Onsen (hot springs), Japan are considered the best in the world, and once you are an aficionado you sample different ones in order to determine which is the best. Because of the volcanic nature of the Japanese islands, there are probably over a thousand geothermal onsen spread throughout the country. From the northern island of Hokkaido to the southern island of Kyushu, and as far south as Okinawa they are located in small towns and in large cities.
The waters come from various sources and are of different compositions, and are said to be good for various maladies. Humans and animals in Japan(monkeys) alike use the hot springs for warmth and for these maladies. The hot springs are said to be good for neuralgia, diabetes, menstrual conditions, skin diseases, rheumatism, gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension, and constipation.
The composition of the waters are sulfurous, acidic, of carbon dioxide, hydrogen carbonate, sodium, calcium, chlorine, ferrous and magnesium, depending on the hot spring.
In Hokkaido, I have been to the Sounkyo Onsen, located in the Daisetsuzan National Park, and experienced the sulfurous waters in the Hotel Taisetsu. I stayed in a Japanese tatami room. The waters are on the hotter side, and baths are tiled and also of black marble. Rotemburo, or outdoor baths are available. The outdoor bath is wonderful in the winter with the cold air hitting you in the face as you relax in the hot water. Dinner included fresh delicious seafood, hot pot and local delicacies.
In the Shiretoko National Park, Utoro Onsen I stayed at the Shiretoko Grand Hotel Kitakobushi, overlooking the frozen harbor in a Japanese tatami room. The indoor baths of salt water (sodium chloride) and boric acid afford a wonderful look at the harbor and the Okhotsk Sea beyond, and the waters are good for chill, burns, ulcers and joint aches. There is an outdoor rotemburo rock bath. Dinner included seafood such as king and hairy crab, scallops, shrimp, hot pot and other local specialties.
In the Akan National Park, I stayed in the Hotel Emerald, a lake side resort with a very nice buffet dinner overlooking Lake Akan and large rock and granite type onsen baths. Winter activities on the frozen lake were fun too, and included ice fishing arranged at the hotel, ice skating, and mobile sledding.
In the Noboribetsu Onsen, I stayed at the Hotel Mahoroba, which boasts 31 onsen tubs including indoor tiled, rotemburo rock, hinoki (cypress), and hotter waters of sulfur, sodium chloride, and ferrous, good for neuralgia, arthritis and skin diseases. The room was a Japanese tatami room, and the buffet featured popular Hokkaido specialties crab, scallops, sashimi, hot pot, and local delicacies.
In Aomori, I have been to the Asamushi Onsen and stayed at the Kaisenkaku overlooking Mutsu Bay. The hotel has large tiled baths overlooking the bay and coast and the waters are sulfurous, calcium and sodium chloride, which are good for rheumatism, chronic eczema, keratosis, arteriosclerosis and hypertension. The food included hairy crab, shrimp, scallops, sashimi, and hot pot dishes.
In Fukushima, I have been to the Aizu Bandai Heights and stayed at the Urabandai Royal Hotel and sampled the rock rotemburo and large indoor bath waters which are sodium, calcium sulfur, acid, and chloride, which are good for neuralgia, muscular and joint pain, frozen shoulder, bruises and sprains, digestive organ disease, hemorrhoids, poor circulation, arteriosclerosis, burns and skin diseases. I stayed in a western room and the food was local seafood and delicacies.
In Niigata, I have been to Sado Island in the Sea of Japan and stayed at the Hotel Hirane, with a smaller tiled bath with alkaline, sodium chloride, and sulfuric acid waters good for atopic skin conditions, cuts, burns and arteriosclerosis. The room was a Japanese tatami room. Food consisted of local seafood, and local delicacies, including delicious Niigata rice and some of the best sake in Japan.
In Yamanaka Onsen, near Kanazawa, I stayed at the Tawaraya, a very nice riverside ryokan. The indoor baths are granite and the rock rotemburo overlooks the river and the forested area across the river. The waters are of calcium and sodium sulfate, and are good for muscular, joint, and shoulder pain, bruises, hemorrhoids, sensitivity to colds, skin diseases arteriosclerosis, diabetes, and burns. The room was a Japanese tatami room. The food consisted of crab, shrimp, sashimi, and beef steak.
In Kamisuwa Onsen, Nagano, a former site of the Winter Olympics in Japan, I stayed at the Rako Hananoi Hotel, a nice ryokan overlooking Lake Suwa. The large indoor bath was granite, the rock rotemburo overlooked the lake. The waters are good for rheumatism and gastrointestinal disorders. The room was a western room and the food was fresh local seafood consisting of crab, sashimi, and local fish, along with beef steak.
In Tokyo, if your time in Japan is short, be sure to visit the Ooedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba. I’ve been there several times now, and although it is somewhat like a theme park with a re-creation of an old Edo street, the waters of the hot springs are pumped from 1,400 meters underground and are very relaxing. The waters are comprised of sodium and chlorine, calcium and magnesium. The very large indoor baths reminds one of the old sentos (public baths) in old Edo. There are also rock rotemburo and even foot baths to soothe your tired feet.
At the Ooedo Onsen Monogatari there are also 16 Japan restaurants you can dine at and eat soba noodles, tempura, sushi, oden, and much more, and numerous booths where you can get your fortune told, ninja knife throwing, blow gun darts, and you can even get massages.
In Atami Onsen in Shizuoka, I have been to the Hotel Resporpia and the Atami Korakuen and the baths are of granite and tile and rotemburo of Japanese cypress and the waters are of calcium, sodium, and chloride which are good for skin diseases, digestive diseases, joint and nerve pains, bruises and fatigue. Both hotels afford great views of Sagami Bay and the food is excellent, with local fresh seafood like zuwai crab, sashimi and specialties.
In Kyushu, I have been to the Ibusuki Onsen when I stayed at the Ibusuki Iwasaki Hotel. I was able to experience the famous sand baths while there. You get into cotton yukata, and proceed to be buried to your neck in a lying position with hot volcanic heated sand, and get a very good sauna. After the hot sand bath you enter a heated pool to wash sand off before you go in to the hotel to shower. The sand bath is good for arthritis, neuralgia, rheumatism, asthma, and promotes good blood circulation. The room was a western room, and the buffet was a combination of Japanese, Western and Chinese food.
In the Kirishima National Park, I stayed at the Kirishima Hotel, with its very large co-ed bath of granite and rock, along with separate bath changing rooms. I must say, that was an interesting, but fun experience, with men and women bathing together. The waters are chloride sulfate. My room was a Japanese tatami room. Food was good, some seafood, but mostly local specialties.
With still many onsen for me to experience in Hakone, in Kyoto,in Gunma, in Tochigi, in Sendai, in Shikoku, in Kumamoto, Beppu and Okinawa, I look forward to writing about them in another article soon