Hello Millennials! 💖✨
Following our Japanese trivia Instagram Stories poll, you asked us for our top Onsen recommendations near Shibuya so here you are! If you haven’t already, be sure to follow us on Instagram @themillennials.shibuya for fun Japan-related quizzes and BTS with our Millennials Shibuya staff!
Before diving into the subject, let's try to answer one of the most asked questions:
Are tattoos allowed? It really depends. If you can cover up the tattoo (with plasters or a bandage, for example) there shouldn't be any problem.
The issue is not really having a tattoo, but showing it while you're in the baths. There are still people in Japan (especially old people, who tend to use this kind of baths quite a lot) that link tattoos with "yakuza" (Japanese mafia) who can get a little uncomfortable. If you go about it discreetly, you should pretty much be fine.
Just a bus ride away from Tokyo, Kusatsu (草津町) is definitely on the top of our onsen recommendation list. Hidden between the mountains in Gunma Prefecture, around 1,200 metres above sea level, you can find Kusatsu, a town of breathtaking scenery that could have been taken straight from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. The onsen in this town is known for its strong antibacterial power and original open-air cooling technique.
Save the evening for a walk around the Yubatake, a huge slide of hot water which is the source of all the onsen surrounding the area. If you’re planning on visiting Kusatsu, you can’t miss Yumomi and Jikan-yu - two onsens with unique bathing styles that have been running since the Edo Period!
Also situated in Gunma Prefecture, Ikaho is the destination to discover the magic of the Japanese onsen. Hot springs here are believed to heal poor circulation and fatigue. You can either go to one of the numerous ryokan and hotels that offers their own baths to tourists (for a reasonable price, not higher than 1,500 yen), or take advantage of the two public baths in town. Ikaho Onsen in particular, is an onsen that can be read about in the Manyoshu, Japan’s oldest collection of poems.
There you can find two kinds of waters. The first is called “Kogane no Yu” (Golden Water), where iron elements have oxidized with the water to form a unique brownish-red color. The second is the recently excavated “Shirogane no Yu” (Silver Water), featuring clear waters. Just as with Kusatsu, enjoy a view of the hot spring source while bathing in the public onsen.
Onsen aside, the Ishidan (a 300-meter long path with 365 stone steps) is one of the most characteristic spots in town, which is also known as the birthplace of onsen manju (steamed been-jam buns). And if you want to thoroughly explore Ikaho, you should definitely visit Muzusawa Kannon, a popular temple surrounded by multiple restaurants specializing in Udon noodles. Have extra time to spare? Pay a visit to Mount Haruna, with its beautiful lake that offers plenty of splendid spots for hiking and biking around.
It's safe to say, Hakone is the most famous Onsen town near Tokyo, mainly due to its breathtaking views of Mount Fuji that can be enjoyed while bathing in a hot spring. As its popularity suggests, Hakone is full of Onsen and Ryokan (Onsen Inns), many of which are located on Lake Ashi’s shores.
The most famous area is Yumoto, which stands out for its long history and high-quality water. As with Kusatsu, you can either visit one of the hotel or ryokan’s onsen or just head to the public baths. If you have a reservation, you will be able to use it for free, but if you just want to use the onsen without staying the night, you will have to pay an entrance fee (it could get a little more expensive than Kusatsu, but it won’t be more than 2,000 yen). As there are a lot of different baths to choose from, our personal recommendation would be one called “Tenzan”, that boasts one of the most beautiful outdoor baths in town. Plus, they are a little less strict about tattoos - however, we still advise to be discreet!
While you’re there, check out the many interesting places to visit and activities Hakone has to offer. Go admire its beautiful art galleries or enjoy a relaxing cup of matcha in one of the town’s beautiful tea houses. The iconic Torii facing Lake Ashi is also a popular place to go and take pictures for your Instagram feed. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, we recommend you take a ride on the popular pirate ship that docks at all the must-see attractions around the lake. To get to Hakone, we recommend you purchase the Hakone Freepass which allows you to take a train from Shinjuku Station for just 1,190 yen one way.
Atami may not be the most talked-about destination amongst tourists nowadays, but that’s what makes it a really charming, nostalgic area to enjoy an Onsen experience near Tokyo. Located in Shizuoka Prefecture, you can get there by several different routes, including the super-fast Shinkansen (bullet train). Here you can try their unique salt-water based bath while enjoying spectacular sea views, with a variety of inns and traditional accommodations to choose from. Atami is mainly a fishing town so in the event you decide to visit, be sure to try its delicious fish and seafood delicacies. Don’t forget to stop by Atami Castle if you’re looking for some traditional sightseeing!
Located north of Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture, Kinugawa Onsen features a gorgeous scenery of a river that runs through the town alongside some of the area’s most beautiful parks and hiking paths. As the water of these ancient hot springs is especially clear, we highly recommend you go for a dip in one of the footbaths near the river. While there are plenty of traditional ryokan to choose from, you could also take a look at the Nikko Toshogu accommodations. Very close to Kinugawa Onsen, Nikko Toshogu is a UNESCO World Heritage site and filled with an abundance of foliage viewing areas, where colours can change radically from one season to the next.
Previously facing the same decline in tourism as Atami, renewed interest has sparked the development of new hotels and ryokans in the area. A very interesting sightseeing location in of itself, unique attractions include a park filled with an incredibly detailed selection of world landscapes in miniature and also a historical theme park recreating feudal Japan. If you still feel there’s not enough to keep you interested, check out nearby secret Okuniku Onsen, which is easily accessible by bus. Also, if you happen to be around the area between the end of January and before the start of spring, visit Yunishigawa, where every year they hold a delightful snow-house festival very popular with locals and visitors. Last but not least, this trip is easily combinable with Nikko, one of the most well-loved locations for a weekend getaway from Tokyo.
And that’s a wrap! We hope you found this article useful and would be more than delighted to have you stay with us at The Millennials Shibuya during your next trip to Tokyo.
The Millennials Shibuya Staff 💖