The Best Onsens in Japan

The Best Onsens in Japan

A trip to Japan would feel incomplete without a dip in one of the 2,300 or so onsens dotted across this skinny set of islands. These naturally occurring hot springs are formed by volcanic activity and each relaxing plunge supposedly brings with it various health benefits, meaning you can expect clearer skin, detoxification and better blood circulation (to name a few). Although onsens are popular all year-round, winter sees the most visits to these hot spring resorts, as the waters are wonderfully warming and allow visitors to truly unwind and relax. Read on to discover the best onsens in Japan, whatever the time of year, according to our experts.


  1. Beppu Onsen
  2. Kusatsu Onsen
  3. Hakone Onsen
  4. Kurokawa Onsen
  5. Kinosaki Onsen


Beppu Onsen

Renowned for being the country’s hot spring capital, it seems only right that we kickstart our list of the best onsens in Japan here. Beppu, a cityscape rising from the steam, has a cluster of eight onsens that offer complete tranquillity and natural beauty benefits. Two of our favourites include Oku-Myoban Sanso, with its perfectly controlled temperatures, and Shibaseki Onsen, a hot spring steeped in history. The elements appear to converge perfectly here, with mud baths, steam and even sand baths at Beppu Beach, providing a wealth of serenity and giving you the chance to reconnect with nature. Although journeying to this onsen mecca can take a few hours from Tokyo by train, the indulgent experiences available make it completely worthwhile.   


Kusatsu Onsen

Kasatsu Onsen is one for heat lovers, as the waters here are so hot they need a stirring method called yumomi to cool and keep the mineral potency at the perfect level. Those wanting to take a dip will (supposedly) find all sicknesses cured (except lovesickness, unfortunately), in the largest natural flow of hot spring water in all of Japan. Afterwards, dry off and enjoy the shops, cafes and hiking trails nearby where you can purchase trinkets, enjoy hot drinks and soak up the stunning views. Guests staying at the ryokans, found throughout the town, can enjoy the waters for free. These traditional guesthouses provide travellers with the opportunity to experience authentic Japanese lifestyle and hospitality before taking a plunge in the warm onsen waters nearby.


Hakone Onsen

Just two hours from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Japan’s capital, is the must-visit mountain town of Hakone. This serene spot offers respite from the neon-lit city, and nowadays more than a dozen springs supply warm waters to the Hakone region. Here you can enjoy the high-quality pools and breath-taking views, and those after a touch of luxury can explore the cave pools and even experience a soak in wine or coffee baths. The Yunessun Spa Resort even offers family-friendly onsens with theme parks, slides and more – proving there really is something for everyone here.


Kurokawa Onsen

Those seeking hot springs with a view should opt for perhaps the most picturesque of the warm water baths, found at the Kurokawa Onsen. Nestled in the middle of Kyushu island, this popular spot is home to nearly 30 onsen baths making it a worthy contender in any list of the best onsens in Japan. Kurokawa Onsen also offers a slightly different approach, where you can buy a wooden tegata pass that gives you access to three different baths of your choice, so you can really make the most of your trip as you dip into the different onsens. The town itself has a rich history, stretching back at least 300 years, and its spellbinding spirit continues to captivate visitors, with glowing lanterns lighting the streets and adding to the magic of this place.


Kinosaki Onsen

Last, but by no means least, is the traditional Kinosaki Onsen, offering an authentic Japanese experience that’s accessible to everyone. Just two-and-a-half hours from Kyoto city, the willow-tree-lined river, handful of old-style ryokans and vintage arcades immerse travellers and heighten that sense of nostalgia. The perfectly preserved architecture and authentic hot spring ambience is found in every corner of this idyllic place. Of course, it’s not all hot springs and history, as there are countless fun activities to be enjoyed, from green tea picking to guided zazen meditations, all of which has earned this sanctuary the title of ‘best hot spring town’ by Lonely Planet.