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[2018 Edition] 7 Select Onsen Hot Spring Areas Rising in Popularity among Foreign Tourists in Japan

Onsen can rejuvenate both your body and soul if you take the time to soak in it. Onsen, which the Japanese love, is becoming increasingly more popular among foreign visitors. This time, we introduce seven select onsen that are quickly rising in popularity among visitors to Japan.

2018.03.16

1. Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo Prefecture)

This onsenkyo (onsen village or area) is said to have originated the soto-yu (public baths that do not include overnight accommodations) and is famous for the seven soto-yu open to the public. The town has been known for its hot springs since 1,400 years ago, and the area along Otani River, with its willow trees swaying in the wind, retains the feel of an old hot-spring health resort​. Kinosaki has a traditional atmosphere where yukata (light cotton kimono worn in the summer or used as a bathrobe)​ is the standard clothing, so be sure to put on a yukata, which can be rented at ryokan inns and other places, before going out for a walk or to visit the hot springs. If you plan to go to two or more hot springs, the soto-yu day pass for 1,200 JPY is a good deal. If you are the first person to bathe at a particular bath that day, you'll get a special Ichiban (No. 1) note. One of the appeals of Kinosaki Onsen is its easy access from Kyoto.

1. Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo Prefecture)

2. Yudanakashibu Onsenkyo (Nagano Prefecture)

Yudanakashibu Onsenkyo refers to the nine onsen in the Yokoyu River and Yomase River areas in Yamanouchi-machi, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano. It has a history of over 1,350 years and is popular as an area with onsen that are used for a long and prosperous life. This onsenkyo also has a day pass (600 JPY for guests at accommodations that are members of the tourist association and 1,200 JPY for day visitors) that allows you to experience onsen at three locations that are members of the Yudanaka Tourist Association. Jigokudani Yaen-koen—famous for the Japanese macaques that bathe in the hot springs in the winter—is in Jigokudani Onsen, which is one of the Yudanakashibu Onsenkyo hot springs.

2. Yudanakashibu Onsenkyo (Nagano Prefecture)

3. Akanko Onsen (Hokkaido)

This is an onsen town on the shore of Lake Akan in Hokkaido. Many of the hotels on the lake shore have open-air baths where you can have the luxurious experience of seeing the majestic Mt. Oakan beyond Lake Akan. There is also the opportunity to enjoy a mini-onsen tour by visiting the various hand and foot baths around town. The town is also home to Akanko Ainu Kotan, the largest place in Hokkaido to see folk crafts by the Ainu people who are indigenous to the Japanese isles. The traditional dance performances (entrance fee: 1,080 JPY) at Lake Akan Ainu Theater Ikoro are wonderful representations of the beautiful nature of Akan and the rich culture of the Ainu people.

4. Togura Kamiyamada Onsen (Nagano Prefecture)

Togura Kamiyamada Onsen has long been popular as an onsen to go to after worshipping at Zenkoji Temple. The hot spring water here is delicate and gentle on the skin and is known as the hot spring water for beautiful skin. The onsen town is famous as a place where you can have geisha come to ryokan inns or restaurants and give musical and dance performances (JPY 20,000 and up for two geisha for 30 minutes). The town has the feel of an old onsen town in Japan with retro neon lights, restaurants and a place for a carnival rifle game with toy rifles. The town is also the site of Nagano Prefecture's foremost fireworks show, Shinshu Chikuma-shi Chikumagawa Fireworks, which is held on August 7 every year.


5. Fujikawaguchiko Onsenkyo (Yamanashi Prefecture)

This is an onsenkyo on the shore of Lake Kawaguchi, which is one of the five lakes that were created as a result of the eruption of Mt. Fuji. It is a relatively new onsenkyo, but because the area was already a popular tourist destination, it developed quickly and now has more than 50 onsen inns. There are five hot spring sources, each with greatly different qualities with such names as Reiho-no-yu, Tensui-no-yu, Reisui-no-yu, Fuyo-no-yu, and Shurei-no-yu. Fujikawaguchiko Onsenkyo Tensui-no-yu Shuhokaku Kogetsu, an onsen inn right near Lake Kawaguchi, has a large bath with a fantastic view of Lake Kawaguchi and Mt. Fuji. Enjoying the view of Mt. Fuji while soaking in an onsen hot spring is sheer bliss.


5. Fujikawaguchiko Onsenkyo (Yamanashi Prefecture)

6. Yufuin Onsen (Oita Prefecture)

This is a popular onsen district that is second nationwide in both the number of hot spring sources and the number of springs. There are public baths as well as ryokan inns and hotels with onsen baths open for day-use so you can enjoy onsen with different water quality and open-air baths with fantastic views even if you are only there for the day. Its main street, Yunotsubo Kaido, has great atmosphere and is lined with unique establishments including cafes and souvenir shops. You'll find that time flies shopping and eating on this street. When you walk out of the street, you'll be greeted by Lake Kinrin, a beautiful lake with spring water, including hot spring water, gushing up at the bottom. This is an onsen area blessed with rich nature and a town with a great atmosphere that you'll want to keep going back to.

6. Yufuin Onsen (Oita Prefecture)

7. Hida Takayama Onsen (Gifu Prefecture)

This is a new onsen that was discovered in 1989 with snowmelt from the northern Japanese Alps forming an onsen hot spring over the ages. There are currently nine onsen hot springs, and though it is not a tourist destination that actively promotes the hot springs, there are 33 inns where you can enjoy onsen that are beneficial to the skin. The main attraction of Hida Takayama is its beautiful townscape that is as if you have traveled back in time to the Edo Period (1603 - 1868). There are many tourist spots such as old townscapes represented by Sanmachi-dori and the Edo Period government outpost, Takayama Jinya. This is a great town to enjoy sightseeing during the day and relax in an onsen in the evening.


7. Hida Takayama Onsen (Gifu Prefecture)

Onsenkyo where you can enjoy the traditional atmosphere of Japan together with the onsen seem to be particularly popular. We hope this article helps those of you trying to decide which onsen to go to, and that you create wonderful memories from your trip to an onsenkyo.

*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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Writer: KAMIOKA

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