10 Kyoto Hotels with the Most Relaxing and Private Open-Air Baths
Some tourists may be uncomfortable with the Japanese tradition of bathing in large communal baths with strangers. If that’s you, then why not book a hotel room with a private open-air bath so that you can soak in relaxing hot spring waters whenever you want? A traditional Japanese bath isn’t just a way to wash away the stress of travel. It’s an experience for all fives senses that you don’t want to miss out on, especially at night. There is nothing quite like soaking in hot spring waters while feeling the night breeze on your face or admiring the starry sky above you. Here are 10 Kyoto hotels where you can do just that.
Mar 23 2023
10 Best Kyoto Hotels with Private Open-Air Baths
1. Shoenso Hozugawatei
Kameoka-Yunohana Onsen is a hot spring area in a quiet mountain valley located just a 30-minute train ride from the center of Kyoto. It’s said that between the late 5th century and the late 16th century, back when Japan was constantly at war, warriors from all over the country came to this hot spring area to heal wounds sustained on the battlefield. Shoenso Hozugawatei is a famous ryokan-style inn in this historic hot spring area and a proud holder of the title of one of “Japan’s 250 Most Popular Ryokan” as well as one of the “100 Best Ryokan Selected by Professionals."
One of the highlights of the inn is its large communal bathhouse called “Yuasobidokoro,” meaning “a place to enjoy hot spring water,” which covers more than 2,600 square meters. It offers a wide variety of bathing options, including the large Daikoku-no-yu shared bath, an open-air rock bath offering scenic waterfall views and the calming sounds of a nearby river, and a cypress bath surrounded by fresh verdure. The bathhouse also includes a mist sauna, a medicinal bath, and private baths that families and couples can rent out and enjoy in peace and quiet at their own pace.
Guests who desire even more privacy and convenience can also reserve a room with an en suite open-air bath and enjoy it whenever the mood strikes them. You can choose between Western- and Japanese-style baths, both of which offer beautiful, seasonal views of the surrounding area.
You’ll need reservations while in Japan. See our writers’ top picks!
2. Nazuna Kyoto Nijo-jo
Nazuna Kyoto Nijo-jo is made up of several renovated “machiya” traditional townhouses, joined together to create an L-shaped, 1,400-square-meter hotel in a historic part of central Kyoto with over 110 years of history. Thanks to its location, Nazuna offers both peace and quiet as well as easy access to popular sightseeing spots around the city.
All the guestrooms are named after types of Japanese tea such as matcha, gyokuro, or hojicha, and blend traditional Kyoto architecture with a modern Japanese design. Amazingly, all the rooms are equipped with open-air or semi-open-air baths. The hotel’s ochaburo (tea bath), which features a proprietary blend of tea leaves in the water, is said to have whitening and beautifying effects on the skin and is one of Nazuna’s most popular amenities. Once you’ve warmed up in the bath, jump into a Simmons mattress bed or a futon made by a long-established bedding company from Fushimi, Kyoto, and experience the best sleep of your life.
Another highlight of Nazuna Kyoto Nijo-jo is the breakfast served at an irori sunken hearth. The aroma of seasonal Kyoto ingredients grilled over charcoal and carefully-selected rice cooked to perfection is sure to whet your appetite and give you the best start possible to a full day of traveling and sightseeing!
3. Riverte Kyoto Kamogawa
This is a private hotel on the banks of the Kamo River near the Kyoto Imperial Palace with just eight guestrooms. The Riverte Kyoto Kamogawa’s remote location away from the hustle and bustle of the city makes it perfect for guests who want to enjoy Kyoto’s beautiful seasons in peace and quiet.
One Deluxe Twin Room at the hotel is equipped with a private and spacious open-air bath covered up by a distinctive red “nodategasa” parasol that only adds to the bath’s charm. Other rooms may not have open-air baths, but instead come with large bathroom windows offering beautiful views of the Kamo River, the verdant forests of Shimogamo Shrine, and majestic mountainscapes that seem to be covered in purple mist in the mornings.
There is also a rooftop terrace on the 5th floor that is open all day and offers panoramic views of Shimogamo Shrine’s Tadasu-no-Mori forest and the Higashiyama Sanju-Roppo mountain range. This is a wonderful spot to relax and refresh while enjoying the morning glow with a cup of coffee in hand, the sun setting over Kyoto, or the starry skies above Japan’s ancient capital.
In Kyoto, there is a hotel tradition of ordering bento lunchboxes for special guests. At Riverte Kyoto Kamogawa, you can experience this firsthand by having kaiseki-style multi-course dinner delivered to your room from a famous Kyoto restaurant, vegetarian breakfast from a supplier to prominent Shinto shrines, or original Western-style meals from a popular local bakery.
4. Japanese Ryokan Seryo
Seryo is a gourmet ryokan located in Ohara near major tourist destinations such as Rakuhoku in northern downtown Kyoto or the Sanzen-in, Jakko-in, and Shorin-in temples. This is a rural, nature-rich area where you can experience a whole new side of Kyoto unlike anything you’ll find in the city center. For these reasons and the hotel’s famous hospitality, Seryo has been featured in the Kyoto and Osaka edition of the Michelin Guide for nine years straight.
All nine guestrooms in this ryokan overlook a beautiful garden, while two of them are equipped with private open-air baths offering mesmerizing views of Kyoto sunsets and the beautiful mountains of Ohara. Ohara Onsen is a relatively new hot spring area that only opened in 2004, but it boasts clear, delicate waters that anyone can enjoy.
Dinner consists of “sosaimi kaiseki,” a multi-course meal made with seasonal ingredients, heirloom Kyoto vegetables, edible wild plants, and the bounty of the ryokan’s private kitchen garden. This is a rare opportunity to enjoy a unique part of Japanese cuisine that is simple but flavorful and pairs wonderfully with Japanese sake carefully chosen by the inn’s sake sommelier. The breakfast, on the other hand, includes “yudofu,” which is traditional Kyoto tofu that has been simmered in seaweed stock with other ingredients and spices.
5. Soraniwa Terrace Bettei Kamogawa
Bettei Kamogawa’s bath waters are sourced from Shijo Kawaramachi Onsen, a new hot spring created in June 2022 by drilling down 1,100 meters right in the heart of Kyoto, just a 1 minute walk from Kyoto-Kawaramachi Station. And yet, Bettei Kamogawa boasts a serene and relaxing atmosphere that you wouldn’t expect to find in one of the city’s foremost commercial districts.
The guestrooms are all decorated in an elegant Japanese style and come equipped with terraces featuring open-air baths. In addition, the hotel houses two large communal baths on the top floor, which are 120 centimeters deep so that they can be enjoyed standing up. The water pressure of the deep onsen water is said to have a massaging effect.
After a refreshing bath, we recommend hitting the Sora Niwa Rooftop Bar, a lovely open space offering panoramic views of the ancient capital city and the Higashiyama mountain range beyond the Kamo River. In the morning, you can pop in here and enjoy a cup of coffee while gazing at the rising sun-hugged mountains and plan your day.
The hotel also offers outstanding and creative Kyoto-style kaiseki meals prepared from seasonal ingredients, which help make Soraniwa Terrace Bettei Kamogawa an unforgettable oasis of luxury.
6. Ujo Soan
Ujo Soan, which means “a thatched hut during rainfall,” is a very apt name for a hotel located in the Tango area, known to be especially rainy even in Kyoto where the weather can change on a dime. The name of the hotel is meant to conjure up images of relaxing in a safe place during a downpour and forgetting your everyday troubles.
All accommodations are luxurious standalone buildings, each featuring a Japanese room with tatami straw mats, a bedroom, living room, open-air bath with a deck, and a shower room. Soak in the open-air bath filled with silky, skin-beautifying hot spring water from Yuhigaura Onsen while admiring the starry skies above. Afterwards, take a break on the airy deck and forget the worries of the outside world.
The Tango area, which is surrounded by the ocean and mountains, is famous for its abundant, seasonal food. The hotel uses a variety of freshly-harvested and carefully-selected ingredients to create uniquely masterful Kyoto-style “kaiseki of the sea” dishes that guests can enjoy in private dining rooms with a glass of local Tango sake.
7. hotel kanra kyoto
hotel kanra kyoto is a Kyoto machiya townhouse-style facility that incorporates wabi-sabi aesthetics, natural materials such as wood, stone, iron, soil, and vegetation, and traditional skills and techniques fostered in Kyoto into its design.
The guestrooms are designed in a contemporary style based on traditional Kyoto townhouse architecture. Each room has a private bathroom with a tub made from cypress wood, known for its wonderful natural aroma. The suites and junior suites are spacious rooms over 80 square meters wide and feature open-air baths. The “kanra spa” located on the first floor of the hotel annex offers excellent spa treatments using ingredients and plants that are indigenous to Japan.
The hotel also offers tours of Kyoto conducted by staff members and features an on-site shop selling a variety of unique Japanese items such as antiques, kumihimo braids, and Japanese candles.
8. Momijiya Annex
Takao, known as the “inner parlor” of Kyoto, is located north of Arashiyama and Sagano and is famous for its beautiful fall foliage. It’s also home to the famous Momijiya luxury ryokan and its annex, located just a short walk down the hill from the main building on the other side of a private suspension bridge over the Kiyotaki River.
The annex is built in the traditional gassho-zukuri style characterized by a steep thatched roof. Its lobby is decorated with folk art and offers wonderful views of Mt. Takao as well as a beautiful large garden with Daisugi trees (cedars pruned in a uniquely Japanese style) and moss with the scenery of Kitayama in the background.
The secluded guestrooms are luxurious Japanese-style accommodations made from Kitayama cedar. All of them come equipped with open-air baths so guests can enjoy dips in hot water in total privacy. Although the annex baths do not offer onsen water but rather spring water from Mt. Takao, the facility is still the height of luxury surrounded by the soothing sounds of nature, such as birds chirping, insects singing, wind blowing, and a nearby river flowing. The main building’s open-air bath is also quite scenic as it’s located on a hillside, but the open-air baths of the annex have a more rustic, rural Japanese feel to them.
Dinner at the annex is a Kyoto-style multi-course meal featuring heirloom vegetables that have been cultivated for more than 1,000 years in Kyoto. The food is served in the guestrooms so that the guests can enjoy it in a relaxed, private setting that will elevate the already superb flavors.
Genmyoan is a hotel on a hill with fantastic views of Amanohashidate, known as one of the Three Views of Japan offering the more scenic sights in the country. The hotel building, which is designed in the style of a Japanese tea room with warm, wooden tones, blends seamlessly into the surrounding, natural scenery.
The hotel prides itself on the panoramic ocean views available from all of its 17 guestrooms. The rooms with private open-air baths additionally offer the most exciting views of Amanohashidate, the Hiryukan outlook point, and Miyazu Bay, which the guests can enjoy to their heart’s content. Most of the guestrooms were designed by an architect from Kyoto in a style that expresses elegance, refinement, and uniquely Japanese sophistication.
The two large communal scenic baths are designed in a different style than the private open-air baths and are also worth a visit. Soaking in hot water while enjoying the panoramic views of Amanohashidate is almost enough to make you feel like you’re floating on the open sea.
10. Togetsutei Hotel
Togetsutei is located in the Arashiyama Onsen area, named after the famous Kyoto tourist destination. It’s a famous luxury hot spring hotel established in 1897 which, despite its proximity to popular tourist spots, offers guests a serene, relaxing atmosphere and privacy. The hotel is imbued with Kyoto elegance thanks to the Kitayama logs used in its design, the zither-like koto music playing in the background, and the gentle aroma of Japanese incense in the air. The Togetsu-kyo Bridge and Ryoanji Garden are within walking distance of the hotel, making it a great place for those wanting to explore Arashiyama at their own pace.
The hotel offers three types of rooms with en suite baths: rooms with an indoor bath made from cypress, rooms with a Shigaraki ware open-air bath large enough for two people, and rooms with an open-air bath with a view of the Arashiyama landscape that keeps changing like a picture scroll.
Togetsutei initially opened as a gourmet facility, so the quality of the hotel food is outstanding. It’s a great place to enjoy traditional Kyoto kaiseki dishes made with care and skill by veteran chefs dedicated to their craft.
You’ll need reservations while in Japan. See our writers’ top picks!
Open Yourself Up to Luxury Inside an Open-Air Bath
Any trip will be made more special with a stay at a luxurious facility with private, open-air baths offering stunning views of the calm ocean or the starry sky above. Ultimate relaxation and the memories of a lifetime await you at any one of the hotels and inns introduced in this article.
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.