Sauna use has become a lifestyle that originated long ago in Finland. During the harsh winter season, taking a hot sauna to warm up your body and work up a sweat is the ultimate healing experience. Recently, sauna culture has been booming in Japan! Younger generations and women are finding the idea of using saunas more and more appealing and are even starting to become addicted to them. Let’s have a look at what Japanese saunas are like and also a list of some of the most popular saunas in Japan!
- Japanese Sauna Culture
- Recommended Sauna Spots in Japan
- 12. Candeo Hotels (Nationwide)
- 11. Bio Resort Hotel & Spa O Park Ogose (Saitama)
- 10. Ume, Yamazoe (Nara)
- 9. Spa Resort in the Forest HOKKAIDO HOTEL (Hokkaido)
- 8. 8 Hotel Chigasaki (Kanagawa)
- 7. Ochiairo (Shizuoka)
- 6. Koganeyu (Tokyo)
- 5. Skyspa Yokohama (Kanagawa)
- 4. Yulax (Kumamoto)
- 3. Well Be Fukuoka (Fukuoka)
- 2. Karumaru Ikebukuro (Tokyo)
- 1. The Rakan Bath at Mifuneyama Rakuen Hotel (Saga)
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Japanese Sauna Culture
It was the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 that triggered the full-scale popularization of saunas in Japan. In 1956, “Tokyo Onsen”, a former onsen facility in Ginza, built Japan’s first sauna. Afterwards, as the Tokyo Olympics approached, saunas were built in the athletes’ village at the request of the athletes, and they quickly became more popular. With the cooperation of the Finnish Embassy at the time, sauna culture gradually spread throughout Japan. Nowadays, sauna corners are installed in hot springs all over Japan, and many people use them to relax their tired bodies. Today, some onsen ryokans and hotels even have their own saunas, which have turned into big guest attractions.
“SAUNACHELIN” is a sauna competition that started in 2018. The name “SAUNACHELIN” comes from a cross between the word “sauna” and the French word “Michelin Guide”. A panel of judges called “Pro Saunners (プロサウナー)”, who have profound knowledge about saunas, rigorously judge saunas all over Japan in terms of their pricing, cleanliness, entertainment, and innovation. At the end, they announce the 11 Best Japanese sauna facilities for the year. It has become a tradition that the announcement is made on November 11th every year. When all is said and done, it is a great honor for Japanese sauna facilities to be selected in this top 11 ranking.
Official Website: SAUNACHELIN
Recommended Sauna Spots in Japan
In this article we will go into the top 11 saunas that were successfully announced and awarded in the 2020 SAUNACHELIN, plus one sauna facility that received a special award, for a total of 12 facilities.
12. Candeo Hotels (Nationwide)
Candeo Hotels, a famous Japanese hotel chain, was awarded a special prize in the 2020 SAUNACHELIN. Each of the Candeo Hotels has a Sky Spa & Sauna on the top floor of their hotel. You can rest and relax in the sauna and spa, while enjoying the stunning panoramic city view. In the men’s sauna, the temperature is high enough to make you sweat profusely, which is said to help improve your body’s blood circulation and regulate your autonomic nervous system. In the women’s sauna, they offer a mist sauna. The temperature is just right so that your body heats up and the mist moisturizes your skin. These hotels are scattered all over Japan, so they are perfect for sightseeing and business trips no matter where you’re traveling.
*There is no Sky Spa & Sauna at the Ueno Park branch and The Hakata Terrace branch.
Official Website: Candeo Hotels
11. Bio Resort Hotel & Spa O Park Ogose (Saitama)
The Bio Resort Hotel & Spa O Park Ogose in Saitama prefecture is popular for its authentic Finnish sauna. It takes about two hours by train to get here from the center of Tokyo, where you can enjoy this pure natural world to its fullest. The “Sauna Suite Cabin” is the most popular among all of the guest rooms, as it includes a luxurious room with its own sauna. This room is perfect for families and groups of friends, as you can use the sauna in complete privacy as you please. When it comes to the interior of the hotel, they collaborated with the Finnish textile brand “Finlayson“, which has a history of over 200 years. This is the perfect sauna spa resort for those who want to enjoy a relaxing Finnish atmosphere in the suburbs of Tokyo.
10. Ume, Yamazoe (Nara)
Ume, Yamazoe is a traditional Japanese inn located in the eastern part of Yamazoe Village in Nara Prefecture, and only has space for three couples to stay at a time. The inn consists of three old houses that have been renovated and reborn as guest rooms, and overlook the village. The view is truly spectacular, with the starry sky and a beautiful morning sunrise in an area that is surrounded by peaceful nature. Their sauna is an amazing outdoor Finnish style and your fatigue and exhaustion will surely disappear in no time if you spend a day or two out here.
Official Website: Ume, Yamazoe
9. Spa Resort in the Forest HOKKAIDO HOTEL (Hokkaido)
Spa Resort in the Forest Hokkaido Hotel is a hotel that is conveniently located 5 minutes by car from Obihiro Station. Their sauna was renovated in June of 2019, and you can enjoy their “löyly sauna”, which is an authentic Finnish-style sauna. “Löyly sauna” is a sauna where you pour water over heated stones to produce steam containing negative ions. This hot steam helps you perspire and is said to be effective in relieving fatigue and detoxification. This hotel is not only famous for its saunas, but also for its onsen(hot springs), as they are known for making your skin smooth. Be sure not to miss out on the sauna or the hot springs when you visit Spa Resort in the Forest Hokkaido Hotel!
Official Website: Spa Resort in the Forest HOKKAIDO HOTEL
8. 8 Hotel Chigasaki (Kanagawa)
8 Hotel Chigasaki is a hotel conveniently located in Chigasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture, and is just a four-minute walk from the south exit of Chigasaki Station. The concept of this hotel is “the sea culture of Shonan,” and the hotel itself has the atmosphere of a foreign motel. The Finnish sauna, which only hotel guests have access to, allows you to enjoy the refreshing smell of Japanese cypress trees while alleviating your fatigue. After hitting the sauna, cool your heated body in the pool! Enjoying the sauna while relaxing in the breeze of Shonan will surely make for a wonderful time. As a heads up, be aware that you need to wear a swimsuit to use this sauna. Even if you forget to bring your own swimsuit, don’t worry, they have swimsuits for sale at their store!
7. Ochiairo (Shizuoka)
Established in 1874, Ochiairo is a ryokan located in Shuzen-ji Temple in Izu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. It is designated as a registered tangible cultural property. This ryokan was visited and loved by many famous Japanese writers such as Tōson Shimazaki, Yasunari Kawabata, Motojiro Kajii, and Hakushu Kitahara to name a few. There are three types of saunas that you can enjoy: the teahouse sauna (Tsuki-no-yu), a sauna designed in the motif of a tea ceremony room, the Tengu-no-yu (Tengu sauna), a sauna with high levels of moisture that contains hot spring water, and the tent sauna. The tent sauna is equipped with a self-Löyly set and aromatic oils, and allows you to enjoy the sauna while admiring the surrounding nature.
6. Koganeyu (Tokyo)
If you want to enjoy a relaxing sauna in the good old downtown of Tokyo, you should check out Koganeyu. Just a six-minute walk from the north exit of Kinshicho Station, you will find yourself in a world of healing. This sauna is reputed as one of the best places in Tokyo to enjoy an authentic Finnish sauna. The men’s sauna is made of Japanese cypress, and the walls are covered with maifan stones, not to mention the auto löyly sauna. In the women’s sauna, you can enjoy individual löyly saunas in rooms made of Japanese cypress. There is also water with an aroma that changes daily for the exclusive use of the individual löyly saunas, which is nice for the regulars. After finishing your sightseeing in Tokyo, why not make your way to Koganeyu to recover and relax.
Official Website: Koganeyu
5. Skyspa Yokohama (Kanagawa)
Skyspa Yokohama is a three-minute walk from Yokohama Station. Their saunas were renovated in November, 2018, with the additions of a Finnish dry sauna and an ancient Roman steam sauna. In the Finnish dry sauna for men, the room temperature is always kept around 90 degrees (194℉), making you sweat profusely. The staff even pour water on the stones to enhance your experience and create more steam for you. In the Finnish dry sauna for women, the temperature is kept at 80~85 degrees (176℉~185℉), and the humidity is always kept at 25%. You can enjoy their löyly sauna that has aromatic oils to refresh your mind and body. What’s better than relaxing and refreshing after work at a hot spring facility with a calming European atmosphere?
Official Website: Skyspa Yokohama
Book a room here: booking.com
4. Yulax (Kumamoto)
Yulax is a hot spring facility located in Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture, with an excellent sauna reputation. The local people even admit that “Yulax is really famous for their saunas”. Everyday from 12:00 pm to 1:00 am, the staff put on an hourly performance of the Aufguss sauna. The Aufguss sauna is a sauna that was first made in Germany. Every hour, the staff make large amounts of steam by pouring water over heated sauna stones and then fan the steam with a towel. This is very popular among guests and more and more people have become addicted to it, saying that “This sauna warms us up all the way down to our toes”.
Official Website: Yulax
3. Well Be Fukuoka (Fukuoka)
Well Be Fukuoka have their main facilities in Nagoya and Fukuoka, and are very famous for their saunas. You can experience not only their Finnish Löyly saunas, but also their “Karafuro”, which is an ancient Japanese steam bath. At the Karafuro, you can slowly heal yourself by truly tapping into your five senses and reflecting on yourself. If you want to forget about your busy life and just relax, Well Be Fukuoka is a great place for you.
Official Website: Well Be Fukuoka
2. Karumaru Ikebukuro (Tokyo)
Karumaru Ikebukuro is one of the largest sauna facilities in the Kanto region, located in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. They have four types of saunas, four types of water baths, and five types of baths in total! Truly a heaven for sauna lovers! There are so many different types of saunas and baths to choose from that you may not be able to try them all. They also have a restaurant where you can have a nice cold beer and some snacks after you use the saunas and hot springs. The only downside is that this facility is usually only available for men. For the lady saunners, a ladies day is held once a month, so if you want to make use of this facility, check the official website for what dates it is available.
Official Website: Karumaru Ikebukuro
1. The Rakan Bath at Mifuneyama Rakuen Hotel (Saga)
The last sauna we will introduce is at the Mifuneyama Hotel in Saga Prefecture. This hotel has individual löyly saunas, as well as speakers in the sauna room that play live environmental sounds from the Mifuneyama forest, so you can enjoy the sauna with the feeling of being in a real forest. In the women’s dry sauna, you can melt ice with an aroma on the sauna stones which will further contribute to relieving your stress and fatigue. There are several types of ice with different aromas. Relaxing in their sauna in a mysterious world surrounded by a forest can truly be a once in a lifetime experience.
Official Website: Mifuneyama Rakuen Hotel
We mentioned 12 of the best and most popular Japanese sauna facilities selected for the 2020 SAUNACHELIN. Did you find any that you are interested in or would like to visit? Some of the saunas mentioned are exclusive to guests or require a reservation, so be sure to check the official website before you visit. Sauna culture is getting bigger and bigger in Japan and recently has evolved in many ways. Next time you visit, check out one of these popular saunas in Japan and make your experience even more spectacular!
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Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture, and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education of Japan and got her Master’s degree in March, 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.
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