Jalan.net (www.jalan.net) a Japanese publication promoting domestic travel to the Japanese traveler, has published its members’ “Top Hot Springs of Japan” selections for 2018. I’m always complaining about the silly and inaccurate travel writing on Japan by English-language writers, so if you’re a traveler or newcomer to Japan, and interested in soaking in the country’s amazing hot springs, this might be helpful information.
The survey covered 327 hot springs, meaning the top picks are just a drop in the proverbial bucket. (The name in parentheses is the prefecture, followed by the number of votes, or rating.) A few of my own (rather biased) opinions follow the lists.
Most-visited (by those voting) in the past year:
Hakone – (Kanagawa) 1466
Beppu – (Oita) 963
Kusatsu Onsen – (Gumma) 923
Atami – (Shizuoka) 921
Kinugawa – (Ibaragi) 722
Most Anticipated (for a future, first-time visit)
Yufuin Onsen – (Oita) 2696
Nyuto Onsen Village – (Akita) 1933
Kusatsu Onsen – (Gumma) 1767
Beppu – (Oita) 1708
Ibusuki Onsen – (Kagoshima) 1574
Highest Satisfaction rating:
Takayu Onsen – (Fukushima) 97.1%
Nyuto Onsen Village – (Akita) 95.6%
Shirahone Onsen – (Nagano) 95.5%
Utoro Onsen – (Hokkaido) 94.8%
Manza Onsen – (Gumma) & Kinosaki Onsen (Hyogo) 94.2% (tied)
The Jalanet article notes that Beppu’s position climbed the most in this year’s rankings, apparently due to a strong positive response from twenty-something voters to its “Hot Spring Gardens” campaign of last year.
Beppu is both the largest conglomeration of hot springs in Japan, and an old coastal resort city (in some ways like Atami) in Kyushu, so it is a place to explore for all types of bathing opportunities, from guerilla (rock baths up in the hills) to plush inn-style (search out Myoban Onsen) to public mixed-bathing (Beppu Hoyo Land) to old-fashioned bath houses (Takegawara Onsen.)
If you make it all the way down to Beppu (a one-hour flight from Tokyo, or seven hour train ride), you should visit nearby Yufuin Onsen, at the top of the Anticipation list. Set in a spectacular basin beneath a ruggedly beautiful volcano (Mt. Yufu), it offers a number of lovely (and pricey) inns with beautiful baths. There are also plenty of cultural amenities for those interested in Japanese arts and crafts.
Also worth noting, at second-place on the satisfaction rating, is Nyuto Village Onsen. (This is on my hot spring bucket list, for sure.) Tucked away in the mountains of northern Japan, it boasts a seriously deep winter. Just imagine the outdoor baths, the snow, and the quiet. I’ve included a photo taken by a friend who visited there just this December.
Wow. Where else in the world, right?
A few of the above winners offer English websites:
I’m sorry I couldn’t write about all 327 hot springs covered in the Jalan.net survey. Someday, right?