2016 Top Onsens in Japan

The new BigGlobe Onsen rankings for 2016 is OUT!!! Selected from the outcome of about 26,000 votes, with male votes averaging 50 years old encompassing 57% of the votes, while female votes averaging 30 years old encompassing 43% of the votes. For me personally, I don’t really look at rankings per se, but it does gives a good indication of rather good onsen areas or ryokens that could have fallen out of the rankings from the prior years and therefore out of our sight as foreigners that don’t live in Japan. Still, it would be reasonable to book early rather than late for good onsens, as you know, they are popular 🙂

2015 Top Onsen
2015 Top Ryoken

Some tips to using and enjoying the Onsen to the fullest before jumping right it

  • Have plenty of water before going in. While Onsen is spring water, its steaming hot and dehydrating for one’s body.
  • Avoid alcohol prior to going into Onsen. The increased blood circulation together with the heat may cause one to faint.
  • While it is a general practice to minimize shower after onsen-ing to keep the minerals on the skin for maximum benefits, people with sensitive skin should still wash themselves properly after.

Enough of talk. Let’s see what we have got for 2016 hitting the Billboard Rankings  😎

[Top Onsen Regions of 2016]

[Top Onsen Regions of 2016]

2016 Best East Onsen

Picture of OnsenRank / Name of Onsen Town
Kusatsu Onsen1) Kusatsu Onsen

Retaining the Number 1 as the Top Eastern Onsen Town, Kusatsu Onsen is located about 200 kilometers north-northwest of Tokyo, a small town nestled in mountains where visitors can experience nature all year round with only a population of about 7000.

The most prominent public baths are the Sainokawara Rotemburo (large outdoor pools in Sainokawara Park), the Otakinoyu with its unique Awaseyu baths that features multiple wooden pools with different water temperatures, and the Gozanoyu, a beautiful wooden building next to the Yubatake with two simple, traditional baths.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Hotel Sakurai
- Naraya
- Kusatsu Now Resort Hotel
- Kane Midori
- Hotel Ichii
Hakone Onsen2) Hakone Onsen

Hakone Onsen stays in the second position consecutively as one of the Best Onsen location in Eastern Japan, closest to Japan's highest and most revered mountain, Mt. Fuji. Hakone is located just one hour by train from Tokyo. And one chief reason for it holding the top spot is the scenic view of Mt. Fuji while enjoying the onsen.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Gora Kadan
- Hakone Tokinoshizuku
- Kinnotake Tonosawa
- Yoshimatsu
- Gora Tensui
- Manatei Hakone
- Hotel Green Plaza Hakone
Noboribetsu Onsen3) Noboribetsu Onsen

Similar to Hakone, Noboribetsu remains recognized as one the best Onsen (3rd in place) in Hokkaido as far as access, notability, history, and quality goes. Offering a wide range of different hot spring water, Noboribetsu is considered as Hokkaido's best Onsen town.

Top recommended locations:
Daiichi Takimotokan - The bright and spacious baths of the Takimotokan are among Japan's best modern indoor hot spring baths, if not the best. What sets them apart from the rest is not only the number of pools but also the fact that they are fed by as many as seven different hot spring waters, varying in acidity, mineral contents and health benefits.
Noboribetsu Grand Hotel - This hotel's attractive and spacious indoor baths feature three different types of hot spring water (sulfur, salt and iron). The main attraction, however, is the outdoor bath that looks onto a beautiful garden with a man made waterfall.
Noboribetsu Sekisuitei - Daytime visitors to this large ryokan get access to two baths that are located in two different towers of the complex. The baths offer only one type of water, but are very spacious and attractive with views onto the forested mountain slope.
Bourou Noguchi Noboribetsu - Noguchi Noboribetsu is an adults only hotel that features spacious suites containing a private bath with mountain views. In addition to indoor and open-air hot-spring baths, guests can try a Korean-style “ganbanyoku” stone sauna for an extra fee.
Ikaho Onsen4) Ikaho Onsen

Ikaho Onsen held on to her 4th place. Ikaho Onsen is among one of the four famous hot spring resorts of Gunma Prefecture, the other 3 being Kusatsu, Minakami and Shima Onsen. Located halfway up Mt. Harunasan at an elevation of 700 meters. It has a long history with its name appearing in the Manyoshu, Japan's oldest surviving collection of poems, said to have been edited in the late seventh and eighth centuries. Two types of predominant onsen is found here: "Kogane no Yu (Golden Water)", in which the iron contained in the water has oxidized to form a distinctive brownish-red color; and "Shirogane no Yu (Silver Water)", whose gushing was only discovered in recent years.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Tsukagoshiya
- Fukuichi
- Joshinnosato Hibikino
- Kishigon Ryoken
- Tsukagoshiya Kounkan

There are also two public hot spring bath houses that are open to day trip visitors: Ikaho Rotemburo and Ishidan no Yu.
Nozawa Onsen5) Nozawa Onsen

Rising 2 positions with increasing popularity, this beautiful hot spring village dating back to the 8th century is renowned for it’s hot springs and traditional inns since the Edo period. Located at the foot of Kenashi-yama Mountain, it is home to around 4,000 people.

At the base of the Nozawa Onsen Ski Resort, is a nostalgic old hot spring town well regarded for its hot springs which are a relaxing diversion after a day of skiing. Visitors can bathe at one of more than a dozen small, public bath houses scattered about town that are community owned and maintained since the Edo Period. They are simple and rustic, with just a single room for each gender containing a bath and a changing area.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Sumiyosiya Ryokan
- Ryokan Sakaya
Jozankei Onsen6) Jozankei Onsen

This is the new kid on the block to make it into the Top 10 Onsen listing! Located in Hokkaido, it is one of the hot spring district fast growing in popularity and with close proximity to the city centre Sapporo.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Shogetsu Grand Hotel
- Jozankei Daiichi Suizantei
- Spa and Esthetique Suichokan
- Hotel Shikanoyu
- Hanamomiji
Atami Onsen7) Atami Onsen

Atami Onsen's position remains roughly unchanged at #7 in 2016 (it was #5 in 2015). Located in Shizuoka, Atami-onsen dates back to about 1250 years ago, when hot water springs in the sea were found. An ancient document noted that the first Tokugawa Shogun Ieyasu (1543-1616) sojourned here; he even had the water transported to his Edo Castle in Tokyo for the purpose of bathing. “Atami” can be translated as “hot sea,” where the name is derived from a folk tale that hot water gushed out from the sea and heated the sea water in this area.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Atami Fufu
- Furuya Ryokan
- Atami Sekitei
- Watei Kazekomichi
Naruko Onsen8) Naruko Onsen

Making the list of the Top 10 Onsen towns in 2016, Naruko-onsen Hot Spring Village consists of five hot spring areas: “Naruko Hot Spring", “Higashi-Naruko Hot Spring", “Kawatabi Hot Spring", “Nakayamadaira Hot Spring", and “Onikobe Hot Spring", each of them are baths of great individuality.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Hotel Kameya
Nyuto Onsen9) Nyuto Onsen

Nyuto Onsen slide 3 position from 2015 to rank #9 in 2016. All the hot spring baths in Nyuto Onsen belong to ryokan, and most of the ryokan feature mixed gender outdoor baths, and all have various gender segregated bathing as well. In addition, it is not easily accessible for non-locals, cannot be book online, which could be a few of the factors causing its slide in position.

Located in the Tohoku region of Honshu, the area presents beauty throughout the four seasons. There are seven hot spring inns scattered around the western foothills of Mt. Nyuto-zan in Towada Hachimantai National Park, which is known its beautiful Japanese scenery. Nyuto Onsen-kyo Hot Spring Village spreads over a large area, blessed with natural hot spring waters that flow out from deep underneath the virgin beech forest over the valley.

Strongly recommended Ryokens are:
- Tsurunoyu Onsen: the oldest operating ryokan of Nyuto Onsen
- Tsurunoyu Onsen - Yamanoyado: A more recent addition to Tsurunoyu, located along the road to the original inn and includes all the comforts of a modern ryokan.
- Kuroyu Onsen: Another rustic ryokan offering multiple indoor and outdoor baths including a mixed gender outdoor bath with a nice sunset view.
- Taenoyu Onsen: A modern, well equipped ryokan that sits beside the Sendatsu River. It features a mixed gender outdoor bath overlooking a waterfall.
- Kyukamura Nyuto-Onsenkyo National Park Resort: The most accessible Nyuto onsen and also walkable to nearby Onsens. Great Onsen experience in the middle of beech forest with good service and helpful staff who always assist you to find information.

They are however not easy to book due to high demand and low room availability. Currently, bookings can only be made direct at their personal website or by phone at least 4mths ahead.
Manza Onsen10) Manza Onsen

Sliding two positions down, Manza Onsen retains its top 10 ranking. It is a hot spring resort town located 1800 meters above sea level, high up on the slopes of Mount Shirane at the northwestern edge of Gunma Prefecture. Its highly acidic waters are obtained from Mount Shirane and are among the most sulfuric in all of Japan.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Nisshinkan
- Karuizawa Hotel 1130

2016 Best West Onsen

Picture of OnsenRank / Name of Onsen Town
Beppu-Onsen1) Beppu Onsen

This year, Beppu Onsen has gained popularity, rising to the Top Position as the Onsen in the West. Located in Oita, Kyushu, the number of hot spring wells and the yield of hot water found here is the largest in Japan. There is a famous tour called Beppu Jigoku Meguri (Beppu Hell Tour) where one can see different types of Jigoku springs such as Sea Hell, Blood Pond Hell, White Pond Hell and Tornado Hell. You can also have their specialty onsen eggs which are specially steamed or boiled in the hot spring water.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Beppu Showaen
- Shiosai-no-yado Seikai
- Umikaoru Yado Hotel New Matsumi
- Kappo Ryokan Kannawa Bettei
- Suginoi Hotel
Yufuin Onsen2) Yufuin Onsen

Remaining as popular as ever in the Top 2nd position, it stretches across the foot of Mt. Yufudake in Oita, surrounded by the peacefulness and quietness of nature. It is voted as the top hot spring area in Kyushu in many surveys and is popular especially among women. Accommodations are located in rural areas where one can enjoy fantastic scenery, whilst trendy shops and restaurants abound along Yunotsubo Kaido Avenue.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Yufuin Onsen Hinoharu Ryokan
- Yufuin-Sanso Waremokou
- Yufuin Gettouan
- Hatago Kounokura
- Yufuin Ryokuyu
- Kutsurogi-no-Yado Nanakawa
- Yufuin Bettei Itsuki
Kinosaki Onsen3) Kinosaki Onsen

Kinosaki Onsen, increasing in popularity since 2015, is located on the Sea of Japan coast in northern Kansai, the quintessential onsen town. With seven public baths and dozens of onsen ryokan, this is the place to sample the onsen ryokan experience. You can relax in your accommodation taking the waters as it pleases you, and when you get tired of your ryokan’s bath, you can hit the streets in a yukata (light cotton robe) and geta (wooden sandals) and hit the public baths. It doesn’t hurt that the town is extremely atmospheric at night.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Nishimuraya Honkan
- Kinosaki Onsen Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei
- Yuraku Kinosaki Spa & Gardens
- Mikiya
- Morizuya
Arima Onsen4) Arima Onsen

Remaining one of the oldest and most well-known hot spring in Japan located an hour away from Osaka. Its popularity while strong, has waned a little, resulting in Arima ranking 4th compared to its 1st ranking in 2015. It is famous for the hot spring Hideyoshi Toyotomi who was one of the powerful well-loved historical rulers. There are reddish brown hot spring called Kinsen (Gold spring) and clear hot spring called Ginsen (Silver spring).
Visitors to Arima Onsen can enjoy hot spring bathing at the two public bath houses (Kin no Yu, or Gin no Yu) or at the town's many ryokan.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Ryokan Gekkoen Korokan
- Arimasansoh Goshobessho
- Gekkoen Yugetsusanso
- Tosen Goshobo
- Taketoritei Maruyama
Gero Onsen5) Gero Onsen

Gero Onsen's popularity remains largely unchanged between 2015 and 2016.

It is located in Gifu and is one of the most famous three hot springs in Japan. The spring quality is alkaline and is smooth to the touch. There is a village called Gero Onsen Gasshomura where one can see houses with steep roofs. From spring to fall season, they have morning fairs called Ideyu Ichi that one might enjoy.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Yunoshimakan
- Suimeikan
- Shogetsu
- Bosenkan
- Gero Onsen Fugaku
- Kawakamiya Kasuitei
- Hotel Kusakabe Armeria
Kurokawa Onsen6) Kurokawa Onsen

Rising in rank by two positions since 2015, it is located about an hour plus north of Mt. Aso in Kumamoto and almost every inn here has an open air hot spring. One can bathe in any 3 hot springs among all those if one buys a bathing pass called “Nyuyoku tegata”. Spring quality here has a beneficial effect on nerve pain.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Kurokawa Onsen Oyado Noshiyu
- Miyama Sansou
- Yamamizuki
- Ryokan Sanga
- Fumoto Ryokan
- Hozantei
- Kurokawa-So
Dogo Onsen7) Dogo Onsen

The ranking of Dogo Onsen remains unchanged for 2015 & 2016. The steam rising from this split-level wooden bathhouse complex may well be the mist of legend - its history dates back more than 1000 years with its origins rooted in folk tales about the princes and gods who were healed here. Kami No Yu is the larger public bath, Tama No Yu the smaller, quieter and more "noble" option (pricing levels vary between them). Recently, the city of Matsuyama has sprawled around the natural springs but Dogo remains preserved in its own ancient bubble, the structure resembling a kind of village unto itself and inspiring the otherworldly design of the much-loved animated movie Spirited Away.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Umenoya
- Funaya
- Dougokan
Wakura Onsen8) Wakura Onsen

Sliding 2 positions back since 2015, Wakura Onsen history dates back to approximately 1200 years, beginning around the same year the hot springs began to flow. Initially, the hot springs began gushing in Maruyama’s Yunotani, west of Yakushidake, and then it was said that due to tectonic activity, the spring opening moved 60 meters off the coast into the sea. Later, during the Eisho period, a fisherman couple living in Wakura saw a white heron healing its body from steam, rising from the ocean and that’s how the yu-no-waku-ura (bay of the rising steam) or wakura was discovered.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Kagaya
- Hotel Kaibo
Shirahama Onsen9) Shirahama Onsen

Shirahama Onsen's ranking in 2016 remains unchanged. There’s something peculiarly pleasing about watching waves roll onto the beaches between the ocean and the natural hot-spring bath while immensed in the sensation of hot onsen temperature coupled with cool sea breeze, a feeling that is uniquely enjoyed here. At Shirahama, a beach town in southern Kansai, there is a onsen right by the beach and Sakino-yu Onsen is one just spectacular onsen. These Onsens that are directly facing the beach, would be of particular interest to many: the coastal Sakinoyu and the Shirasuna public spring baths .

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Resort Hotel Laforet Nankishirahama
- Tsukisaki
- Hotel Kawakyu
Ibusaki Onsen10) Ibusuki Onsen

Ibusaki Onsen's ranking remains unchanged over 2015 & 2016. Located an hour and 35 minutes away from Kagoshima Airport by dedicated bus service, this Onsen is famous for its natural sand bath called “Sunamushi”. It is a unique bathing method where one is covered by sand at the beach. It has beneficial effects on nerve pain and muscle aches, and also has effects on your beauty like salon treatment.

The most popular bathing spot is the large Saraku Sand Bath Hall while another fantastic bathing alternative can be enjoyed at the outdoor baths of Healthy Land.

Recommended Private Ryokens are:
- Hakusuikan


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