people in Hokkaido. Noboribetsu is regularly ranked as the most popular spa resort in Japan.


#11. Ginzan Onsen – Yamagata

japan onsen towns
Photo Credit: indri@flickr

Ginzan Onsen is an onsen town located in the mountains of the Yamagata prefecture. Ginzan Onsen is known as one of Japan’s prettiest onsen towns with many traditional ryokans lined up along the river bank. The central streets of Ginzan Onsen are for pedestrians only. During the summer many ryokan guests will stroll about town wearing their yukata. In the town there is a free foot bath as well as two public baths.


#12. Arima Onsen – Hyogo

Arima Onsen - Hyogo

Arima Onsen is an onsen town located on the opposite side of Mount Rokko to the city center. Arima Onsen is known as more of a modern onsen town but there are still several traditional alleyways to be found. In addition there is a hot spring museum. There are two types of water, “gold water” and “silver water”. The gold water is colored by iron deposits while the silver water is colored by radium and carbonate. Several of the ryokan also open air baths to non-staying visitors during the day, so day trips to Arima Onsen are possible.


#13. Ikaho Onsen – Gunma

Ikaho Onsen - Gunma

Ikaho Onsen is a hot spring town located to the east of Mount Haruna at an elevation of 700 meters. The water at Ikaho Onsen is a reddish brown color and is known to contain iron. Along with Kusatsu, Minakami and Shima onsen, Ikaho Onsen is one of the four most famous hot springs in the Gunma Prefecture. The famous Ikaho Stone Steps which lead into the town center are lined by souvenir shops and restaurants. The highlight of Ikaho Onsen town is the outdoor hot springs, located just a short walk from the center of town.


#14. Yufuin Onsen – Oita

Yufuin Onsen - Oita

Yufuin Onsen is a popular onsen resort located 10 kilometers away from Beppu Onsen resort. Yufuin is a popular town to stroll around town since there are many art museums, boutiques, and cafes. The prominent Mount Yufu creates a scenic backdrop for this onsen town. Another famous landmark in the area is Lake Kinrinko. Lake Kinrinko is located at the end of the town’s main walking route. There are also several public baths available, however some can only be used by locals. Shitanyu is available to tourists.


#15. Kurokawa Onsen – Kumamoto

Kurokawa Onsen - Kumamoto
Photo Credit: hiroooooki@flickr

Located in Kyushu, Kurokawa Onsen is one of the most attractive onsens in Japan. The town has done its best to maintain a traditional atmosphere by sticking to natural colors and wooden buildings. Kurokawa Onsen is located in central Kyushu and about 20 kilometers north of Mount Aso. There are 24 different choices of onsen at in Kurokawa. Each types of onsen has a different character and is believed to relieve different ailments.


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