Imagine dipping yourself in the scalding waters of a shallow pool of onsen. After gradually acclimatize your body to the heat, you immerse deeply enough to stop worrying about your boiled-lobster red thighs, while you sip on that calming cup of tea as time passes by. As Earth Day just passed, what better way to inspire environmental awareness and conscientiousness in our beautiful world than a relaxing dip in a pool warmed by the Earth itself?
Undoubtedly, Japan is the most famous hot spring country in the world. Here, we have curated the perfect guide to 5 best onsens in Japan.
Nestled amongst the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Noboribetsu Onsen is considered the most popular onsen resort in Hokkaido. The abundance of onsen varieties is without a doubt Noboribetsu Onsen’s strong point. Noboribetsu Onsen has 9 different types of onsen. Onsen baths of the resort town fed by 3,000 litres of water from the Jigokudani, or Hell Valley. The Hell Valley is a hissing, steaming volcanic pit with an impressive plume of sulphur-scented gas that escapes from the area's volcanic rocks. Noboribetsu Onsen's therapeutic waters contain a range of minerals — not only sulphur but also various salts and iron. The baths received great fame when the town was designated as a health resort for injured soldiers following the Russo-Japanese War in the early 19th century and remain Hokkaido's most famous onsen today.
Awarded as the best onsen town multiple times and situated at an altitude of 1200 meters above sea level, Kusatsu Onsen earned its fame as the most famous onsen town in Japan. Due to its unique positioning beneath the tip of Mount Shirane, within 90 minutes, the resort’s flowing hot springs provide enough scalding water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The Yubatake, the eminent hot water field at the centre of town, is the resort’s main source of hot spring water, which is also Japan’s most acidic, with a pH level of 2.1. The iconic Yubatake is the biggest tourist attraction, not only as the main source of hot spring water in the area but the steamy Yubatake causing a sulphurous odour to linger in the air at all time and creates a very nostalgic atmosphere, especially at night.
Not many onsen hideaways can top Kurokawa Onsen, a small village tucked away in a cut between the Kuju and Aso mountain ranges of central Kyushu. Mount Aso is an active volcano with an almost moon-like landscape, giving Kurokawa an awe-inspiring scenery just like an illustration ripped straight from the pages of a historical novel. Nearly all onsen resorts here offer outdoor baths where you can relax and soak up the beautiful rural scenery, from snow in the winter to the fiery maples of fall. Also, the onsen options here are unrivalled — you can try hot spring baths, mud baths, and even get buried up to your neck in piping hot sand.
One of the most extraordinary ways to enjoy onsen in Japan would be bathing with a scenic view. Lake Kawaguchi is a very popular onsen spot as it is located at the base of the iconic Mount Fuji with many ryokans offer great onsen baths with stunning views. You can enjoy the majestic view of Mount Fuji right in front of you while perfecting your art of onsen bathing. You can also experience different faces of Mount Fuji seasonally; with red leaves in autumn, diamond Fuji, which the sun sparkles on top of the summit during winter, or Aka-Fuji, which it is coloured in red.
Nyuto Onsen is a lovely little traditional onsen village perched on the deep mountain of eastern Akita prefecture. Known for its nostalgic and rustic atmosphere, Nyuto Onsen is a cluster of eight elegant ryokan inns, each boasting their own unique characteristics, though each onsen technically belongs to the ryokan in which it resides. As Akita prefecture experiences heavy snow every year during winter, the biggest appeal of Nyuto Onsen is simply the fantastical scenery of pure white blanket of snow covering the alpine forests in winter. The views from its outdoor baths are just spectacular. If you wish to have a very traditional Japanese onsen experience in the snow, Nyuto Onsen is definitely the best choice.
With a variety of onsen, Japan offers a great salve for anyone wanting to recharge their mind and body naturally. Indulgence, hedonism, satisfaction, having a great time – whatever you decide to call it – soaking in onsen has always been an exercise in pleasure. And, it’s just a flight away!
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