It’s no secret about the medicinal powers of healing hot springs. We venture over to Japan to further explore these healing secrets, inside these century-old inns called a Ryokan.
Not all Ryokans are created equal, and we’re going to focus on a special type of ryokan, the “onsen ryokan.” We know Japan is known for its amazing landscapes like bamboo forests, and these onsen ryokans capitalize on Japan’s outdoor beauty.
So what’s a ryokan?
These are unique hotels and inns you’ll find in Japan, that carries on the traditions of age-old Japanese culture.
So you’ll be distraction-free while leaving the stress of the modern world behind. No butlers here like the other hotels we mention, but nonetheless, their hospitality is spot on.
The ones with an onsen tell us it has a nearby natural hot spring that gets piped in for private and public baths. These baths are strategically located to capitalize on the views and beauty the natural environment provides.
But there’s a lot more to this than kicking back in a hot tub. These hot springs offer medicinal wellness that can naturally detox, rejuvenate, and relax.
Special meals are prepared for breakfast and dinner adding to your heavenly experience while tapping into the healing power of hot springs bathing.
In Japan, healing hot springs are defined by the Hot Spring Law. A heated spring has to meet certain criteria concerning chemical components, temperatures, and others to be certified as a hot spring.
Among all hot springs, those containing a number of specific chemical constituents and thus providing particularly high medicinal benefits are called medical hot springs.
These are further classified into 10 different types known as “spring qualities.” Every onsen ryokan indicates their spring qualities inside their buildings.
The Japanese Government makes a thorough review of every hot spring application to make sure that all of them are genuine hot springs that provide health benefits.
Apparently, bathing is a serious business in Japan. Here you’ll find a list of the different types of hot healing hot springs and the medicinal benefits they offer.
1899 Fujiwara, Minakami, Tone Bezirk, Gunma 379-1721
Established in 1923, you’ll find this ryokan with traditional Japanese architecture and 80 years of history.
The lodge’s open-air bath is situated along a soothing mountain stream. Perfect harmony with nature produces a beautiful ryokan, and Takaragawa hits all the high notes.
They say the healing hot springs they tap into is good for neuralgia, stress release, and poor circulation.
This hotel has 42 rooms and the meals consist of nearby mountain vegetables, wild boar, bears, and river fish. This onsen is also tattoo-friendly, which is something to keep in mind if you sport a tat.
Many don’t allow you to use the public open-air baths if you have a tattoo as they are associated with anti-social organizations that commit violent crimes, known as the “yakuza.”
We’ve all seen the movie Kill Bill, right? It’s easy to see how tattoos might scare some of the locals and make them feel uncomfortable, so make sure you bone up on the rules before booking your stay.
162 Noboribetsuonsencho, Noboribetsu, Hokkaido 059-0551
Established in 1917, this healing hot springs inn represents one of the more prestigious onsen ryokans of Noboribetsu.
You’ll be served authentic Japanese food in private rooms with access to open-air baths. Facing lush greenery and dense forests, you’ll find it hard to remember if you ever had a bad day.
The various springs found here are iron, radioactive, and sulfur springs. Wait, what? Did we say radioactive?
Copy that. Radioactive may sound scary, but this type of hot spring only has a minute amount of radiation which does no harm to the body.
And this is said to be especially good for gout, ankylosing spondylitis, chronic dermatological diseases, and obesity among others.
We’re not doctors but since the springs are government regulated, we’d say a little dunk won’t kill ya.
70 Azagawa, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru Bezirk, Yamanashi 401-0303
Kukuna is a resort-style ryokan that commands a magnificent view of Mount Fuji with Lake Kawaguchi in between. The scenery can be enjoyed from each of the gender-segregated large public open-air baths.
Now might be a good time to mention all these onsen ryokan inns are gender-segregated and the baths switch genders during different times of the day so everyone gets to enjoy the various views each healing hot spring bath offers.
Guests can also book rooms equipped with private open-air onsen baths so they can get a great view all to themselves. There are cherry trees right in front of the ryokan, so you can marvel at the cherry blossoms (called sakura) in the sakura season.
As to dining, you can choose from multiple plans including teppanyaki and buffet. teppanyaki s a post–World War II type of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food.
29-1 Toyakoonsen, Toyako, District d’Abuta, Hokkaido 049-5721
This ryokan comes with dramatic views of the lake from your private room that also comes with a healing hot spring bath or you can use their open-air baths. Either way, you can’t beat the lake view. Even wintertime offers an incredible sight to feast your eyes on.
Taking on the persona of more of a high-end resort instead of a generational family-run inn, one of the highlights is the rooftop open-air hot spring bath.
Toya Lake is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. In addition to the lake itself, the Toyako region features hot springs and an active volcano, which last erupted in the year 2000.
So there might come a day where your view gets a little more stunning than what you might have signed up for.
066-0287 Hokkaido, Chitose
This serene lakeside ryokan was established in 1915. Throughout its 100+ year history, the hot spring level changes seasonally according to the water level of Lake Shikotu, which boasts water that is on par with the world’s most pristine bodies of water on the planet.
The high points of booking a room here are the meals and views. Dinners are was served in the room on traditional trays, including a small stove system. You get around 20 items to savor, and it’s all locally sourced.
There are 46 traditional Japanese-style guest rooms at Marukoma. They have 2 indoor hot spring baths and 2 outdoor hot spring baths that are both shared, and same-gender only.
Be aware some rooms don’t come with a bath or shower but these are basically spectacular bathhouses that happen to offer lodging, so not much room to gripe on that one.