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Japan's most beautiful onsen

Top 5 Onsen

Steaming hot Japan

Hot, steamy and soothing: a trip to Japan isn't complete without a visit to an onsen. These hot springs, or onsen, are as Japanese as sushi and geishas. And with thousands of hot springs to choose from it can be hard to decide which to try. We’ve put together a list of the five most interesting onsen for you.

Let’s get hot
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Since ancient times, the Japanese have been enjoying the benefits of the many hot springs (onsen) scattered across the country. Found both indoors and outdoors, onsen are often part of a ryokan: a traditional Japanese guesthouse where you sleep on tatami mats. 

The hot springs are available for day use, but for the complete experience we highly recommend spending the night. The coldest onsen hover around 25 degrees Celsius, whereas the hottest ones are warm enough to boil an egg (so definitely not suitable for bathing).

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Takaragawa Onsen

The largest outdoor pool in Japan

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Located about 2.5 hours from Tokyo, the small-scale Takaragawa Onsen features the largest outdoor pool in Japan. With its babbling brook and stunning mountain scenery, it is surprising that this is not a mass tourism destination. Men and women are not required to bathe separately, although there is a separate bath available for women.

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Takaragawa also has a beautiful ryokan nestled right on the river. It is worth spending the night here because Takaragawa is possibly even prettier in the evening than in the daytime. 

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Oku-Hida Onsen villages

Five hot springs with character

In the heart of the Japanese alps you will find five onsen villages: Shin-Hotaka, Tochio, Shin-Hirayu, Fukuchi and Hirayu. Each village has its own unique character and also its own spring water. The villages all use a different hot spring to fill their onsen. The oldest village, Hirayu, lies 1250 metres above sea level.

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According to legend, a group of soldiers became overcome by poisonous fumes. They were practically paralyzed when a white monkey appeared and led them to the Hirayu hot springs. As soon as the soldiers entered the water they were healed.

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Arima Onsen

Bathing in gold and silver

Winding streets and old-fashioned wooden shop buildings: picturesque Arima Onsen looks like a postcard. About an hour by train from Kyoto, these onsen have been known since the seventh century for their healing waters. According to legend, Emperor Koutuko fulfilled his wish to sire a son after visiting these hot springs.

Arima Onsen features gold-coloured springs (the Kinsen) and silver-coloured springs (the Ginsen). The red-brown water of the Kinsen contains high levels of iron which warms up the body and makes the skin smooth. The crystal-clear water of the Ginsen soothes sore muscles.

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Kurakawa Onsen

Relaxing by the river

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One of the loveliest hot springs in Japan is the Kurakawa Onsen in the province of Kyushu. The village is wedged between Mount Kuju and Mount Aso. Kurakawa offers the opportunity to do a Rotemburo Meguri, or a tour of the outdoor hot springs. With a tegata (a wooden pass) you can visit around 20 different ryokans and soak in their hot springs. Many springs are located along the river that flows through the heart of the village providing an idyllic setting.

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Beppu Onsen

The Onsen capital of Japan

The Beppu Onsen are the largest in Japan and the second largest hot springs in the world after Yellowstone National Park in the United States. Everywhere you look there is steam rising up from the ground or out of the buildings. This location boasts eight different hot springs and it also offers visitors mud or sand baths.

For a spectacular experience take the Beppu Hell tour. This is a tour of eight hot springs that are so hot they are known as ‘the eight hells’ (Jigoku). The water shooting out can reach temperatures of 150 degrees Celsius. Names like Blood Pond Hell, Tornado Hell and Geyser Hell will discourage anyone from taking a dip here. Buy an egg and boil it in the Kamado-Jigoku (the hotpot hell). Or try some of the Jigoku Mushiyaki Pudding: a pudding steamed in hell.

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