Five hot spring towns near Tokyo

Ideas for excursions during your trip

Onsen are natural hot springs in Japan, prized for their relaxing properties. These traditional thermal baths are often surrounded by picturesque landscapes in the heart of nature (such as in the mountains or by the sea), which can be admired from outdoor baths or in the heart of the village, in beautiful buildings or indoor ryokan (traditional Japanese inns).

One of the most famous onsen towns in Japan and also one of the closest to Tokyo, Hakone is the perfect destination if you don't have much time to travel further afield. Situated between Tokyo and Kyoto, the town offers a wide selection of hot springs. It's best known for its lake with a view of Mount Fuji and the pirate ships that sail there.

Access to the area is simple with the Hakone Free Pass.

 

 

The outside bath of the onsen Hakone yuryo

The open-air bath at Hakone Yuryo onsen

JNTO

A pirate ship on Lake Ashi, Hakone

DR

 

Ikaho is located on the eastern flank of Mount Haruna in Gunma Prefecture. The town is known for its reddish thermal waters, the result of the oxidation of iron in the water. Nothing dangerous, of course, it's only the chemical result of the iron in the water and the oxygen in the air meeting. The water in this area is known to help blood circulation and fight fatigue.

The lively old town of Ikaho is centered around a 300-meter-long stone staircase climbing the mountain. It's lined with ryokan, old arcades and shops.

 

  • Access: JR Kanto bus line or with the Shinkansen Hokuriku accessible with the Hokuriku Arch Pass

 

 

 

 

Ikaho onsen

An open-air onsen

Also in Gunma prefecture, the city of Kusatsu, with its hundreds of springs from which emerge nearly 34,000 liters of water per minute, is a little further from Tokyo but offers a unique setting. You can admire the yubatake, a giant hot waterfall that crosses the center of the city and feeds the many onsen nearby.

Particularities of this spa town include the unique bathing methods of jikan-yu (a very hot, 3-minute bath) and yumomi (stirring the bath water before entering to lower the temperature) are customs that have been carried out since the Edo period (1603-1868).

 

  • Access: the express bus to Shinjuku (JR Highway bus terminal)

 

Learn more: Kusatsu onsen

Kusatsu Onsen

Japan Visitor - kusatsu-onsen-20193.jpg
Water pouring into a outdoor cooling pool in Kasatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen

Image by 浩之 梶 from Pixabay

There is also Atami, in Shizuoka prefecture, whose hot waters have attracted bathers since the Nara period (710-794). The spring of Izusan Onsen, one of the oldest in Japan, was discovered more than thirteen centuries ago.

You'll find salt water onsen here, unusual in Japan, along with breathtaking views of the sea. Water, at high temperature and with a high salt content, purportedly has excellent properties for firming the skin and toning the body.

 

  • Access: Ito line, Tokaido line and Shinkansen Tokaido-Sanyo

 

You can find ashiyu along the street! This is in Atami, a town know for its onsen

Atami

After a long day of temples, shrines and sightseeing in Nikko, you can stop for the night in Kinugawa in Tochigi Prefecture.

For centuries traders have been enjoying the clear, gentle waters surrounding the city's river and have built many inns in the area. If you're looking for the full experience of a traditional Japanese getaway, be sure to book a night in a ryokan. Guests enjoy unlimited access to hot springs, and a traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast.  

 

  • Access: Nikko-Kinugawa Line and Tobu-Kinugawa Line

 

To discover: Ryokan etiquette

 

Onsen extérieur à Kinugawa onsen

Onsen extérieur à Kinugawa onsen

Gian Malley

The Kinugawa Kanaya, like many establishments in Nikko, mixes the traditional ryokan and the modern hotel.

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