Winter onsen

 When the cold sets in and the harshness of the winter ices you to the bone, what can be better than slipping into a hot spring bath with healing properties? Japan is full of them! For those who wish to discover Japan in winter, here is a selection, from North to South, of the best hot springs or outdoor onsen which particularity is to provide an amazing view of Japanese snowy landscapes. 

Akanko (Hokkaidô)

Located on the southern shore of lake Akan, this natural onsen offers a breathtaking view of the lake, the still active volcano and the surrounding forest.
Originally used by the Ainous, the indigenous people of Hokkaido island, it was first popularized in the 19th century. Coming to enjoy the snow festival in Sapporo? Stop by Akanko for this unusual experience.
 

Contact: Akan Tourism office 0154-67-2254
Access: Kushiro station from Sapporo, than take the bus (90 minutes). Another option is flying from Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya to Kushiro.

Official website

 



 

Tsurunoyu (Akita)

The name of this spring comes from “Tsuru”, crane in Japanese, as a hunter once witnessed an injured crane healing its wings in its milky waters.
Nestled east of Mount Iwate, it was regularly used in the 17th century by the local lords for its therapeutics properties.
This hot spring is perfect for watching the snowfall or the stars at night through the rising steam. It is a magical moment!
The main building, built 360 years ago, is still partly lit by oil lamps.
 
Contact: 0187-46-2139
Access: Tazawako station from Tokyo, then take the bus toward Nyuto and stop at Ugo-Kotsu. By announcing your arrival in advance, a car from the inn will come to pick you up at the bus stop.

Official website

 

Osawayama (Niigata)

Take a stroll in the beautiful snow covered heights, just two hours away from Tokyo.
In this family-owned ryokan, you can enjoy several open-air baths usually surrounded by a thick blanket of snow. Far from the city, in an untouched environment, be sure to take in the mountain view.
Enjoy traditional styled cooking prepared with fresh products while savoring an amazake (sweet rice alcohol).
 
Contact: 0257-83-3773
Access: Take the Shinkansen to Echigo-Yazawa and change for Osawa.

More information (in Japanese) here

 

Maguse (Nagano)

Located in a natural park near Nagano in the Japanese Alps, the Maguse thermal spring is very affordable as Kijimadaira municipality operates it. It offers a spectacular panoramic view of the mountains and the valley.
An unusual option: Would you like to stay in a nice inn without spending a fortune? The neighboring ryokan offers you to cook your own meals. Otherwise, you can always go to a restaurant, where you will surely enjoy the local delicacies.
 
Contact: Kijimadaira tourist office 0269-82-2800
Access: liyama station from Nagano, then take the bus to Nozawa and get off the Nakamura stop.

More information here 

 

Tarutama (Kumamoto)

On the south west side of Mount Aso, in one of the largest calderas in the world known for its abundant water, you will find the Yamaguchiya ryokan which shelters the Tarutama spring. Famous for its pleasant view on the Kinryu no taki waterfall, legend has it that this spring was discovered over 300 years ago by an ascetic monk living in the area.
It remains one of the Kyushu’s most hidden springs.
 
Contact: 0967-67-0006
Access: Aso Shimoda-jo Fureai Onsen train station on Minami-Aso line, then take the bus (15 minutes)

Official website (in Japanese)

 

Onsen how to


You have never been to an onsen? Here are some rules to respect to fully enjoy this experience: 
  1. Undress and place your  belongings in the dedicated basket.
  2. Wash entirely (body and hair) and rinse properly before entering the bath
  3. Enter the bath nude. You can hide with your towel before entering.
  4. Don't put your towel in the water, just put it on your head or on the side.

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