10 Superb Onsen Resorts To Visit This Autumn
Relax, Refresh, Rejoice
Heal your body, soul and spirit at these ten natural hot spring resorts this autumn.
No doubt about it — hot springs and holidays make a perfect match for relaxing and recharging the batteries in Japan.
With the weather finally starting to cool down and after an intensively hot and hectic summer, having a quiet onsen experience away from the crowded metropolis while surrounded by magnificent sights and exquisite food seems like the timely thing to do. If you feel in the same boat and haven’t yet made any plans for the upcoming Silver Week holidays or later in the fall season, here are some of our favorite resorts to soak in across the country.
Hotel Matsumotoro: The Closest Heaven to Tokyo
Just two hours away from central Tokyo and nestled at the entrance to the famous onsen town Ikaho in Gunma Prefecture, this quiet, family-friendly hotel boasts two scenic open-air baths (in addition to two indoor baths and a foot onsen) that have even served as healing waters for wounded samurais in the past. Surrounded by unique tourist spots, including the world heritage site Tomioka Silk Mill and the magnificent Lake Haruna, this hotel is
the perfect weekend getaway with plenty of opportunities for a quiet weekend in nature with the whole family.
At night, enjoy an exquisite kaiseki (full-course) meal and sing your heart away at the hotel’s two karaoke rooms. If you’re visiting now, you’ll also see the most famous yearly event in the region, the Ikaho Matsuri, running September 18 to 20.
Yubara Onsen Hakkei: Bathe Till You’re Beautiful
Located among the mountains of Okayama Prefecture, this historic onsen prides itself with its natural waters famed for their beautifying properties. In fact, Yubara is nicknamed “Bijin-no-yu” (beautiful woman’s bath) thanks to its ability to make skin softer and smoother. There is a mixed rotemburo (outdoor bath) right in front of Hakkei where men and women can wear towels or bathing clothes and enjoy the quality springs together for free at anytime – perfect for couples on a romantic getaway. And when you’re done with the bath, tour around the area for an authentic experience of rural living in Okayama: from fruit picking to strolling among lavender gardens and cycling around the spectacular Hiruzen highlands.
Yuyake Koyake: Your Bath, Your Style
For people who find it awkward to bathe with a group of strangers, having a private open-air bath in your room that has all needed minerals and splendid views of the mountains, sounds like a great deal. Well, at Yuyake Koyake this is all possible. The inn features 17 guest rooms equipped with rotemburo, as well as other open-air baths available by special booking. To add to that, it also offers creative cuisine using only fresh vegetables from its own garden and other seasonal, locally grown ingredients. Dubbed “an oasis of green serenity,” this is the perfect getaway for busy urbanites.
Kaisekiyado Suihoen: A Delicious Experience
The Suihoen is a traditional Japanese-style ryokan located close to the famous Shirakawago Gassho village in Gifu Prefecture’s Gero Onsen area, which has long been regarded as one of Japan’s “Big Three” hot spring regions.
One of the best features of this ryokan is its pride in serving traditional cuisine, especially the locally sourced Hida beef and rice grown in the area.
The rice is cooked on an open clay stove in large silver pots, giving it a very unique taste and aroma — for those who doubt that rice can taste differently, this is a must-try delicacy that has won four consecutive gold awards and three consecutive grand prizes in Japan’s national Delicious Rice Contest. Suihoen features 19 rooms—nine of which have private baths—that allow guests to relax and rejuvenate their mind, body and spirit as they overlook the breathtaking natural scenery of the surrounding countryside.
Hotel Wakamizu: Floral Luxury
Takarazuka in Hyogo Prefecture is mostly known for its powerful all-female musical theater troupes, but locals say there’s more to it than that: it’s a quaint onsen town boasting natural beauty, great food and friendly people. Hotel Wakamizu offers visitors an elegant authentic Japanese experience as soon as they step in: the lobby exudes a quintessential Japanese aura, while the corridors are lined with flowers in traditional delicate ikebana arrangements, adding to the luxuriousness of the building.
The highlight, however, is the roof, which boasts a large open-air bath also surrounded by flowers and pleasant aroma (in addition to a splendid view of the nearby town and river).
The rose bath (pictured) open for visitors on Mondays and Saturdays is a truly refreshing experience, which will leave your skin soft and smooth. As to food, we think it’s enough to say that Hotel Wakamizu was featured in the Michelin Guide Hyogo special edition (2016) and we can only recommend you to try their renowned kaiseki that pays homage to the changing seasons.
Hazu Gassyo: A Natural Architectural Site
Located near Toyota in Aichi Prefecture, Hazu Gassyo is a Japanese-style inn offering traditional hospitality in a peaceful and picturesque setting. Enjoy a rotemburo made from traditional Japanese cypress (nothing can beat that scent!) while overlooking a beautiful valley of serene forests, rivers and neighboring tea plantations that are a natural way of life. Lovers of traditional architecture will not be disappointed by the understated beauty of exposed beams, open fireplaces and the use of ornate, wooden carpentry throughout the resort. The hotel building itself is two stories with high ceilings, and all rooms also have both living and bedroom areas that provide the feeling of a private villa.
The lobby is cozy and inviting, with a real fireplace and a beautiful view of the valley from the balcony—making for a truly relaxing atmosphere.
Lamp no Yado: The Ultimate Romantic Plunge
If you’re traveling with someone you want to impress, count on this one. Lamp no Yado is situated at the tip of the Noto Peninsula, distinctly located at the base of a sheltered cliff face. Facing the Sea of Japan, the rotemburo offer spectacular views day or night and are illuminated with chochin (traditional lanterns) in the evening after the sun sets.
The ladies rotemburo is in a man-made cave, which allows privacy while adding a natural, rustic ambience.
Though the stay is impressive in itself, wait ’till the food is served. Original kaiseki cuisine offers the freshest seasonal delicacies, served at a dining hall with signature lamps and views of the pool and sea. Private dining areas are, of course, also available. Visitors will also delight at the treasures to be found in the local Wajima morning market—one of the largest in Japan, as well as the 1,000 Hirata—rice paddies terraced into the cliff face hundreds of years ago—and the castle town of Kanazawa. One of the most popular onsen resorts in Japan, this one gets fully booked easily, so make sure you reserve well in advance.
Kifu no Sato: A Cultural Experience
There is a feeling of tradition as you enter the spacious main foyer of this ryokan — everything from the seasonal flowers and the decor is designed to enhance the atmosphere of history and an authentic ryokan experience. Kifu no Sato offers four bath houses within the establishment for your comfort and relaxation. But what attracts visitors even more than the healing waters, fresh cuisine and comfortable rooms, is the unique “samurai culture tour” the ryokan offers. Including plenty of hands-on activities sure to delight and excite, the tour offers you a visit to the Miyamoto Musashi museum and the samurai’s birth house, a sword drawing experience and a taste of a feudal lord’s Travelodge meal. Enough said.
Dai-ichi Takimotokan: Sip And Dip
Nestled in the secluded valley town of Noboribetsu, a stay at Dai-ichi Takimotokan is an opportunity to experience a more tranquil and traditional side of Japan. In true ryokan style, all but eight of the 399 rooms in Dai-ichi Takimotokan are furnished in traditional Japanese style, with an emphasis on natural materials. Over 2 million liters of geothermal water from five different springs flows through each day, providing a constant stream that is continually refreshing each of the 30 baths.
Add the beautiful panorama of green hills and the steam rising from Hell Valley and you’ll feel truly refreshed—in body and soul.
In addition to the different mineral compositions to choose from, each of the spa baths are made from different materials, including Japanese cypress, marble, granite or tile, each imparting a subtle difference to your onsen experience. To help you cool off afterwards, you will also find a bar serving beer, sake and various non-alcoholic drink machines — or enjoy a drink while taking in the view in the outside bath.
Noto no Sho: Healing Springs
The Noto no Sho inn is a relaxed and peaceful haven for weary travellers, situated on a hill atop the Noto peninsula with all rooms facing the deep, blue Japan sea.
The large, Japanese-style layouts feature semi-outdoor baths, allowing a deeper connection to the naturally beautiful area and soothing ocean views.
Noto no Sho invites you to try its high-quality, natural hot spring with a base alkalinity of 10.5 pH, the therapeutic properties of which are effective at treating a host of medical conditions such as skin problems, movement disorders, neurosis, gastrointestinal disease as well as fatigue and muscle stiffness. Only a 10-minute drive from the hotel, along the coastline you can see shiroyone senmaida, the 1,000-stepped rice fields; terraces built by hand hundreds of years ago by the local inhabitants. The shape of the fields contour the land and cliffs resulting in breathtaking views that have to be seen to be believed.
For more information on each resort, including official websites and booking links, click here.