For the Japanese Hot Spring Enthusiast ( 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.

Nyuto Onsen Village, December 2017. Photo by Tetsuro Akagi

The survey covered 327 hot springs, meaning the top picks are just a drop in the proverbial bucket.   A few of my own (rather biased) opinions follow the lists (after the photo!)

A beautiful (and free) public onsen in Nozawa, Japan.

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 survey.  Someday, right?


Goto Onsen and others 025
Maria B. demonstrating proper mixed bathing etiquette at Goto Onsen, Beppu, Japan

5 thoughts on “For the Japanese Hot Spring Enthusiast

    1. Kusatsu or Kinugawa if you are in Tokyo (though I’ve never been to the latter.) Both are longish day trips. If you’ve got a rail pass, wow, you might go down to Shirahone, in Nagano. It’s not that far – it could also be a longer day trip. If you haven’t been to Yuzawa (of Kawabata’s “Snow Country” fame) that’s super easy – 70 minutes from Ueno Station on the bullet train, get off and you’re walking distance from some very famous old bath houses. Hakone is also close to Tokyo, and numero uno on the popularity list. I could go on and on…


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