Onsen is the Japanese word for hot springs, which Japan has an abundance of. Onsen are popular in Japan all-year round, but there is something magical about warming up in a soothing hot spring while surrounded by sparkling snow. This is why onsen are especially popular in the winter. With the cold temperatures, it is the perfect time to relax and enjoy the natural winter hot springs. Here are the five best winter onsen in Japan!
This onsen located in Hokkaido has a lot to offer during the winter. It has nine varieties of spring water, each with its own health benefits, including sulfur springs, salt springs, aluminum springs, mirabilite springs, melanterite springs, iron springs, acidic iron springs, alkaline springs, and radium springs. Whatever is ailing you, Noboribetsu Onsen has a specific hot spring aimed to help. This is one of the most popular onsen during all seasons, but its winter views are especially beautiful, making it a great onsen to visit during the season!
Located in the rural mountains of the Yamagata Prefecture, Ginzan Onsen is a quaint and atmospheric onsen. The old town gets a lot of snow, making it most scenic in winter. The traditional ryokan, which are Japanese inns, look especially stunning covered in snow, as does the river that runs through the center of town. There are no modern buildings or vehicles in town, which makes the area feel like a peaceful historical retreat. Ginzan Onsen is one of the best onsen in Japan for getting away from the hustle and bustle of life and melting away your stress.
Manza Onsen is known as the highest altitude onsen, sitting at 1,800 meters above sea level. As you can imagine, its altitude makes this onsen quite breathtaking during the winter. You can enjoy a warm bath while taking in the incredible views of the snowy mountain landscape. The water at Manza Onsen comes from Mount Shirane, and is especially high in acidity, making it one of the most sulfuric hot springs in Japan and giving it wonderful properties for your skin and overall health. This onsen is also home to a popular ski resort, making this a perfect winter getaway for both relaxing and hitting the slopes!
Shima Onsen is located in Gunma along with Manza Onsen, but its lower altitude makes it more easily accessible, and it is only a bus ride away from Tokyo. This onsen also offers beautiful, snowy views and it is located in a secluded and historic town. Shima Onsen is regarded for its medicinal properties, and offers foot baths and hot springs for drinking (separately, of course) along with the traditional baths. If you are a fan of Studio Ghibli, you might also be excited to stay at the Sekizenkan Ryoko, which is believed to be the primary inspiration behind the bathhouse in the film Spirited Away! This ryoko is quite well known, and has also served as a filming set for movies and interviews. Regardless of whether you stay at a ryoko or enjoy a nice day trip, Shima Onsen is one of the best winter hot springs in Japan.
Another picturesque winter onsen is Shibu Onsen. This onsen is located in Nagano, and is home to the famous Jigokudani Monkey Park. If you’re a wildlife lover, then watching the wild snow monkeys roam and bathe in the onsen is a sight you won’t want to miss! Shibu Onsen has nine open-air baths and eight of them can be used free of charge by town residents and ryokan guests. If you do choose to stay at a ryokan, you might consider Kanaguya, which is also rumored to have inspired the bathhouse in the movie Spirited Away. Shibu Onsen has a lot of history, and one popular tradition is for visitors to visit all nine public baths for good luck. Whether you’re looking for some luck or not, this “onsen-hopping” is a fun activity and patrons can collect commemorative stamps from each bath they visit.