With its location on the Ring of Fire, Japan is tectonically very active. This means that there are regular earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but there is also a positive side-effect of this particular geography. We are talking about natural onsen, or hot springs, that can be found all over the country. There are many health benefits to bathing in these natural springs such as lowering blood pressure and making your skin smooth, but the main reason people love onsen so much is the relaxation it brings. If you travel with someone of another gender, you may want to bathe together even though most onsen only offer gender-separated bathing. So what to do? Let us introduce to you these 9 mixed-gender onsen near Tokyo!
- What is Konyoku (混浴)?
- 1. Izu Peninsula Sennin Buro Kanaya Ryokan (千人風呂 金谷旅館)
- 2. Takaragawa Onsen (宝川温泉)
- 3. Gorokaku (伍楼閣)
- 4. Miyako Ryokan (みやこ旅館) in Arakawamura, Chichibu
- 5. Hotel Kojokaku (湖城閣)
- 6. Yumori Tanakaya (湯守田中屋)
- 7. Honke Bankyu (本家伴久)
- 8. Motomachi Hama Hot Spring (元町浜の湯)
- 9. Ashitsuki Onsen (足付温泉)
- Mixed-gender Bathing in Japan
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What is Konyoku (混浴)?
First, let us explain a bit more about bathing culture in Japan. Relaxing in natural onsen has been known in Japan for over 1,000 years. At first, it was just for the Imperial Family and other nobility, but from the Edo Period on, visiting hot springs and communal baths became widespread among the population.
During the Edo Period, people were actually not so concerned with nudity and men and women bathed together regularly. It was only when the Westerners came in during the Meiji Period that this began to change. Their ideas about nudity being something to be embarrassed about started spreading in Japan, and coed bathing became a lot less common. But some establishments are keeping the old traditions alive, although there are different forms of konyoku (mixed-gender bathing).
First of all, there are the onsen where everyone can bathe together in the nude, and these are actually quite rare. Secondly, there are hot springs where you have to wear bathing suits in the mixed-gender parts. The third type of mixed onsen is almost a combination of the two first; some public onsen offer a designated time or day for mixed bathing, either with bathing suits or nude, and lastly, for those who want to just bathe with their travel companions there are the private onsen. Let’s have a look at some places where gender mixed-bathing can be enjoyed.
1. Izu Peninsula Sennin Buro Kanaya Ryokan (千人風呂 金谷旅館)
The Izu Peninsula is the favorite destination of many in Tokyo for a short break from the city. It is only about one hour by train from Tokyo Station, and it feels like a whole different world with its subtropical feel. The quaint Sennin Buro Kanaya Ryokan is located near popular seaside resort Shimoda, and they have one of those rare onsen where men and women bathe together naked.
Sennin Buro literally means ‘one thousand person bath’ and, unsurprisingly, it is a very large and deep wooden bathtub. The way men and women can bathe together is interesting; the men’s and women’s parts are connected by a room of which only ladies have the key. As long as they cover up with a towel, they can join the men in the men’s part, but not the other way around. Most visitors come as a couple, as this is one of the few communal baths where they can bathe together. This bathhouse also welcomes guests with tattoos and is popular with foreigners.
Sennin Buro Kanaya Ryokan
Admission fee ¥1,000
2. Takaragawa Onsen (宝川温泉)
Famous for its great opportunities for rafting and hiking, Minakami is a perfect destination to get some action in and relax in a hot spring at the end of the day. Takaragawa Onsen is one of the many hot spring resorts in the area, and the best destination for some nice bathing in nature. It is located in an isolated area in the mountains, and there is an amazing open-air bath that is especially soothing in the colder months.
Day guests are welcome, and you’re going to like this onsen if you want to experience mixed-gender bathing but you’re still a bit shy about nudity. That is because at Takaragawa Onsen you won’t actually bathe nude, but you will wear a special bathing dress that is provided by the facility. Takaragawa Onsen is also a tattoo-friendly onsen!
9am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥2,000
3. Gorokaku (伍楼閣)
Gunma Prefecture is, quite literally, a real hot spot for natural onsen. This means there will be many onsen resorts to choose from, but for two reasons Gorokaku is an especially good choice for many foreigners. First of all, the whole facility offers mixed-gender bathing with only certain hours dedicated to women-only bathing. At Gorokaku, you will wear rented bathing clothes so here there’s also no need to be shy. The other reason why this onsen is popular with foreigners is because tattoos are accepted, which is also rare.
Furthermore, there are 5 large baths all of which have a different theme such as a bath filled with roses and a bath with a forest view. The settings are beautiful in Gorokaku, and this makes it a place much worth visiting.
Gorokaku (Japanese only)
Two-hour pass available for ¥1,000
4. Miyako Ryokan (みやこ旅館) in Arakawamura, Chichibu
Chichibu is a nice destination for a day trip from Tokyo with its wonderful flower-rich parks, the famous Misotsuchi Icicles, nice boat trips, and ample impressive hiking opportunities. If you want to make it an overnight trip, why not consider a stay at Miyato Ryokan? This modest onsen ryokan is situated next to the Arakawa river not far from a train station.
Visiting Miyato Ryokan will really make you feel like you’re in a small secret spot. There are separated indoor baths, and the mixed-gender bath is the outdoor rotenburo. No mass bathing here, as the rotenburo only fits 3 couples at the same time. It’s a nice way to enjoy the view of the river and mountains nearby.
Miyako Ryokan (Japanese only)
Day-pass available for ¥1,500
5. Hotel Kojokaku (湖城閣)
Also situated in Minakami is Hotel Kojokaku, which is surrounded by green and has great views of a lake. Besides luxurious private baths, Hotel Kojokaku also gender-separated as well as mixed-gender baths. Six of the open-air baths are mixed, so there is a variety of onsen you can try out together.
Hotel Kojokaku is open to day visitors who aren’t staying in the hotel as well, and they offer massages and a game room. Nice detail, there is a jukebox as well that is still working, at 100 yen for 2 songs you should definitely give it a spin!
Day-pass available for ¥800
6. Yumori Tanakaya (湯守田中屋)
While this ryokan’s front might not look like much with its unimpressive building and busy road in front, you have to enter Yumori Tanakaya to see the hidden beauty beyond the exterior. The bathing area is actually quite a way down from the building. You have to go down 300 steps to reach the two large baths that are completely surrounded by green.
The baths are right next to the river, so in order to refresh yourself you can just use the cool river water. Both baths are mixed-gender, with a changing room available for the ladies but the men have to change on the spot. Please note that if you’re not staying at the ryokan you can only use the baths on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays between 11 am and 3 pm. Also tattoo’s are not allowed in this onsen.
11am – 3pm (Sunday, Wednesday & Thursday)
Day-pass available ¥1,000
7. Honke Bankyu (本家伴久)
Nikko is one of the most popular destinations for locals and international tourists alike for a day trip from Tokyo. There are amazing cultural treasures such as the Nikko Toshogu, and we recommend anyone with an interest in culture and history to do a private tour to Nikko to get the most out of your visit. And to top it off, you can spend another half day here to explore Honke Bankyu, a historical onsen with amazing private onsen baths that you can rent for a short period of time or reserve a room with a private onsen. Visiting Honke Bankyu makes you feel like you went back in time with its gorgeous and classically Japanese interior and exterior, and the baths’ proximity to the river make it a very refreshing stay indeed.
3pm – 11pm (only available to hotel guests)
8. Motomachi Hama Hot Spring (元町浜の湯)
Oshima is an island that is part of the Tokyo municipality but is worlds away from the bustling city center. The laid-back subtropical atmosphere on the island makes it feel much more similar to Okinawa than to central Tokyo. Oshima is home to the Hama-no-yu or Motomachi Hama Hot Spring, which boasts one of the most amazing views of all onsen in Japan. You can see the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the island’s volcano (Mount Mihara) on the other side which provides the onsen with its hot water.
As the ocean is on its western side, you can see the sunset from here. This is an incredible vista, but it is good to count on not being the only one who wants to enjoy the view. It does get busy here around sunset time and in the evening. Bathers wear swimsuits here, so the open air baths are mixed-gender.
Motomachi Hama Hot Spring
Admission fee ¥300
1pm – 7pm
Bathing suit mandatory
9. Ashitsuki Onsen (足付温泉)
Also on one of Tokyo’s islands, Ashitsuki Onsen on small island Shikinejima also offers an ocean view. It is, however, a lot more rugged than the sleek Hama-no-yu. The irregular-shaped bath is not so large and very rustic with not much changed to its natural shape. It almost feels like you’re sitting in a warm ocean.
There are small changing rooms, but not many other facilities. You will have a nice view of the ocean and the harbor while bathing, and just like in Oshima, bathing suits are required in Ashitsuki Onsen.
Open 24 hrs
Bathing suit mandatory
Mixed-gender Bathing in Japan
As you can see, if you look a bit further you will find plenty of options where you can bathe together with your opposite-sex travel companion(s) in Japan. Many onsen also offer a mixed-gender bathing only at certain hours or days, so there are plenty of options to bathe together. Even if you are shy about getting naked, there are many onsens that offer and require special bathing robes or swimwear in their mixed-gender baths. An additional advantage is that these natural hot spring resorts often allow (covered) tattoos as well, which can still be difficult to find in Japan. If you are uncomfortable sharing the bath with others, you can also opt for private bath that are sometimes available at the traditional ryokan. In these baths you and your travel companion will be the only ones enjoying the onsen.
We recommend anyone traveling to Japan and is interested in visiting hot spring resorts to also consider mixed-gender onsen, as there are some true gems out there that you don’t want to miss out on. This activity also mixes very well with one of our fun city tours on your itinerary, so you can have a varied and fun holiday in Japan!
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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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