Hot Springs 2023 +

I am always asked by friends and travellers about Japan’s mineral onsen and no doubt a trip to Japan without onsen is like going to New York and missing out on a visit to the Metropolitan.

We have been frequenting Japanese Ryokan across the country for 30-years watching the trends from change from old fashioned, even outdated themes to the European styled & tacky. Nowadays contemporary impressive designs or refurbished Ryokans are both in good and bad taste, it is the wave of a new generation.

The ultimate onsen must have true source without chlorine added but under the government’s ordinance, the whole bathwater needs residual chlorine concentration needs of 0.4 milligram or more per litre – I can tell you it isn’t very much but the chemical can be easily detected.

Driving past tourist spots in Oita we skipped Hells water the Umi Jigoku but we are going back in a few weeks. There the water isn’t for bathing but the cobalt blue in color due to the dissolved iron sulfate, which is a component in the hot springs. The ‘jigoku’ of Beppu are seven hot springs (‘onsens’) for public viewing only. These hot springs are not open for bathing, but have rather become a sort of pilgrimage route for tourists visiting the onsen resort town of Beppu.

Selecting the right onsen is straightforward as long as you know where to go, define your preferences and price. The first decision is the location and the number of days you plan to stay, which usually is 1/3 days maximum. Almost all onsen look good on paper, especially with Japanese photography – so it’s all a matter of trying and testing the waters to discover for yourself.

In Japan there are those onsen easy and non pretentious and those pretending to be special when they are far from it. The best known case is Kai in Yufuin (Hoshinoya resorts) offers a nice communal onsen but the facilities are superficial, poor and over rated. The cuisine is terrible and there is limited service and English isn’t popular or being polite not to mention short staffed.

On the other side there is Murata one of the finest onsen facilities you’ll find – private onsen only. The service is traditional and the cuisine delicious and the breakfast tremendous and elegant – and their soba shop and cake shop are worthy of a visit

There is no doubt southern and Northern Japan are key locations. This past year we visited Sapporo and most of the high-end resorts were filled with Asian tourists. It makes sense given the quality of life in japan is fantastic when compared with the rest of Eastern Asia. Here you find soothing waters, clean food and generous hospitality:

In the south you hear about Oita and Beppu and Yufu two dedicated onsen towns. But across Kyushu there are many options to enjoy onsen hospitality. We tried an onsen area named Kurokawa and it is a destination. A drive of 1h30 we arrived to the middle of nowhere to find a small town framed by a river and plenty of onsen options. Kurokawa is not only known for its attractive town, but also for the outstanding Rotenburo open air baths often with a view to mother nature.

Since Covid no doubt many travellers are skeptical about sharing onsen and I fully understand. Onsen are divided between the various types and this magazine article defines Ryokan onsen:

Public onsen can be a little like a communal swimming pool but not all are for bathing. Given the stigma about sharing water recently we tested the waters of Beppu, a charming town which has some a popular onsen culture. There you look at toasting steam pouring out of the ground with roaring burps – it is impressive:

named Murata Sansou in Oita us one of, if not the top Ryokan onsen I have ever visited. Its not the style alone it is the vision and the most important element the onsen. In Oita they have the real deal and I can assure you the water is toasting hot the way it should be:

*** and some enjoy to try Beppu’s sandy beach bath, covered in sand from your neck to your toes. The lifestyle and authenticity, seashore-soba and fugu is all a part of their way of life.

*** I found this resource and its worthy of exploring with patience and time:

Fuji san

Farm to Table

Best Rice

Kaiseki Styled

Onsen Morning
Minshuku Kaitokumaru: 0558-45-03-65 and with three rooms it is small and located in Shuzuoka Kamo-gun.



2000 Meters & Over


Tokyo & Local Train



Book Hotel

Hotel Toya: it is modern and rooms are ¥60’000 per night without nibbles.

Weird & Wonderful Onsen only

Kinosaki Onsen only

Nagato Onsen Region

Izu Pennisula


Nagasaki Region

Hyogo Ryokan
0796 32 2031 ¥30’000/night including meals and 2 per room with 16 rooms in total

Hyogo Ryokan

Camy: write them or look at Instagram:

Setouchi: 7 rooms by Ando with views and get ready to pay ¥100’000 ++

Kasuien Kyoto: this is small intimate and costly with twelve rooms in a 130 year-old building opening in 1960 and re-opening in 2020 and each room begins at ¥ 250’000 which is

Sanyo-So: built in 1988 it was a formerly owned by Mitsubishi founder with 37 rooms in total and is modest at ¥30’00-/person inclusive of a meal:

Taishoya: Junzo Yoshimura was involved 90-years ago with 75 rooms and is ¥20’000/night inclusive of two meals:

Yoshina Sakaya: located in Izu peninsula it is gaijin friendly and priced at ¥17’500/person meals inclusive:

Miyagi Prefecture:

Gunma Prefercture:


Yumesaki: is seven rooms and pleasant and priced at ¥70’000 per night for two persons:

Lake Ashino Prince: a n oldie styled western onsen hotel priced without meals at ¥50’000 per night for two persons:

*** Umitubaki Hayama: this is a charming and isn’t far from Tokyo and call: 0739 46 0909:

Kyoto Hilton: get hold of your bankbook priced at ¥230’000/night and then add 15% service and some nibbles:

Kanakuan Onsen: it looks very nice and worthy of a try ¥22’000 for two per person and inclusive of meals:

Mitsui Kyoto: It is luxury modern and aimed to please newcomers ¥230’000 per room occupancy two and add nibbles etc.

Kofu Yuden Beniya: looks nice ¥90’000 per night for two persons and inclusive of meals:

***Ginzan Fujiya: it was and is a nicely designed Kuma property and one of his first onsen and it ¥60’000 per son inclusive of meals:

Categories: Travel Secrets Japan