5 amazing facts about onsen

Hot spring secrets

Think you already know everything about the havens of relaxation also known as onsen? We're willing to bet that these five amazing facts and anecdotes will surprise you!

The shogun owed his love of baths to a stay in the spa town of Atami. For seven days, he benefited from the therapeutic benefits and relaxing virtues of the hot onsen waters of the city. Later, when informed of the ill health of one of his daimyo, Hiroie Kikkawa (1561-1625), he had barrels of hot water sent to Kyoto from Atami, to cure the pain the daimyo suffered. This transporting of water was the first instance of okumiyu.

From 1644, the practice became official. The fourth shogun Tokugawa Ietsuna (1641-1680), regularly had water from several onsen around the country brought to his castle in Edo (the old name for Tokyo). Every year the government sent a magistrate in charge of okumiyu to an onsen town chosen for the quality of its waters.


It was founded in 2014 to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the renovation of the most famous building of the onsen town, Dogo Onsen Honkan. Built in 1894, it is one of Japan's oldest onsen. Dogo Onsenart has the distinction of being the longest contemporary art festival in Japan.

An installation by Shinji Ohmaki at Tsubaki-no-yu, Dodo Onsen

In the ad, which quickly turned viral, we can see visitors speed down the slopes of a rollercoaster, sat in a carriage filled with hot spring water. But it doesn't stop there. In this future park, families and friends, all with a towel around their waist, profits from the benefits of the waters of the onsen of Beppu, since the water is everywhere; in the cabins of a Ferris wheel, the wagons of a funicular, between the horses of a carousel and more. To fulfill its promise, the city of Beppu set up a crowdfunding campaign that that has raised 82 million yen!

Spamusement Park, Beppu

To do this, the method adopted in Kusatsu is very special. Young women, dressed in traditional dress, sit around the steaming pool and mix the water with wooden boards 1.8m long and 30cm wide. This is done to the rhythm of folk songs, allowing perfect synchronization of the movements.

Stirred for a long time, the water temperature drops from 90°c to 40°or 50°c. But this ancestral technique is laborious - after 10 people have mixed for 30 minutes, the water temperature will have only decreased by a small degree!

The restaurants and cafes of onsen towns frequently offer menus full of intriguing local specialties, many of them steamed or cooked using the water of the hot springs of the city.

Among these, let's focus on onsen tamago or onsen eggs. According to the traditional method, the eggs, placed in baskets or nets, are immersed in water at 70°c for 30-40 minutes. Cracked open, the egg is then served in a small cup with dashi or soy sauce. This cooking method results in a unique texture - the white of the egg is cooked but runny, while the yolk is firm.

Onsen tamago in Kirishima

Onsen manju

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