“Onsen” (hot springs in Japanese) are natural mineral-rich pools that provide visitors with a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. Japan’s hot spring culture is incredibly rich and unique, featuring onsen tamago, a dish of eggs slowly boiled in the hot springs.
With many hot springs in Japan boasting surreal landscapes, what better way to welcome the first sunrise of the new year and receive good luck for the year ahead? From baths where you can watch the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean with Mount Fuji in the background, to hot springs nestled in serene misty mountains, warm up this winter at one of Japan’s six most magical onsen.
Higashi-Izu town is located on the coast of the Izu Peninsula, a place that evokes the nostalgia of a bygone era. Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean with Mount Fuji in the background, the volcanic coastline of Izu is home to some of the most beautiful onsen in Japan.
Check out Atagawa Onsen, where the 15th-century poet and samurai, Ōta Dōkan, once sought healing for his wounds. Enjoy local delicacies, such as onsen tamago eggs boiled in the hot springs. Stay at Bousui, a traditional Japanese ryokan with a view of the open sea, where you can sleep to the sound of gentle waves and watch the sunrise from your own private onsen.
Kaike Onsen, Tottori
Kaike Onsen, located on the San’in coast, is surrounded by the snowy Chugoku Mountains and faces the Sea of Japan. Despite being in the city of Tottori, it promises a serene coastal view and healing power from nature.
Kaike is a rare saltwater hot spring resort that was discovered a century ago when a fisherman saw bubbles rising from the sea. Nowadays, people come here to take advantage of the health-restoring properties of the sea and to watch the sunrise over Miho Bay from the Kaike Onsen beach. Stay right by the beach at Ikoitei Kikuman.
Nanki Shirahama Onsen, Wakayama
As one of Japan’s “Three Ancient Hot Springs,” Nanki-Shirahama Onsen has a 1,300-year history and was visited by emperors and empresses during the Asuka period. It remains one of the most famous resorts in the country, with many public onsen for visitors to soak in and a beautiful white sand beach. Local hot springs diversity includes rotenburo at Saki-no-yu Onsen, an outdoor bath type built in the rock pools of the Kii Channel (Pacific Ocean).
Here, you can soak in healing waters while admiring the sea view and feeling the cool mist blowing in from the waves crashing against the rocks. Book a suite with a private onsen at Hotel Sanrakuso, just a few steps from the beach.
Yufuin Onsen, Oita
Located at the foot of Mount Yufu, Yufuin Onsen offers a relaxing hot spring experience amidst a majestic and peaceful natural setting. This small dreamy town has hot springs scattered throughout, including many outdoor rotenburo with views of two towering mountains. The scenery here is magical during the fall and winter when mist forms in the valley and rises from the distant geothermal waters over the fields.
Don’t forget to visit Lake Kinrin at the end of the main street. The view is stunning year-round, so visitors can take a stroll at any time. When the cold mist descends, the torii gate of the shrine looks as if it is floating on the water. Experience a traditional and elegant room at Yufuin Onsen Hinoharu Ryokan.
Ginzan Onsen, Yamagata
Stepping into Ginzan Onsen, visitors feel like they are traveling back in time to the Edo period or walking straight into a scene from Hayao Miyazaki’s anime masterpiece, “Spirited Away.” Nestled in the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture, the town features traditional architecture and becomes even more unique in winter when snow covers the rooftops.
Admire the beauty of the Ginzan River with its historic arched bridges, wooden ryokan inns, and public bathhouses on both banks, illuminated at night by gas streetlights. Explore a prominent landmark – Shiroganeyu ryokan in the town center, rebuilt in 2001 by famous modern architect Kuma Kengo. Enjoy a room with a private outdoor hot spring at Ginzanso.
Dogo Onsen, Ehime
Considered the oldest hot spring in Japan (one of the “Three Ancient Hot Springs”), Dogo Onsen has a deep historical value with references in ancient texts dating back thousands of years. Located in Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture, the public bathhouse still exists today and was built to honor Emperor Meiji in 1894.
The Imperial Family regularly visited for many years (there is still a separate entrance for the Imperial Family behind the main gate). It is also said to have inspired the main bathhouse, Aburaya, in “Spirited Away,” with its maze-like corridors, stairs, and small tatami rooms.
After a gentle soak and relaxation, try “Botchan dango” (a sweet dumpling made from rice flour and colored in three colors), then take a stroll through the beautiful streets full of shrines in cotton yukata. Continue relaxing at Yamatoya Honten, with its luxurious decor and private onsen facilities.