Nothing compares to the incredible sensation when the heat from the hot spring waters hits your frozen skin. Here are experiences you should not miss as they are hard to beat. With the best of the snow to come in January and February, these are five of Japan’s best and unique snow-covered hot spring destinations for your perfect winter getaway.
Not to mention, there is an array of health benefits that comes along with soaking in onsens. The heat from the onsens helps relax muscles, relieving muscle pain, and increases metabolism. They could help relieve a variety of health issues including fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, gynaecological diseases, dermatological problems and rheumatoid arthritis.
Now, beat the cold with these stunning snowscapes.
Kita Onsen, Tochigi Prefecture
Kita Onsen, meaning “North hot spring”, located at the end of the valleys in the Nasushiobara area, is where the movie of the award-winning Japanese manga series Thermae Romae was filmed. It is renowned for its Tengu-no-yu bath which features marvellous hot spring water surging from the cliff just beside the bath hut, with huge tengu (a long-nosed mountain goblin, the mythical founder of the hot spring) masks hanging by the walls.
This hidden hot spring surrounded by beautiful scenery contains a great deal of history and style with exquisite structures built in the late Edo (1603-1868), early Meiji (1868-1912) and early Showa (1926-1989) periods, which will take you back in time.
There is a women’s bath exclusively used by daughters of nobleman in the Edo period available and the most well-known of the three baths, the hot spring swimming pool with a unique water slide loved by children. Something special about this bath is that swimming, usually taboo in hot spring culture, is allowed.
Tamago-yu, Takayu Onsen, Fukushima
Sulphur-rich fresh hot spring and mineral-packed waters – excellent for nurturing the skin. Tamago-yu, meaning “egg spring”, gained its name from being said to result in slippery smooth skin akin to an egg after soaking in it. 100% of the waters of the onsen flow directly from the hot spring source, the most sought-after kind of onsen.
Located inside a beautiful thatched hut built in the Meiji era, Tamago-yu is renowned for its waters coming directly from the hot spring source. Once the clear water encounters the air, it turns milky. The design of the hut allows air to flow freely, providing an outdoor experience with more privacy at the same time.
Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano Prefecture
The hot spring in Jigokudani, literally meaning “hell’s valley”, is known for being the only place in the world where monkeys are seen bathing in hot springs. They are a family of Japanese macaques, widely known as snow monkeys, which attract many tourists to visit each year. However, visitors are not allowed to feed or touch the wild monkeys and they are left to roam around. The spring is reserved for humans, but these monkeys often like to take a dip there. The inn, Korakukan Ryokan, is just located across the river from the monkey park for your night’s stay. The valley it is in is stunning during wintertime.
Yagen Onsen, Aomori Prefecture
The Yagen hot spring lying at the northernmost tip of the Japanese mainland holds a history of 400 years and is easily accessed from Hotel New Yagen. One thing special about this outdoor onsen is that it is sheltered all the way from the visitor rooms which keeps visitors from the cold on their way back after their soak.
Magoroku Onsen, Akita Prefecture
Let’s forget about the famous Nyuto Onsen for a moment, there is another spring in the area that is one of Akita’s most beautiful springs, a secret, hidden spring named Magoroku Onsen. Situated deep in the mountains of Nyuto in the Akita Prefecture, the stretch of onsens emit plumes of steam, creating a stunning atmosphere amidst the breathtaking views.
One of the baths called Ishi no furo, meaning ‘stone bath’, is said to be able to forecast weather well. Muddy water indicates poor weather while clear water signifies that the weather will be good.
Another bath with cascading hot spring water, utase-yu, is effective in relieving sore back muscles.