10 Kanto Onsen to Soak in After Your Tokyo Trip
After shopping and sightseeing in Tokyo, there's no better relief for tired muscles than hot springs surrounded by nature. This article will introduce 10 of the best onsen (hot spring) resorts in the Kanto region, all accessible from the Tokyo metropolitan area, with some even doable on a day trip! We will also introduce the highlights and characteristics of each hot spring, allowing you to take your pick and discover the best one for you!
Sep 28 2021 (Oct 11 2021)
What Makes Kanto's Hot Springs Special
Many onsen resorts exude a distinctly Japanese ambience and are always popular with those seeking the ultimate Japan experience. We've picked out 10 quintessential Japanese hot springs encompassed by picturesque towns perfect for strolls and sightseeing, along with those boasting iconic scenery and leisure facilities to explore and enjoy.
Furthermore, many Kanto onsen are easily accessible from Tokyo, making them great destinations for an overnight stay after whirling around Japan’s capital. To further help your planning, we will also discuss the defining characteristics of each hot spring so that you can choose one that best suits your needs.
Ikaho Onsen: Iconic Stone Steps Just 90 Minutes From Tokyo (Gunma)
The symbol of the 400-year-old Ikaho Onsen is its stone walkway of 365 steps. As the step numbers are written on each, it's common for visitors to work out which step corresponds to their own birthday and take a commemorative photo on it. There are 3 free footbaths at the bottom, middle, and top of the stone steps, perfect for soaking in between strolls!
Both sides of the steps are lined with unique stores, such as retro shooting shops where you can play with cork guns to hit prizes like toys and sweets and ones selling manju buns, a traditional sweet made by wrapping red bean paste boiled in sugar in a thin dough and steaming it. Ikaho Shrine, located at the very top of the stone steps, is a popular shrine to pray for good luck in love and marriage. At night, the stone steps are illuminated in an enchanting display.
There are two types of hot spring water in Ikaho Onsen: the "Golden Hot Spring," which is actually more brown and contains calcium and sodium, and the "Silver Hot Spring," which is clear, odorless, and suitable for those recovering from illnesses. There is a beautiful vermilion red bridge near the source of the Golden Hot Spring, which is about a 15-minute walk from the stone steps and a famous spot for lush greenery and autumn leaves.
Shima Onsen: Straight Out of a Ghibli Movie?! (Gunma)
Shima Onsen is a deeply historical hot spring resort with 1,000 to 1,200 years of history and a legend that it can cure 40,000 diseases. The hot spring water here is said to be good for the digestive system when drunk and great for the skin when bathed in, which explains the many drinking fountains available. With numerous inns utilizing seasonal ingredients to craft exquisite Japanese dishes, visitors can get a taste of tradition through local cuisine alongside its atmospheric streets.
Ghibli fans will also love how Shima Onsen’s Sekizenkan Ryokan looks like the bathhouse in the hit Ghibli anime "Spirited Away." In fact, many of the town’s hot spring inns with 300+ years of history bear a striking resemblance to those in Spirited Away.
With the Hinata Miyakushido shrine and Lake Okushima nearby, Shima Onsen is the ideal place to appreciate the fresh greenery and vibrant fall colors of Japan.
Kusatsu Onsen: Japan's Largest Natural Spring Water Yield with Antibacterial Powers! (Gunma)
The Yubatake is the symbol and heart of Kusatsu Onsen. It has a high acidity level of pH 2.1 and a hot spring water output of 3,000 to 4,000 liters per minute! The source of the hot spring is located right in the city center of Kusatsu, and is lit up in a magnificent display come the evening.
When exploring Kusatsu Onsen, a visit to the hot spring facility "Netsunoyu" to see the tradition of "yumomi" should not be missed. Yumomi is a method of lowering the temperature of Kusatsu's extremely hot spring water, which can range from 50°C to 95°C, by stirring it up without diluting it. Visitors can watch the jovial song and dance performance that accompanies the stirring of the bath, and you can even have a go at it yourself!
Another recommended spot is Sainokawara Park, a 10-minute walk from Yubatake. The park is filled with greenery and natural hot springs gushing out from the ground, providing the ultimate onsen landscape. There are also free foot baths with different temperatures depending on the location, so choose one just right for you for a relaxing soak. Just don't forget to bring your own towel!
Nasu Onsen: Nature, Theme Parks, and 1,300 Years of History! (Tochigi)
Nasu Onsen is located in a highland resort close to renowned sightseeing spots like Komagataki, famous for the amusement park Nasu Highland Park and stunning autumn foliage, as well as Mt. Chausu, which can be ascended via ropeway.
While there are lots of accommodation facilities including ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), resort hotels, and guest houses, as well as various hot springs scattered throughout the area, we recommend visitors take a dip at Shikanoyu, which has a 1,300 year history. The wooden building was built in 1936 and, while being clean and well-maintained, one can definitely sense its long history.
Shikanoyu, which was said to have been discovered from deer healing their wounds in the water, has a special bathing method called "kaburi-yu." Before hopping in, bathers are meant to use a “hishaku” (a Japanese water ladle that has a small cup with a long handle) to pour hot water over the back of the head and neck 200 times for adults and 100 times for children. This ritual is said to increase the effect of the hot spring and to prevent people from getting dizzy when bathing. The hishaku is free to borrow, so don't hesitate to give it a try! The spring is a plain acidic sulfur hot spring, filling the area with the smell of sulfur typical of a hot spring resort.
Kinugawa Onsen: Hot Springs by a Magnificent Valley (Tochigi)
Kinugawa Onsen is a hot spring resort boasting hotels and ryokan dotted along a stunning valley. The gentle spring water has a weak alkalinity and is said to be effective for burns.
There are plenty of sightseeing activities in the area, such as visiting the Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura, a theme park that recreates the streets and lifestyle of the Edo period (1603-1867), or enjoying a boat ride down the valley river.
Another must-see in the area is Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a history of approximately 400 years and is chock full of gems to discover and appreciate, including the magnificent gate and exquisitely detailed sculptures.
Hakone-Yumoto Onsen: Appreciate Art with Hot Springs! (Kanagawa)
Taking only 85 mins from Shinjuku on the Odakyu Romance Car and located right in front of Hakone-Yumoto Station, Hakone is a very convenient hot spring resort easily accessed from the Tokyo metropolitan area. It also boasts an extensive history spanning roughly 1,200 years and currently offers around 40 hot spring hotels right by the station, making it the prefered onsen for day-trippers from Tokyo. It is also a great place to savor fresh seafood caught at the nearby Sagami Bay, making it a hit with gourmands, too. Within Hakone are hot springs with simple water, simple alkaline water, and ones containing sodium chloride, which are said to be effective against muscle pain and cold sensitivity.
Nearby are several art museums including the Hakone Open-Air Museum, Pola Museum of Art, and Okada Museum of Art. Also worth checking out is the Hakone Museum of Art, a fantastic place to enjoy Japanese gardens and pottery, along with the Narukawa Art Museum at Ashinoko, which is renowned for its collection of contemporary Japanese paintings.
Yugawara Onsen: Spectacular Flowers and Mouthwatering Seafood (Kanagawa)
Yugawara Onsen is a hot spring resort sandwiched by Sagami Bay on one side and mountains on the other. Here you can fully relish the essence of nature in every season, seen at its pinnacle in the Yugawara plum grove, Satsuki no Sato in Hoshigayama Park, and the autumn colors of Okuyugawara.
With Sagami Bay being close by, Yugawara Onsen is also an excellent place to enjoy fresh seafood. Being only 80 mins away from Tokyo on a direct train, its stress-free accessibility is also a big factor in its popularity. The spring water here is slightly saline and alkaline, making it foam well with soap, feel soft on skin, and preventing it from being easily cooled.
Chichibu Onsen: An Easy Day Trip From Tokyo (Saitama)
Chichibu is recommended for those seeking an easy day trip from the Tokyo metropolitan area. Being only 78 mins away from Ikebukuro Station and the location of the beautiful Nagatoro Valley, it contains a vast wealth of untouched wilderness despite its proximity to the city.
There are many day-trip hot spring facilities and hotels offering day-trip bathing packages in Chichibu. Seibu-Chichibu Ekimae Onsen Matsuri no Yu offers excellent access from the station, Seine no Yu has a sauna and hot stone spa, Mangan no Yu allows you to bathe while gazing at a mountain stream and waterfall, Chichibu Onsen Hananoya offers day-trip visitors the use of open-air baths within guest rooms, Wado boasts a spectacular open-air bath, and Ofuro Cafe Hakuju no Yu provides hammocks to relax in after bathing. With each one offering a different atmosphere and experience, take the time to research and pick your favorite to make the most out of your journey!
Kominato Onsen: Hot Springs on the Beachside! (Chiba)
With a 300-meter-long white sandy beach and clear waters, Shirosaki Beach in Chiba overflows with swimmers in the summer. Alongside this picturesque coastline sits Kominato Onsen. After bathing in the sea, relax in the nourishing hot spring waters and take a stroll to soak up the spectacular view of the clear blue sea tinted by the setting sun. The springs are bicarbonate and chloride and are effective against nerve pain, arthritis, stiff shoulders, poor circulation, and skin ailments.
While you’re here, treat yourself to a lavish helping of fresh seafood or take a sightseeing boat tour to see the schools of fish at Tai-no-ura.
Kamogawa Onsen: Hot Springs with a Seaside Resort Atmosphere (Chiba)
Of all the onsen resorts in the Kanto area, Kamogawa Onsen is the most resort-like. With panoramic views and a charming seaside atmosphere heightened by a mild year-round climate, it’s a fantastic escape into paradise. There are also luxury ryokan boasting guest rooms furnished with open-air baths, allowing you to soak alongside ocean views. Like Kominato Onsen, it is a popular place for fresh seafood due to its proximity to the sea.
Kamogawa Onsen is also close to Kamogawa Sea World, the Yoro Ravine, Niemon Island, and plenty of other scenic spots, making it a great destination for both adventurers and families.
The spring water here is bicarbonate and said to be effective at treating poor blood circulation.
Hot Spring Luxury Right Next to Tokyo!
Alongside vibrant cities and fascinating cultures, Kanto offers a fantastic diversity of onsen to thoroughly immerse yourself in the stillness of nature while reveling in lively streets and exploring the bounties of the surrounding area. Next time you’re in Kanto, give yourself and your travel buddies some well-deserved downtime and make the journey to one of our recommended Kanto hot spring resorts!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.