Travel Guide: Soak in One of Japan’s 5 Most Luxurious Onsen

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Thanks to its overabundance of active volcanos, Japan is home 2,300 Onsen which are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike..

An Onsen is a natural or manmade hot spring with hotel style accommodation around it. A ryokan is a Japanese-style inn which often includes an on-site, or nearby Onsen. 

Historically, Onsen baths were a means of purifying the body both physically and spiritually. Today they are a symbol of rest and relaxation and are a must when travelling in Japan. Perfect for just about anybody, relax in an Onsen resort for 2 days minimum to experience the benefits of soaking in the natural water.

Whilst staying in an Onsen is not usually the focus of a trip to Japan, it is the best way to break up the sightseeing and shopping for some rest and recovery time.

Onsen waters have natural healing properties according to Hakone Japan, increasing blood circulation, reducing stress, allowing for better sleep, pain relief and treating skin problems. These benefits are due to the natural elements dissolved in the water such as sodium bicarbonate and calcium, which get absorbed through the skin whilst bathing.

The Shinkansen is a network of high speed railways that operate within Japan and the perfect way to get from A to B. Colloquially known as the bullet train, the Shinkansen connects much of the country. Apart from Amanemu and Zaborin which can be accessed by flying into Nagoya and Sapporo respectively, most other Onsen’s can be easily reached from Tokyo by Shinkansen.  

An insider tip is to by a Japan Rail Pass from an authorized sales agent for Japan’s National Railway Group like this one before you go. The Japan Rail Pass offers unlimited travel on the JR Railway, selected buses, and selected ferries for overseas visitors and is the most cost effective to travel within Japan.

Amanemu is a ryokan-inspired Onsen resort.
Amanemu is a ryokan-inspired Onsen resort.


Prices start from: $1,300 per night.

Amanemu is just 2 hours from Nagoya by shinkansen. Arrange a transfer to Amanemu from Kashikojima station. Overlooking Ago Bay in the Mie Prefecture, Amanemu resort features 24 spacious suites and four two-bedroom villas. Each suite and villa come with its own private Onsen which is fed by the nearby mineral rich waters of Ise-Shima.

Nestled amid the forested hills of Ise-Shima, this ryokan-inspired Onsen resort invites guests into a sanctuary of restorative peace. On site therapists can develop bespoke spa experiences and treatment programmes tailored to the individual needs of each guest. Relax and unwind at Amanemu.

Zaborin is a modern ryokan Onsen resort.
Zaborin is a modern ryokan resort.


Prices start from: $1,000 per night.

Fly into New Chitose Airport in Sapporo, Hokkaido and arrange for a private transfer from the airport to Zaborin which is 2 hours to the west. Zaborin is a modern ryokan consisting of just 15 villas. Surrounded by a birch forest in the Hanazono woods of Hokkaido Zaborin features spacious rooms that are western in style. 

Eat Japanese haute-cuisine which is cooked by award winning Hokkaido born chef Yoshihiro Seno whose skill has been recognised and awarded internationally and by Japanese connoisseurs alike. Rooms contain two private hot spring baths one inside and the other outside. The outside bath is located on the balcony and is made from either wood or stone. 

Gora Kadan is a modern ryokan Onsen resort.
Gora Kadan is a modern ryokan resort.

Gora Kadan

Prices start from: $1,200 per night.

2.5 hours on the Shinkansen from Tokyo will land you in Hakone. Arrange for a shuttle provided by Gora Kadan from the station and travel about 20 minutes to the residence. Located on the grounds of Kan’in-no-miya Villa, the former summer villa of a member of the Imperial Family, Gora Kadan serves authentic kaiseki cuisine with mountain views.

Located in the highly regarded hot spring town of Hakone, the villa blends Japanese tradition with modern design elements. Offering a large public spa which is separated for men and women, the baths are rotated at night so both sexes can enjoy the experience. There is a variety of rooms on offer, most of which come with private baths. 

Arai Ryokan is an Onsen resort that is surrounded by nature.
Arai Ryokan is surrounded by nature.

Arai Ryokan 

Prices start from: $400 per night.

2 hours of the shinkansen from Tokyo, Arai Ryokan is located on the Izu Peninsula. Drawing water from the mildly alkaline Shuzenji Hot Springs, the construction of Arai Ryokan is a testament to traditional Japanese landscaping and architecture. Surrounded by nature and built by a flowing river, the balmy breeze, brilliant bird song, and the vivid seasonal colours of nature are seductive and alluring. 

The Japanese-style rooms at Ryokan Arai come with futon beds and shoji paper screens. Featuring 2 public indoor hot-spring baths and 1 outdoor bath, reserve one of the 2 private indoor hot-spring baths and soak in the nutrifying waters of Shuzenji. 

Hoshinoya Karuizawa is an Onsen resort.
Hoshinoya Karuizawa is an Onsen resort.

Hoshinoya Karuizawa

Prices start from: $1,120 per night.

1 hour by Shinkansen from Tokyo, Hoshinoya Karuizawa is surrounded by nature at the foot of Mt Asama. Fed by the Hoshino Hot Spring Hoshinoya Karuizawa offers two bathing options. The traditional outdoor baths are lined with cedar and border wide windows that offer a clear view of the nearby scenery.

The contemporary option is a meditation bath which emphasizes total body relaxation. Here the bath temperature is preserved at 40°C. Referred to as ‘serenity in light and darkness’, guests first bathe in a space lit with soft illumination. Once their bodies have become accustomed to the water’s temperature, guests may enter a space completely devoid of light, where their senses sharpen the longer they stay making for a calm and spiritual experience. Rooms also come with their own private baths. 

Spare a few days on your next trip to Japan to relax and unwind in the mineral rich waters of an Onsen, you won’t regret it.

See Also:

? Hotel Review: The Ritz-Carlton Osaka, Japan

? Where to Stay in Tokyo Japan

? Why The Japanese Live Longer (It’s Simpler Than Your Think And No, It’s Not Sushi)

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