10 Best Onsen Towns in Kansai

Kansai
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Bryce was born in California, and raised near Seattle, Washington! He’s been living in Japan for about 5 years now, the first 3 spent studying at Temple University Japan. His main passion in life is writing and producing music, more specifically EDM if anyone is curious! He is very fond of snowboarding, cooking, traveling, playing video games; all of which he’d ideally enjoy with the company of his great friends. 

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Welcome to the land of rising steam! Japan‘s Kansai region is a treasure trove of Onsen (hot spring) towns, where relaxation and cultural immersion go hand in hand. Japan’s bathing culture is remarkable and immensely enjoyable, if you’re not too shy. Onsen are often beautiful and have many different styles and atmospheres. Some are very modern and classy, while others embrace the soothing elements of nature. Not only are they relaxing, they also pose various health benefits. Each region in Japan is filled with various hot springs, and Kansai is definitely no exception. Most of the Onsen towns are filled with all kinds of Ryokan, which are the best way to enjoy the hot spring water. So, whether you’re a resident seeking a weekend escape or a traveler exploring Japan, you’re in for a treat. Here are the best Onsen towns in Kansai that promise to soothe your body and soul.

1. Arima Onsen

Tucked away in the hills of Kobe in the Hyogo prefecture, Arima Onsen beckons with its legendary status and luxurious offerings. Two unique springs, the “Gold Spring” and “Silver Spring,” offer not only relaxation but also reputed therapeutic benefits. In fact, the water here is somewhat special as the water source is not that of typical Onsen. Usually the water is derived from volcanoes, but here the water actually comes from the Earth’s mantle. Aside from bathing in the mineral-rich water, try forest bathing nearby! Pro tip: come in Autumn.

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2. Kinosaki Onsen 

Kinosaki Onsen is a time capsule of traditional Japan, where you can immerse yourself in a bygone era. Renting a Kimono and wooden geta sandals is a must, as it transports you back in time. This is one of Japan’s oldest Onsen towns, so why not immerse yourself. Explore the town’s seven public baths, each with its unique charm. Be sure to enjoy the nearby activities such as Osenji temple, cycling by Maruyama river, relaxing at Kehi beach, or simply meandering along the streets. As for dining, seafood lovers are in for a treat—Kinosaki is renowned for its delicious crab dishes.

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3. Katsuura Onsen

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Katsuura Onsen in Wakayama offers the best of both worlds: hot springs and breathtaking coastal beauty. Immerse yourself in mineral-rich waters while gazing at the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and Nachi Bay from one of the seaside Rotenburo (open-air baths). Try coming in July to experience the Nachi-no-Ogi festival where they carry 50 kilogram torches, making it one of Japan’s top 3 fire festivals. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit nearby Nachi Falls, one of Japan’s tallest waterfalls.

4. Nanki Shirahama Onsen

Picture this: you’re soaking in a rejuvenating hot spring with a backdrop of the stunning Shirarahama Beach. That’s precisely what Nanki Shirahama Onsen offers. Shirahama onsen boasts an impressive 1300 years of history and is one of Japans oldest Onsen resorts. After your dip, explore the fascinating Engetsu Island, known for its enchanting rock formations- you’ll be able see an unforgettable sunset. There are plenty of things to do around the area besides enjoy the incredibly soothing waters with stunning views.

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5. Ogoto Onsen

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Nestled beside Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, Ogoto Onsen is a serene haven, also with a long history. Soak in the healing waters while admiring views of the tranquil lake and surrounding mountains. Take your taste buds on an adventure with local Omi beef, often likened to Kobe beef, at lakeside restaurants. Their rice is also worth trying as it is cultivated with the clean lake water, which also makes their Sake (rice wine) quite amazing. The 9 Ryokan stemming from the hot spring will surely make it an amazing and relaxing experience.

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6. Sumoto Onsen

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Sumoto Onsen, located on Awaji Island, is a sanctuary for relaxation amid natural beauty. The hot spring was only discovered in 1993, a fairly recent discovery in terms of Onsen. Without a doubt, Ryokan have been constructed to attribute this and compliment the great location. Ocean views are plentiful on Awaji Island, and it’s also home to Sumoto castle, a must see nearby attraction. Awaji island is also known for its production of onions! Be sure to take some home for cooking.

7. Kawayu Onsen

Head back down to Wakayama for a more DIY experience: Kawayu Onsen offers a unique experience—you can dig your own hot spring bath! The river’s flow regulates the water’s temperature, allowing you to customize your soak. Of course there are official establishments for a more standard experience, but there are places to rent shovels if you want the real deal. After your DIY spa session, visit the Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

8. Dorogawa Onsen

Dorogawa Onsen in Nara is a paradise for nature enthusiasts. Surrounded by lush forests and pristine rivers, it’s an ideal destination for hiking with its proximity to the mountains. It’s also a great summer destination as the hot spring water is a mild 26 degrees celsius. After outdoor adventures is a perfect time to immerse yourself in the soothing hot springs. The area is steeped in spirituality- and if you go here in summer, August is a great time to enjoy the Gyoja festival (no, not gyoza!) which is lively with dancing and traditional summer attire.

9. Amanohashidate Onsen

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Amanohashidate Onsen boasts one of Japan’s “Three Views“, and it’s an experience that lives up to the hype. Traverseing the Amanohashidate sandbar lush with pine trees is incredible for breathtaking views of the sea and sky. The Onsen here, with water known as “the water of wisdom” offers a stunning vantage point overlooking beautiful Miyazu Bay. The surrounding area is also great for shopping with things like sake and crab. 

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10. Yuhigaura Onsen

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Yuhigaura Onsen, as the name suggests (lit. “sunset beach”), is celebrated for its enchanting sunsets. After a rejuvenating soak, witness the sky ablaze with colors. The onsen is the farthest north we have looked at so far, and just a little bit farther northwest from the previous location. Northern Kyoto has plenty to offer, and this is certainly a prime location for onsen lovers and sunset chasers!

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Happy traveling!

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