My Favorite Places in Japan: Onsen

The best place to relax!

By Elena Lisina    - 3 min read

Onsen and Japanese spa (they call it supa) are my favorite places for relaxation and my favorite type of public bath. What I like most is that there is plenty of hot water! I've tried several traditional baths such as Russian baths and Finnish sauna, but I can't say that I liked those experiences. Japanese onsen fits me perfectly as it has private places for washing and big common baths which are as big as pools. I loved onsen since the very first time I visited one with my Japanese friend.

This onsen is separated by gender
This onsen is separated by gender

Onsen can be found all over Japan, including special onsen towns such as Yudanaka, Zao, Kinosaki, Kusatsu, Gero, Atami, and hundreds of others! These towns usually contain public baths and Japanese style hotels called ryokan which also feature hot spring baths. Those small towns usually have wonderful natural surroundings, so visitors can enjoy beautiful views along with a relaxing experience for their bodies. The great number of onsen indicates how significant and beloved this type of vacation is in Japan. When staying in a ryokan I enjoyed the traditional wooden buildings, the Japanese style rooms with tatami floors, and sleeping on a futon and having a big traditional dinner after taking a bath. It was one of my very best experiences in Japan!

Japanese style room in a ryokan
Japanese style room in a ryokan

These onsens and spas can be found not only in onsen towns but in cities as well. For instance, in Tokyo tourists can try Saya-no-Yudokoro or LaQua Spa, or Oedo Onsen Monogatari, though spas in Tokyo are more expensive than in Nagano or Sendai. During my travels, I try to find hotels with public baths, such as the B Tokyo Suidobashi – to soak in a hot bath after a day spent on my feet is the greatest pleasure and relaxation, but it’s better to take a bath before dinner! My favorites are outdoor baths that are not as hot as indoor ones. In some baths, there is a built-in hydro massage for your feet, back, and other parts of the body. In spacious onsen, there are beds for relaxing between baths as breaks are recommended. Onsens and public baths are free for guests staying in a ryokan or hotel, while some spa admissions cost over 2000 yen – but they're definitely worth that!

Of course, it’s better to try onsen for yourself rather than read about it!

Monkeys enjoy onsen in the same way as people!
Monkeys enjoy onsen in the same way as people!

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Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I love Japan very much! I like small towns of Japan where I can watch people doing their business and talk to them carefully. They're always friendly. I like Japanese gardens where I can just sit or walk and take my time. Also I like Shinto Jinja as being there I feel in peace. I like to watch sunsets and then to dine in some small local places. I like to soak into onsen after a long day of wandering. I like Japanese crafts very much as all items are made with great taste and skill. Nihon wo daisuki desuyo! My photos from Japan I also place here: https://gurushots.com/f10384/photos Matane!

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Kim B a week ago
A great way to relax, for sure!
It took me 10 trips to Japan to discover the pleasure of onsen! I just never really cared about it, even when some of the hotels I stayed happened to have one. But when I visited Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama, I just felt I couldn't say I've experienced the place by just enjoying the looks of the (fabulous!) building. I can't deny that entering the building felt a bit intimidating, it's one thing to screw things up when you have your clothes on, it's a bit different when you're buck naked. But that feeling disappeared the moment I stepped into the changing room and it became obvious that no one cared. And when I entered the bath for the first time I could only think of what I had been missing for all those years. Luckily, my next stop that trip was Beppu, so lots of opportunity to catch up!

One of the highlights of my next trip was a stay in Noboribetsu Onsen at the Daiichi Takimotokan. Great scenery, amazing food, but most importantly: by far the greatest onsen I've been to. There's something magic about soaking in a rotemburo overlooking beautiful Jigokudani while the snow is falling on your head :-)

Ever since my main criterium for choosing a hotel is if they have a public bath. My favorite hotel in Tokyo so far is the APA Hotel Asakusa Tawaramchi, with a rooftop rotemburo! Too bad I've only stayed at a few nice ryokan and been to just a couple of onsen towns, mostly because my focus on matsuri demanded more conveniently located hotels. But apart from hotels, whenever I encounter a nice onsen or sento and I do have some time to spare, I'll usually give it a go. Apart from those big places like Oedo Onsen they usually just cost a few hundred yen. Tokyo even has a fixed price of 470 yen for those typical neighborhood sento or onsen!

One of the most special places to me is still Izu-Oshima. My hotel had a nice onsen, sure. But one of the highlights was ending each day at the Hamanoyu (http://tokyoislands.jp/hama-no-yu, mixed bathing so bring swimwear!) just outside Motomachi, enjoying the sunset over the sea together with the locals, it just doesn't get more relaxed than that. But even more amazing was after climbing Miharayama walking all the way to Miharayama Onsen, for a soak with this view: https://i.imgur.com/AyDhEKg.jpg

Saya-no-Yudokoro will be on my list for my next visit to Tokyo!
I wouldn't mind giving it a try after my upcoming trip! For years I've been thinking of starting my own Japan-website, but so far did very little to make that a reality and probably never will. And I do like the format of JapanTravel which is more focused on personal experiences than just the factual travel information.

I guess it isn't a problem that English isn't my native language? I'm not sure how much that shows in my comments?