Enjoy the Snowscape! Seven Select Onsen Accommodations Around Japan with Open-air Baths
The cold winter is the perfect time to enjoy open-air onsen hot springs. It is truly an exceptional feeling to soak in an onsen bath while enjoying snowy scenery. Here are seven popular accommodations with open-air onsen baths from which you can enjoy a snowscape.
- 1. Jigokudani Onsen Kourakuen (Jigokudani Onsen, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano)
- 2. Tsurunoyu Onsen (Nyutou Onsenkyo, Senboku-shi, Akita)
- 3. Awanoyu (Shirahone Onsen, Matusmoto-shi, Nagano)
- 4. Takaragawa Onsen Ousenkaku (Minakami Onsenkyo, Tone-gun, Gunma)
- 5. Niseko Grand Hotel (Niseko Konbu Onsenkyo, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido)
- 6. Noji Onsen Hotel (Noji Onsen, Fukushima-shi, Fukushima)
- 7. Kaikake Onsen (Kaikake Onsen, Minami-Uonuma-gun, Niigata)
1. Jigokudani Onsen Kourakuen (Jigokudani Onsen, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano)
This is an inn approximately 50m on the opposite banks of a mountain stream from Jigokudani Onsen's Monkey Park, famous around the world as a hot spring where wild monkeys bathe. It is in a nature-rich area off the beaten track and will require walking approximately 30 minutes from Kanbayashi Onsen in the winter and 10 minutes from a parking lot in the summer, so best to carry your belongings in a backpack. The inn does not feed the monkeys, but they still come to enjoy the open-air hot springs, so you may able to share a bath with them. This may be the only inn in the world where you can share a bath with monkeys.
2. Tsurunoyu Onsen (Nyutou Onsenkyo, Senboku-shi, Akita)
Nyutou Onsenkyo has records of it being a hot spring area dating back to 1688. Tsurunoyu is the oldest onsen inn in the area truly befitting of the designation of a secret onsen. The Honjin rooms in the 100+-year-old thatched-roof building that makes one feel as if in a period drama are popular and have open hearths by which dinners are served. The milky white mixed-gender baths are extremely crowded on the weekend. If you want to relax and enjoy the baths, go after 3:00 pm, when the day visitors have left. You can enjoy indoor and outdoor baths of four types of hots springs with different composition and potency .
3. Awanoyu (Shirahone Onsen, Matusmoto-shi, Nagano)
This is a hotel that derives its name from the rare sulfur hot spring with so much carbon dioxide that fine bubbles (awa) cling to the bathers' bodies. The rustic, mixed-gender "Dai-rotenburo" (large open-air bath) is popular. The hot spring water is clear when it comes out, but changes into various colors, such as milky white, as it is exposed to air. The source spring is lukewarm, so the onsen bath is generally not very hot, which means you can stay in the bath longer. The Awanoyu source water is available to drink in the drinking area. It has a slightly peculiar flavor, but becomes softer when made into rice porridge. Try the specialty "onsengayu" (onsen rice porridge) for breakfast.
4. Takaragawa Onsen Ousenkaku (Minakami Onsenkyo, Tone-gun, Gunma)
This is an inn by a mountain stream in a nature-rich environment with four large open-air baths (three mixed-gender, one women-only) that is open 24-hours a day and is referred to as the "best open-air baths under the sun." In particular, the Kodakara bath is 330 square meters and is reputed to be Japan's largest mixed-gender open-air bath. The inn gives you a choice of a Japanese bathrobe when you check in, and female guests will also be given a "yuamigi" that looks like a dress that can be worn in the mixed-gender baths. Their specialty bear soup is a must-try at dinner. With sweet miso enveloping the strong aroma, it is said to be quite tasty.
5. Niseko Grand Hotel (Niseko Konbu Onsenkyo, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido)
This is a hotel in Niseko, an area that is popular among skiers visiting from abroad. The water is pulled straight from the source and is said to be beneficial to the skin and have anti-aging effects. Although there is a women's only open-air bath, the mixed-gender bath that is as large as a pool is popular. Yuamigi that can be worn inside the bath are available for rent (100 JPY (incl. tax)), so it is comfortable for women who are not used to mixed-gender baths. It is open to day visitors till late (11:30 am - 9:00 pm), so can be visited after skiing.
NISEKO GRAND HOTEL
6. Noji Onsen Hotel (Noji Onsen, Fukushima-shi, Fukushima)
This is a hotel at an elevation of 1,200m above sea level, where the snowscape can be enjoyed from about November to April. The baths are reserved at separate hours for men and women and are open 24 hours a day. These baths are the Tengu No Yu, where you can go to the open-air bath directly from the indoor bath, the Kimen No Yu, with its fantastical illuminations at night, and the Senju No Yu, a Japanese cypress bath where you can see plumes of steam from the hot spring water flowing up from below-ground.Here, you can enjoy the milky white water with beautifying properties characteristic of the Tohoku region in a variety of different baths. There is pickup service to and from Fukushima Station (reservations required) so you need not worry about traveling in the snow.
7. Kaikake Onsen (Kaikake Onsen, Minami-Uonuma-gun, Niigata)
This is one of the three major "eye onsens" in Japan. It is said that the onsen spa opened about 700 years ago, and there are written records indicating that many patients with eye issues visited the onsen in 1806. At one time, the onsen water was even sold as eye drops from Kaikake called "Kaigansui." The inn is the only structure on the other side of Kaikake Bridge and has an attractive historic structure built in 1869. The water of the open-air baths is not too hot so you can enjoy the winter snowscape without overheating. The rice served with the meals is Koshihikari from Minami-Uonuma, which is considered to be the highest-grade rice, and is outstanding.
Seeping in an open-air bath while enjoying a snowscape is an almost mystic experience that will rejuvenate the body and soul. Enjoy the extraordinary experience of soaking in an onsen hot spring in deep snow amidst the freezing cold.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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