Become an onsen fan and learn more about Japan!
You cannot go back home without soaking yourself into an authentic onsen(hot spring) . Don't know where to go? Have limited time? Here are some tips for the busy travelers.
1. For those who are staying in Tokyo and have only half day off go to: Ashinoyu, Hakone(Kanagawa
2. For those who are staying in Tokyo and have a day off go to: Kusatsu(Gunma) or Naruko(Miyagi)
3. For those who have a weekend off go to: Beppu(Oita), Noboribetsu(Hokkaido), Nyuto(Akita)(or basically anywere you wish to go).
Ask Sonoe for Onsen details-- unae(at)unagi-travel.com
Sure! Hard to find one in the city but do some trveling and look for the public ones in the major onsen town or the ones in the wild. Based on my experience, I think onsens are cheaper the better in quality! If you want to do many free onsening somewhere near Tokyo, I would recommend Kusatsu Onsen(Gunma Prefecture). If you want to get serious about onsen, head off to Beppu(Oita Prefecture). I want to spend about a week there and just concentrate on soaking!!
You can take a look at the onsen ranking to judge which one is the best(overall ranking as of 2007, 1. Kusatsu 2. Yufuin 3. Kurokawa 4. Noboribetsu 5. Ibusuki ) but I will give you my personal ranking here:)
My favorite onses are: (I couldn't narrow it down to one...)
I think onsen is similar to wine. Everyone has different tastes. I prefer to drink the white wine now but I used to like to drink the full-bodiedredwines. Before that I preferred the whine ones. So, my taste changed from white - red - white. When I started to go onsening, I first liked the transparent water without any smell. Then, I became a big fan of the milky water type with a heavy sulfur smell. Still, I cannot help smiling when I soak myself in the milky sulfur onsen, but I think I started to appreciate the transparent sufur ones. Maybe I am just getting old.... Anyway, the ones listed above are mainly milky sulfur type. Hope you enjoy them.
Yes. If you don't feel comfortable taking a bath with strangers, no worries - look for the private onsens. Some ryokans(Japanese-style inns) offer private onsens where you can reserve 1 hour or so for 1000 yen or more(sometime free of charge). Ask for a "kazoku-buro"(family onsen) or "kashikiri"(private use).
If you are not a budget traveler, look for the rooms which comes with an onsen bath. Then, you can enjoy onsen at anytime without worrying about the strangers!
Though, I strongly recommend the public onsens(the local onsens) that the local people use daily. It should be interesting to see how the locals communicate in the onsen tub. Public onsens are usually cheap with good onsen water.
Well, this may be the most frequent question that I receive. If you are staying in Tokyo and have a day off, I would recommend to visit either Hakone or Kusatsu.
Hakone: Easy access from Tokyo. Take the Odakyu Romance Car. There are many tourist spots too. If you haven't seen the Mt. Fuji before, go to Hakone and enjoy both onsen and Mt. Fuji. There are many onsen places around the Hakone Yumoto Station, but my recommendation is Ashinoyu.
Kusatsu: It's a fun onsen town with many free public onsen. It takes about 3 hours from Tokyo, but it is worth visiting to experience one of the most famous onsen sites in Japan. The onsen water is sulfuric acid. If you are not used to onsen, it might be too strong.
Yes, actually there are many. Most of them are not "gensen kakenagashi" which means that Tokyo's onsen water is mostly sterilized and reused. (FYI, onsen words) On the other hand, the famous onsen sites in the suburbs (Beppu, Noboribetsu, Kusatsu etc.) have plenty of onsen water flow to supply fresh onsen water without reusing them. Onsen water is fresher the better. So, as an onsen lover, I would strongly recommend to spend some time outside of Tokyo to exeprience the authentic onsen, but if your time is limited, here are my recommendations.
You do not necessarliy have to stay over night at a ryokan(hotels) to take a bath. There are many ryokan that offer their onsen facilities to non-staying guests(Higaeri). Usually the price is around 500 yen- 1000 yen. If you are not sure whether the ryokan(hotels) offer Higaeri Onsen, go to the front desk and ask