1. Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma
The Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma is one of Japan’s most famous natural hot springs. It’s known for its ancient bathing rituals and the waters are said to be so potent they can cure all illnesses, except lovesickness (sorry for those with broken hearts)! At Kusatsu, you can visit several hot springs, free of charge, and there are several onsen resorts and traditional Japanese inns, or ryokans, where you can spend the night after a busy day of doing nothing in the warm waters.
2. Yufuin Onsen, Kyushu Region
The Yufuin Onsen offers one of the most spectacular views in Japan. The onsen is surrounded by the Kyushu mountains and you can see the jaw-dropping twin peaks of Mount Yufu as you kick back in the hot springs. There are plenty of ryokans dotted around the town, many of which have their own private onsens. If you’re not staying at a resort or a ryokan, you can often still access their baths with a day-pass, which can cost between 500 and 2,000 Yen ($4 – $18 USD). Around Yufuin, there are also some perfectly blue-colored spring waters that are said to have a moisturizing effect upon the skin, making them a big draw for women and those interested in beauty care.
For many years, Yufuin has been ranked as one of the best onsen destinations in Japan. Its main street is lined with cafes, souvenir shops and small museums. When you arrive at Yufuin, a rotenburo (open-air bath) is an absolute must.
3. Gero Onsen, Gifu
Gero Onsen is one of Japan’s three best onsens along with Kusatsu and Arima. Gero onsen is located in Gero city which is a 45-minute train journey away from Takayama.
A 'Yumeguri Tegata’ (onsen pass) costs 1,300 yen and includes entry to three ryokan’s onsen of your choice. The pass is available at the information centre outside JR Gero station or at participating ryokans.
4. Hakone Onsen, Kanagawa Prefecture
Hakone is one of the most popular onsens (hot spring) towns and has a history of 1200 years. Hakone has become a favorite holiday destination for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of a nearby mega-city. Hakone is only one hour away from Tokyo and is famous for its view of Mount Fuji as well as its breathtaking scenery.
Hakone offers a variety of ryokans (a Japanese inn) from luxurious to more affordable ones. All ryokans provide you with an authentic Japanese experience. Hakone Yumoto is the entrance to Hakone hot spring village and the oldest hot spring town in Hakone.
5. Fuji Kawaguchiko Onsen, Yamanashi Prefecture
Imagine bathing in natural hot springs located on the base of the mighty Mount Fuji. Yes, it’s possible! Head to the Fuji Kawaguchiko Onsen, where you can find a number of guesthouses and ryokan inns, with both indoor and outdoor bathing options. It’s one of the best onsens in Japan and the ideal time to visit is in the spring when you’ll be surrounded by cherry blossom trees in all their glory.
6. Dogo Onsen, Shikoku island
Dogo Onsen, located in Matsuyama, is the oldest hot spring in Japan with 3,000 years of history. Dogo Onsen Honkan (main building), a symbol of the town, was constructed in 1894 as a public bath. This three-storey high castle-like wooden structure incorporates traditional design elements, such as the white heron on top of the 'Shinro-kaku' (white watchtower), in homage to its origins. Fans of Hayao Miyazaki s award-winning animated film 'Spirited Away' may recognise Dogo Onsen Honkan to be the inspiration for the bathhouse in the Studio Ghibli feature.
7. Nyuto, Akita Prefecture
Nyuto is an onsen village located in the heart of the mountains in the Akita prefecture. It’s known for its stunning blue, milky waters and the best time to visit is in winter when the surrounding area is covered in a thick blanket of snow, making it a truly spectacular sight. It’s one of the best onsens in Japan and bathing in its hot waters while it’s snowing is an unforgettable experience.
8. Beppu Onsen, Oita Prefecture
Beppu is one of the oldest and most famous hot spring towns in Japan located in Oita. The town is situated between the mountains and Beppu Bay which ranks first in gush volume in Japan. Beppu Onsen is home to a whopping 2,000 hot spring sources and the Beppu hot springs officially consist of eight areas including Beppu, Myoban, Kannawa, Kankaiji and Hamawaki, that are collectively called “Beppu Hatto”. You’ll find a variety of bathing options in the area, from sand baths to mud baths. When in the area, be sure to try the specialty onsen eggs, which are steamed or boiled in the hot spring water, and said to be incredibly good for your health.
9. Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto
Kurokawa Onsen is one of the most charming small hot spring towns in the north-west of the Kumamoto prefecture between the Kuju Mountain range and Mount Aso. There are no high-rise hotels or neon advertisements in this area. The town is well-maintained under a preservation project which accounts for its nostalgic atmosphere.The Kurokawa onsen operates a system of "Nyuto Tegata" - a multiple onsen entry pass valid for six-months (price: JPY1300). You have a choice of three open-air baths at 24 different ryokans.
Another way to enjoy the village is to go hiking in the surrounding area. An English audio guide can be hired at the visitor centre for a small fee (JPY500). It is where you can obtain information about various ryokans and places of interest in the village.
10. Noboribetsu Onsen, Hokkaido
Noboribetsu Onsen is the most famous onsen resort in Hokkaido and one of the best onsen resorts in Japan. The hot spring naturally produces 10,000 tonnes of water a day. The temperature of the water can be as high as 45 or even 90 ̊C. Noboribetsu Onsen produces 9 different types of spring water containing elements and minerals such as sulfur, salt, aluminum, mirabilite, melanterite, iron, acidic iron, alkaline and radium.