Japans Most Famous Onsen When

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WELLNESS: Japan’s Most Famous Onsen

When travelling to Japan, there are several unmissable activities and experiences that are sure to make your trip unforgettable – but taking in a beautiful onsen has to top the list.

With its volcanoes and mountains, Japan offers hundreds of hot spring villages for a much sought-after relaxation experience. So many villages, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to choose…

So why not discover the three most famous onsen in Japan using a list dating back from the Edo era (1603-1868) compiled by Hayashi Razan, a philosopher already famous after being attributed with first listing the three most celebrated views of Japan – Matsushima, Amanohashidate and Miyajima.

Don’t for a moment think that the following list is all that Japan has to offer – there are so many other onsen in the country, each just as scenic as the next. However, the three hot springs featured below are sure to please if you’re looking to discover some of Japan’s most traditional onsen locations!

Arima Onsen, Hyogo

Located just 30 minutes from Kobe, this village provides for a wonderful stroll through narrow alleyways past temples and shrines. Be sure to stop and sample some culinary specialities (Senbei rice crackers, Manju sweets, or its famous lemonade) and, of course, discover the village’s onsen.

The water here contains special minerals that lend it its unique reddish colour; there are two public onsen for you to enjoy by day, and several beautiful ryokans to savour in the evening. Look no further than this perfect spot for a little hot spring break if you’re travelling from Kobe, Osaka or Kyoto!


Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma 

A three-hour bus ride from Tokyo, this village is famous for its Yumomi dance, a traditional “water stirring” performance that cools down the hot spring waters by hand. Kusatsu Onsen offers visitors beautiful little alleyways, culinary specialities (Maitake mushroom tempura, Manju sweet bean buns, or Onsen Tamago boiled egg), a temple and a shrine, Sainokawara park, and a vast outdoor public onsen. Not to be missed!


Gero Onsen, Gifu

Nestled in the very heart of the Gifu prefecture (a region renowned for its onsen), there are no less than nine free public Ashiyus (hot springs for the feet) dotted around the town, as well as an outdoor Onsen, also free, for the bravest visitors given its open location. Once again, the local specialities are a must (pudding, tomatodon, etc.), as is a visit to the delightful local temples and shrines. This is the ideal base for discovering the Gifu prefecture on your way to Takayama and Shirakawago!


So there you have it! The three most famous Onsen villages in Japan. Whichever one you choose, you’ll love your stay – but you’ll need to linger at least one night to take full advantage of an onsen ryokan in the village.

Naturally, there are plenty of other onsen villages throughout Japan, all of which are worth a detour, so don’t forget to check out this article on the best onsen villages in Japan. And, if you’re more temped by the idea of a unique hot spring hidden away in the heart of nature, you might enjoy this article on the best onsens in Japan.

Happy relaxation!

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