If you take a short trip outside of Tokyo, the atmosphere changes and there are plenty of hot spring (onsen) areas surrounded by nature or hot spring resorts full of people. Here are 5 recommended onsen areas not far from Tokyo.
Hakone Onsen, an area of around 20 different hot springs in the Hakone area of Kanagawa, is one of Japan's leading onsen resorts and has a long history. The water quantity is quite high, with most of it being simple thermal springs or sodium chloride springs, both of which are good for nerve and joint pain. It's about 90 minutes away from the heart of Tokyo by train, so it's a popular onsen area that's easy to reach. There are many onsen ryokan (traditional inns with hot spring baths), including the large Yumoto Fujiya Hotel, as well as plenty of restaurants and souvenir shops, so you can enjoy the atmosphere of a lively hot spring resort. There are also lots of sightseeing spots like Hakone Shrine and Sounji. Many of the lodging facilities allow day trips where you only use the baths, so you can enjoy both the springs and sightseeing on a day trip.
1. Hakone Yumoto Onsen
This hot spring resort is about 35 minutes on the Hakone Tozan Line from Hakone Yumoto, and it's just as popular. There are many kinds of springs, with a majority of them being acid sulphate or simple sulfur springs, as well as simple thermal and sodium chloride springs. The area has been used since ancient times as a vacation town, and even today there are top-class ryokan like Gora Kadan and Ki no Yu Setsugekka. In the area are sights like the Hakone Museum of Art and Gora Park. It's a location blessed with nature, so it's great for people that want to forget the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The sight of the spring greenery and the autumn colors from the Hakone Tozan Line or the rope-way is a must-see.
2. Gora Onsen
This is a popular onsen around 120 minutes away from Tokyo that has the scenery of the Kinu River Valley spread out in front of it. On both banks of the Kinu River are huge lodging facilities like the 128 year old Asaya. The hot springs are simple alkaline springs, which is good for nerve pain, stiff shoulders, recovery from exhaustion, and promoting health. It's also gentle on skin, so you can warm your body and soul in the smooth hot water. The sight of the surrounding nature all year round - the foliage in autumn, snow in winter, the greenery intensifying through spring and summer - is very charming. There are also sightseeing spots in the area, such as Edo Wonderland.
3. Kinugawa Onsen
Atami Onsen in Shizuoka is said to be one of the top three onsen areas in Japan. It was originally a popular sightseeing resort, but since it's only about 90-120 minutes away from Tokyo, in recent years it's been exploding in popularity as a reasonable resort area by the sea. It's a very old onsen area, said to be in use for the past 1,250 years. The springs are mostly chloride or sulfate, which are good for sensitivity to cold, nerve pain, and for beautifying skin. There are many accommodations where you can enjoy an ocean view, such as the Hotel New Akao Royal Wing, as well as many restaurants and souvenir shops. They have big fireworks shows over the ocean all year round, so that's another thing to see.
4. Atami Onsen
This is a representative hot spring region with a high water quantity. It's very old, said to have been opened in the Heian era (794 - 1185). The water is mostly simple thermal or weak saline, so this spring is gentle on the skin and doesn't feel too stimulating. It's about 100 minutes away by train from Tokyo, and it's an area blessed with seafood from Sagami Bay as well as mountain vegetables, so you can enjoy delicious food and relaxing onsen while gazing out at the ocean. The hot spring resort spreads from the station to the ocean, and there is a wide variety of accommodations like ryokan and large hotels like the Hatoya Hotel available, so please search the area and find the place that matches your trip goals!
5. Ito Onsen
There are many wonderful onsen resorts reachable from Tokyo. When you're making your Tokyo sightseeing plans, please try to include an onsen trip!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.