Top 10 Onsen Towns Nearest Tokyo (2022)

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.

Top 10 Onsen Towns Nearest Tokyo (1)

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.

Atami Onsen

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.

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Atami Onsen Via Tripadvisor

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.

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People tend to flock to Atami in the winter for the onsens, but the area is lovely any time of the year.

Hakone Onsen

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.

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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 Onsen

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.

Top 10 Onsen Towns Nearest Tokyo (4)

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.

Enjoy Onsen Via City Of Beppu

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

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.

Nasu Onsen Via Visit Tochigi

Some outdoor baths offer unforgettable views of colorful trees and incredible mountains.

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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

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.

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Ikaho Onsen Via Tripadvisor

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.

Manza Onsen

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.

Manza Onsen Via Tripadvisor

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.

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Kinugawa Onsen

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.

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Kinugawa Onsen Via Tripadvisor

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.

Fuji Kawaguchiko

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.

Fuji Kawaguchiko Via Tripadvisor

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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.

Shima Onsen

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.

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Shima Onsen Via Tripadvisor

There are some historical sights worth checking out when staying here, including the Sekizenkan ryokan.

Kusatsu Onsen

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.

Kusatsu Onsen Town Official Website

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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.

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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.

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Proper Onsen Etiquette

FAQs

Where are the most popular onsen in Japan? ›

Top 10 Onsen Areas in Japan
  1. Kusatsu Onsen (Gunma)
  2. Beppu Onsen (Oita) ...
  3. Yufuin Onsen (Oita) ...
  4. Arima Onsen (Hyogo) ...
  5. Noboribetsu Onsen (Hokkaido) ...
  6. Kurokawa Onsen (Kumamoto) ...
  7. Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo) ...
  8. Hakone Onsen (Kanagawa) ...

What is the most popular onsen in Japan? ›

Kusatsu is considered the foremost onsen in Japan. It is supplied with large volumes of hot water, “said to cure every illness but lovesickness”. There, you can visit multiple hot springs free of admission fees. A number of resorts and inns are available, as well as shops and cafes.

Are there unisex onsens in Japan? ›

They amount to more than 50 mixed-gender onsen and other places where men and women can bathe together in Japan. If you have questions about konyoku onsen, or mixed-gender hot spring, bathing etiquette, please read our Guide to Mixed Gender Onsen in Japan.

What city in Japan has the most hot springs? ›

As for the largest number of hot spring spas, or onsen, in Japan, Hokkaido takes first place with 254 facilities.

Do you wear clothes in onsen? ›

As we all know, the people who take Onsen are all naked. You never bring the dangerous or fragile things, like glass, inside the bathroom and locker room nether. No washing inside the bathtub. There is a space provided for washing as well as a bathtub and shower.

How long should you sit in an onsen? ›

The amount of time you should stay in the bath depends on the bath temperature, but generally the first dip should be 5 to 10 minutes. For a lukewarm bath, this may be 30 minutes. Spend about 10 minutes in a high temperature bath. Any longer and this could wear you out or cause an accident.

Are onsen healthy? ›

Onsen water has a number of natural elements, such as sodium bicarbonate and calcium, that get absorbed into our bodies as we bathe. The minerals help increase blood flow and the amount of oxygen in our blood. Many people enjoy a good soak in a bath. The onsen is the ultimate bathing experience.

What should you not do in an onsen? ›

What not to do in an onsen
  • wear ANY clothes or swimsuits in the bathing area; the small towel can be used to cover yourself when out of the water. ...
  • submerge your face or head, it is considered unclean.
  • yell or speak loudly, onsen are for relaxing.
  • run, the stone floors are usually slippery when wet.
12 Oct 2022

Can you wear swimsuit in onsen? ›

Can I wear a swimsuit in the onsen? No, you must be naked inside the baths. Because of this the baths are sex-segregated.

Do Japanese girls bath together? ›

Japan has a long tradition of communal bathing with onsen and sento. You can still find gender-mixed onsen even today.

Do you need to shave for onsen? ›

Most Japanese women I've seen at onsen or sentos don't shave, most of the times I was the only one who had shaved. But I don't think anyone cares, it's just personal preference.

Do Japanese couples bathe together? ›

In general, the Japanese enjoy taking baths together, and there are different opportunities to do so. It can happen while staying at a hotel together, for example, where the bathroom has a big bathtub.

Why do onsens not allow tattoos? ›

A visit to the sento is a chance to relax in a spacious, hot bath—or perhaps a sauna—and socialize. This social aspect, however, led many onsen and sento to prohibit tattooed guests. The Japanese taboo toward tattoos stems from their association with members of Japanese organized crime.

Which city is famous for hot springs? ›

1. Panamik in Nubra valley: It is the most northern hot spring present in Panamik, a small village near siachen glacier, located at 150 m from town Leh. It is a sulphur hot spring and present at the height 10,442 feet above sea level.

Why do Japanese wear towels in hot springs? ›

Manners Whilst in the Onsen

You cannot put your towel inside the hot spring water. The towel is used for washing the body, so if you put it in the water, you could dirty the water. You can either place it on your head, or leave it in the washroom instead.

Do onsens smell? ›

Some onsen have a strong sulfuric smell while others have a weaker one but, in general, the milkier the water, the stronger the sulfuric smell.

Can couples go to onsen together? ›

Couple onsens are special spaces where the two of you would never be disturbed by other people. Private onsens in guest rooms, in particular, let you spend time with your sweetheart enjoying the hot spring all day long, without the need to go out the door. The experience is largely different from normal dates.

Can you take pictures in onsen? ›

No Phones or Photos

Onsen are traditional places of relaxation, and most people are naked. So taking photos is forbidden!

Why do I feel dizzy after onsen? ›

Many people report feeling dizzy or nauseous after their first few times after going to an onsen, and this is usually because of dehydration or overheating from staying in too long.

Do you wash after onsen? ›

Don't take a shower after you have finished bathing

Medicinal components in the water will get washed off in the shower, and their effects will be reduced. If your skin is sensitive and easily irritated, please do rinse yourself off with fresh water.

Should I eat before or after onsen? ›

Before going to an onsen place, have a light meal. As taking onsen consumes a large amount of energy, you may become ill if you take onsen when hungry.

Do you use soap in an onsen? ›

What Should I Bring To Onsen? The Basics. In most cases, before you dip into the onsen bath, you will want to completely wash yourself. This means you will at least need soap, and if you want to wash your hair, shampoo and conditioner.

Can you wear a shirt in an onsen? ›

2: You Must be Completely Naked. There is no way around this one. In Japan, clothing, towels, and any other garment that may be worn are considered sullied or “dirty” and should never, ever be brought into an onsen.

Does onsen have mixed gender? ›

The Japanese have perfected the art of onsen, or hot spring baths, for centuries. Traditionally, men and women would bathe together in the same facility, but these days the baths are segregated by gender. Today, konyoku (mixed-gender onsen) are hard to find, with places like Tokyo having bans on such establishments.

What do they drink after onsen? ›

Today onsen bathers have a choice of coffee milk or fruit milk, per Live Japan — both are sweet drinks which seem to help the body re-energize quickly after a bath.

Are onsens awkward? ›

So please don't concern yourself with being embarrassed in an onsen. It is a great experience that is both relaxing and exhilarating. Also, there is no reason to fear tourists or Japanese. Really, everyone inside the onsen doesn't care at all!

How do you shower before onsen? ›

Before entering the onsen bath itself

Wash yourself off – while you will notice that some people rinse themselves before entering a bath (and shower afterward), it's customary (and polite) to thoroughly wash oneself before entering the bath.

Why do Japanese put a towel on their head in the bath? ›

Ishii: "If you really want to soak in the Japanese atmosphere, wrap it around your head! Since the towel is still moist with cool water, it will help to prevent blood from rushing to your head as you lower yourself into the onsen.

Do Japanese bathe twice a day? ›

Many Japanese people take a bath more or less every day. In some parts of the world, people may refer to showering as “taking a bath,” but not in Japan.

What is a Japanese half bath? ›

This treatment requires that you soak only the lower part of your body right below the chest. This bath is HUGE in Japan and is believed to have many therapeutic benefits for our health and well-being. Some of the benefits include blood circulation, easing of muscular tensions and aches and fluid retention reduction.

Do Japanese people shave pubes? ›

While Japanese women are generally meticulous in regards to their hairstyling and makeup, for many, their grooming rituals don't extend to trimming their pubic hair, despite some efforts to promote such activity.

Do Japanese ladies shave? ›

Not all Japanese women shave their face, but it is definitely a more common practice skin care regime in Japan than in western societies.

How many times do Japanese take a bath? ›

Keeping clean is a skincare staple. But in Japan, it's more than just part of a beauty routine. A 2019 survey from Intage says that 60% of Japanese people bathe every day, instead of opting for a quick shower.

Are Japanese baths sanitary? ›

Whether it's a large (communal) or small (individual size) bath, one is always supposed to wash OUTSIDE the tub BEFORE one enters the tub, so technically, everyone is clean. You'll find a washing area with a stool, wash pan and individual showers.

What is the difference between sento and onsen? ›

While there are obvious similarities between the two – they're both communal hot-water baths and visitors must adhere to certain rules of etiquette – there is one significant difference: onsen are filled with natural volcanic spring water, known for its rich and healing mineral content, while sento simply use heated ...

Can I cover my tattoo for onsen? ›

If your tattoo is small

Then just cover it up, and you're fine. Many onsens even offer them to guests. It may not even be necessary to cover them up, but if you want to be sure, plasters seem to be a surefire way to get around any tattoo rules.

Should I hide my tattoos when visiting Japan? ›

Rules are very important in Japan, and as there is a no tattoo rule in nearly all pools, onsens and gyms, a foreigner walking up to the desk with tattoos showing is bound to cause concern. Just cover up and keep those tattoos covered and that is acceptable. If you can't cover up, don't go to those environments.

What city is closest to hot springs? ›

Cities near Hot Springs, Arkansas:
  • Malvern, AR.
  • Arkadelphia, AR.
  • Benton, AR.
  • Bryant, AR.
  • Maumelle, AR.
  • Little Rock, AR.
  • North Little Rock, AR.
  • Sherwood, AR.

What is the most famous hot spring in the world? ›

The Blue Lagoon (Iceland)

Perhaps the most famous hot spring in the world, the Blue Lagoon in Iceland is as soothing as it is picturesque. The water temperature hovers between 98 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit at all times, making it an inviting place to take a dip.

How long should you soak in onsen? ›

The recommended duration of soaking is not more than 15 to 20 minutes. It's important to note that immersing yourself in hot water for too long will excessively raise your blood pressure or heart rate, causing dizziness and discomfort.

Why do Japanese drink milk after hot springs? ›

Milk had already been established in Japan as a rich source of nutrients. And now that it was available at sento, it became the perfect way to rehydrate and replenish the body after bathing.

Do the Japanese take a bath every night? ›

Japanese people take a bath not only to keep their body clean, but also to relax and spend a refreshing time and connecting this the community. Many Japanese believe it also washes away the fatigue, hence a bath is taken often every night.

Are onsen popular in Japan? ›

Onsen in Japan, as hot springs are known, are a highly popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Their relaxing hot waters are steeped in tradition, and onsen are considered a must-do when visiting the Land of the Rising Sun.

Why are onsen so popular in Japan? ›

What is an Onsen and why are they so popular? Besides their warming and therapeutic qualities, onsen were believed to possess mystical and holy powers because of the mineral content of the geothermal spring water.

Where is the oldest onsen in Japan? ›

Arima Onsen in Hyogo Prefecture is said to be the oldest onsen (hot springs) town in Japan, with a history that dates back more than 1,000 years. While the area is small, extending out about a kilometer from the actual resort area, there are a number of hot spring inns and shops in Arima.

Why are onsen popular in Japan? ›

Japanese people have loved onsen since ancient times for the comfort they bring to mind and body. We introduce the beauty benefits and anti-ageing effects offered by hot springs while examining the relationship between the Japanese people and onsen.

What do you wear to an onsen? ›

2: You Must be Completely Naked. There is no way around this one. In Japan, clothing, towels, and any other garment that may be worn are considered sullied or “dirty” and should never, ever be brought into an onsen.

Should I shower after onsen? ›

It is recommended that you do not shower after bathing in an onsen, as rinsing your body will weaken the minerals' healing effects. However, taking a quick cold shower or bath upon leaving the bath, which has its own health benefits, has also been recommended.

Is there a mixed gender onsen? ›

The Japanese have perfected the art of onsen, or hot spring baths, for centuries. Traditionally, men and women would bathe together in the same facility, but these days the baths are segregated by gender. Today, konyoku (mixed-gender onsen) are hard to find, with places like Tokyo having bans on such establishments.

What is a private onsen called? ›

Unlike your typical onsen, which you must share with other patrons, private onsen or family baths (called “kashikiri buro” or “kazoku buro” in Japanese, respectively) allow guests to occupy the baths all to themselves.

Are foreigners allowed in onsen? ›

Kinosaki Onsen is the ideal place for a first visit to an onsen town in Japan. It's easily accessible (2.5 hours on the train from Kyoto or Osaka), foreigner-friendly (with signs in English and tattoos allowed), and is oh so pretty.

What should I bring to an onsen? ›

Bring a shower caddy with your favorite soap, shampoo and a washcloth, and bring a towel. Most onsens will provide towels. Many provide soap and shampoo dispensers. You will enter a changing room with lockers, and probably baskets.

Is onsen good for skin? ›

As onsen ingredients remove old cornified layer of skin surface, it is very useful to rejuvenation of skin. Moisturizing effect of water vapor is also excellent. It gives firmness and moisture to dry skins that tend to crack, so that you can get ideal skins.

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