What Is An Onsen Town?
An onsen town is often a quaint little town or area that has been built around hot springs. These may be naturally occurring, outdoor hot springs, or they might be indoor hot spring baths that are pumped with hot spring water.
They are usually designed to draw in tourists from inside and outside of Japan to enjoy a relaxing holiday full of rejuvenation and relaxation.
The custom of enjoying a hot spring bath has been deeply embedded in Japanese culture for centuries. The hot spring waters have been recognized as having a wide variety of potential health benefits on a physical, mental, and spiritual level.
Bath culture in Japan is also about being social as much as it’s about soaking up the benefits of the water.
There are a plethora of onsen towns throughout Japan; some are famous around the world, and some are hidden gems that are waiting to be explored.
You can enjoy the steamy benefits of an onsen bath all year long, regardless of whether or not you bathe indoors or outdoors.
When you stumble upon Atami Onsen in Shizuoka Prefecture, you’ll wonder when exactly you entered a seaside paradise from Japan.
This gorgeous onsen town sits along the water, so you’ll be able to enjoy some fresh-caught seafood after soaking in a salty hot spring bath. You can find hotels and inns with their own baths if you’re looking for some privacy while you soak.
The beach around this onsen town is also pristine, with sparkling blue water and fun activities for the whole family. It can get a little bit busy in the summertime as it’s a popular vacation spot in Japan.
People tend to flock to Atami in the winter for the onsens, but the area is lovely any time of the year.
There’s perhaps very little that could be better than soaking in a rejuvenating hot spring bath while gazing out at the beauty of Mount Fuji. Believe it or not, Hakone Onsen allows you to do this. You can find this town in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Hakone is the perfect getaway, with a variety of ryokans you can stay in for a night or two. The Yunessun is worth a visit as well, as it’s known as a very popular theme-park-like experience centered around onsen culture.
There is so much to do within this town, as well as a variety of baths that offer their own spectacular views of nature.
Beppu is perhaps one of the most recognizable names when it comes to onsen towns. Beppu can be found in the Oita Prefecture, which is well known for its offering of revitalizing hot spring baths.
You’ll find a diverse variety of hot spring baths in Beppu, each having its own set of minerals to help you unwind.
When you make your way through the town, you’ll notice that there are clouds of steam that travel along the skyline and throughout the buildings.
You can also take a tour of the baths and learn more about what each bath offers. You can also enjoy baths that revolve around hot sand, mud, or steam to change things up.
Nasu Onsen, located in the Tochigi Prefecture, was established as a gorgeous onsen town centuries ago. The range of hot spring baths, both indoors and outdoors, is sure to leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
Some outdoor baths offer unforgettable views of colorful trees and incredible mountains.
As if there wasn’t enough nature to appreciate in this picturesque onsen town, you can also find the Minamigaoka Ranch, where lots of cute animals live. You may even be able to get up close and personal with some of the animals at the ranch.
Ikaho Onsen can also be found in Gunma Prefecture and is known for its stone stairs that, as you ascend or descend, take you through much of the town’s amenities.
You can stay in this quaint little onsen town at one of their ryokan inns, explore some shops and eateries, and of course, enjoy one of their soothing public hot spring baths with either golden or silver water.
The iron-rich natural hot spring water is the perfect formula to soak in after a long day of walking and exploring, as the iron mixed with the heat helps reduce fatigue and soreness.
After you’ve enjoyed your steamy bath, be sure to try some of Ikaho’s famous udon noodles.
The Manza Onsen town in Gunma Prefecture is a popular destination for tourists visiting Japan in the winter, though it’s just as beautiful all year long.
The charming town can be found on Mount Shirane and is especially scenic when the snow has dusted the mountains.
Once you’ve gone skiing, if you’re there during winter, you’ll want to soak in a hot bath to warm up. The white waters in the onsen baths here contain sulfur, which helps improve circulation and, of course, helps you relax.
There are a few ryokans and hotels that offer their own baths and many more amenities.
The Kinugawa Onsen town is a little bit quieter with some great natural sights, hiking opportunities, and lovely hot spring baths. Take a hike along one of the trails, then relax your feet in a hot foot bath.
You can find options for public and private hot spring baths, as well as many other tourist attractions to keep your day full of fun.
The onsen town has seen some ups and downs in terms of popularity but is reemerging as a great getaway, even if for a day or two to soak in some nature before soaking up hot spring water.
The town runs along a small river, and the hot springs have been enjoyed since the Edo period of Japan.
On a clear day, you can soak up the glorious hot spring water of a partially outdoor bath while gazing out at Mount Fuji at Kawaguchiko Onsen.
This little hot spring town can be found right at the bottom of the famous mountain, known to be very sacred to Japan.
The area of this onsen town is known as the Fuji Five Lakes, and regardless of the time of year, the scenery is breathtaking.
April and November, also known as cherry blossom season or tree viewing seasons in Japan, are often when the views of Mount Fuji are the most visible.
There are also a few museums in the area, a fun boat tour to take along the lake, and a ropeway ride to see Mount Fuji from a great vantage point.
There’s a lot to see and explore in Shima Onsen, also found in Gunma Prefecture, outside of the hot spring baths. This pretty onsen resort town sits along the Shima River; hence, the name.
There are some historical sights worth checking out when staying here, including the Sekizenkan ryokan.
The Kusatsu Onsen town can be found just outside of Tokyo in Gunma Prefecture. This lovely town offers a mixture of hot spring baths and baths that are cooled down, making them much more tolerable for those not used to hot spring water.
You’ll also want to check out the yubatake, which is a chute of water flowing into the center of the onsen town.
Kusatsu has also been able to preserve a lot of the old charm that often made up onsen towns, with some areas making it feel as though you’re transported back in time.
Bathing In An Onsen Bath
When you visit an onsen, there are a few rules you need to follow. Most onsens require you to go in nude, but you should know that people in Japan are very respectful and you don’t have to worry about onlookers. Bathing areas are also often separated by gender.
Once you’re in the water, you are covered. You can wrap a towel around yourself and remove it as you get in the water; just don’t let it touch the water.
Some baths will allow people to wear bathing suits, and some will allow people with tattoos.
You’re also required to shower before you go into an onsen, as these baths are more for relaxation and health benefits than they are for cleaning yourself.
The water and the facilities are kept very clean, which is why rules are enforced.