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Natural hot springs (, onsen) are numerous and highly popular across Japan. Every region of the country has its share of hot springs and resort towns, which come with them.

There are many types of hot springs, distinguished by the minerals dissolved in the water. Different minerals provide different health benefits, and all hot springs are supposed to have a relaxing effect on your body and mind. Hot spring baths come in many varieties, indoors and outdoors, gender separated and mixed, developed and undeveloped. Many hot spring baths belong to a ryokan, while others are public bath houses. An overnight stay at a hot spring ryokan is a highly recommended experience to any visitor of Japan.

Below is a list of some of the best onsen across Japan:

Kanto (around Tokyo)

Kusatsu Onsen••

For centuries, the abundant hot spring waters of Kusatsu Onsen have been considered among Japan's best and most effective, if not the best. Much of the resort's water bubbles up in the yubatake ("hot water field") in the town center.

Manza Onsen••

Located at an altitute of 1800 meters above sea level, this hot spring resort offers by far the most sulfuric waters in Japan. In winter, it is a great destination for enjoy an open-air bath in the snow.

Hakone Onsen

Easily reached from Tokyo and one of Japan's most popular hot spring resorts, Hakone boasts a large number of hot springs in beautiful setting along the forested valley and the shores of Lake Ashinoko.

Minakami Onsen

Over a dozen hot springs are spread over the large rural area covered by Minakami Onsen at the foot of Mount Tanigawa. Among the resort's most popular baths are the large riverside rotemburo of Takaragawa Onsen and the traditonal, wooden indoor baths of secluded Hoshi Onsen.

Nasu Onsen

Nasu Onsen is a hot spring resort in the highlands below Mount Nasudake. The atmopsheric Shika no Yu indoor bath with multiple wooden tubs of varying temperatures is outstanding.

Ikaho Onsen

Located on the slopes of Mount Haruna, Ikaho Onsen is well known for its stone stairs leading through the town center and its iron rich thermal waters.

Kinugawa Onsen

Located within easy reach of Tokyo, Kinugawa Onsen has grown into one of Japan's most developed hot spring resorts. The beautiful Kinugawa River is lined by huge ryokan buildings, while several interesting theme parks provide more entertainment nearby.

Shiobara Onsen

Shiobara Onsen is a quite built up hot spring town, but thanks to its location in a steep, forested valley, it feels quite pleasant. The town offers multiple good baths, some nice waterfalls and multiple pedestrian suspension bridges.

Hokkaido

Kamuiwakkayu Falls

Kamuiwakka is a warm mountain stream in the unspoiled Shiretoko National Park. Bathers need to climb up the stream for about 20 minutes until reaching a natural basin below a hot waterfall, however, due to the danger of falling rocks, the upper, most attractive part has been closed in recent years.

Tohoku

Tamagawa Onsen

Tamagawa Onsen features the country's most acidic hot spring waters, a volcanically active valley with Japan's single most productive hot spring source and a very rare radioactive stone with a wide range of health benefits.

Chubu

Okuhida Onsen••

The Okuhida region in a valley deep in the Northern Japan Alps offers five hot spring towns with some of Japan's most spectacular outdoor baths. Many of the baths come with views of surrounding peaks of the Northern Alps.

Shibu Onsen

Shibu Onsen is a small, old-fashioned onsen town with wooden ryokan and nine small public bath houses scattered around town. Not far from Shibu Onsen, monkeys enjoy hot spring bathing, as well, at the Jigokudani Monkey Park.

Gero Onsen

One train hour south of Takayama and 90 minutes north of Nagoya, Gero Onsen is one of Japan's most famous hot spring resorts.

Wakura Onsen

Wakura Onsen is a hot spring resort located beside Nanao Bay on the Noto Peninsula. The resort town is dominated by massive ryokan complexes, the most famous of which is the Kagaya, which consistently ranks among Japan's best ryokan for its excellent service and facilities.

Togura Kamiyamada Onsen

What differentiates Togura Kamiyamada Onsen from your average onsen town is the presence of Tyler Lynch, a tall American who runs one of the local ryokan and contributes to making the town very accessible to foreign tourists. Togura Kamiyamada is, furthermore, home to a reconstructed mountain fortress from the era of warring states.

Kansai (around Kyoto)

Kinosaki Onsen••

Kinosaki Onsen is a charmingly old-fashioned onsen town near the Sea of Japan coast. In the evenings guests of the local ryokan stroll about town in yukata and geta, visiting public baths and nostalgic game arcades.

Arima Onsen

Located still within the city limits of Kobe and just an hour outside of central Osaka, Arima Onsen is one of the Kansai Region's most popular hot spring resorts. It is also one of its oldest.

Katsuura Onsen

Katsuura Onsen is a coastal hot spring resort on the Kii Peninsula. It is smaller than nearby Shirahama, but still boasts several huge hotel complexes. Katsuura is located not far from Nachi Taisha, one of the three Kumano shrines.

Shirahama Onsen

Shirahama Onsen is ranked both as one of Japan's three largest and oldest hot spring resorts. It comes with a white sand beach, coastal rock formations and several amusement parks, and is a popular playground for the urban population of Greater Osaka.

Shikoku

Dogo Onsen

Dogo Onsen is considered one of Japan's oldest hot spring resorts, and it is said that Prince Shotoku has already enjoyed the area's hot spring waters about 1500 years ago.

Kyushu

Beppu Onsen••

Beppu is Japan's onsen capital. No other resort produces more hot spring water and few resorts can compete with the city's large array of hot spring baths. Among Beppu's attraction are various hells, hot springs not suited for bathing.

Yufuin Onsen

Not far from Beppu, Yufuin is a rural hot spring town, which offers a unique atmosphere somewhat different from a regular hot spring resort. Besides its baths, Yufuin attracts with its cafes, boutiques and art galleries.

Takeo Onsen

Takeo Onsen is an onsen town in Saga Prefecture with smooth waters and a long history. Its public bath houses are surrounded by some historic buildings, including a traditional 2-storied gate.

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Page last updated: October 29, 2004